How Freemium Games Makes Us Forget The Sense Of Trade-Off For Using Real Money

In 2013, a research showed that “The Apple App Store now makes 90% of their revenue from freemium games, but only 10% from paid games.” Honestly, I was shocked when I found this fact. Because this fact is contradicted my previous assumptions. How could free games revenues 9x bigger than paid games?

The answer to that question is Freemium (free and premium). In the mobile games industry, freemium is implemented by making the games free of charge to download it. But as you advanced and progressed in the game, there are some optional in-app purchases that make your gaming experience more enjoyable. For example, let’s take a look of how EA SPORTS implement freemium in FIFA MOBILE:

This is a perfect example of freemium. Freemium games usually offer optional purchases so their players could progress the game faster and easier. In this case, you can buy 230 fifa points from spending IDR 29,000 of real money.

If I ask you to count the ratio (IDR/fifa points) of fifa points, can you answer it without using a calculator? Well except you are some kind of genius, most of you probably can’t count the ratio of fifa points.

Well, this is not accidental, this is actually on purpose. The purpose of making the ratio so incredibly hard to count is to make you don’t count it when you are planning and considering buying the points.

Why EA SPORTS don’t want you to count the ratio? Because if you count, you will get the sense of trade-off  (compromising real money) from buying the fifa points. For example, if I want to buy the VS ATTACK bundle, so I have to spend 2500 fifa points. To count the ratio, we must choose what ratio that we will use. Because the ratio for buying 230 fifa points are different than the ratio for buying 13,800. The ratio for 230 fifa points are IDR 126/points, and the ratio for 13,800 fifa points are IDR 108/point. For this case, let’s use the 13,800 ratio.

If I buy this bundle, I basically spend around IDR 270,000 Rupiah. That’s equal to 20 USD. Because we now know the real price, we could easily compare this decision with another potential decision. For someone that doesn’t like the game, the person will not accept the offer. But for someone that loves the game, he/she will accept the offer.

The example (FIFA MOBILE) I gave you before, is not the worse example of developers making the transaction hard to count. There are still lots of developers that makes the real value really hard to count. So let’s take a look at this pictures:

freemium 2.png

Now the complication is doubled. If you want to buy something with Magic Beans, and you don’t have enough Gold Bars, you need to buy the Gold Bars first. After you bought the Gold Bars, you need to buy the Magic Beans with your Gold Bars. Now you can buy items with your Magic Beans.

To convert to the real money. You need to convert the USD for one gold bar, which for me it’s already complicated enough. After you converted the money for one gold bar, you need to count how many Gold Bar is needed to buy one bean, then you could know how much money is spent to buy an item or something.

Because of this method of pricing, most of us won’t try to convert the virtual price to real money, because we are too lazy. If we don’t convert it, we don’t know how much money we will spend to buy an item. That’s why we don’t get the sense of trade-off.


(n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2017, from

O. (2014, January 05). The Saga Framework: Social Layer and Monetization. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from

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