Gameloft, My Little Pony and rampant greed

(Credit: Hasbro; CBSi)

Want to play the My Little Pony story on mobile? You're going to have to pay through the nose.

Gameloft is one of mobile game development's biggest creators of freemium titles. It was also commissioned by Hasbro to make My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a game in which you have to rebuild and manage the town of Ponyville.

The title had been hotly anticipated by Pony fans for months leading up to its release, and has been downloaded in droves.

I'm very familiar with Gameloft's freemium town-building modus operandi, so I thought I knew what I was getting into. A free-to-play game with some premium content that can be purchased for a not terribly unreasonable sum, and sometimes you have to either pay money or stop playing for a little while in order to recharge energy.

In My Little Pony, the game's story revolves around restoring the six key characters from the TV show to Ponyville. As you level up, these characters are unlocked in the store. The first bad sign was when one of the characters cost the game's premium currency, gems, which can be obtained very slowly — one gem every three or four levels — or purchased in the store. The going rate for this character was 90 gems, or around AU$10.

Now, I don't mind paying money in a freemium game if I'm having a good time, although I do believe that spending money in a freemium title should be absolutely optional. This was not; although, as mentioned, gems can be obtained in-game without a purchase, it would take around 350 levels to get enough to purchase that character. She is unlocked at 19, and the game won't progress until she is obtained.

Then I reached level 43, the point at which the last of the six ponies is unlocked — one of the most popular.

Her price? 500 gems. You have two options: play the game for three years and hope that there's no max level; or spend AU$51.99. But without doing one of those things, the game cannot be completed.

It is, quite simply put, the most blatant demonstration of sheer greed that I've ever seen in a freemium title. Gameloft and Hasbro knew that the legions of My Little Pony fans would flock to the title, and that they would want that last pony unlocked. They also, presumably, knew that children would gravitate toward the game as well.

What they didn't reckon on was players turning away from the game in disgust.

None of this breaks any of Apple's rules, and that's fine; it's not up to Apple to police how companies ask for, and people spend, money. It is, however, leaving a lot of My Little Pony fans with a bad taste in their mouths, especially coupled with Gameloft's terrible social integration.

It's been demonstrated that IAP can make a game a lot of money, and that people are willing to spend. But I wouldn't be surprised if Gameloft and Hasbro find My Little Pony revenue well below projections.

If your content has fans, that's great; but it won't work out well if you treat them like a captive audience of idiots who are just there to be taken advantage of.

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Latest comments (Add your comment)

That's why you hack the game when it becomes unfair.
Posted by RiverO
I luv this game!!!! It works fine for me. Add me on GL bam555666
Posted by MelissaM3
The game doesn't seem to have been betatested thoroughly. The unlockable game area is far too large for the amount of buildings/decor (or the decor list is far too small) - you end up being unindated by random events in the way of parasprites and weeds, unless you build with a density to rival 1980's East Berlin.

I was saving for Rarity until a misclick stopped I'll be downloading the hacked version.

Sadly Gameloft didn't understand it's target demographic(s) well enough. They also seem to have got a Russian fiscal advisor to set the currency rates.
Posted by DaisyA
OMFG THE MISCLICK IS HORRIBLE - I lost my entire stack by misclicking when the "No Internet Connection" message came up on the screen, now I am stuck with this retarded Gordon Gekko pony, which is by far the worst of all......none of the ponys even go near him
Posted by NickK5
hacked version?
Posted by MistahT
hacked version?
Posted by MistahT
Freemium relies on whales who pay a lot of money to make the business model work. There are a lot of very smart people figuring out how to get you invested in their terrible games and then to take as much of your money as possible. Since a small fraction of users provide most of the revenue they need hundreds of dollars from each of these users. It is a very predatory business model that needs to end. More people need to support premium and stop playing this freemium garbage or all we will get is garbage apps like this. I personally won't touch even well rated freemium because I don't want to be part of the problem.
Posted by SeanF1
Gameloft has caught the irreversible "EA Fever" and so, have become corporate asshats similar to the fevers name sake. Soon enough there will be add-ons that give more ponies or areas, but you have to spend an inordinate amount of money or gems to get the aforementioned goodies, similar to EA's douche-move-extraordinaire of not making you pay for the ending of a game as DLC (Mass Effect 3), or Battlefield Premium (buy the game twice just for an orange Black
Posted by DanS
the worst part.. 2 days after i got the game,, and got a cheap gem pony... the game stooped opening and they would tell me to do was delete the game and re-download... but.. there is no save feature i lost everyone... and all the levels i had gotten
Posted by LauraS1
This is why I really hate "Free to play" games.
I would be much happier paying for the game up front, or even paying a monthly subscription fee. I absolutely despise any game that makes you purchase in-game things with real money, especially when the prices are absurd.
Posted by RossC1
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