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Breaking free of F2P

09-21-2015, 10:24 AM
#1
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 339
Breaking free of F2P

I didn't really get into mobile gaming until 3 years ago when I got an iPad Mini. I was so excited and just wanted to really explore the platform. It wasn't my first tablet but after 3 years with various Android tablets and all the quirks and eccentricities that come with them I was ready to embrace owning a tablet for the first time.

I jump in feet first into a number of games and didn't really understand the whole F2P. Blew some money I'll never get back on some stupid lottery system and quickly realized most F2P games just try to sucker you. I tried to stick with games that were player friendly and threw money at developers that I wanted to continue supporting. I don't mind spending money, but I am an old school gamer and want to feel like I am getting value for my dollar.

Unfortunately, it feels like every publisher is abandoning any semblance of customer service and satisfaction and aiming straight for the churn.

My biggest gripe with many of these games was there wasn't much of a GAME there. A lot of them were entirely focused on small iterations, just enough of a progression to make the player feel like they did something, even when they didn't really do much of anything. Constant in-your-face reminders that for a price they could speed things up, give you new gear/abilities/characters, and if you will just give them some money then they'll be happy to wait 5 minutes before asking you for more money.

This is a shame. I believe in F2P as a viable business model and I think you can make a real game and be F2P without asking for a direct line into someone's bank account. If you want my money, give me something worth spending it on. I am not going to spend money to pull the lever on a slot machine. At least in Vegas I might get real money back. All I get in these games is digital bits. I will happily pay for digital bits, but I want to pick and choose and I don't want to spend more than I would on a console game.

I had one final game, a soft launch game in New Zealand, that I was playing and enjoying. You couldn't draw duplicate characters and it was about $10 per character. Not cheap but not crazy and you could get a viable team without spending a dime. It was doing most things right even though it had an energy system (yuck!) and a ton of bugs. Last update? Now they added "mastery" levels if you draw a duplicate character. What? If I spend money on the game I now have a chance to draw a character I already own? Done. Bye. (Note: This is DC Comics Legends and there is no way to buy a specific character)

At some point, this model with crash. The dissatisfaction is too high, the market is getting way too crowded. For every whale that spends thousands of dollars on a game there are thousands of players screaming "enough!" and at some point the whales will get tired of it to. There aren't enough whales to support all of these games and people don't enjoy a screwing. I am just hoping the crash comes sooner rather than later so we can get beyond this nonsense and start seeing some decent F2P offerings instead of the flood of dreck we have now.

The problem with trying to find that one diamond in the sewer is even if you do find one you still end up sorting through a lot of dung.
09-21-2015, 11:45 AM
#2
Joined: Oct 2011
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 1,005
I really hope you are right

09-21-2015, 01:56 PM
#3
Free2Play is not going anywhere
09-21-2015, 02:11 PM
#4
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 339
Quote:
Originally Posted by IzumiNowa View Post
Free2Play is not going anywhere
Never said it was. What I said was it is going to crash.

Right now, if you're not in the Top 100 on the sales charts, you are losing money. The market is flooded, there is only so much money to go around. Games are having a harder time finding visibility and then they have to hold onto players while the next shiny new thing is dangling in front of them.

Indie developers are moving away from mobile. Why not? The prospect of making money without a F2P scheme is grim.

This is shaping up like any other major business trend/bandwagon. I think we've hit peak F2P or we're about to hit it. Won't be tomorrow, maybe not even next year, but this is a trend that can't continue forever.

F2P is a viable business strategy and can be done right. The problem is that the most common implementation of it is done so cynically that there is no long-term staying power except for a handful of titles that were early breakouts or a few that managed to muscle their way in (Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Game of War, etc.)

In the meantime, how many games are released every week to great fanfare and then quickly fade off into the background? How many games manage to break the vaunted Top 100 and then are able to stay there ahead of established competitors? It's a bad market.

It won't last.

The good news is, the faster the crash happens, the sooner this will get better. There will ALWAYS be those that look for the more cynical route, but it is not sustainable as the standard for the entire industry.

