This is a post from the very early days of this blog. I’m reposting it in a slightly updated form, with a link to a CNBC article from a couple of days ago.

There’s an easy answer to this one – and that’s “no”. And there’s a very simple reason for it. The Simpsons Tapped Out is what’s known as a “freemium” game. That means that while you can have lots of fun playing with all the free stuff available, there are also premium characters and items that you need to pay for if you want them. The good thing about the freemium model that Tapped Out follows is that your progress isn’t dependent on buying these extras – they just add to the overall experience.

So why do you have to pay for anything? Because EA is a business and its income depends on people buying its products. The income from premium items pays for the development of the new events, level, and characters that we all want and the intellectual property behind them. And as long as the game is profitable, EA will continue to develop it and introduce those new events, levels, and characters.

The freemium model is part of the new world of gaming, one that has engaged many more people than the old $60 game model. With some studies indicating that we use our mobile devices for games far more than we use them to communicate with each other, what’s known as the “app revolution” has made gamers of more of us than ever before. And a study by PlaySpan has found that 77% of us spend more time on free-to-play titles than games that involve us handing over real world cash just to get started.

To read more on the freemium model and how it’s here to stay, take a look at this recent article on the CNBC website: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100588740. It gives you an idea of just how much mobile devices and the freemium model have changed the world of gaming and just how many games are moving towards the model adopted by Tapped Out.

All this means that it is highly unlikely that EA will ever provide players with an option to convert game dollars into donuts (apart from the $50,000 second shot at the 3 donuts that you get at the bonus levels). It’s the donut micro-transactions that make the game profitable – and as long as the game is profitable, we’ll be able to continue to play it. Now, that doesn’t mean that EA won’t do another promotion to convert something into donuts like they did with the Santa Coins after Christmas, or give away the occasional free donuts as they did on Valentine’s Day. But for EA donuts mean profits and that makes them as precious for EA as they are for us.

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