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Opinion: Truly Free is Truly No Fun

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Everyone knows that free doesn’t actually mean free. When an app is free, it generally means one of three things: The app is collecting information, the app includes in-app purchases, or the app is a preview with either a premium version or severely restricted options and gameplay. That’s just sort of how it goes. Unless you sign up for the new Amazon Underground.

If you haven’t heard, the basic idea behind Amazon Underground is that users can play paid apps for free. And when I say free, I really mean free. In-app purchases are free. No ads, nothing. Just the pure game exactly the way the gaming gods intended. It sounds like a dream come true and I was rather excited to try it out.

With a little trepidation, I decided to opt to download Cut the Rope 2, because I loved the first one and simply couldn’t into the sequel due to the excessive in-app purchases. The game downloaded without a hitch, but still displayed ads when I launched it. Weird. I immediately went into the menu and saw there was an option to purchase no-ads, so I clicked it and was greeted with the following message:

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Good sign. I also received an email immediately after from Amazon confirming that I hadn’t been charged. As it turns out, everything was free. I had access to unlimited coins, unlimited upgrades and power-ups. All the cheats in the world were at my fingertips, just waiting to be used whenever I wanted them.

It was terrible.

Now, this might be a good time to say that I’ve never been a fan of using cheats in games of any sort (with the notable exception of the Sims franchise). It takes all of the challenge away and simply makes it too easy. Half of the fun of gaming, for me, is figuring things out on my own. Doing the same task a dozen times til I get it right or until I figure out what I’m supposed to actually be doing. It’s wonderful. I really only use cheats when I’ve been stuck on something for a few days. I guess I’m old school.

That being said, while I applaud Amazon Underground for its initiative, I can’t say that I’ll be using it at all. I tried three or four games via Amazon Underground and found that I became bored with them even faster than normal because, well, it was too easy.

Part of what makes something like, say, Candy Crush so addictive is that the levels are designed to be hard. You get SO CLOSE and then you run out of lives. You have to do it just right. But, imagine you had infinite lives and infinite power-ups and could use as many as you needed whenever you needed. It’d be less than no challenge, and if there’s no challenge, why bother?

On the other hand, I suppose if you had some self-control it could work and would be pretty nice. Forget waiting for things to recharge or having to save up for days to avoid spending real money on power-ups and add-ons. There are definite benefits.

I suppose that only time will tell how well this program is actually going to work, although it looks like Amazon is pretty invested in it, even going to so far as to end its Free App of the Day program.

To download the update for Amazon Underground, visit this page from your phone and then click on the link to download. Make sure that your security settings have been modified for allowing installs from third-party sites.