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Monetizing extra content

02-09-2010, 04:44 AM
#1
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 546
Monetizing extra content

I've been thinking about how to make money off of additional content. I've identified some approaches, and wanted to get some second opinions:

1. Free through updates. This approach builds good will and repeat buyers. However, for a small game, it is unlikely to build repeat business for your company. Furthermore, updates no longer show up under new releases (correct?)

2. Paid DLC. Not sure how effective this is, though I like it in theory. However, DLC has a somewhat negative connotation. Gamers feel cheated. Content is limited to people who bought your app.

3. Sequel: This is currently what I think is the best approach. Instead of releasing new content / updates to your player base, spin-off a sequel. You get double ranked in the app store (now you have two apps instead of one) and can attract new, as well as existing buyers.

The only problem I see with 3. is that you're not building up your first app with updates, so it's unlikely to climb the charts. Given the shelf life of many games (1-2 weeks of big sales and then forgotten), it makes sense to put many apps on there, and not keep expanding a single title. Of course, if one of your games is a runaway hit, I think it's fair to say that you might change your strategy. If I hit Top 25 on the app charts, I'd probably produce tons of free content. However, if I sold a bunch of copies and then nothing, I'd rather just push a sequel out.

For purposes of discussion, assume we're talking only about 'extra content' here. Of course bugs and other fixes should be pushed as updates.

As an example, I'll throw out a theoretical game (like Trenches) that has 5 levels. If I were to produce 5 brand-new levels that introduced a few new concepts and effectively doubled the length of the original game, what would be the optimal way to monetize it. I'm assuming here that the 'extra content' is somewhat significant and extends gameplay, not like a new 'hat' for your character.

What do you guys think is the optimal strategy for monetizing small, short-lived games? Also, consider from the perspective of a developer who wants to make money, NOT from a player's perspective. Of course the best approach for the player is free, frequent updates.

Last edited by lazypeon; 02-09-2010 at 04:48 AM.
02-09-2010, 04:57 AM
#2
Joined: Nov 2009
Location: Derby, UK.
Posts: 161
We are currently working on the DLC method for our latest game, We're pretty interested in how it's going to turn out since not many games do actually use it to its full potential, like you say, most games are just like 'Hats for Character' DLC. I will write a blog about our findings but may be a month or 2 until we find out.

As for building a User Base, i'm not sure that mainstream users actually look up the developer of a game that they like and search for other games from them. I know I do, but i'm a developer and enjoy well built games. So i'm not sure that lots of Free updates to the game is a good way to monetize an app. We are trying this out with our current game that is out there, though. It started off as a Below average game, We've updated it since and is now a good game, and soon we are planning another release which should improve it even more. We'll see how that pans out too.

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02-09-2010, 03:45 PM
#3
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 546
I sort of disagree, in the sense that free updates CAN bring repeat/new customers. Gamers like a developer/game that releases frequent updates. One obvious example is Pocket God, which would not still be around if not for the tons of updates.

I think it is a viable strategy, but not one that will work for many games. I know players complain about lack of updates, but when you game gets only a few hundred downloads and I put on my 'selfish developer hat', it's hard to justify spending time on free content updates.
02-09-2010, 04:23 PM
#4
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 977
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazypeon View Post
I sort of disagree, in the sense that free updates CAN bring repeat/new customers. Gamers like a developer/game that releases frequent updates. One obvious example is Pocket God, which would not still be around if not for the tons of updates.

I think it is a viable strategy, but not one that will work for many games. I know players complain about lack of updates, but when you game gets only a few hundred downloads and I put on my 'selfish developer hat', it's hard to justify spending time on free content updates.
Exactly. Pocket God was only able to spend so much time and money on updates because it was already selling so well. Otherwise it just wouldn't make financial sense to keep releasing updates.
02-09-2010, 05:14 PM
#5
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: UK / Toronto
Posts: 602
Another important aspect of the Pocket God model was that it was successful back when updates put you back onto the App store front page. I think after that was changed, the Pocket God guys have been graduating toward paid DLC.