Plants vs Zombies drops in-app fee

Screenshot Lawnmowers are now free to use again

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The company behind the popular Plants vs Zombies mobile game has said that the introduction of a charge for a previously free item was just a "test".

Players had reacted angrily to the charges on the social news site Reddit.

In-app purchases can be made in the free-to-play game but the use of "lawnmowers" had been free.

The aim of the game is to stop an advancing line of zombies by putting plants in their way and using lawnmowers to get rid of them.

Electronic Arts had already faced criticism for its in-app purchase system in another game, Dungeon Keeper.

Small-scale test

Writing on Reddit, Plants vs Zombies fan sketchampm said that the game had been "fundamentally changed" by the new charges.

Screenshot Plants and lawnmowers are used to stop the zombie advance

"It's not like a level or a part of the game is missing, no, a part of the inherent gameplay itself is gone and if you want it back you're going to have to pay for it," he said.

Players are given five "lawnmowers" at the start of each level to use as a last ditch attempt to get rid of the zombies. Once each one has been used it is unavailable until the level is restarted or you move to a next level but in a recent update users noticed that they would now have to pay a fee to get their lawnmowers back.

In a statement to tech news site Ars Technica a spokesman for PopCap - the game's developers - said: "We are always testing new features in Plants vs. Zombies 2. The lawnmower feature noted by some players was part of a small-scale test and is now over."

EA has since released another update for Plants vs Zombies which has removed the charges for lawnmowers.

Lack of skill

The first version of the game cost users money to download but the current one was released in 2013 as a free download.

Mobile analyst at IHS Insight Jack Kent said that users can be reluctant to pay upfront for a game if they don't know what they are paying for so in-app charges become more important.

"For smartphone and tablet developers in-app purchases are the dominant business model, 80% of revenue is made this way," he said.

"Mobile games are still evolving but it's not a business model that's going to go away. Different customers are happy to spend different amounts but the challenge is not to alienate users," he added.

But one user commenting on gaming website Gamezone thinks players of free-to-play games should stop complaining about in-app purchases (IAPs).

"Their mentality nowadays is that if they couldn't purchase any IAPs they wouldn't be able to complete the game. The only reason you can't finish Plants vs Zombies 2 is because of a lack of skill not a lack of depth of your own wallets."

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