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Freemium Field Test: Jurassic World: The Game might leave your wallet dino-sore

Andrew Hayward | June 16, 2015
Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).

I don't know what to think of Jurassic World (the film) quite yet — though I'm sure I'll have a better idea this weekend. On one hand, I want to feel that amazing sense of wonder imparted by the original film, which I first saw as a kid. On the other hand, the wooden acting, rough CG, and trained velociraptors of the trailer raise red flags — and I can't forget the crummy Jurassic Park III. I'm hopeful, but admittedly not that optimistic. 

At least I know what I think about Jurassic World: The Game, Ludia's free-to-play iOS tie-in. It's perhaps the most aggressively monetized freemium experience I've ever bothered to spend weeks playing, yet it's curiously generous, proving incentive to tolerate the frequent spending prompts. That's a weird balance, but it sort of works here.

However, Jurassic World sadly isn't much of a game. This park-builder had the potential to be an addictive, Zoo Tycoon-esque affair that let you oversee your very own dino-destination. Instead it's a rote resource grind punctuated not by creativity or park-management elements, but rather dull dinosaur fights. In other words, it's the Jurassic Park III of free-to-play Jurassic Park games. Which might be fine for some, but it's not terribly inspiring.

The pitch

Building out a Jurassic World of your own is about as ideal a premise as is possible for this franchise, and it's an approach that fits well with typical free-to-play game design. You'll start with the basic structure of the park, but then you'll need to fill it with various dinosaurs and other structures as you aim to start completing missions and generating income.

Ideally, this is the point where you'd have to start overseeing attendee metrics, balancing income and expenses, upgrading structures, setting prices, and doing all of the gleefully geeky stuff that makes amusement park simulators so engrossing. Instead, Jurassic World keeps things incredibly simple: You'll never worry about customers. They're mentioned in dialogue bubbles, but they're not key to your success. In fact, the idea of being successful barely even registers.

That's because Jurassic World taps into a reliable loop of earning coins and then spending them, which is more or less the entire core of the experience. The more stuff you have in your park, the more coins you passively accumulate. Leveling up your dinosaurs also generates more coins, which means spending the coins you have to create food and then feeding them. It's all terribly mundane and handled via menus and button taps, so there's no real thrill to "raising" your dinosaurs.

 

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