EA has today made their Sim City-esque Simpsons title, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, available on the Australian Play Store. The game has gained quite a following on iOS and was the platform’s biggest earner in the last financial quarter, bringing in $23 million. “How did it make so much money?” I hear you ask.
Is EA just trying to make some quick d’oh?
Tapped Out employs the popular yet oft-criticised ‘freemium’ play model, whereby downloading and playing the game is free, but it is significantly more difficult (and sometimes impossible) unless the player pays for special features or items. In this case the in-game currency is donuts, which are required in order to achieve pretty much anything, unless of course you’re willing to wait days or even weeks for a particular task or building to be completed.
Before I go on, let me make this disclaimer: the game is fun. I’ve played it on iOS and installed it as soon as it became available on Android and it’s genuinely got some addiction appeal. Maybe it’s a bit unfair for me to single out this particular game for using a freemium model because it’s very common, and if that was my only problem with the game I wouldn’t even be writing this. What really bugged me when I installed the game, though, was that the Android version has been stripped of some key features. From the game’s Play store description:
- Android does not currently enable players to visit their friends’ Springfields.
- Game saves are not supported across multiple devices.
Let me explain. In the iOS version of the game players could use Origin (think EA’s version of XBox Live) to visit their friends’ towns, as well as store their game progress, meaning that they could pick up another iOS device and continue their game.
The social aspect is a major part of the game as well as an incentive for players to pay for donuts to improve their Springfield, and without it I can’t see the Android version of Tapped Out having anywhere near the amount of success that the iOS version has enjoyed.
Tapped Out also commits another grievous wrong: push notifications with audio. Whether you’re in a meeting or at the movies, the game will helpfully remind you to play by shouting “WOOHOO, I LOVE DONUTS!” and other ‘hilarious’ quotes in Homer’s voice. There’s no way to turn off the notifications in the game settings, so only Android 4.1 users can disable them by going to Settings -> Apps -> Tapped Out and unchecking “show notifications”.
At a time when Android is by far the fastest-growing mobile platform and Play Store revenue is only increasing, it’s ridiculous that developers are still treating Android users like second class citizens. We still see stripped down versions and low quality iOS ports, often many months later. Tapped Out checks all of these boxes, yet EA still expects us to fork out our hard-earned bucks for in-game currency.
I’m not such a crusader that I’ll flat-out refuse to play a game for the above reasons, but without the social aspect and the opportunity to show off my Springfield to my friends (let’s face it, we’re all vain like that), I can’t see myself investing real money into it. I’ll stick to grinding.