Time-savers are a popular means of monetization for Freemium games today. We, video-game “sommeliers”, may detest this mechanic because we see it as an inferior mechanism within the meritocracy that is a good game. Players who appreciate good games are there to play, not to wait. We can’t complain, of course, about time-savers in front of players that enjoy those games – waiting or not – since Freemium is what makes those games available for free in the first place. Many people enjoy them, regardless of waiting times, or even in anticipation of such: It suits the taste or schedule of many to play in little bytes distributed over the day. The same holds for tobacco by the way.
Simply a matter of taste then? No, let’s dig deeper a bit: I would argue that Core gamers appreciate depth in games and therefore disregard the superficial game mechanics that “time-saving” Freemium games often come with. We want to dive into a game and enjoy the carefully authored rich experience in full, and here short sessions simply won’t do. We paid for the game in advance, to not be kept waiting or be teased into the next micro-purchase, we want it all, all-you-can-play! But then, who is saving whose time?
I often had the feeling of wasting time with gaming long before the advent of Freemium. I hoped for a game that, after a good session, would say: “Stop playing now for a while and do something useful to get some real life satisfaction”. I was surprised when it actually happened with “Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training” and indirectly in “Swords & Sworcery”. Most games however are still designed to keep you playing as long as possible, in order to establish a perception of value.
But what IS value in a game? The time I used up playing it? Surely not. It’s more the experience I had while at it. Of stomping my best friend’s troops into the dirt, of improving the life of hundreds of Sims by revamping city infrastructure, and also of being involved into a narrative. And rarely these experiences would require a lot of gaming time as such. “Braid” is a great example of how rich experience can be conveyed with limited assets, and no time-burning repetitiveness (like, say, a “Quake 4″). Coming back to Freemium games I conclude that their time-saver items are actually saving my time – if I don’t purchase them.