Is mobile gaming similar to old school arcade in the sense of monetization models and game design?
Not really. Old school arcade games ask you for money for a chance to play, and to try again from where you lost. Mobile games don’t ask for an up-front fee, and usually allow you to pay for a powerup that makes the game easier to complete, or introduce waiting elements that take several hours to complete, but allow you to pay not to wait.
This page has a list of in-app purchases for one of the most popular freemium games. You need gems to buy more than two builder’s huts, and those control the rate of construction for everything in the game. Paying gems also speeds up their building progress. And they can also be used to speed up a ton of other things.
Candy Crush works pretty similarly to arcades in that it offers extra tries for cash, except that extra tries come for free every 30 minutes, and they have a ton of other powerups that make levels easier.
Like, this stuff is basically pay to win, pay for a competitive advantage over other players. There was a case recently of the highest paying customers of Modern War basically holding the game hostage to get them to change how powerful some of the in-app purchases were after being nerfed.
Reading this article on candy crush actually makes me slightly worried about my dad who plays the game.
Of course these payment plans are very deliberately chosen to make it seem less like you’re paying to win, they’re just a powerup. They’re chosen to deliberately foster habit building, by making you come back to the game after a regular amount of time. You’re given freebies to get the foot in the door, and lead into the shop to train you in purchasing for real.
Good arcade games never did all this. Of course you do get examples like prize grabbers which are basically kiddie gambling (and penny slot machines which are the exact equivalent of this in real gambling, letting you pay a ton of pennies all at once from a credit-card-like card that holds your money to get a bunch of bonuses).
Most arcade games asked for a credit to be able to play the game AT ALL, up front, and never let you pay for bonuses. At best you’d be able to credit feed to continue where you lost, though many games let the operators disable this function (not that they did). In Japan there is apparently a cultural custom of never continuing, so as to not hold up the next person in line (or there is if icyclam’s arcade culture post is to be believed). I take not-continuing to be the correct way to play arcade games, because it’s the only sane way to have any type of difficulty.