South Park Takes On Free-to-Play Games in Freemium Isn't Free

South Park Takes On Free-to-Play Games in Freemium Isn't Free

South Park's most recent episode focused in on the addictive nature and business practices of free-to-play games.

There a lot of people who don't like "freemium" games and for some arguably good reasons. Put simply, their entire business model is pretty much based around getting players addicted to their supposedly free experience and then manipulate them into paying for seemingly small advantages that can gradually add up to a lot of a real world dollars. This unique brand of manipulation took center stage last night in the newest recent episode of South Park.

Entitled Freemium Isn't Free, the episode focused primarily on Stan and his worsening addiction to a "free" Terrance & Phillip mobile game. Setting aside its many humorous gags (cough The Canadian Department of Mobile Gaming cough), the episode actually did a great job of detailing the arguably shady business model that make many freemium titles profitable. "The truth is, a very small percentage of people who download freemium games ever pay anything for them," says the Canadian Minister of Mobile Gaming at one point. "It's all aboot finding the heaviest users and extracting the most amount of cash from them. That's how you get addicts to pay 200 bucks for a game that's not even worth 40 cents."

The episode overall was both solidly funny and a brilliant break down of freemium games and why some might rightfully consider them to be the work of the (Canadian) devil. It's also, of course, not the first the long running comedy series has tackled the subject of video games. Back in 2006, the episode Make Love Not Warcraft paid humorous homage to the famous MMORPG. Last year's three part Black Friday storyline also served as a dual parody of Game of Thrones and the conflicts between console fans. If you're interested in watching Freemium isn't Free for yourself, the full episode is available for free viewing at the official South Park website.

Source: South Park Studios

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StewShearer:
aboot

I laughed too hard seeing you that appear in word form.

Anyways, the episode was actually really good. Easily the best of the season so far.

Also, did anybody notice how the "Canadough" values actually decrease the higher you pay? I thought that was a good touch.

I'm going to have to watch this one. Sounds hilarious!

Bets on if South Park ever touches the GamerGate issue? Maybe in a year or two?

South Park is still brilliant, it's as simple as that. How they have managed to keep the show consistently high in quality with such a wide cast of memorable, colourful characters is beyond me. And this season seems to have a lot of metagags for the binge watchers.

EDIT: upon reflection, I think it's clear that the two are actually Zeno.

COMaestro:
I'm going to have to watch this one. Sounds hilarious!

Bets on if South Park ever touches the GamerGate issue? Maybe in a year or two?

If they to touch it at all, it will be when it's still a think. Remember that these guys came make an episode on the spot (the 2008 presidential ones was written ahead of time to take into account either winning, and then animated and aired the day after the election). They hit when it's topical, when it will have the most punch. If the touch it at all, it will be before the end of the season or the first few of the next one (if it's the type which cuts off for the winter, I don't really know if it is).

How if only EA take a note or two from that scene for their awful Dungeon Keeper game.

Wow, that indeed accurate to the whole freemium concept.

The moment this episode started my friend groaned and said "Oh great, Jeff's gonna have a ton to say about this episode." He was wrong. The episode pretty much said it all.

It's pretty much...

*Sunglasses go on*

...on the money.

Actually, you could probably use a video like that to explain bitcoins too.

I've never been particularity fond of the giant orange space hippo from Mars, but this bit was brilliant!

Oh I loved that Canadian devil Beezleboot!

Does it count as satire if it's actually 100% accurate... because that was a completely accurate summation of exactly what 'freemium' is.

Just finished watching that episode aboot 15mins ago, i wondered "Hmm, how long will it be before news of this appears on the escapist?" I log on here and lo n behold...it has appeared!! ;)

There are a small, small number of games that do freemium properly. I'd say Card Hunter, or maybe Terra battle are good examples. Sadly, most are exploitative guff. I could see the episode actually being really informative.

Maybe

Hero in a half shell:
Does it count as satire if it's actually 100% accurate... because that was a completely accurate summation of exactly what 'freemium' is.

