Part 3 (Currently Reading)
The following is a presentation created by Martine Spaans, owner of Tamalaki Publishing and frequent contributor on Business Development matters here at FGL. Martine has 8+ years of experience in the online gaming industry and has served as Licensing Manager at Spil Games, worked in Online Marketing at Ubisoft, and is a Marketing Advisor at CFE.
Part 3 – What Can We Do?
In retail, 6 to 12% of goods are returned. Returns are also on the rise—up 19% from 2007. For every $1 spent on merchandise today, 9¢ is returned. (Business.times.com) Online retail 60% of goods are returned. Crazy high numbers! Retails Return Policies are on a counter-movement of becoming more strict again, to protect themselves from all the abuse and costs. Compared to that, our Free-to-Play problems are nothing. Compared to that, our audience actually loves us, right?
Also, most people who are silent are just silently enjoying your game. Sometimes the biggest complainers are the most loyal players. Don’t be shocked when you see lots of bad feedback. Compare it to the hard data. Your analytics. Follow the trend of your players instead of listening to the ones with the biggest mouths.
So…if Free-to-Play is nothing new, and is apparently a problem that is not exclusive to the gaming space, how can we learn from examples outside of our own industry? I have one for you.
Several large North American cities have attempted zero-fare systems, but many of these implementations have been unsuccessful. A 2002 National Center for Transportation Research report suggests that, while transit ridership does tend to increase, there are also some serious disadvantages. This report suggests that, while ridership does increase overall, the ultimate goal of reducing emissions by enticing drivers to take transit instead is rarely met: because fare-free systems tend to attract large numbers of hooligans, vagrants and other ”problem riders”, zero-fare systems often have the effect of frightening potential riders back into their cars.
When we translate this to F2P, this is an example of a badly executed F2P design. Originally designed as premium multiplayer, then suddenly transformed info F2P. Because of the bad design, trolls can take over, and create a bad experience for the nice paying players.
When we think if the primary goal of games, it’s to make something fun. Something people really enjoy. This counts for any type of game.
For educational games, learning should be the secondary goal.
For dancing games, physical benefits should be the secondary goal.
For multiplayer games, social interaction should be the secondary goal.
For Free-to-Play games, Monetization should be the secondary goal.
For any of these games, if Fun doesn’t come first, the second goal will never be met. If you design your goal to get maximum monetization, you increase the risk that players will not think your game is fun, and they will leave the game before spending a dime. That’s how many badly executed F2P games came into this world and failed.
Skinner Box: Don’t condition your players that they will suffer a disadvantage when they don’t pay. It worked in the beginning of F2P, but by now there are too many competing games out there who focus on fun, that a punishing system is not immersive enough anymore to keep player attention. Focus on making a game fun for everybody, and reward the players who do go out of their way to pay in your game.
Payment wall: Don’t design your game in a way that players have no other option than paying when they reach level X. People will just abandon your game and play something else. There are plenty of alternatives out there.
Gaming Medium: Be aware of the short game sessions. Try to keep that in mind when designing your In-App Purchase options. People should be able to play for free for 5-10 minute sessions if they like. Or special premium content shouldn’t force them to sit through long sessions either. The hardest thing of mobile design is to make it possible to play a game for only 5 minutes, but to also make it possible to enjoy a game for a few hours.
Overwhelming: People need to get the feeling that they only scratched the surface, and that unlocking content and getting to higher levels faster will open up more gates.
Spending cap: When people can spend $20 max on in-game items that will never expire, you’ll never get more out of your 2-3% payers. Even though they might want to. When you build in some purchase items that expire, or they can stock up, you open up a way to spend more. However, be careful that you don’t make it feel unfair by taking away their purchase. For example, a system where players can “rent” special armor for 24 hours only works when there is a clear incentive, like a special quest they can use it for.
Ownership: Character customization, gender specification, naming, building a house or town, etc.
Generosity: Something they desire, that helps them in the game. Something that makes them feel good. Take away that fear that you only want to earn money from them. Give them a cool gift for free.
Easy: Very attractive discount. Turn off advertisements. Add exclusive goodies.
Different: Various flavors of the game. Some people go for customization, some for high scores, some for collecting achievements. Make your In-App Purchase options attractive for everyone.
Gifting: A mechanic that not many games have tried out yet. Do you know that feeling when you see a silly gadget and you feel ashamed if you’d buy it for yourself, but you think it would make a perfect gift? Same with the emotion behind In-App Purchasing. Works well in multiplayer games in Korea. Works in immersive co-op worlds. When you’ve captured a certain audience in one game, try to transfer that audience to your new games. This is a lot easier when you stay with the same genres. It might be fun to try out new things, like building a racing game, a puzzle game and a shooter. However, it will be hard to capture an audience that shares this scattered love. This way you have to re-invent your audience over and over again, and you might end up spending a lot of budget on buying users.
Tamalaki publishing focuses on Hidden Object games, and sometimes we publish something slightly different for a similar audience, like a Match-3 game or a Time Management puzzle. This might be less challenging for the developing teams, but this way it’s easy for us to always capture the attention of our audience and serve them new games they will probably like. We don’t have to spend a lot of marketing money trying to find our audience, because we already have them. The snowball of users keeps on growing this way.
Gamesbrief.com -> subscribe and get a free F2P forcasting sheet that allows you to calculate the financial success of your F2P model.
We’d like to thank Martine Spaans for sharing this presentation with us. If you have any questions or comments for Martine regarding Free-To-Play games, monetization strategies, or any of the other topics touched on in this series, feel free to leave your comments below!