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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).

That original Jurassic Park sense of wonder I mentioned earlier? It's nowhere to be found here. Jurassic World: The Game looks great, and the dinosaur models are impressive — but admiring them doesn't earn you coins or complete the little objectives that pop up. Instead, you'll send them into battle, where they bite and swipe at other dinosaurs in ferocious, turn-based competition.

It's grisly and weird; if this is what the new film is focused on, then I think I'll pass. But it's a core part of the game, and at some point it will probably hold you back from leveling up your park and unlocking more missions. Of course, you can always spend money to speed things along.

The catch

Frankly, I'm amazed at how brash Jurassic World is with its monetization. The game has no less than four individual currency/resource systems to wrap your head around: Coins (earned and awarded regularly), cash (for park upgrades and speeding up timers), food (it's what dinosaurs eat to become big and strong), and DNA (used to hatch new dinosaurs).

In-game cash can be purchased with real money and used to buy coins or food outright, while you'll earn DNA by selling off dinosaurs or watching video ads. You can also get cash by completing special offers through Tapjoy — like filling out a Burger King survey or getting an auto insurance quote, which is one of the most unsettling transactions I can imagine. Then again, getting 1299 Dino bucks does sound pretty sweet.

And that's not even the most aggressive part of the freemium design. Jurassic World also offers card packs, which allow you to pick up chunks of currency, bonus missions, and rare dinosaur species all at once. You get one free "Mystery" pack every six hours, which is surprisingly generous and can help you play for a long time — slowly, but surely — without spending. In return, you'll deal with frequent prompts to buy the pricier packs, which range in price from $5 to $50.

Can you imagine spending $5 of real money on something called a "Common" pack? Jurassic World can't even muster up the enthusiasm to name its in-app purchases in an enticing, satisfying manner. Intrigued, I splashed $10 to buy a "Rare" pack... and found the contents were barely better than the free packs I'd been opening up for days. The only thing different was the appearance of a less-common dinosaur, the Koolasuchus (Cool-asaurus?), which hardly seems worth 10 bucks on its own. 

I also spent $7 along the way on cash packs to help expand my park and level up my dinosaurs in a hurry. The battles start easy enough, but quickly became intensely difficult around level eight. At that point, you'd potentially need to spend weeks earning enough free currency to evolve and level up your dinosaurs enough to stand a chance — otherwise you can start pumping in money to unlock rare beasts and bulk them up in a hurry. Neither option really seems worth it.

 

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