Maybe they could have added a little "This is what Freemium Deveolpers actually believe" banner.

A little blunt but it was funny, very good :)

Topical, maybe they could have created a parody pf Mechwarrior: Online as that game is just horrid when it comes to this practice.

StewShearer:
the full episode is available for free viewing at the official South Park website.

No, no it is not. It never is and never was. I am going talk about this somewhere else. (cannot even force myself to write a-boot as one word)

i didn't even know there was a new season of south park. To be honest, as much as i love south park the last season was a little more patchy than usual, less 'hit' and lot more 'miss'. Regardless, I'll probably still watch it anyway.

FYI I Am Some Guy:
There are a small, small number of games that do freemium properly. I'd say Card Hunter, or maybe Terra battle are good examples. Sadly, most are exploitative guff. I could see the episode actually being really informative.

Hearthstone is another good example of freemium done correctly. I played that game for weeks without spending a dime.

OT: Once again, Matt and Trey prove their genius. I haven't actually seen the episode yet, but just from that clip and the description, I can tell that they get what a cancer freemium gaming can, and has, become.

Yeah, this episode was totally spot-on and hilarious. My favorite bit is when Stan accidentally summons the Devil, who explains the science of addiction, then figures out its the Canadian devil behind it.
"Oh, that son of a bitch!"

Nailed it, and explains why I'm not bothering with F2P games or mobile gaming period.

I don't want a grind to "encourage" me to pay, I'd rather pay for a good game with a full experience rather than have time and resources of the devs trying to find ways to annoy you into paying.

Saulkar:
Topical, maybe they could have created a parody pf Mechwarrior: Online as that game is just horrid when it comes to this practice.

While it is expensive, and the grind is fairly bad, its a whole different ballpark than games that are designed to be addictive, such as Zynga games. They don't pretend that "its just a tiny bit" that you can purchase anytime during gameplay or anything like that. They're quite upfront about how much everything they sell costs. Again, while I think its more expensive than it should be, both for the player and the business (I suspect they'd earn more if they price everything lower for more sales), and it even have the whale mentality, its not quite predatory in the same way that Farmville is.

COMaestro:
I'm going to have to watch this one. Sounds hilarious!

Bets on if South Park ever touches the GamerGate issue? Maybe in a year or two?

Nah. Too risky. Gamergate is widely seen as a hate group so doing something like that could be career suicide. Emphasis on "could be", chances are it may be received well but it's really in their best interests to stay away from it.

Which kinda sucks because their recent episode about transgenderism and Tumblr social justice warriors was absolutely perfect. I think in the near future people that are on the left politically will realise that they have their crazies just like those on the right. Middle-class privileged teenagers complaining that they're being oppressed is exactly like when conservative Christians claim they're being oppressed. At least in the USA.

Sorry that was a bit of a tangent haha.

Finally watching the Episode, it is indeed hilarious. I like Satan's earnest speech about Addiction, but speaking as a Diabetic, Satan know's jack about Diabetes (It's not the Liver like Satan claims, it's the Pancreas that emits Chemicals necessary for Cells to Absorb Sugars). I also like Randy's obvious alcoholism that he's oblivious to while trying to claim that he's not an addict.

I'd give this episode a 8/10.

Any satire in the video game industry is welcome, especially from South Park. I'm gonna have to watch this episode within the second.

COMaestro:
I'm going to have to watch this one. Sounds hilarious!

Bets on if South Park ever touches the GamerGate issue? Maybe in a year or two?

Well friend. As a christian, I believe in times of doubt that the best course of action is to ask,

The execution in this show is still horrid, but I welcome any comedy to stab at this basterdised business strategy. I've hated the idea from day one.

South park always ends up understanding issues better than most news sites, which i find pretty funny. Honestly, i don't think all F2P should be damned, i've seen it done well before, but it's a very easy model to abuse.

MarsAtlas:

Saulkar:
Topical, maybe they could have created a parody pf Mechwarrior: Online as that game is just horrid when it comes to this practice.

