One of my favorite games of all time is the puzzle game Peggle. After being introduced to it in 2008, I have played countless times on multiple platforms, including PC, Android, iOS and X-Box (my favorite platform to play Peggle on). Recently, while trying to think of a new game to download to my Android phone, I felt like playing Peggle again. I bought the game for Android years ago, but I was disappointed to find that it was no longer available on Google Play Store. As it turns out, PopCap, the company behind Peggle, retired the game in August. In stead, a new version of Peggle – Peggle Blast – can be downloaded for free. But the thing is: as much as I love Pegge, I hate Peggle Blast. It’s a for-mobile-only, freemium game with lots of in-app purchases and bad gameplay. So, no Peggle for me…
This experience did make me think, though. While Peggle Blast is free, the original Peggle game was not. I paid good money for that game. And I bought the game knowing that I would be able to download and play it on any future Android phone. I don’t know why it’s not available anymore (though, I bet it has something to do with getting people to play the freemium game instead), but it doesn’t feel right. If PopCap doesn’t want people to be able to buy Peggle anymore, that’s fine. But I had already bought it. A transaction was made. I had one more game than before I bought it, and not as much money. I bought it! The game was mine! Wasn’t it?
I’m not sure anymore about who owns my games. Did I pay for Peggle, or did I just pay for the right to play Peggle. And it’s not just Peggle, or mobile games – It’s the whole gaming industry. Most of my X-Box games are located in the cloud. What happens when someone decides to turn that cloud off? And the games I do buy in a real-life, physical store, and I have a physical copy of, can’t be played without having to download a huge update.
The times when I could just buy a game and play it right away is over. Whether a game is bought online or as a physical copy, my feeling of ownership of the games I buy is not as certain as it should be. Most games need to have an internet connection (at least the first time playing it), even if it’s a single-player game. Most games need to be downloaded, even when owning a physical copy. And the games get updated constantly, feel incomplete without purchasing extra downloadable content, and, as was the case with Peggle, can disappear from existence.
There are many technological reasons for why games are changing. The level of internet access allows for games to be larger than what could be fitted on a game disc, as well as a constant string of updates and bug fixes. This of course isn’t all that negative. But financial incentives and the success of mobile gaming are encouraging game developers to create free games with ads, in-game purchases and episodic content, in stead of creating finished quality games for gamers to buy. And it’s partly our own fault. We’ve become so accustomed to things being free that we don’t want to buy even small, cheap mobile games. And the developers see that – and respond to it. So for the future of gaming, I hope people get tired of the freemium gaming model. I want my games back!