iMore show 347: Freemium frenzy

Georgia from ZEN & TECH joins Rene to talk about the true cost of freemium iPhone and iPad games. Why did freemium games come into being, how did they grow to dominate the charts, what causes us to keep feeding them, and when do they cross the line? Also: A surprise visit from Kevin Michaluk of CrackBerry!




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For all our podcasts -- audio and video -- including the iMore show, ZEN and TECH, Iterate, Debug, Ad hoc, and more, see

iMore show 340: Nerd Talking

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iMore show 347: Freemium frenzy


Although I quite like - and appreciate - your podcasts, the current lack of editorial creativity underwhelms me. There's talking about news and rumours, which you sometimes do, and there's that: you find a "concept", and than you develop it to almost ridiculous proportions. I could cite many exemples of that, like the facehugger metaphor for facebook home, the smurf house better than your pal's, and so on. The thing is, tech nerds like me often listen to multiple podcasts, and you're often invited or cited in there: hearing the same concept or idea developped dozens of times becomes harassing.

My point is: keep up the good job (because hey, you're still doing a good job), but try to diversify your topics a bit.

Oh and please, fix that crappy sound quality, sometimes it sounds almost as if I'm listening to a plastic can wired with my grandma's threads. Nice for memories, not so nice for a modern podcast...

I think your editorials are great Rene.
Many people forget that editorials are opinion pieces.
Keep on giving us your opinions, man.

Another week and another podcast where the microphone is obviously far, far away from the speakers. It was really a strain to try and hear the speakers over the echo from how far they were away from the microphone.

I don't really care if the content was "too good" or not in the past couple episodes, because I simply did not listen past the first minute. I can understand an English accent perfectly, but the fact the microphone was in another room along with the clipping made it completely unlistenable. It simply wasn't worth the effort to me.

If you are on the road and cannot do an adequate podcast, then just don't do one if it is going to be like this. Take a break and wait until you return home or can do the podcast in a room with a microphone in FRONT of each speaker. We listeners understand that you cannot be in the studio 52 weeks a year, so please, take a break if you need to, we will understand.

Thanks Sock! Miss you too.

Sorry about the sound, being in a huge penthouse makes the mic echo. We did our best to make it sound less far.

I love Georgia, I love Rene (and the androgynous name) and I love that they are actually together in one place doing this segment. How far do you guys live from one another that meeting to do these cast is inconvenient? As imore grows, polish does add to the expertise! My best...

Ok, putting aside the less than perfect audio and the obvious distractions occurring behind the camera in a studio setting you were borrowing (beggars can't be choosers, right?), this was a terrific and much needed episode. You and Georgia distilled down to an understandable level many complex and important concepts in game development motivation, game play addiction, social media addiction, mobile device addiction, and a variety of their contributing factors. As Georgia stated, developing counters to some or all of these starts, individually, with an understanding of what they are and how each person is affected by them, and you both covered that wonderfully here. This kind of insight is why Rene is now a featured guest on Macbreak Weekly and has quickly become the guest with the most well thought out contribution, despite Leo's insistence that you are there merely to dispense rumor. GREAT job with these podcasts! And thanks for putting them on.

The problem isn't "freemium apps." The problem is you guys are addicts. You have a disorder. It's compelling you to buy games or buy in game add ons. That's not normal. Most phone users don't have such a compulsion. I've never bought in-app anything. I even disable it so i wouldn't accidentally click it. The reason people will pay for coffee but not a game is simple, There are many more coffee addicts than phone game addicts; as you say it's chemical dependance. The coffee is needed for them to function daily where as a phone game isn't, and a daily coffee is simply way more satisfying to most people than a game on their phone. Yes, most people would rather have coffee than play a game on their phone. That may not be you but you're the minority. But if someone needs a new smurf whatever to feel important or stroke their ego that's a problem.

Regardless, you're addicts and that's not good but there are many many many more coffee addicts.

I've not been able to fully enjoy an episode of the iMore shows due to the poor sound quality. I did listen long enough to the recent one to hear the excuse for the poor sound quality so I guess that is forgivable. But I was hoping that with the confirmation of the poor quality there would also be a solution.

Can you provide an update as to when the sound quality will be bearable? Otherwise it is a waste of bandwidth to download a show I will not listen to.

the sound quality when you are traveling has to be improved! I could not stand listening to you when you sound so bad - please improve ASAP!

Audio quality aside, great topic.

I think that it all comes back to Apple's naming/category issues with the iTunes/App Stores.

Book Apps / iBooks, movie apps (WB's Batman) / iTunes movies, Bjork's Album App / iTunes songs. It's a tangled mess. Although not perfect, I believe Newsstand is the closest they've come to a proper implementation. They are labeled as Magazines but distributed as apps. The customer doesn't care. They just want to look in their books folder (iBooks) and see things (apps/iBooks) that have been labeled 'Book'.

Ideally they would do some Newsstand style implementation for premium games. Differentiate them inside of springboard and the set up with a different set of rules and regulations similar to Newsstand.

Number 1 rule would be that the App/Game has to define not only if it contains In-App purchase but the type of In-App purchase. If a game has a finite dollar amount of content then let the customer know. This game has a total In-App purchase total of $60. Or this game contains packaged additions of content that will be made available over time. Or this game
has an infinite dollar amount and should be looked at with a type of warning label. Parents beware, know before going in.

I think this would help to divert the perception that all In-App Purchase is bad and let the consumers have a more informed view of what's going on.

Oh this is a free game with an infinite In-App purchase model. Then you place the cigarette type warning label. My 2¢.