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Opinion: Why we chose Freemium
Opinion: Why we chose Freemium
August 2, 2012 | By Kyle Kulyk

August 2, 2012 | By Kyle Kulyk
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Business/Marketing

In this reprinted #altdevblogaday opinion piece, Itzy Interactive's Kyle Kulyk shares his cynical view on the mobile marketplace, and explains why it's difficult for some developers to not choose the freemium business model.

What choice did we have?

When we started Itzy Interactive a little over a year ago, we were already too late. Developers has already undercut each other's prices on the app store to the point where all games were already pretty much in the $1-2 dollar range, and the freemium pricing model of giving away a game for free and earning revenue from in-app purchases had already taken root.

It was a bit like pulling up to the starting line after the race had started, and you're informed that everyone has already piled up in a spectacular crash in the middle of the racetrack but you go ahead anyway. There we were, all shiny and new, ready to go and determined to make our mark and hopefully pay our bills in the process.

When we launched Itzy3d we knew right from the start that freemium was the direction we would go with this and future releases. Our second title, Vex Blocks, is also planned as a freemium release. The reasons just made sense to us and still do.

As a small indie team our resources are limited. When it comes to marketing our products, we simply don't have a lot of options available to us due to our financial constraints.

We've spoken to other developers who have been successful in the mobile marketplace and a few of them maintain that paying for ads simply doesn't pay. Certainly the response we've seen to the ads we ran in an attempt to test the waters back this up.

The increased visibility and downloads we received when running our mobile ad campaigns simply did not pay for the money spent on those ads. Social marketing through our Facebook, Twitter and blogging efforts probably put just as many eyes on our products and didn't cost us anything but our time.

So that leaves really only two other factors that we have any control over as indie developers: the game we're creating and the price point we choose for that game.

Now game quality is an interesting topic. We're not so arrogant as to assume our games will be of the same calibre as games made by more experienced teams, or made by larger teams with millions at their disposal. So we endeavor to make the best games we can possibly make given our talents and the resources available to us, and that's all that can be expected of us.

We're not operating under any illusion that we'll create the next runaway hit. Something that always strikes me about people I speak with in the industry and developer interviews I see from successful indies is that they never know if what they've created is any good. There's always that nervousness as they release their product into the wild when you simply don't know how you'll be received.

You'd like to think that you've made a game people will enjoy, that you've made something that stands out but what you think and what the reviewers, other developers and ultimately gamers think can be completely different. Opinion is opinion. The notion that if you simply create an excellent title people will flock to it is contingent on something you have no control over.

People's opinions of what constitutes a great game. So you do what you can. You set out and make the game you want to make and you make it to the best of your abilities. Then you learn from your mistakes and hopefully don't go broke in the process.

So the only option left to us, the only other thing we can control is the price, and against the hundreds of thousands of other games out there – what chance do our little, independently made games stand against juggernauts that are already charging nothing right out of the gate?

Freemium isn't the only option for mobile developers, but realistically in today's marketplace – what choice do indies really have? Convert or die.

The notion that your games are super special and people will recognize this fact and line up to throw money at you may work in rare instances where the planets align just so but that's like putting a video of yourself singing up on Youtube in the hopes of being discovered. Sure it happens, but so do lottery wins.

For us, it makes more sense to level the playing field as much as possible to maximize our chances of success. That's why we went freemium. There's simply too many free games available in today's mobile marketplace to risk alienating users by asking the price of a cup of coffee for our hard work. At least, not right off the bat.

Making the decision to go freemium doesn't necessarily mean that you've sold your soul to Old Scratch either. Freemium games receive a lot of grief from "core" gamers for some very good reasons. There are companies out there that use freemium, and combined with habit forming hooks they keep gamers addicted to apps that more than a few gamers would turn their noses up at.

There are companies that try to obscure the actual price of in-app purchases. Other companies offer multiplayer games with the option to purchase power-ups to gain an advantage over other players. All the above give the freemium model, in my opinion, a bit of a bad reputation, but it doesn't have to be this way.

I prefer to approach freemium games the same way people approached shareware. "Here's the game to try, and if you like the game, please support us by purchasing some of our other options." No tricks. Nothing hidden. If you like it, please support us.

