six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This week's sponsor

Protect your privacy and decipher iOS 11 network features with a new book by Glenn Fleishman. Get 25% off with code SIXCOLORS.

By Jason Snell

The stink of coins

Alto's Adventure purchase screen

We might be a little obsessed with the endless snowboarding iOS game Alto’s Adventure here at Six Colors world headquarters.

I’ve been playing it a lot, and enjoying it. During each downhill run, you pick up shiny gold coins that I always figured were just part of the game’s point system, as well as a nice nod to classic console games in the Italian Plumber genre.

One of the clever things about Alto’s Adventure is that at the end of every run, you can just tap a Try Again button1 and make another run down the mountain. You have to remember to tap the Home button if you want to change characters, view your stats, adjust your settings, or visit the Workshop.

For the longest time, I didn’t know what the Workshop was. Early on in the game I tapped on it and discovered it was a way to upgrade some of your equipment by spending coins. I rolled my eyes and immediately tapped the Back button.

Here’s the thing: Alto’s Adventure does not trade in-app purchases for coins. The only way you can earn coins in Alto’s Adventure is by playing the game. There are no shortcuts where you can pay $4.99 to get the Wingsuit, or $9.99 for 20,000 extra coins.

That’s when I realized just how poisonous the current App Store environment is when it comes to games. I assumed that Alto’s Adventure—even though I had paid $2 for it—was going to try to extract more money out of me in order to have a better in-game experience. It took me quite a while to realize that I was only expected to use the coins I had been collecting in the game, and that this “in-app purchase” mechanic was meant to reward my long-term use of the game, not vacuum cash out of my wallet.

Honestly, I wonder if the developers of Alto’s Adventure wouldn’t be better off finding some other mechanic to use for in-game upgrades. When it comes to iOS games, offering a shopping area where you can pay for goods in coins offers no delight—it has come to represent nothing but a cash grab.


  1. It seems like it would be more in the spirit of the game if this label read “Another Run.” ↩

[If you appreciate articles like this one, help us continue doing Six Colors (and get some fun benefits) by becoming a Six Colors subscriber.]