On the flipside, though I find this less likely, we don't have to have yet another videogame crash for this to self-correct. If enough companies realize they are chasing an overloaded bandwagon someone may yet try for a real value proposition. However, I just don't see this happening. For executives who focus quarter-to-quarter, the current strategy fits nicely even if it has no long-term viability.
09-21-2015, 04:36 PM
#5
Joined: Jul 2015
Posts: 1,026
I only purchase premium games this is my preference. I don't like games where you hit a wall and have to pay more. I like a full gaming experience that doesn't ask more of me. I am an honest person and so many of the f2p games I encountered when I first started mobile gaming just struck me as so dishonest and greedy. Then I discovered that games did exist that I only had to pay for once. I wish more people felt like I do and were willing to pay more one time then much much more over and over for a game that isn't even worth the cheapest premium games on the App Store.
09-21-2015, 05:35 PM
#6
Joined: Jul 2015
Posts: 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by CrazedJava View Post
My biggest gripe with many of these games was there wasn't much of a GAME there.

This is a shame. I believe in F2P as a viable business model and I think you can make a real game and be F2P without asking for a direct line into someone's bank account. If you want my money, give me something worth spending it on.

At some point, this model with crash. The dissatisfaction is too high, the market is getting way too crowded. For every whale that spends thousands of dollars on a game there are thousands of players screaming "enough!" and at some point the whales will get tired of it to.
I sincerely hope you're right. But the *only way* you're going to be right is if enough developers understand the potential benefits that come with the F2P model, and then use those in service of developing long-standing relationships with their players, and not just squeezing them for whatever they can get. And I think that's going to be fairly difficult.

Part of the problem is that the current state of affairs is so repulsive to most "traditional" developers that they look at F2P and just say, "Yuck, not interested." There are some folks who are trying to do good things (and succeeding, IMO) - TF2, Hearthstone, Vainglory, League, etc. But far too many of the kind of people that we'll need to make F2P something that people don't associate with garbage aren't willing to actually see what the potential benefits are.

If you're working on a F2P game, embrace the fact that you've got to do live development - you're constantly evolving a game with a live audience. You have to also *react* to that audience - you have to make things better for them. Not just better for you. Increases in ARPDAU and retention aren't the only metrics - you have to actually understand whether your players *like* your game or not. For developers AND for players, though, this process can be hugely fulfilling. Players can have a direct line of contact with the development process, and help a beloved game continue to grow & evolve. Developers can get off the "hit-driven" economy where you have to have a "hit" every time at the plate or you die. You can continue to work on a game with long-term potential for the long-term.

But that really means that you have to have the ability to develop a game in a radically different way than most. Most indies are so shoestring that if their game isn't a fairly immediate success, they go bust. Most investment-backed developers need to grow so fast (because they took on the investment) that they need to maximize returns ASAP, and the expectation is that they need to be a billion dollar company or fail as fast as possible.

So building a F2P game that can not be a monetization-focused grind-box actually requires you to do things differently *from day one*. You have to design a game with the potential for long-term growth and evolution. You have to have investors (or some funding source) that is compatible with slower, more measured growth & experimentation. Then you have to be willing to not just look at surface metrics, but genuinely try to understand how to build something fun & worthwhile, and realize that *in the long term* the best financial returns will be had from a loyal base of people that love what you're doing, and not how hard you can squeeze a small number of people for as much money as possible.

That's what we're trying to do, and we've gotten the right investors who believe what we believe re: how to develop a game for the long-term. We'll see if we can pull it off.
09-21-2015, 11:31 PM
#7
Quote:
Originally Posted by wonderspark View Post
That's what we're trying to do, and we've gotten the right investors who believe what we believe re: how to develop a game for the long-term. We'll see if we can pull it off.
What game are you associated with/developing? I am interested.
09-21-2015, 11:38 PM
#8
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 339
Quote:
Originally Posted by wonderspark View Post
If you're working on a F2P game, embrace the fact that you've got to do live development - you're constantly evolving a game with a live audience. You have to also *react* to that audience - you have to make things better for them. Not just better for you. Increases in ARPDAU and retention aren't the only metrics - you have to actually understand whether your players *like* your game or not. For developers AND for players, though, this process can be hugely fulfilling. Players can have a direct line of contact with the development process, and help a beloved game continue to grow & evolve. Developers can get off the "hit-driven" economy where you have to have a "hit" every time at the plate or you die. You can continue to work on a game with long-term potential for the long-term.
I would love to see that. I don't see many games keeping the audience in mind. The current model seems to favor "Suck as much money as you can and burn them out" rather than building lifelong customers, which seems like a very short-sighted model.

It is frustrating because there are companies with a great infrastructure for engaging directly with their customers, which is a dangerous proposition in some ways, but won't utilize it at all. Warner Bros. comes to mind immediately but there are others.

