Thoughts on Free-To-Play Model

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by BravadoWaffle, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2010
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    #1 BravadoWaffle, Oct 26, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2010
    On our Bravado Waffle Studios blog, I posted an article on why we are going to be releasing our first game RoboArena for free and how we plan on making money with it: http://www.bravadowaffle.com/2010/10/roboarena-will-be-free-to-play/ It's pretty exciting in our opinion. Check it out and let us know what you think!

    We are going to be making the in-game purchases and avatar upgrades very similar to how Gunbound does it.

    The free-to-play model is something that we see a little of in the App store, but I don't know that very many games have pulled it off successfully. Other than anything made by ngMoco which obviously has done it right, Pocket Legends certainly comes to mind when I think of a game that has successfully done this. I think Pocket Frogs might also have done it well, but I haven't seen any indication on what their profit margins are. What do you think it takes to make a successful (read:profitable) free-to-play game? Do you think there's a future for this style of game in the App store?
     
  2. c0re

    c0re Well-Known Member

    Apr 15, 2009
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    I personally don't support free-to-play model, because basically it's advertising a game to be free, while still searching to make the customer pay.
    Also, it prevents from real production investment for the average dev, as there is no real possibility to estimate a revenue. So it prevents the game to be truly jaw-breaking, in a word (like your favorite console AAA game, I mean).
    For those two reasons, it can't be a solid scheme to me.

    But on the appstore, where games are 90% of clones and one-minuters, free-to-play can find its place.

    Good luck to you.
     
  3. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

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    #3 BravadoWaffle, Oct 26, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2010
    I think this is the concern of a lot of new game designers and indie developers. However, I'd respond with reports like this one: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4046/what_are_the_rewards_of_.php?page=1 where game companies are reporting increases in revenue of up to 10x what they were making before they went F2P. ARPU is in the range of $10-$50 a month for these kinds of games. That's Per User, Per month. Most of these games tend to be played for 3-4 months.

    To put that in iPhone terms- Imagine getting a free iphone game downloaded 10,000 times, with an average revenue per user of $10 per month. That's $100,000 a month. Cut that in half and you've still got a handsome $50k a month. There's a good reason why ngmoco sold for a ridiculous $200 million.

    Designing a F2P game is difficult though for that very reason you mentioned. People don't want to feel like they have to pay money to play the game and enjoy all its features. You need to build a game around that model from the ground up and carefully balance everything so it never feels like users are forced to spend money.

    Also, with regards to preventing true AAA jaw dropping games from being developed, I disagree. Asian MMORPGs that are free-to-play tend to make more in a single month than the most successful pay to play MMOs in the US do in an entire year. There's nothing stopping a developer from raising the prices on the app store if the F2P thing doesn't work out. Unfortunately even with the pay to play games, it's comparatively rare to see a true jaw dropping polished game make it to the market.

    Granted, it is a risk however, one that I hope we can prove is worth it with RoboArena so other developers will feel more confident to give it a try!
     
  4. BlueSolarSoftware

    BlueSolarSoftware Well-Known Member

    Oct 9, 2009
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    For one thing, ngmoco didn't develop their F2P game We Rule. It was contracted out to another studio.

    Wow, you misunderstand what these basic terms mean. I hope you didn't base your business model on this error. Look up the definition of ARPPU again.
     
  5. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

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    #5 BravadoWaffle, Oct 26, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2010
    Ah, you are right, I didn't notice they switched to PPU in the report. Of course the ARPPU would be much different than the ARPU. Ha, that kind of skews the numbers doesn't it?:eek:

    Still, even with a $1 ARPU overall, you are looking at a significant chunk of change over a steady amount of time, say 3 months per user. As opposed to a single purchase of .99.

    Whether or not ngMoco developed weRule, godfinger, wecity, or not, the fact is that they are raking in the cash.

    I'm curious though what kind of revenue games like Pocket Frogs and Pocket Legends are seeing?
     
  6. EssentialParadox

    EssentialParadox Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't suit all game styles, but can work. Games that are slow evolving games, like we rule and farmville, are suited quite well.
     
  7. It's advertising the game to be free because the game IS free.

    Nobody is forcing you to pay money. You can happily play as much as you want for free.

    What's wrong with a developer wanting people to pay to play your game anyway? As developers we put hundreds or thousands of hours into a game. Sure we love what we do, but why do you think we're doing it?
     
  8. c0re

    c0re Well-Known Member

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    Very good analysis, very interesting standpoint, thanks.



    I'm not talking from a user standpoint, but from a developer standpoint (we're in the dev forum after all ^^)
    Dev will want to earn money, whatever the game advertises with its model.

    I'm the first to advocate that hard work has to be paid, but here wanting to be paid is contradicting with the "free-to-play" advertisement. Emphasis on "free".
     
  9. 99c_gamer

    99c_gamer Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2009
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    As a gamer I'd rather pay $1 and get the full game than play a free game that
    I feel is nagging me to spend money.
     
  10. My feelings are that with most games that have recurring IAP, the main focus on the development shifts from "how to make a good game" to "psychological tactics to get people to buy the IAP"

    That said, I did pony up for 10000 gold in Solomon's boneyard, so maybe I just don't like most of the recurring IAP games I have seen.
     
  11. I think this is probably the most important point, so far as IAP goes. There's nothing wrong with the model so long as you're still delivering a solid game experience for free players and not trying to turn them into addicts.
     
  12. You seem to be implying that there is a bait and switch, but there usually isn't.

    When done right, the game really is 100% free to play. You can just get things done quicker in many of these game by paying.

    Even better, when done right, players are HAPPY to pay to improve their experience.
     
  13. c0re

    c0re Well-Known Member

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    #13 c0re, Oct 28, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2010
    As Shen wrote, it is generally shifted towards "psychological tactics" to bait for regular DLC buying.
    Nitro speed/cars/tuning in Need for speed World, coins in Project Entropia mmo, weapons, etc. All existing FTP games are selling key elements, not "just eye candy". So in the long term, when you as a player are facing tons of DLC powered other players, you can't find any more interest not to buy DLC yourself. Or game loses so much interest and balance that you're tempted to play something else in a matter of days/hours.

    It's logical, and completely assumed by the devs, because it's a business model. FTP model can't be based around useless DLC for that reason.

    So it is in the interest of any serious business to bait for paid dlc. Or it would just rather make it completely free.
    That was the dev opinion.

    Now as a gamer, I join 99c gamer's statement. :)
     
  14. 99c_gamer

    99c_gamer Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2009
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    I only say that as a gamer, it's a little bit annoying.

    As a developer maybe it makes sense. Especially for MMO game that relies on having as many players as possible.
    Though I still like the old model where you get the lite version for free then pay for the full game.
     
  15. On this point, I used to really enjoy the casual, randomness of Godville but once they introduced an arena which basically made people who purchased extra godpower ingame unbeatable, it killed any of the fun and appeal to someone like me who doesn't want to pay money just to do a bit of PvP. Of course it's been fixed a little now but for me it was a case of too little too late.
     
  16. dyscode

    dyscode Well-Known Member

    Apr 11, 2010
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    This is the way to go!

    Freemnium models do not get ANY MONEY from me!
    There are TONS of other games I can play.
    I don´t need your F******g supscritpion plans, I already have a mobile. :mad:
     
  17. Eli

    Eli ᕕ┌◕ᗜ◕┐ᕗ
    Staff Member Patreon Silver Patreon Gold

    The thing is, the reason freemium is working so well for so many developers is that there is so many ways for them to make money on their games. Even if you never buy IAP, they're still making money when you view in-game ads and every time you click through a referral offer. (i.e. Download $game to get 10 free $consumable_item.) Over the life of a game, you can easily make more money on average per user than a one-time 99¢ purchase, which after Apple's cut and taxes you might see 50¢ at the end of the day.
     
  18. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2010
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    It's a razor thin line a developer walks when balancing an F2P game... I'm with you guys and generally hate it. At least, I hate how it's been implemented so far on the App store.

    Has anybody here played Gunbound before? I think this game is an awesome example of just how cool a free game can be while still keeping with the business model.

    Also, I think Pocket Legends is another great model for F2P. I know it got me to spend a good $30 over the course of my addiction to it, and I'm generally the last person to spend money on the freemium games too.

    Did anybody else read that the new Star Trek Infinite Space MMO is going to be Free-To-Play too?
     
  19. 99c_gamer

    99c_gamer Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2009
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    f2p might be the future since so many high quality games are now using f2p, simple games like mine look expensive even at $1. :(
     
  20. c0re

    c0re Well-Known Member

    Apr 15, 2009
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    I'm not talking about your work in the post below pal (I didn't test your games so I can't judge anyway), but you should never blame the price. Blame quality, or visibility, or whatever instead.

    It's this pricing downward spiral which led to so many bad balance between work and reward on the appstore. People did get used to good games for a ridiculous price, so now they're entitling themselves to deserve more quality for practically free price. It's the snake biting its tail.
    That's why I don't support FTP too. It puts the image of high quality (because a lot of FTP games are very polished) for no charge, on the front door.
    Then people get used to it, and refuse to pay a decent price for non FTP.
    Ridiculous prices/free product are hurting the overall economy, whatever market it is.

    In short, instead of lowering the price, devs should let it as it is and put more additional work in the game. This is how to pull overall appstore quality to the top, instead of the bottom.
     

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