🎮 I miss the days when you could buy an iPad game

I remember when the iPad was new, and you could go to the App Store, buy a quality game and play it for hours, even days, without interruption. Sure, some were classic remakes like Monopoly, or Yahtzee, but let’s not forget the more advanced titles like Need for Speed or Real Racing. For the time, they were impressive, and you could get lost in them for days. They weren’t 8-bit pixel art.

They had plenty of replay value where, once you finished with one car, you could start over and do it all again behind the wheel of something different. It was portable gaming where you didn’t need an Internet connection.

Now, you can’t play a game for 10 minutes without some damn prompt about buying gems or coins. Or that you can watch an ad to get coins. Or download another game to earn some credit.

Every game in the store shows “In-App Purchases” next to the title and the pricing is ridiculous.

In-App Purchase used to mean a “trial” version, like the old “shareware” concept. It’s now the staple of an unending revenue stream and ability to nag players.

Artificial barriers and cool downs are jammed in, and you can pay to have them removed. You don’t “have” too, but the game is so mind numbingly slow it’s almost unplayable without buying a bag, chest, or sack full of coins. Just read through the comments and you will see plenty of complaints where the game becomes such a grind, the next barrier is so high, it’s impossible to complete through normal means.

The only studio I’ve seen handle in-app purchases correctly is Shallot Games, makers of Tides and Vista-golf.

For their mini-golf game, you pay a single fee to remove ads if you like the game. They stick with the trial concept.

It offers leaderboards against other players, challenge courses of the day, and randomly generated courses. It’s not 9 or 18 holes, but an unlimited gaming experience. New courses are generated every time you play. You can play through thousands of courses.

It’s single player with a simple option to compare yourself against other players.

For Tides, they offer the same option to remove ads, which removes them entirely from the game, but leaves the reward of gold and pearls. Every X minutes, there is an option to see ads for a rewards. The option remains, but the ad is gone, so it’s an immediate collect. Same is true for free pearls that appear every 20 minutes or so, and doubling your sale price when returning to base. You paid to remove the ads, but get all the rewards normally associated with them.

This extends to their multiplayer or “community” area. Players can help each other find loot, but to use a marker, in your navigation, it was a short ad. Once paid, you can click the marker and skip the ad. It’s better than other games where ads are partially removed.

If other developers followed their lead, paying for a game that uses coins or gems would be far more enticing and satisfying. If I paid $6-9 and got all the extra benefits without dealing with ads, I would absolutely be on board.

I used to love playing games on the iPad. It was such a nice break from playing on a desktop. You could jump into a game, play for a few minutes, then come back later and pick up where you left off. Plenty of games were set up for quick sessions, while others catered to longer stretches with “waypoints.”

I still have my original iPad with the original Let’s Golf by Gameloft. It looks a bit dated, but it’s still great. I can set up 1-9, 1-18, or 9 random holes to play at 4 different locations. I can spend a 5 minute break playing a couple rounds, or I can go all in, drop myself on the couch, and play the entire course. If I have to stop, no problem, put the iPad down for a minute.

The same is true for Zombieville. That runs on a newer, but still older model iPad, but it’s the same feeling. I can play for 5 minutes and get the thrill of blasting zombies, looting houses, and searching for ammo. You can play for 5 minutes, or play for an hour and have a great time. Great until I get overwhelmed and my brains make a lovely snack.

With the games available now, it’s a race against the clock until an ad pop up, or an item needs 8 hours to complete. You don’t progress in a game anymore by playing, you progress by paying to bypass artificial timers.

Over Halloween I played a cute game called Monster Farm. It had fun cartoon graphics, Halloween themes and tropes galore, and you made Halloween themed items to sell at your haunted theme park. It was all Halloween all the time.

It was perfect for the time of year, and was a decent “automation” game. At least it was decent for the first two days. That’s when you were hit with “crops” that take 8 hours to grow, items that take 4-12 hours to manufacture, and buildings that won’t be ready for 24 hours.

But of course, you could “pay” to bypass the imposed limitation. All you had to do was buy gems for real cash or watch more ads than you have to endure during the Super Bowl.

You could even lose your mind and buy a weekly subscription. Not yearly, not 6 months, or even monthly, but weekly. And the dev had the stones to charge $7.99 a week, more than the cost of Netflix. What game is worth $32 a month or $384 a year? That’s absolutely insane for any game, let alone something on a tablet.

Sure, the intent is to play for a month, maybe two, before you sober up and realize how much money you’re throwing away.

This mentality is all over the app store. Every game charges for a sack of something. Writing apps charge an annual fee for reasons I don’t understand. Note taking apps charge an annual fee so you can sync your data through iCloud. Want to start something on your Mac and finish it on your iPad, that will cost you a yearly fee. That’s not bundled into the price or even a separate charge, it’s a weekly/monthly fee otherwise the app is basically useless.

The App Store, and the iPad experience gets ruined by this. It’s turned into a cesspool of scam games and ripoff apps. They’re throwaway junk. There is absolutely no reason it should be like this, except Apple gets a cut of that in-app purchase money.

The other iPad failure is you can’t play a game on your own, you have to play “With Friends.” The fact the iPad can handle multiplayer and connected games is awesome, but I’m not interested in, nor do I have the want to compete with people across the country. It’s a fantastic mechanic for those that want it, but I already know other people are better players than I am, I don’t need the reminder. I want to play a game on my schedule, when I’m ready, for the amount of time I have available. I’m sick of this concept where my entertainment and enjoyment are predicated on someone else.

There is no such thing as golf game you can just buy and play. You either have to suffer through in-app purchases or play against other people. Simple example, Golf Clash. It’s a really neat game, but you have to play against other people. You can’t play through 9 or 18 holes like Let’s Play from Gameloft. Gameloft doesn’t even make Let’s Play anymore, nor do they make a single game without in-app purchases. Even Dungeon Hunter, which was a fun bit of D&D on the original iPad, has a $99 option for Hoard of Gems. WTF?!

I don’t see how anyone can justify that kind of pricing. I’m not sure which is worse, the fact Gameloft feels that’s a fair price for what they’re offering or someone actually handed over a sack full of cash.

I used to love playing games on my iPad. For a couple of years after it came out, I put Steam and my desktop machine to the side and only focused on mobile games.

I would spend a couple dollars a month, and have a great gaming experience. They had enough content to be engaging, and I felt satisfied with each purchase.

It was great. The games started up almost instantly, you could play for as long as you had time and make progress, the selection was amazing, and for a fraction of the cost of a desktop game, you got hours of entertainment.

I bought my 12.9 iPad Pro expecting to play some fantastic games on that huge display. That aspect is a total bust. Even “word games,” variations on Scrabble and Boggle nag you to buy in-game currency to progress. How does that even make sense?

The iPad is getting better and better, more capable, and closer to a laptop with each iteration, yet the application experience is getting worse and worse. It’s becoming too expensive to own an iPad, the hardware is the cheapest part.

Sure, developers have to eat, but this has gone too far. You need to eat, but you don’t need to wipe your ass with silk.

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