I know I am at the point that certain companies will never see a dime from me. Not all, but there are ones that have just been too exploitative and I don't feel I can financially support them until they start reversing their track record.
09-22-2015, 02:20 AM
#9
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: U.S.A., earth
Posts: 215
relevant blog posts I read recently also relate to this topic...
1) App Stores Have Become The Epitome Of Capitalistic Markets
http://blog.applause.com/2014/08/26/...or-app-stores/
SUMMARY: small shops flourished back when the AppStore got started back in 2007 and for the next few years, but now the majority of the top apps are done by large corporations, or in part by them. "1.6% of app developers make more than the other 98.4% combined"

2) a series of them say Apple REALLY needs to do away with the top listings. Those not on the top 100 have very little hope, and it's just simply very bad for the environment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrazedJava View Post
I would love to see that. I don't see many games keeping the audience in mind. The current model seems to favor "Suck as much money as you can and burn them out" rather than building lifelong customers, which seems like a very short-sighted model.

It is frustrating because there are companies with a great infrastructure for engaging directly with their customers, which is a dangerous proposition in some ways, but won't utilize it at all. Warner Bros. comes to mind immediately but there are others.

I know I am at the point that certain companies will never see a dime from me. Not all, but there are ones that have just been too exploitative and I don't feel I can financially support them until they start reversing their track record.
You're treating the customer-developer relationship like it's something deep and loyal when for the most part, gamers will jump ship and move on to the next fun thing. Sure, to take Konami as an example when they said they're not doing a Metal Gear Solid game for handheld nor console, and focusing on mobile. A lot of folks backed the kickstarted video game that was based on Castlevania, but they called it something else since the former Konami employees didn't have the rights to that... it was owned by the company.

For an indie on the AppStore landscape, this will likely be most difficult. In the above example, there's been decades of time for the fans. Here, they're competing against a VERY LARGE AppStore.

Most folks here tout how much diversity and quantity's on the AS. It's true, but it has its downsides. Too much volume to wade through.

Between loyalty and money, most developers need money to keep going. This post nails it on the head....
http://forums.toucharcade.com/showpo...0&postcount=97
Quote:
Originally Posted by wonderspark View Post
As someone who was running a business that moved to F2P, I can say there's *exactly* one thing that led to the prevalence of F2P: The total collapse of "Premium" as a solidly sustainable business model on mobile that happened mid-2009. Even before F2P was a "proven" model on mobile, Premium was functionally dead in the water. At $1, it's impossible to make a living with a team unless you basically win the lottery. With F2P, you could adapt *how* you developed, iterate faster, and expand on things that were showing promise in a way that's extremely difficult to do with a buy-once model at $1. If it were commonplace for games to sell for $10, it'd be a radically different story.

But the rise of F2P? Simple. The race to $1 mid-2009 destroyed peoples' abilities to sustain teams of any kind of modest size for games of any kind of scale whatsoever.

Last edited by ackmondual; 09-22-2015 at 02:29 AM.
09-22-2015, 08:19 AM
#10
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 339
Quote:
Originally Posted by ackmondual View Post
You're treating the customer-developer relationship like it's something deep and loyal when for the most part, gamers will jump ship and move on to the next fun thing. Sure, to take Konami as an example when they said they're not doing a Metal Gear Solid game for handheld nor console, and focusing on mobile. A lot of folks backed the kickstarted video game that was based on Castlevania, but they called it something else since the former Konami employees didn't have the rights to that... it was owned by the company.
BTW - I just want to refocus slightly and say I am not ignoring the fact that consumers share a large part of the blame. Most of my original post was that I, as a consumer, am tired of these practices and am opting out. It won't change until more people do the same. That's the reality. I am ticked because I think F2P is not a bad business model, I think it's more the current implementation and unhealthy market that is the problem and not F2P itself.

That said, there IS an relationship between the business and the consumer. There are many people who see a game being released by Nintendo, Bioware, Obsidian, Bethesda, etc. who will buy almost anything those companies release. Yes, consumers jump from one shiny thing to the next, but as a company I would want them to jump on my shiny thing over and over again.

As a vendor, the customer relationship aspect was important to me. Not just because I wanted the customer to be happy, but their happiness led to ongoing sales, renewals, and references to new customers. Our company had a brand image to maintain and the companies that took it seriously often did better than those that did not.

On the flipside, there are companies that have ticked me off either have to work hard to get my business back or just won't see a dime from me again. Mobage and Kabam come to mind, but EA has also not gotten a dime from me on mobile and even outside of mobile I will usually pass on a game the second I see their logo.

The idea that you DON'T need to foster a relationship is wrong, because you have one whether you care to or not.