Since it was released in China almost two weeks ago, PopCap's latest Zombie versus vegetation tower defense game, Plants versus Zombies 2: It's About Time has been well received. Despite that, many of PopCap's Chinese fans are upset, claiming they feel "gouged" by the games in-app purchasing.
PopCap's original PvZ was a big hit in China. It wasn't uncommon to see people playing PvZ on their iPhones or iPads on a daily commute. The full game cost around $3 in China and currently holds a four and a half star rating on the Chinese version of the Apple app store. On the contrary, PvZ2, despite being free, currently holds a two star rating with the majority of reviewers giving the game one star. Have a look below:
So what happened in the three years since the first PvZ? According to reviews and online comments in China, the difference is in PopCap's monetization model for the game. According to reviews and documents I received from PopCap's branch in China, people are saying the Chinese version of the game is too "hard."
Some of the reviews online accuse PopCap and parent company EA of "gouging" the Chinese gamer for money, making comparisons that the non-China versions of the game are easier—which is odd, because the game is only in beta outside China. Also, it apparently cannot be played on U.S. accounts.
Still, here are some comments on the Chinese App Store (note that not all are negative):
"What a cheat, everything needs money, it's made me lose my interest."
"Even if you want to make back the money you lost on the first version, you still shouldn't do this (reference to piracy with the first PvZ). I paid for the first game. This is garbage. You think we don't have US accounts!!! What you're doing now will only alienate users and lose more money!!!"
Very fun! Very creative.
Despite all the negative responses PopCap has received, the company has put out a media report about how the Chinese version isn't all that bad. In the report, PopCap points out that the Chinese version of the game has all content available to the player without any cost—they only need to put in the necessary time:
As you can see, each plant costs $6, two times of the English version. But do not overlook the fragment bar below. It allows you to gain free access to target plant by collecting fragments by defeating the Yeti Zombie, five times a day at most.
It takes up to $48, or NOTHING to access all content. It’s completely up to the player.
Now, while PopCap's response seems to very stern, PopCap China rep Shiloh Cao told me a lot of the negativity on also comes from internet trolls. Cao says that many of the people who rated the game have yet to play it, and she also said that some are just frustrated by the difficulty level. Using herself as an example, Cao says that she was able to get far into the game without spending a single yuan. Cao highly recommends that players try both the Chinese and English versions of the game. (Note that the game hasn't yet gotten its full release in the West.)