According to a study conducted by data.ai and IDC, an industry said to expand to a whopping US$222 billion in market share works on a seemingly complex business model often overlooked by the average consumer. The industry in the spotlight is the mobile-game industry which works on a free-to-play (F2P) business model.
But wait. Before you start drooling over the term “free-to-play,” you need to tame your high horses, as it’s just the tip of the iceberg. These games are everything but “free.” Under the hood, it’s just the freemium business model that is after your wallet, but the adrenaline rush of getting to the action leaves even the best players blindfolded.
How? You may ask. Just refer to the popular cliche saying, “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” You knew that already, huh? So did 10M+ users across the web playing Pokémon UNITE, of which nearly 4.7% of the players pulled the wagon to stay profitable. These players came to be known as Whales, and since then, the percentage of these whales has been growing with each new download.
Take it from Mrwhosetheboss, who recently decided to educate his 11.8 million subscribers on how popular games like Pokémon UNITE, Call of Duty, Diablo Immortal, and Raid Shadow Legends, are run by developers or, as he quotes, “scammers” trying to bankrupt their players.
In the video, he specifically shed light on Pokémon UNITE, sharing his experience playing the game and getting trapped in its Hook-Habit-Hobby model.
Let the games begin, eh?
According to Mrwhosetheboss, the game starts like any other mobile game that you might think of. The players, divided into two teams of Pokémon, are supposed to head to either side of the map to score points against the opposing team. The players are greeted with a tutorial (if they choose to read it), and then a pop-up ad is slapped on the screen asking them to get a membership called the UNITE Club membership worth 10 dollars.
Obviously, the majority of the players would close the pop-up and head over to the main game, only to find themselves trapped in a loop for the rest of the time.
The players get enticed with a log-in bonus that manages to sneak into their pockets full of in-game currency and other rewards. An unfamiliar player just accepts the bonus rewards and starts playing the game.
A few days in, the player feels the need for in-game add-ons that could increase the odds of winning as competition grows. These add-ons usually come in the form of skills that the Pokémon possesses, like Fire Spin and Flame Burst, thus enhancing the strength of the Pokémon to win against other players.
The player goes to the in-game store, upgrades their held items with a currency called Aeos coins (collected during the game), and starts playing again. Only to find it hard to keep up with other players and constantly lose the battle.
Enter Battle Pass. As the progression rate of the average player slows down drastically, leaving them with a need to constantly level up their held items, which in reality becomes a tedious process to go through, forcing them to make the next purchase in the form of a Battle Pass.
Just so you know, before the battle pass, this purchase, or any of it, is what the developers call “The First Spend.” That’s what breaks the ice, and the players become spenders.
But wait, there’s more…
Battle Passes are the gateway to promoting heavy spending inside the game that every company just loves to get their players trapped into. Every time a battle is won or lost, rewards sweep in, only with an offer to earn extra with the battle pass at the players’ side.
Alternatively, players could go with a more organic approach to grab the rewards, the catch being this method takes weeks to get the player a 0.4% advancement on the battlefield. (Good things come to those who wait, huh?)
The Youtuber claimed that the in-game-held items ask for more enhancements to get to the next level. The item enhancements appear in bundles of 30 that need extra upgrade points to go to the next level, accounting for a total of 7,761 item enhancements to be earned to stay in the game. The free item enhancements fall roughly around 1,535 in number with a maxed-out battle pass adding 360 more item enhancements making the player run short of 5,866 item enhancements. (Phew, so much number work!)
Currencies. Quite a few.
The Youtuber even breaks the mythos that this supposedly “free game” lets players walk away with enough purchases already as the number of currencies and enhancers in the game keeps rising.
At first, the game shows a premium currency known as Aeos Gem combined with Aeos coins giving the players an option to buy tickets, namely Aeos Tickets, Fashion Tickets, and Holos Tickets. These tickets unlock different in-game skins and accessories to make your Pokémon look, let’s say, “fashionable.” Also, boost cards and item enhancers add a cherry on top to the overall Pokémon battle experience.
The community takes over.
Mrwhosetheboss’s efforts to spread awareness were not well received by the Pokémon community. Many content creators displayed their concerns about the contents of the video and claimed to have won the battles without spending boatloads of cash.
Take a look at how the community reacted to this.
Or this tweet that claims the video is full of misinformation about the game.
Krashy//Joseph’s response on Youtuber’s take on the game amidst the #OctoberUNITED boycott against Pokémon UNITE.
What if Mrwhosetheboss loses the game in beginner mode? Who knows? The internet knows it better.
Of all the reasons the game received traction since its launch a while ago, many creators and players have found a way to register wins inside Pokémon UNITE. Still, given the influence of Mrwhosetheboss and the discussion on whether the F2P model is really exploiting the players or not, the debate becomes open to a wider audience.
Game developers might be prioritizing profits over the players’ experience, but genuinely speaking, exploring new ways to cash in the revenue should prevent the developers from getting bashed by popular streamers and creators who actually hold power to make or break a trend.
What are your views on this? Are you satisfied with the claims made by the Youtuber? Do share your thoughts with us in the comments.