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Fair trade games: Five examples of free-to-play done right

Can microtransactions be fair and proper? Try these games and see for yourself

The OFT investigation into the legality of selling microtransactions to young Britons might be a positive step for consumers, but also more unfair press for free-to-play devs.


Within the core games community there is an assumption that all free-to-play games are as dodgy as each other. But really, there's no unifying rule on free-to-play games; Real Racing 3 does not define League of Legends and Hawken doesn't define Smurfs Village.

The nastiest examples of exploitation make the headlines, but there's also a whole collective of fantastic freemium games that ask for money in a honest and proper manner.

We've picked out five examples of free-to-play games done right. These are all games that, if you still have reservations about freemium games, you can sample without having to pay and then make up your own mind.

Have your own recommendations? Let us know in the comments below.


New Star Soccer

Platform: iOS and Android | Developer: New Star Games

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You could see the shock on people's faces at this year's Game BAFTAs when New Star Soccer - a charming iOS title built by one person - was awarded Best Sports Game instead of the likes of FIFA 13 and Trials Evolution. Unsurprisingly for a game with a marketing budget of zero, not everyone knew what it was.

It was word-of-mouth that built a groundswell of support for New Star Soccer; specifically, people confessing how much the football career simulator has taken over their lives. There is tens of hours worth of levelling up to be done here - building up from non-league obscurity to champion racehorse-owning sponsored superstar.

What makes this a shining example of free-to-play done right is how you'll be deeply in love with New Star Soccer before money even becomes an issue. After about ten hours in, spending £1 to £5 will be enough to take some pressure off the challenge - but again this is done with such care and subtlety that it doesn't feel like cheating and won't be a major issue if you continue to play for free.

You need to pay £1 up-front to unlock the career mode, which is the only rigid pay-wall you'll encounter before offing tens of hours of gameplay. In fact, you could spend more time progressing through this lo-fi soccer sim than most £40 triple-A games. And after twenty or even thirty hours, paying nominal fees for modest extras (like new pitches and additional weather effects) feels more like rewarding a developer on a job well done.

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