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Plugged In

Astonishingly expensive Theme Park hits iOS

Plugged In

Electronic Arts is bringing the classic game Theme Park back from the dead, but the price of admission may make most players choke.

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Theme Park (EA)

The new take on the old management simulation will be a free download for owners of iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. But if you want to build some of the better attractions in your park, it could cost you more than the original version did at retail back in 1994.

The game is built on the "freemium" business model, meaning you can download the game for free, but any upgrades will cost real world cash. It's the same model Zynga has ridden to profitability on Facebook and several other publishers have used in the App Store. In those cases, though, add-ons are generally low-cost items which will only set users back a buck or two.

Theme Park has those as well, but if you want the really fun add-ons, the costs hits the stratosphere. A "skull-train roller coaster," for instance, will reportedly cost $60 in real world cash.

The game isn't yet available via the U.S. app store (it's only in Canada at present), but is expected to launch here soon. That gives EA time to adjust their pricing strategies, though it's unclear if they plan to do so.

Theme Park seems to use the same model as fellow apps Smurfs Village or Snoopy's Street Fair. Both are simulation games that set goals that can be accomplished in one of two manners: Dedicating hours upon hours of play to reach the goal or allowing users to buy credits to speed along the process.

It's a good way for developers to realize substantial profits from an app, but it's also a method that's been mired in controversy. After parents complained about their kids running up enormous bills when playing Smurf Village (one eight-year old racked up $1,400 in charges), the FTC decided to review the marketing and delivery of apps that include in-app purchases. It has yet to release its findings.

A whopping $60 for a single in-game roller coaster is, indeed, madness. But it's not the craziest in-app purchase you can make on your iDevice. That honor likely goes to the Kraken in Glu's multiplayer game Gun Bros. You're a sure-fire winner with the weapon that blends missile launchers and laser cannons — but getting one will set you back $500.

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