Why Spellcraft: School Of Magic Is Not A MMO My Son Will Be Playing Again
My son loves playing games on his iPod Touch. Usually, he’s into single-player racing games, puzzle games, and platform games. But recently he asked me if I could find a game he could play with other kids online, “Like that game you always play” (i.e. Order and Chaos Online).
So I went looking for a good kid’s MMO, and I found SpellCraft School of Magic from Appy Entertainment, Inc. Spellcraft is presented as sort of an iOS version of Wizard 101, the PC MMO that kids play. It got a lot of mentions online in “Best kids MMO” lists, and even earned an accolade from 148Apps.com as a “Best Free To Play Game” last year. Sounds great! So I downloaded it, and my son and I sat down to try it out.
There’s a burst of active gameplay in the beginning of Spellcraft, as you work your way though the tutorial. You’re casting spells, defeating rats, finding treasure. It’s fun, though not terribly challenging, and my son and I had a little fun with it.
But then we began to realize that all those spells we were using were finite resources. Want to cast a spell 3 times? That’s three “cards” you burn. Once the tutorial is over, we were left in a pauper state. To advance in the game without making IAPs is nigh impossible. After a couple more battles we were spellless, coinless, and desperately waiting for time to pass so that our resources would ever-so-slowly replenish.
And when we did finally get a chance to battle again? Not only are the nagging IAP reminders all over the place, but each battle ends in a full-screen ad for some other game.
Um, no. Not for my kid.
Anyone who follows my column or listens to the podcast knows how much I dislike IAP, but I get the appeal for adults with disposable income. In a kids game, though? Kids don’t have the money themselves, and they don’t “get” the concept of IAPs the way adults do. They’re either going to get frustrated, or they’re going to harass their parents to let them buy more IAPs … which will last about ten minutes, before they’re out of spells, AGAIN, and need to buy more IAPs, AGAIN.
Spellcraft isn’t designed to give kids a good time. It’s purely designed to generate IAPs. With Spellcraft, it seems Appy is looking for that “Smurfberries Moment,” the one where mom leaves one-click purchasing on and Junior goes to town.
Oh, and the MMO portion of Spellcraft? Almost non-existant. There’s a dueling room, but (1) it redures more spells to burn, and (2) in our time with it we only ever got paired with players with Asian character names, and they never, ever took their turn.
Games like this should not be marketed with kids in mind. I don’t want my kids playing games where they’re constantly harassed to buy, buy, buy! Spellcraft: School of Magic will not be earning a place on my son’s iPod Touch.
That said, if anyone knows of a kid-friendly MMORPG style game out there that doesn’t clutter the screen with ads or require IAPS to advance in the game, let me know. I’m interested in seeing what’s out there for the younger crowd.
Want to hear more about pocket-sized MMORPGs? Check out the Massively Portable podcast.