It Took Bubble Safari 41 Minutes, 31 Seconds Before That Facebook Game Thing Happened

Most Facebook games make you pay if you're having too much fun. Or they make you wait. Or they require you to bug your friends. The question is simply: how long will the game wait before it smacks me with this roadblock?

Bubble Safari, the newest game from Zynga and the latest in a ton of bubble-shooting Bust-a-Move-inspired games thriving on Facebook right now, took 41 minutes, 31 seconds to get to that point. I played it that long without hitting those snags. Last fall, the first game I timed like this, Mafia Wars 2, took 39:30 to get to that point.

I guess this is good for an ostensibly free game?

The lead creator on Bubble Safari, NBA Jam creator Mark Turmell told me earlier this week that he wants this game to help Facebook gamers learn the merits of failure. He's an arcade game designer, and he believes that it can be healthy for gamers to not be able to buy their way out of every jam. And, he pointed out with Bubble Safari, as long as you succeed in one of the game's levels you get the "energy" you spend to start the level back. In theory, you could play free forever. It's just hard to do.

This is how it went for me:

0:00 -- Started playing; zipped through levels after level. Had 15 energy points.

15:15 -- Failed a level, but re-started it, costing me energy.

28:53 -- Failed a level again, used in-game money to buy more bubbles and keep the level going.

29:33 -- Failed a level (I was at level 10 by this point)

32:18 -- Failed a level, was down to three energy points.

41:31 -- Ran out of energy and in-game money. Could have asked friends for help or paid to try a new level. Decided to give it a rest.

So that's 41 1/2 minutes of playtime in a free game before having to consider paying. Fair?


    Not fair. They give you heaps of time at the start, but energy will take forever to refill. To play for 40min again, you'll have to either spend money or wait 2-3 weeks.

    Maybe they should take a page from Apples book. Offer the game for free, then say "hey, did you know there's another "fuller" version of this game?". They could sell it for $4.99 (or whatever they think is fair). The obvious flaw in that idea though is that the people who do actually dish out there CC details to buy fake money will probably do it more than once. If companies like Zynga start selling games as a set price, they'll probably make far less than they do selling fake money here there and everywhere.

    I am usually happy to pay $1 per hour of gameplay.

    Game costs $100 (BF3/COD etc.) I am going to get 100+ hours out of it. I pay for an iPhone game that costs 99c I expect 1 hour of gameplay.

    40 mins for free is getting dangerously close to 'I am expecting to have paid $1 for this fun' mark soon.

    My 2c (or ~1 Minute) ;)

    This model doesn't really teach players the merits of failure, it just abuses the fact how people can get hooked during the free time, and getting them to spend money to feed such addiction instead of waiting it out for however long it takes to generate "energy" in the game.

    As Totilo made a point of, he flew through the levels for the first 15 minutes (gives false sense of achievment, much like in Mafia Wars two where the first boss was easy). After that point things get considerably harder and people will fail and are required to spend energy to continue. If the first stage succeeded in getting the player 'addicted' to it, then it's easier for the player to fall in the trap of wanting to pay to get better or to finish the game immediately, then to wait 1-2 weeks (or hours) just to continue playing. I've never heard of a developer/publisher forcing people not to play their game to understand failure, it would just drive peoples interests elsewhere.

    Mark Turmell said in the first article that "I think it’s important for players to lose and be challenged", which is ideal in many games such as Demons Souls, but the difference between that and Bubble Safari is that you are restricted by the latter by the amount of attempts you can make. Whilst it's good to have a challenge, i really don't think restricting players to the amount of attempts they can make actually teaches them anything, other than being a failure is expensive.

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