Over the past decade there has been a surge in free-to-play (f2p) games being developed. Within this niche market there is a huge opportunity at earning a healthy sum of money. By presenting a free game, you lower the bar to get in the gamers’ hands, and in today’s saturated market you need to take advantage of any opportunity to get in front of your target audience.
Here’s four variations of monetizing a free game, with some best practices to keep in mind.
Many of the free-to-play games use in app purchases. It is one of the most straightforward and popular ways to earn money. They will typically include options to buy game items, in-game currencies, or aesthetic upgrades such as new skins or customized clothing. Those purchases must be carefully designed to not unbalance the game, yet still give enough of a value to be worth spending. If spending money becomes a requirement to compete in the game, then many of the players will lose interest and move on to other games.
Keep in mind that not all players will spend money in the game, and it’s important to have a baseline of playability and balance that will not tip the favor too strongly toward others that choose to spend money. One such way this can be balanced is by selling items that can be used to essentially “level up” faster, but won’t necessarily give a benefit that can’t otherwise be gained by simply investing the time.
It is also important to advertise your items regularly in the game to keep the potential benefit in the mind of the gamers. Communicate clearly what they will be getting for their money. They need to be reassured that the money spent will be worthwhile.
2. Premium Versions
The tried and true old strategy of giving out free demos, and if you like it then you fork over the cash for the full version. A try it before you buy it scenario. With games this will typically be where there is a “light” free version, which will lock out features and the paid version will give full access.
When you buy a car it’s common to first take the car out for a test spin. The dealer will happily oblige, hoping that you’ll enjoy the ride so much you make the purchase. If you ever hope to get your users to commit to the premium version, you need to ensure the light version of your game will give just as much of a thrill as that shiny red convertible.
There’s several ways demos can be distributed. Sometimes demos are bundled with other packages, or through an easy online distribution channel. Be sure wherever you distribute your game that you make it easy to find, and even easier to upgrade to a paying customer.
It can be difficult to make a profit with in-game ads. There’s two predominant methods for integrating ads in your game.
- Game interrupts. During a transition or as a banner in certain views, an ad is displayed. You will typically make money on CPC or CPM, which will require a lot of volume to generate a profitable margin. It’s important to take care of the balance between meaningful advertisments, and causing friction to the gaming experience.
- Opt-in promotions or offerwalls. These function essentially as microtransaction, where the payment is some form of opting in to an advertisement or some marketing activity, with the benefit of gaining an item or some form of currency in the game.
4. Expansion Packs
Adding extra levels or other forms of content packages offers a non-intrusive way of adding benefit for users, with a great value proposition. By creating a system that provides a expansion pack store, you have a way to leverage the fans of your game. By offering episodic content over a period of time, you can create anticipation and a marketing buzz for each release.
Take care to add new functionality periodically, otherwise more of the same will get old quick. Another way to liven up your expansion packs is to offer theme based packs, such as those based on popular holidays or other cultural icons.
Monetizing a free-to-play game might not be as hard as it looks! Each game genre will be able to leverage different models better than others. You need to find a good match for your app, and keep in mind the balance between the gamer’s play experience, and the need to be profitable.
Have you had any experiences with other monetization methods? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.