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Monetizing Free-To-Play Gaming Models 164

eldavojohn writes "Last week, a game consultant named David J Edery gave his two cents on why free-to-play (F2P) game models aren't as prolific in the West as they seem to be in the East. Aside from a few unprovable cultural divides, he makes some interesting claims concerning conversion rates of non-paying players to paying players. Some customers pay hundreds for functional items and only a dollar on aesthetic items while other users might be the complete opposite. He also notes that converting a non-paying newbie into a paying customer is not the same as converting a non-paying salty dog. He defines 'aggressive monetization' to mean how much money will advance you 'unfairly' in the game. He focuses on two classes of items: those that provide performance-neutral aesthetics and those that provide performance enhancing or functional advancements. He claims to have access to ARPPU ('average revenue per paying user' per month) rates among several game developers and states that 'more aggressive monetization model and a loyal, niche userbase can hope to generate $50 per paying user per month, on average,' while 'a F2P game that limits itself to flat subscription revenue and/or non-functional items is generally more likely to fall somewhere between $5 and $10 per paying user per month.' Like any good consultant, he also gives ethics a footnote in an otherwise verbose post on monetizing free to play games. Has anyone here had experience pricing items and content in free-to-play games?"
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Monetizing Free-To-Play Gaming Models

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @01:44PM (#33257598)

    I like to buy my game, and immerse myself in the content to have fun. The painful part of parting with cash is complete.

    Buying "items" in a game kills the fun, in the same way that paying for sex kills my boner.

  • by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @01:45PM (#33257608)

    This is missing an important dimension. When he says aggressive monetization gives 5 times more money per player, he forgets to say that it also reduces the number of players, because some players are simply put off by the idea that the game is not fair.
    Therefore it might not be more profitable.

  • by gamricstone ( 1879210 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @01:55PM (#33257644)
    I created this account specifically to reply to this post. He defines 'aggressive monetization' to mean how much money will advance you 'unfairly' in the game. Does not accurately represent the linked article. In the first paragraph: For the purposes of this post, I'm defining "aggressive" as the sale of items that impact gameplay and/or speed up a player's progress, in addition to other, less controversial premium features like aesthetic items and account personalization. Nowhere does it mention the word 'fair' or any variation of the word in the entire article. I have no comment on the linked article's content, just that slashdot has been filled with crap like this more and more often lately. I won't be continuing to visit slashdot(and my brand new account will go to waste) if this sort of posting does not stop. That is all.
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:03PM (#33257678) Homepage

    After reading the article, the author seems to simply not talk about two things (at least as related to conventional MMORPGs).

    First, he doesn't address the question of the effect of monetization on player base. In his HappyFunTime example, for instance, he blithely assumes that both monetization systems have the same number of players. But is this true? I know many players who actively avoid games with aggressive monetization systems, especially those where the best items are available only via RMT or where progress beyond a certain point requires RMT purchases (which is not related to whether or not you can continue to play forever for free, it's a question of whether, eg., access to the best end-game instances and raid zones requires paying or not). Their thought is that games aren't a paying job for them, and those sorts of games are going to be dominated by professional players for whom the game in fact is a paying job (they either make money off of player-to-player RMT if allowed or they're employed by a plat-farming and/or power-leveling service) They're also wary of putting time and effort into developing a character in a game where their progress and ability to play with their friends may be randomly blocked by the vagaries of real-world finances (eg. your friends want to run a raid but this week your checking account just doesn't have enough in it to pay for access to that raid zone). For them it's safer to stick with games with a less aggressive monetization model, ones where they won't have those problems.

    Second, there's the question of how well the player base will stick with the game when economic times get tough. We're going through a time like that right now, for instance. I'd think that when times get tight players will abandon games that effectively mandate out-of-pocket costs (ie. have aggressive monetization models) every month more readily than fluff-only or flat-subscription games. In games where RMT gets you fluff-only items, you can cut your out-of-pocket costs quickly and decisively without seriously impacting your game experience. In flat-subscription games, you don't even have to worry about your cost level since it's going to remain steady and predictable. If you can afford to play at all, your play experience doesn't depend on how much you're spending. My experience has been that those things create a player base that finds the game a better value for the money and that'll be less likely to drop it than other things when their entertainment budget starts to get squeezed. IMO designing a game that's highly vulnerable to economic ups and downs is a more risky proposition than designing one that's attractive even in the bad times.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:04PM (#33257684)

    If it is a game like the traditional fantasy MMO, then high end raiders and solid group dungeon runners will start resenting people who can just hit a store and buy with real-life currency items that are up to par with them. If the game wants to be another Second Life, that is one thing, but I'm sure the high end players in WoW would start leaving in droves if Blizzard had sets of armor for sale with stats that were equal to items earned in raids/groups.

    Appearance stuff is different. People buying non-combat pets are looked at money wasters, but it doesn't affect the game. Mounts are iffish. In a way, they are a bargain for WoW players who have a lot of alts because it means all 50 chars on the account have some type of steed. This also goes for appearance armor. If someone wants to have their mage wear plate for $10, go for it, as long as the armor doesn't give a stat advantage.

