Generating Cash For Premium Flash
September 1, 2009 Page 2 of 3
The fact that Ninja Kiwi is making 10 times more revenue through microtransactions than pre-game ads doesn't surprise Daniel Cook. Cook, a game designer at Microsoft and author of the game design blog Lost Garden, says that, according to his research, a microtransaction-based game will make anywhere from 10 to 100 times more per month per user compared to one based on ad revenue.
For example, he says, one game that's doing exceedingly well with Mochi Media's MochiAds is generating 35-50 cents per CPM while some of the more specialized networks can generate up to $1, "but that's very rare," he adds. "On the other hand, a relatively simple, first-out-of-the-gate game that's not well-optimized for microtransactions is making five dollars per thousand players, which is actually very low in 'microtransaction land.'"
Games that are well-optimized for microtransactions do much better, he says, which may mean that they are designed with a longer play cycle in mind.
"The majority of gamers tend to start purchasing after a week or two of play," he explains. "If your game is only capable of, say, an eight-minute play cycle, it's going to be more difficult to convert players into paying customers. That's why the games on Facebook, for instance, are doing so well -- those games tend to have longer game cycles."
Cook suspects we'll soon see a return to what used to be called the "shareware" business model that Apogee Software, Epic Games, and other publishers embraced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1991, for instance, gamers would get the first third of, say, Duke Nukem for free and would have to pay for the subsequent two-thirds of the game.
"It just shows you that nothing has changed much in almost 20 years," Cook says. "Developers are still saying, okay, we're going to give you a great gaming experience but, if you want more, you're going to have to pay. The method of doing this has slightly changed, of course, but the basic idea keeps getting rediscovered every time there's a new electronic distribution platform."
The two biggest questions, says Cook, is whether gamers will pay for the additional content... and will there continue to be a user backlash against the system?
"Initially there was a large user backlash," he reports. "A year ago, developers were seeing their gamer-generated scores on web portals drop. But there has been less and less of that. What's happening, I think, is that players are being rapidly educated. By next year, I suspect there'll be multiple dozens of premium games out there that are funded by microtransactions, and gamers will have begun to appreciate the enhanced content."
Developer Sean T. Cooper suspects the same, which is why he is testing the microtransaction waters with his current project, Shadez: Battle for Earth -- the sequel to his popular war strategy game Shadez: The Black Operations -- which is expected to launch this month. The game will be free to play with additional missions available at 25 cents or so each.
Shadez: The Black Operations
"That price isn't fixed yet, but I want to keep it as cheap as I can," he says. "I'm not trying to rip people off; how can I charge them a dollar a level when it hasn't taken me that long to create it? Maybe we'll charge a dollar or $1.50 to open up the entire game."
Cooper's philosophy is to give away 75% of the content of each of his upcoming games and charge for only 25%. "I believe the Flash market needs to remain as free as possible," he says, "which allows the game to spread easily. If you become greedy, your game won't spread as quickly -- or perhaps not at all."
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