Editorial: The Price of Free Games

The adverts have been floating around the internet for a while. “Sign up now and receive a free game on Steam!” These sites exist to collect data and promote select games in exchange for points that can be redeemed for content or currency on gaming platforms. Out of curiosity (and in the hopes that I could write something about it) I signed up for one such service, Gamekit, and explored what the world of points-for-games had to offer.

To begin with you need to sign up for an account. No big deal, I used an e-mail I rarely check just in case it was some kind of scam and I suddenly got drowned in spam mail. Next up, age verification using my full date of birth. I used my real information here because these kind of freebie sites often ask for identification when you cash out and I would not want the data to be a mismatch. These sites need very little reason to deny someone a payout, and as they often remind users, people need to follow instructions exactly to receive rewards. What followed next was a quick overview of the system before I was allowed to chose my ‘quests’.

Sequel to League of Angels I & II

League of Angels III is a popular Chinese MMORPG.

A quest is essentially methods for dishing out rewards. The one I chose was for League of Angels III, a web-based RPG. The description was simple, “follow the link from Gamekit and register an account, then input your nick on Gamekit.” This sounded incredibly easy for the whopping eleven thousand points that were on offer for the quest, so I clicked through, signed up, and entered my screen name on the site. This was not the end however, it was merely the beginning. The next step (of five total) was to reach level eight. Each step pays out progressively more points and experience for reaching the required milestone. Upon reaching said milestone, the user needs to screenshot the quest requirements exactly. If I had have played an taken a picture at level nine it would have been invalid as they asked for eight.

Skipping the obvious grind ahead of me, I decided to look for something more immediate. The site offers surveys in exchange for points also. At first the survey site asked for some basic information off me to set up a profile that would be used to generate the surveys they would like me to participate in. Once complete, it offered me a survey that would generate a reward upon completion. “Great” I thought as I started answering, only to be told that my answers meant that I was not suitable for the survey I had already started. Okay, on to the next one, but this survey had already closed. One last try made me realise that before I received any sort of reward I would have shared far more than I was willing, so I skipped that too.

When they chose to let you finish one.

Handing over data through taking a survey is one way to earn credit for games.

Most of the quests on the site had multiple parts that are hidden from the user until the previous step is completed. I could have picked another game at this point, but I did not want to add to some free-to-play games download figures just to see what hoops I had to jump through to obtain a few measly points, so I took to the internet to see how other users experience with the system compared to mine. The results were about what one would expect given my experience so far.

The main gripe users seem to have is that rewards are delivered slowly. Once a quest is completed and the required photo has been uploaded, a person on the other end has to manually validate the authenticity of the claim. This is not a quick process, but cashing in points can also take a while to resolve. The rewards themselves can also be a minefield, as one can not only redeem points for Steam credit, but also for Steam keys as well. Keys are given for random games which could be (and likely are) much cheaper than the user would expect. Oh, and that free game users get for signing up? Their account needs to be level one or two to claim it, but must be level three in order to receive it.

Imagine a world where Blizzard banned people sharing an IP address.

Using public wifi means sharing an IP address with anyone else using the access point.

There are also some real horror stories from a few users who placed orders after spending farming their points, only to find their accounts banned shortly after. At least one user lost their points in this process. A reason this happens is due to the users logging on in with public wifi or using VPNs. The systems in place are quite harsh, and accounts cannot be restored unless others that have been accessed on the network are first deleted, which would require knowing the names of the accounts in question. A tall order for someone who legitimately has a single account.

This type of service has been around for a while, but it is still fairly new to the game industry. With the rise of free-to-play games in recent years, there are many small publishes that will use this service to drive more users to their software, which in turn gives the service provider extra content to keep their users returning and viewing ads on the site. As the points can be gambled for items that have monetary value, it may only be a matter of time before services like this are clamped down on by regulatory bodies.

Have you had any experience with Gamekit? Have you used a similar service? How has the experience been? Let me know in the comments!

2 comments on “Editorial: The Price of Free Games”

  1. Long story short; there are too many hoops to jump through to get something for nothing, that is if they let you have it at all.

  2. Free games suck. If a game is worth playing, it is worth paying for. If it is not worth paying for, it’s not worth playing.

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