I'm an apologist for mobile games because I generally believe they're fun, low-rent distractions that are easily enjoyed alongside full-scale releases. I can't play God of War on the bus, but I can peck away at Pokémon GO while I'm in transit, or even when I'm shopping.
But my affinity for mobile games is also the reason I'm always coiled to spring on exploitive titles, especially ones that prey on popular fanbases filled with young people. That's why last week I gave a good dressing-down to Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, a free-to-play mobile game that utilizes a rapidly-depleting energy system. Every task you in the game perform takes a bite of your energy—sometimes a big bite—which can leave you stranded in the middle of story twists unless you wait ages for your energy to refill or pay actual money for a top-up.
So I’m “playing” that Harry Potter game and holy fuck you really do have to pay for energy or watch a child being strangled for like 20 minutes. pic.twitter.com/ZMkKC4mL4S— Jim Sterling (@JimSterling) May 1, 2018
The other day, the vloggers at German YouTube channel "Ultralativ" did a little math to determine how much money you'd need to spend to play a single hour of Hogwarts Mystery uninterrupted. The answer? Between 43 and 51€ (or between $51 and $61 USD) depending on how the game's gems are purchased (most free-to-play games offer discounts on large quantities of hard currency).
Short on cash? No worries. If you can't cough up the dosh for an energy refill in Hogwarts Mystery, you can take the cheaper route and let the game's energy refill on its own. But for an hour of uninterrupted play, you'd technically need to wait around for 46 hours (thanks to the Harry Potter subreddit for the video translation).
Thankfully, people aren't being taken in by Hogwarts Mystery's controversial monetization scheme. Oops, I mean Hogwarts Mystery is the seventh-highest grossing free-to-play game on the App Store right now, and it's making more money than Candy Crush Saga. What's next for Jam City? Maybe it'll buy a baker's dozen of dragon eggs and make some omelettes. I'd like to see some unique Instagram #foodie photos come out of Hogwarts Mystery at the very least.
NOTE: Some Hogwarts Mystery players say prices for microtransactions in Hogwarts Mystery were recently reduced, but the changes don't appear to be universal. Microtransaction prices remain stable on my copy of the game, and the prices listed on the App Store seemingly haven't budged.