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?