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Free-to-Play (F2P) - Why Mobile App Users Don't Pay
by Pavel Golubev on 12/29/15 03:22:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

This article was originally published on Appodeal Blog

F2P application developers don’t usually treat all users equally. Some of them make quite a serious mistake focusing exclusively on those players who make purchases, bypassing the non-paying ones.

Naturally, it may seem that those customers (or players) who use the applications for free are a sort of parasites, and spending the company’s resources on them is a waste of money. However, just like the paying users, those who haven’t had a chance to pay within the application yet are also daily bread and butter for app developers.

In contrast to the paid model of distribution, successful F2P applications care about their paying and non-paying users equally.

Shareware applications are fighting for users by buying tons of traffic, carrying out large-scale advertising campaigns, localizing their applications for all common languages for a greater outreach. Each non-paying user is first of all an engaged user. Regardless of whether paying or not, he is your most important asset. These users must be treated like already driven traffic.

Shareware is a type of proprietary software which is provided (initially) free of charge to users, who are allowed and encouraged to make and share copies of the program, which helps to distribute it.

All non-paying users are your potential customers. Every high-end investment in app started with a free download of the app and the use of  it without paying.

Aggressive monetization discourages users.

Imagine you’ve entered a store and walk to the shelves to browse the products. What happens if an overly-enthusiastic salesperson  starts pattering behind you constantly reminding you that you still haven’t bought anything? How long would you stay in that store?

Non-paying users feel the same in this scenario. As long as they haven’t made their first purchase, not tied themselves to the content within the application, haven’t felt the importance of their own progress, there is a huge risk of losing them in a result of the slightest excess of pressure. The abundance of advertising or permanent special offers brings a risk. They may freak the user out, rather than monetize him. At the same time conversion among paying users might increase, but you will pay for it with low retention and decrease the number of app users, and, logically your profit.

The overwhelming majority of users are non-paying at 90-95%. They are the main audience of your application and without them, your app’s popularity would tank.

“Feeding the whales” and improving top-selling IAPs (In-App Purchase) to improve the profitability of the project is definitely important, but you should never forget to study the segment of non-paying users. You have to constantly try to understand what you can offer them to increase conversion.

If the number of players who switch to paying is still low, it is worth considering how your IAP can compete with your free content. If users do not leave your application after a week, but still do not go monetized, this might mean that they are quite comfortable with your free content, and they don’t see any need to pay for its expansion.

Why the users don’t pay:

  • Hidden store. There are two different versions of the problem: first – when the user is comfortable without paying, and second – when he does not know how to get into the store within the application and whether it exists at all. You should always remember that each screen should be able to go into a store and make a purchase. No one knows at which point your user will decide to buy something.
  • The application contains too many awards, so the progress of the user goes quite smoothly without any cash injections.
  • IAP offer doesn’t meet the wants of your users. What if your user wants to not only unlock the content and but also disable advertising? Think about it and offer it to them via IAP.
  • Benefit from the AIP is not obvious enough. The most common problem: the overstated price of IAP, which is why people are not willing to part with large sums of money for little benefit.
  • The application is easy to crack to get additional content without any material costs. Mind the security of your application, before the problem goes large-scale.

But even if you never succeed at monetizing a part of your users, they will remain a valuable resource for you.

Let’s return the store scenario. A shop, crowded with customers, will attract new ones, simply because it’s popular. This applies to any application with a social element because the best proof of quality of the product for the society is social approval and mass use.

If my non-paying friends stopped using the application, I would also probably quit it (even if I was the most devoted fan who had invested tens of dollars to the application).

Non-paying users provide viral advertising of applications through the social networks and word of mouth. Virality of the application provides an inflow of organic traffic, which reduces the costs of promotion and,consequently, increases income. Remember Candy Crush? In addition to the regular procurement of traffic, they were receiving a steady stream of traffic due to brand recognition. The whole market was aware of the popularity of this game, and lots of people were installing it just for the sake of seeing what it’s about

Besides, in most of the multiplayer games non-paying users are a sort of “whipping boys” for the paying ones. That spurs their interest and willingness of the latter to pay more.

Instead of trying to monetize non-paying users aggressively and risking scaring them away, it is more relevant to look for new ways to  increase their loyalty to the app in order to extend their life cycle and monetize them in some time, (or get the maximum possible profit from attracting new users or ad displays).

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