Are paid games really doomed?

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by FlowStudioGames, Feb 20, 2015.

  1. FlowStudioGames

    FlowStudioGames Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2011
    The mobile landscape has changed rapidly in the last two years. The majority of apps are free now and most of the existing marketing strategies focus on paid user acquisition. Unfortunately, paid installs don’t work for premium games. Why? Because the majority of paid games have a low user Life Time Value.

    I wrote down 5 strategies which worked well for our games:

    1. Increase the LTV
    2. Approach Youtubers
    3. Promote with Free App A Day
    4. Cross-promote your games
    5. Aim for being featured

    You can read more about each strategy at the blog:

    And I would love to hear some more tips from other devs as we all need to help each other (to fight major publishers and freemium :).
  2. Xammond

    Xammond Well-Known Member

    Mar 22, 2014
    Free sweets are bad, publishers are vampires.
  3. 1stSPIN

    1stSPIN Well-Known Member

    Nov 15, 2014
    Own 1stSPIN
    China / Canadian
    I think the key point is that the market is changing and you have to be on your toe. It's time to think of new ways to increase your revenue over a short period of time just like the movie industry does. :)
  4. FlowStudioGames

    FlowStudioGames Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2011
    I 100% agree with you! That's why the very first point in the blog post is about increasing life time value :)
  5. TheGreatWhiteApe

    TheGreatWhiteApe Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2011
    Games Designer, animator, writer
    Melbourne, Australia
    Paid is still viable

    From my experience paid is still viable for Indie developers. Most of the advertising spend and big players are targeting the freemium model at the moment which leaves space for top quality games and apps in the paid category.

    I think the key is to insure that you also have some way to monetise within the app, some inapps that enhance gameplay rather than limit it, so that if you do need to set the app free to promote downloads you can still draw some revenue.

    Currently to stay in the charts under freemium you need tens of thousands of downloads a day, under the paid charts 50-100 downloads a day. That means that even a small boost in downloads will help you climb the charts and get noticed early on.

    If you don't have a huge marketing budget but do have a top quality app then I'd suggest running it as a paid app.

    With hundreds of new apps launching daily now, the market is crazy competitive. I read that the Clash of Clans guys spend upwards of 1 million a day on advertising. No way any indie teams can compete with that, with or without funding.
  6. FlowStudioGames

    FlowStudioGames Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2011
    Hey Ben, thanks for your interesting point of view. I agree and want to add one more perspective: freemium and premium games address different players! I will explain this with a short story.

    Octagon is a pretty successful game on iOS so it was a natural step to port it to Android. As I was afraid of piracy and general approach to paid games on Android, we made changes in the business model and offered the game for free with in-apps and ads. Unfortunately a free game attracted a completely different group of casual players who hated the difficulty and simplicity of the game. Ratings dropped down to 3.6 stars and we were frustrated that the game lost it's chance of being promoted by Google Play. After several experiments with freemium we pulled down this version and offered paid game. Downloads are rather low now but rating is back to 4.5, the same as on iOS and Mac. I hope we still can get some spot at Google Play because finally the game found it's audience. Just because the change from freemium to paid.
  7. nobstudio

    nobstudio Well-Known Member
    Patreon Indie

    Jul 8, 2011
    game developer
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I was going to release my paid iOS RPG game to google play as free to play and unlock full content with IAP. Now I am going to reconsider.

    free with iap
    *reach more players
    *harder to pirate(right now I have 50% piracy on iOS, read online its 90% for android)
    *bad reviews (seen many user reviews unhappy with IAP to unlock full game)
    *wrong audience as you mentioned
    *might not reach many players as it is hard to climb up the rank.

    I think octagon has the similar "fun mechanic" as cross road & flappy bird, difficult to master and high replay ability. Perhaps you can try free with video ads? Very popular now :)
  8. reallyjoel

    reallyjoel Member

    Mar 19, 2015
    Of course premium is not dead, just because one business model is growing doesn't mean the other are dying - or even decreasing. If you're aim is mass market and to make money then yeah right now freemium looks the best. But you can make a niche for yourself anywhere and be succesful on your own terms.
  9. SaltyRyan

    SaltyRyan Active Member

    Sep 14, 2014
    Indie Game Dev
    I think that, if you really believe in your game, you should at least give some academic thought to the idea of alternative business models if a premium model doesn't show returns. Not every game necessarily lends itself well to a free model, but the success of games like Crossy Road have shown that there are viable alternatives to the traditional F2P route (in this case, opt-in ads.)
  10. sraptor

    sraptor Member

    Mar 31, 2015
    Game Developer
    Big studios have to spend A LOT of money in order to monetise their f2p apps. If you are just an indie with few resources, I think you should go for paid apps or free with ads. It is way easier that way because you don't have to worry about your game's internal economy and you can focus on improving other aspects of your app and do some guerrilla marketing. :p
  11. Eggsavior

    Eggsavior Active Member

    Mar 19, 2015
    Could not agree more! Personally I believe that paid games have bright future as premium product segment. There are still enough players who are ready to pay for great experience uninterrupted by ads or IAP offers. Of course, successful paid games must deliver such experience, and many of them really do.
  12. SevereEddie

    SevereEddie New Member

    Aug 18, 2016
    Paid Games Keep the Industry Going

    Hey guys,

    I just wanted to give you my take on this.