    When it gets over the line with traditional MMOs is when someone who spends lots of cash at the store starts having a PvE or PvP advantage. What would kill a MMO is an item that as significant as game play as journeyman's boots in the early days of EQ1 [1] being in the store. This means that one would have to purchase stuff in order to keep their membership in a raiding guild, or be on the top tier (and trust me, in some MMOs, having an item is as important if not more than having a decent gearscore in WoW [2].)

    [1]: In the early, pre-Luclin days of EQ 1, jboots mean the difference between booking it to a zone if one got overwhelmed with mobs, versus certain death. Your membership in raiding guilds depended oftentimes on having this item.

    [2]: Gearscore is probably the most critical thing people judge on in WoW. You can be a moron, but if you have a high enough GS, you had to at least have survived enough high end fights to earn good equipment, assuming the character was not ebayed.

  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:00PM (#33257960)

    It's even worse when the grammar nazi is completely wrong.

  • Re:Maybe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by twidarkling ( 1537077 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:23PM (#33258106)

    You're completely right about the difficulty in paying for most western MMOs. I recently started playing a relatively new one, and whenever I look at the help channel, multiple times a day I see people going "I wanna upgrade from my trial account, is there any way to pay without a credit card?" but for that game, there isn't (well, maybe paypal, I can't remember). And that's just when I'm online. That means this company's losing out on literally dozens of customers every week, just out of ones that mention it. How many more customers on trial accounts just poke around for payment, then give up? How many others research a bit, then when it's only CC payment, decide to not even try? Due to an anaemic payment method selection, they could be losing out on thousands of dollars a month in revenue. Considering it's a fairly small MMO right now (I think I heard about a 25,000 player base), that's not an amount I'd think they could afford to turn away from.

  • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TriezGamer ( 861238 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:57PM (#33258268)

    You are attempting to create an argument where there isn't one. There is no NEED for a 'behemoth' free-to-play game, and I don't see where anyone was saying that there needed to be one. Free-to-play games don't have to be massive to succeed at making money, which is the whole point.

    In addition, you're making the assumption that WoW is successful because it isn't free to play -- instead of the fact that it had a marketing behemoth (worldwide), an extremely popular brand name (worldwide), and a very highly praised development team (worldwide) working behind it.

    Furthermore, if you WANT to see sizable Free-To-Play games, they're out there if you look. You also mention 'lifetime' subscriptions to LotRO -- a game that is in the process of converting to free-to-play precisely because of the success of DDO's free-to-play conversion that the company already had.

    >Why pay more for lesser games?

    Who decides they're lesser? Subscription numbers are meaningless to personal tastes. I've had more fun playing free-to-play games than any retail subscription game - and not for lack of trying them. I've had active subscriptions at one point or another to approximately half of the mainstream subscription MMORPGs in the west.

    Another benefit of free-to-play games: When I'm struggling financial, I can still play and just stop paying.

  • by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:59PM (#33258282) Homepage

    In my opinion, all premium content should be able to be purchased with the in game currency.

    The reasoning? Some people are poor, but have a lot of time. For example, the disabled. Rather than absolutely limiting them (they're barely getting by, most likely) to low end items/gear/decor, why not just make the items available in game at a disproportionately high cost? Like for example, your 'stamina' recharge that lets you fight/gain experience/items/etc could cost half a day's worth of grinding and it could cost $2. That fancy hat might cost $10 and take you a couple of days to farm for. There's really no downside to this.

    The grinders can grind, the payers can pay. It's economic specialization. Those disabled folks can grind to their heart's content and feel like they're earning something, maybe sell it for some in game currency or *gasp* real cash in a competitive amount with the game servers. Those payers can feel awesome when they get a $0.10 discount on their Fancy Hat because they bought from the grinder.

    Nothing will make me stop playing a 'F2P' game faster than setting up obvious noticeable speed bumps to keep the poor poor and the payers on top.

  • by Kingrames ( 858416 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:03PM (#33258300)
    Look, this verbificationismness needs to stop. Let people use wordy things the way they want. Be tolerantish.
  • "Pressing enter just sends an extra blank character, which tells the browser to render it the next line down. Or at least that is how I've always understood "

    You understood wrong. You're posting in html. See the "Allowed HTML" text under the Preview button?

    Try putting a <p> tag between lines.

    You can also bold and/or italicize, etc.

    Doing so earns you 1 credit per post in slashgame credits. Only 42,000,666 posts to win a prize. (Or use the spaceballs cheat code 1-2-3-4-5).

    Or you can "level up" by buying a subscription.

  • by amentajo ( 1199437 ) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:32AM (#33261642)

    From the sound of it, the GP's problem isn't primarily with the quality of the submissions, but rather with the integrity and accuracy of the summaries that do end up getting posted as stories, after ostensibly being reviewed.

    Look at the quote from the summary that the GP pointed out:

    He defines 'aggressive monetization' to mean how much money will advance you 'unfairly' in the game.

    In less direct words, it sounded like the GP was pointing out that the word "unfairly" is in quotation marks, yet the notion of fairness isn't even mentioned in the article, let alone the word "unfairly". This is not a good thing; it is ascribing to the author of the article an idea that he did not espouse, which is not a very nice thing to do.

    I don't have a major problem with Soulskill about this; it's easily explained by oversight. Oversights happen. But I do recognize that putting words into an author's mouth is bad, and I think that's what the GP was saying here. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein