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Thoughts on Free-To-Play Model

10-26-2010, 12:32 PM
#1
Thoughts on Free-To-Play Model

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...-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 (readrofitable) free-to-play game? Do you think there's a future for this style of game in the App store?

Last edited by BravadoWaffle; 10-26-2010 at 12:36 PM.
10-26-2010, 01:01 PM
#2
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 444
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.

10-26-2010, 02:56 PM
#3
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/featur...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!

Last edited by BravadoWaffle; 10-26-2010 at 03:13 PM.
10-26-2010, 05:01 PM
#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by BravadoWaffle View Post
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.
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.
10-26-2010, 05:12 PM
#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueSolarSoftware View Post
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.
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?

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?

Last edited by BravadoWaffle; 10-26-2010 at 05:35 PM.
10-26-2010, 05:38 PM
#6
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: UK / Toronto
Posts: 602
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.
10-26-2010, 06:06 PM
#7
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 977
Send a message via MSN to MindJuice Send a message via Skype™ to MindJuice
Quote:
Originally Posted by c0re View Post
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.
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?
10-27-2010, 05:28 PM
#8
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by BravadoWaffle View Post
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/featur...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!
Very good analysis, very interesting standpoint, thanks.



Quote:
Originally Posted by MindJuice View Post
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.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MindJuice View Post
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?
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".
10-27-2010, 05:55 PM
#9
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 659
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.
10-27-2010, 07:01 PM
#10
Joined: Jan 2009
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Posts: 515
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.