    I am both a casual and serious gamer, depending on the amount of free time and the games in question. Because I mostly play indie games, I believe it is important to support your favorite developer. If someone puts a lot of their effort and time to create something which will either help me relax or stimulate my brain cells, I think they deserve my support.

    The reason why I feel paid games are not doomed is because there are a lot of people who think like me. It's all about raising awareness, I feel.
  13. senkoujin

    senkoujin Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2013

    I also agree that paid games keep the gaming industry going! There's nothing better than happy customers that are saying the famous line "Shut-up and take my money!" to companies that provide quality gaming that keeps them craving more and more! I've already spend over $30 on PREMIUM games in the past week alone!
  14. Saucepolicy

    Saucepolicy Well-Known Member
    Patreon Silver

    Feb 18, 2009
    Crispy ex-game developer
    I know it's easy to feel that way from the outside, especially in an echo chamber like Touch Arcade, but it's not the reality. For background, I was a game developer for 23 years, working for several large publishers. I've also had access to all sorts of industry-wide analytics during my tenure.

    There aren't enough people who think like you, who also follow through with their wallets. And saying "it's all about raising awareness" is a dramatic over-simplification of user acquisition. Most indie developers have no idea how to market their games, and certainly don't factor in the budget to give their games the visibility to compete with F2P user acquisition machines.

    For instance, did you know that ad providers in mobile games work on a bidding system? The reason you see a million ads for Mobile Strike or King games is because they can afford to bid high for those slots, effectively pricing smaller outfits out of the market.

    I tip my hat to anyone who is willing to stick with it in such a toxic market, but I finally left when it became clear that the way to survival was optimizing KPIs (average revenue per active user, 7-day user retention, etc). I'm not saying that a game doesn't have to be fun too (and "fun" is very relative, remember), but the expectation of mobile gamers is that games are updated for free, for long periods of time. If you don't have a constant stream of revenue, that's a losing proposition.Remember the backlash when Monument Valley dared to charge for more levels? Oh the humanity.

    It's a hit driven market, and for every premium success you show me, I'll show you two dozen that sank without a trace. Games like Monument Valley are the exceptions that prove the rule.

    I'm not trying to be a total Debbie Downer here. The takeaway is that premium developers need to be extremely smart about how they approach mobile. A strategy that currently has a better than average chance of success is to release on Steam first and build an audience. If the revenue proves sustainable, port to other platforms. However, in this climate I would personally never recommend that a premium dev release on mobile first, especially if they're thinking of porting to PC. PC gamers have a perception that mobile games < PC games in complexity and depth. Regardless of whether it's true, that has real effects on adoption by those gamers.

    Good luck everyone. Keep fighting the good fight!
  15. klink

    klink 👮 Spam Police 🚓

    Jul 22, 2013
    No thank you
  16. Tinytouchtales

    Tinytouchtales Well-Known Member

    Wow @Saucepolicy has made his homework and is right on almost every level. I have experienced absolutely the same in my short career at big f2p companies and my own independent endeavor.
  17. Qot

    Qot Member
    Patreon Bronze

    May 23, 2015
    Saucepolicy is absolutely right about the state of the gaming market. (I work in game development for 8 years, including 5 years of mobile game development.)

    Premium should go to PC first simply because there are hundreds of large-to-medium gaming (read "PC") sites that can bring players + curated lists on Steam. But on mobile TA is the only serious option for iOS plus there are some Android sites but it's usually not enough to stay alive without a feature by Apple/Google.
  18. PikPok

    PikPok Well-Known Member

    Nov 26, 2009
    To offer a counterpoint, PikPok doesn't spend any money on paid user acquisition.

    The most hard cash we spend is the occasional Toucharcade advertising at launch.
  19. ackmondual

    ackmondual Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2009
    U.S.A., earth
    Thanks for posting! Always into seeing posts directly from those in the industry!

    Yeah, I remember Monument Valley. I got it for Android as part of the Humble Mobile Bundle 12 bundles. It didn't come with the Forgotten Shores expansion, but I wanted to check that out, and got it for $2. I had a feeling the mobile consumer community would be up in arms about this, and surely as the sun rises from the east and sets in the west, they were.

    Some folks on one discussion commented how extra content should be charged extra money, as that's how it SHOULD work. Others just said "lame", or its equivalent. I don't know who or when there was the initial nudge towards "always free updates for life", but that was another thorn in developer's sides. I agree with a podcast that it's attitudes like these that result in the saying "there generally isn't a culture of paying for things on the iOS App Store"

    Curious (as opposed to calling you out or anything), but could you provide 2 dozen, or as many as you could of titles that never made it?
  20. enormouslin

    enormouslin Member

    Aug 3, 2016
    I guess there are two reasons for this situation.

    A. People never reject free shit.
    B. Customer who pays most are not always the one appreciates good stuffs.

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