Help, I'm Married to a Free-to-Play Gamer

By Joe Robinson 26 Sep 2019 3

I have a confession to make - I’m married to someone who likes free-to-play mobile games. I know, I know, shocking. Since taking over as custodian of Pocket Tactics I’ve started using my mobile for gaming more than I used to. Despite my traditional interests leaning towards PC and Console gaming, I’m now just as likely to fire up Star Trades: Frontiers or Rebel Inc. as I am to jump on Europa Universalis 4.

But I've always tried to steer away from the kind of Free-to-Play games that contribute to the negative perception that business model has, dabbling only in the more interesting freemium releases out of professional curiosity. Pokemon Masters has been kind of fun, for example. But games that want you to spend money? That gate your time via energy or a hundred different ways of stringing out a very basic gaming experience in the hope of enticing someone to spend? If I could I’d have banished all those kinds of games from my household and stood proud as a bastion of truth, justice and premium games on mobile.

Except my wife has other ideas and won’t listen to me.

She plays a lot of F2P games. You name it, my wife’s probably given it a go - Farmville, Cat Town, Candy Crush… list all of the games that represent your worst free-to-play nightmare and it’s basically my wife's play-history. I could try to analyse why - she’s incredibly frugal and doesn’t spend money easily, and also these games are good for short bursts of activity or to idle away some time. Some of the ‘management’ ones allow her to set up production chains which I think she enjoys. It’s actually quite fascinating in its own way - refusing to spend even a single penny on these game means my wife has become a kind of zen master in maximising free premium currency and playing a game until it’s literally impossible to play any more without paying, at which point she finds a new beau.

merge dragons

My wife's current favourite is Merge Dragons. I get the impression it’s kind of a big deal - you merge sets of things to make other things and merge those, and there are dragons that you help you do more things. The overall goal seems to be to keep merging so you can remove some fog from some place. It has millions of downloads and players, presumably because Fog is annoying and something we can all agree needs to get in the sea.

The developers of this game, backed by known F2P giant Zynga, have recently released a new version called Merge Magic. I was curious as to what someone who’s spent a lot of time in Merge Dragons - like my wife - would think of this new game.

“Because It’s basically the same, I already know what all the tricks are, what’s going to happen and what I need to do. There’s nothing new here. It’s basically the same as Merge Dragons.”

-Mrs. EditorJoe, September 2019

Ok then.

About half an hour into her play session with Magic, she had to stop playing because she ran out of energy and got locked out of the game, so she went back to Merge Dragons instead. Over the evening her initial impressions didn’t really change - apart from re-skinning everything and using a better graphical base-line, Merge Magic is as far as we can tell exactly the same as Merge Dragons, for better or worse.

I went back to the press release I was sent to try and get a sense of what the developers wanted me to know, to see how they thought their new game stood apart from their old one:

  • Discover hundreds of fantastic objects to match, merge and interact with in over 80 challenges!
  • Unearth fairies, unicorns, minotaurs and never-before-seen hybrid creatures like Peacats (peacock and cat) and many more.
  • An evil curse has been placed on the garden: Fight off the fog and lift the curse to restore, and take back the creatures’ home!
  • Watch out for witches: On your puzzle journey, you may cross paths with evil witches, so beware!
  • Participate in frequent events and win advanced beings to take back to your garden.

I mean, it sounds exactly like Merge Dragons, only with Fairies and Magic although I will give it to them it's a much prettier game. It makes me wonder what the business decisions behind something like this is - by all accounts Merge Dragons is a huge title, and an easily recognisable brand. It’s got a million-and-one copy cats, especially in the Google Play store. The time and money they’ve spent making this new, seemingly identical game could have been spent making more levels and content for Merge Dragons, surely?

Even my wife brought that up, as she merged another set of five eggs to hatch a dragon that could now go do a thing for her, although the next day I saw her playing Merge Magic again anyway. I think she’s now splitting her time up between the two so that when one gates her out, she can go do the other one for a bit. You know I got her to buy Death Coming once - she enjoyed it but there wasn't much content for it so she just went back to her F2P library.

But there you go, straight from the expert in the field: Merge Magic is basically Merge Dragons. Except Magic.

You’re welcome.

Merge Magic is available on both iOS and Android.

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