I worked in the coin-op video game industry for 13 years, as a graphic artist and game designer. I worked on and created several video games, some of them quite successful. (You can find more about these games at my personal website www.xavifradera.com.)
As my game development career moved forward, I shifted to mobile games, console games and, currently, am in production on a PC free-to-play shooter. I'm in charge of different tasks on this game (game design, production...) and we have just reached the beta testing phase.
The game is a classic F2P shooter, where you can play for free as long as you like, or play and buy some assets to customize your character, buy powerful weapons to better defeat your enemies, create a clan with your friends, customize it, and much more.
During the production and beta testing phase, I found some similarities between coin-op and F2P games regarding how the player approaches the game and how the game approaches the player. This article tries to explain these psychological and game dynamics.
When the player buys a game and plays it for first time, two things can happen:
In both cases, the publisher has sold the game and gotten business -- good job, to the publisher!
Console game player reaction flow chart.
With coin-op and F2P games, the player's reaction during his first game experience is different. What happens if the player enjoys the game?
This is what happens if player's first experience is positive and enjoys the game. In both cases cash is the result. Good job.
But, what happens if the player does not enjoy the game, or maybe gets confused, or frustrated, and has a bad first game experience?
In these two cases, cash is not the result for the publisher or developer. A really bad job.
Arcade game player reaction flow chart.
F2P game player reaction flow chart.
As you can easily understand, if the game costs money, the player will give it more of a chance, so the game has more time available to let the player get used to it and to convince him it's fun. If it doesn't cost any money, the game has to be fun and intuitive at the first try... or die.
That's why, especially with coin-op and F2P games, player's first experience needs to be absolutely great. It can't be confusing, annoying or frustrating. It has to be perfect at all costs, because if not, the player will quit the game -- the most catastrophic result.