While it is expensive, and the grind is fairly bad, its a whole different ballpark than games that are designed to be addictive, such as Zynga games. They don't pretend that "its just a tiny bit" that you can purchase anytime during gameplay or anything like that. They're quite upfront about how much everything they sell costs. Again, while I think its more expensive than it should be, both for the player and the business (I suspect they'd earn more if they price everything lower for more sales), and it even have the whale mentality, its not quite predatory in the same way that Farmville is.

Yeah, I hear everything you are saying. Having put so much personal effort into helping them improve the game then be outright blown-off along with many of the alpha and beta testers tends to leave one spiteful.

It's sad but it's true. Three of my coworkers have easily spent over $500 on that ridiculous Clash of Clans since the game came out and countless others have spent more than $100 in microtransactions. I really wish I was exaggeration about those amounts, but I'm not. One of them is nearing $1,000 in transactions and they still justify it as "the game is fun and I'm only spending a few bucks here and there, so what's the harm?". It's their money, but I don't actually believe they comprehend the fact they have spent half of a normal paycheck on a supposedly free game...

Caramel Frappe:
I know you're not supposed to take South Park very seriously, if not at all... but when they make episodes that hit issues head on while being absolutely truthful about the matter... it's something you can't simply ignore.

Their scene about the Free-to-Play was so accurate and true, I don't know if they even made the scene to be humorous or educate people about how much money is blown on a devious scheme such as this.

Sometimes the real world is so weird and unbelievable that just presenting it matter-of-factly and without any sugar-coating can be hilarious (or at least can make people laugh as a coping mechanism). Compare to the scientology episode where they had to add disclaimers to the scenes depicting scientology's "secret" teachings, and some people didn't believe them even then.

Hero in a half shell:
Does it count as satire if it's actually 100% accurate... because that was a completely accurate summation of exactly what 'freemium' is.

Terrance and Phillip come back later in the episode and complain about how people seem to be getting addicted and the guy doing the explanation in the clip suggests a campaign to "play responsibly" (followed by a fantastic beer commercial parody), then come back again and "see through the charade" again, and the guy explaining freemium games in the clip reveals himself to be the Canadian devil, Beelzeboot and explains how the purpose is to exploit people with addictive tendencies. Then there's a battle between Beelzeboot and Satan (possessing Stan).

DizzyChuggernaut:

COMaestro:
I'm going to have to watch this one. Sounds hilarious!

Bets on if South Park ever touches the GamerGate issue? Maybe in a year or two?

Nah. Too risky. Gamergate is widely seen as a hate group so doing something like that could be career suicide. Emphasis on "could be", chances are it may be received well but it's really in their best interests to stay away from it.

Which kinda sucks because their recent episode about transgenderism and Tumblr social justice warriors was absolutely perfect. I think in the near future people that are on the left politically will realise that they have their crazies just like those on the right. Middle-class privileged teenagers complaining that they're being oppressed is exactly like when conservative Christians claim they're being oppressed. At least in the USA.

Sorry that was a bit of a tangent haha.

Depends on which scale you're using, but given you said "At least in the USA" then thats the one I assume you're going with. In which case, from a norwegian point of view, all of it ranges from far right to far extreme right. Though the less said about the norwegian experience with the far right, the better. Different culture and all that. :)

Also yeah I don't think it'd be smart of them to tackle GamerGate at this point if at all.

To me this video underlines perfectly how South Park has turned for the worse, now they just have the characters do presentations about what the show is making fun of instead of actual jokes and narrative. Putting on a silly face and voice and going "Herpdy derp, I'm *insert name or organization* and I'm stupid!" isn't a joke.

Episode got me some things to think about addiction. Damn you internet.

The key part is (and I paraphrase slightly):

"Can't the game hidden inside the charade at least be fun?"
"No, no! It has to be just barely fun! If the game was too fun then there'd be no reason to micropay in order to make it more fun!"

That right there is the heart of the problem with this particular business model and the reason such games will almost invariably suck.

 

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