Rise of mixed monetization strategies
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
During the development of a game, an issue always comes to discussion: The choice of monetization strategy. Often, opinions are split between premium, the game is sold at full price, and freemium, also called free-to-play.
The decision is not trivial. A wrong choice or its poor implementation in the game system can imperil its profitability.
For certain games, the choice is easy to make; their genre, target audience, platform or content push clearly toward one of those two strategies. But for others, the best choice is not that obvious because both strategies have their pros and cons.
An emerging trend should reconcile both points of view and limit the risks of a « black or white » choice between premium and freemium: Mixed monetization strategies. They merge various monetization techniques in smart ways.
Note that adding cosmetic items for purchase in a premium game is not enough to build a successful mixed monetization strategy; in most cases, cosmetic items are the ones that generate the less revenue. There exist two exceptions to this rule, Overwatch and Fortnite, but the sheer commercial size of those games put them in a category of their own. In general, what makes a freemium strategy effective is not the availability of items for sale but the way the game experience persuades players to spend real money in a free game.
Let’s review two interesting examples of well-integrated mixed monetization strategies.
Rainbow Six - Siege is sold at full price as a premium game. To generate extra revenues, it features an in-game store where players can buy skins for their weapons. However, this not where lies the heart of the game’s mixed monetization strategy. To keep its gamers community active, Ubisoft had the idea of providing free downloads of highly valuable content: Every quarter, players can download two new soldiers, called operatives. What makes them interesting is that each operative comes with its unique set of equipment and weapons. Playing with a new operative is like playing a different game. Those new operatives can be downloaded for free but, to unlock them, players must earn reputation points. So, Ubisoft started to sell season passes that allow players to access all available operatives, no matter how many reputation points they have. This is very smart because it rests on one of the most effective monetization strategies, the generation of frustration, and it does not upset players that count on their reputation points to unlock them.
Another example comes from Supercell, one of the best experts on freemium monetization. To complement revenues generated by in-app purchases, two of their games, Boom Beach and Hay Day, include subscriptions. In the latter, players can subscribe, on a monthly basis, to benefit from the services of farmers that will handle the routine tasks of the farm. This offer is also very smart because it targets players that are already power users of the game where the maintenance of large farms require numerous tedious tasks. This subscription allows them to improve their game experience by removing the least interesting tasks and let them focus on the most important gameplays. Furthermore, it does not interfere with the game’s main monetization technique, the sale of resources.
Those two examples demonstrate that it is possible to mix monetization strategies, not by piling them up, but by making them complementary.
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