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How to monetize a potential whale

03-20-2015, 03:11 PM
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 339
How to monetize a potential whale

I originally wrote this last year specifically to the developers of Marvel Puzzle Quest. Been thinking about this a lot around the F2P discussions and decided to revisit this but make it less specific to Puzzle Quest.

I know companies are making money off F2P IAP's right now. Speaking as an industry veteran and long-time gamer, I guarantee you this is a bubble that will pop and bring down a number of companies when it does. Abusive business practices have a tendency of coming back to haunt the people doing them. Videogame history is littered with the fallen titans brought down by their own hubris.

In general, I don't think there is anything wrong with F2P and even when this bubble pops F2P will still be around. It won't be the same or as prevalent as it is today but it's a viable and proven business model and it can work well and can do so without punishing the consumer.

For some insight I am a technology professional with a background in software development. I have designed products from the ground up. While I have not worked in the gaming industry, I have had a lot of crossover with those in the industry and I am very familiar with marketing niche products, usability, customer satisfaction, and refactoring. Also, I have been gaming for 30 years. That's not a typo or hyperbole. I have watched the videogame industry evolve a lot over the past 3 decades. Some good, some bad, but a lot of change and more change coming as technology and demographics continue to evolve.

As a customer I am a 40 year old upper middle class professional with what industry experts would call "disposable income". I don't have a ton of leisure time but I'm willing to put a little money into what leisure time I have to get the most out of it. I am what the gaming industry cynically refers to as a "potential whale". I'm going to give you the keys to the kingdom. I'm going to tell you how you can easily make $500 or more off of me a year. Not only that, but how to do the same with every customer you have like me.

By the way, if there is anything that annoys me about sales is when I walk into a business, tell them exactly what I want, how much I can spend, and they waste my time trying to get me to buy things I don't want or won't pay for. This is what most F2P games do, by the way. They try to get me to buy things that have ZERO value proposition.

I'm sure there are other examples but my favorite F2P game has been Injustice. Injustice does not have multiple currency types, makes everything accessible to free players, and does not tip the scales in a "pay to win" scam. (You still have to play to level your characters. Real money just gives you quicker access to characters.) It has card packs, which has a gambling element to it, but you can outright buy most characters at a premium. The single form of currency is earned just playing the game or you can purchase it with real money. There is no "grind your way through for hours and we'll give you 20 diamonds" or whatever crap. There is no paywall that I could ever detect but it does have a starter pack that makes the beginning game a little easier to get through and build up but is also completely optional.

In other words, people with time but not money could compete with people who had money but not time. I am ok with free players being competitive. I want free players and I want them to stick around long enough that they will support the game financially. I would think this would be the developers and publishers goal as well. Instead, it seems like many IAP games are content to squeeze $10, $20, $50 out of people, burn them out, and move on to the next person.

I am at a point in my life, and have been for awhile, that I won't think twice about dropping $10 on something. Many games skip that price point, instead going for a couple bucks here and there or skipping straight to $20 or $30 price points. I find it odd how willing some of these games are willing to price packs, currency, whatever in large increments when there is no physical good being received. Many times there is ONLY the gambling element and those packs, crystals, covers, whatever have a horrible draw rate for what players actually want and seem like a cynical punishment for those that are bad at math. I've never complained when I've made a purchase it but it's a rare occurrence and I understand the odds. For people who do not understand the math, it is a quick path to customer dissatisfaction. Yelling "caveat emptor!" at your customers is not how you generate goodwill (and thus revenue).

A lot of games have currency that is earned by playing and premium currency that is usually priced and doled out so rarely you'd think the developers thought it cured cancer. The multiple currency idea is just more cynicism, attempting to confuse players in hopes they will make a purchase. It's fairly insulting.

Here's the thing. Want to keep me playing and make an easy $10 or more off me A WEEK?

1. Quit being such a Scrooge with the ingame currencies and rewards. I know they want people to pay money for it but not having some kind of currency that comes easy for nothing just amplifies the grind.

2. Give me some kind of $10 value proposition. If I am enjoying the game and there is something worth buying or new content I won't think twice about dropping $10 or less on something.

3. Quit overpricing everything! I'm sure some people pay the premium, but part of pricing software is trying to find that min/max between customer base and value proposition. Most games are not even close. These are a digital good and are often priced like the publisher is shipping raw materials to a store.

4. Last but not least, game companies should try to decouple a little bit from cynical cash grabs and ask themselves if they are making an enjoyable game. If I like a game, I'll recommend it to my friends. I have two kids, I'll happily share it with them. I want to support games I enjoy. I want to reward people who are doing good work. Why discourage me from doing that? I want to give them money. Don't make me angry, I'll just convert to a free player. As it is, I walk away from games that frustrate me and I've actually learned to stay away from certain companies and entire IP's simply because the value is all for them while offering very little for the player.
03-20-2015, 07:30 PM
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: Fort Lauderdale
Posts: 5,494
You should move this to the Game Developer forum.
03-20-2015, 08:37 PM
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 807
Watch some guy come in here and make some idiotic nonsense proposition about freemium games.

But I definitely agree with all your points,especially with the part that if you don't make freemium fair and you're too greedy,your bubble will pop eventually.
03-20-2015, 09:15 PM
Joined: May 2014
Posts: 107
Well said. I'm in a similar situation. Currently my ftp guilty pleasures are Tai Chi Panda and Marvel contest of heroes.

TCP showers me with fun, useful gifts just for playing, in such a way that any action I take is satisfying. I gladly sank 6 dollars into it in the first couple of days I played, and think I'll probably continue to fill the tip jar for as long as I continue to log in regularly. They set prices up so that what I got first for one and then for five dollars felt like a bargain, and fun, while not being unfair to free players.

Marvel offers enough free stuff to keep me playing, but the real currency stuff is so ridiculously overpriced hat I haven't spent a penny... And I'm not averse to dropping cash on ios games. I spend at least $5 on most days (usually on a full unlock of a hidden object game).

If they'd priced things more reasonably, they could have had me as a paying customer. As is, they do things like ask for 5 dollars for a crummy lottery with no way to skip to something I want, as in Injustice (which I also dropped some cash on).

Give me a fun game and good value for money that is still fair to free players, and I will gladly open my wallet. Set exorbitant prices, and make everything a rigged lottery, and I probably won't. As the op mentioned, value bundles at 1 5 and 10 dollars filled with fun stuff (fun, not overpowered or required for crafting, etc.) are also tempting.