I view the freemium pricing structure no differently than offering a demo version, but the key to me (and to my conscience) is to not waste gamer's time with a mere taste but to make it worth their while.

here are a lot of products vying for gamers attention, and I always keep that in the back of my mind to make sure our products are offering up enough gameplay that I would be satisfied, as a gamer, with the amount of play I've received. Then, hopefully, gamers will like what they see and respond by opening their wallets.

[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]

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David Morales Hernandez
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I think Freemium is the best approach we, as new and unknown indie developers, have. I'll be using this type of selling for the first game I release.

Michael K
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I wonder how it continues. all the games/developers that had no chances, just made their games free and kind of ripped the market for developers who charged money. now everyone (valve, ea, epic, crytek,...) is going for f2p.
But with all those MMOs the PC market already had the problem to fight for the player time; I saw some stats and PC devs arguing, their games won't sell as their user base spends most time with WOW, so consoles for the rescue. I wonder, what if all players in future will spend their time with F2P games?
(if MS and Sony allow F2P on their consoles)

I've been playing quite some f2p games the last years, at some point a lot of them realized, that their user base is fine with what they get for free (if everyone is having the same handicap, who cares, right?) and then changed the business model to massively limit the free part (e.g. BF Heros), and I wasn't really bothered every time it happened, I just went on to yet another game. Currently playing Tribes, had quite some fun getting all the weapons etc. by playing, instead of paying and spoiling the fun with money, but as it's getting a bit boring, I'll switch to planetside or something else and just come back to see updates.

As developer it makes me somehow sad, all the great content and it's all free. back then I bought UT, Q3A, Chrome etc. to play those online. now it's all free and the bubble gonna get bigger, once the devs compete for time and not even for the money anymore, what will be the offer?
"for every friend you convince to join you get 1$"?

Aaron Fowler
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"I saw some stats and PC devs arguing, their games won't sell as their user base spends most time with WOW, so consoles for the rescue."

I don't think you can attribute not selling ANY pc games because of WoW (unless you made a MMO). Using that argument the same thing could be said about console games not selling as well either. Because many people that have WoW installed on their computer also own a console.

Jorge Molinari
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I often wonder the same thing Michael. I don’t play freemium games, but I do wait for price drops. This weekend I saw Gears of War 3 on sale at Best Buy for $15. This game is as AAA as it gets, and in about 10 months it dropped from $65 to $15. That is more than a 75% price drop. Instead I picked up a new limited edition copy of Halo Reach (Another AAA, this one a year older than Gears 3) for $10 at Wal Mart. Sure, these two titles are among the fortunate games to have long since become profitable. But I could have picked up Homefront of Max Payne 3 instead. But why would I? Why would I spend more for a game that according to most critics and gamers is inferior? And in this very current and real example I’m not even talking about used games. This was $15 and $10 for recent AAA titles in their shrink.

The problem with the gaming industry is painfully obvious: There are simply too many people making games. You guys (I’m talking to all the developers here) are 10 times smarter than the average person on the street. It pains me to see how you subject yourselves to either the tyranny of the big publishers or the tyranny of the videogame marketplace (where as stated above, your hard work is not even worth a cup of coffee).

Your technical, creative, and problem solving skills are greatly needed in other industries. Pharmaceutical, Aerospace, Transportation, Energy, etc, etc, etc. Almost every industry you can think of needs people with the skillset game developers acquire. You will be compensated A LOT better in jobs that can be just as fulfilling and challenging. I would love to work on games, just as I would love to work on films. But since everyone and their grandma would also love to make their living in either of these endeavors, the competition is insane. The result is everyone gets screwed either by the bully corporations, or by the overcrowded market. I say put your skills to use on a company or an independent project where your work is appreciated. For the unskilled average Joe on the street it is no doubt hard to find such work; but you guys are highly skilled!

Fuck the games industry, it is not worthy of your talent.

Michael K
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The question isn't why buying GoW3 over MaxPayne, but why haven't you bought it onthe first day ;)
But beside some games like God of War, Gran Turismo, I also wait a while till I buy most games, simply because I don't really feel tempted to have them urgently. I also have a hope Sony/Microsoft would offer those for like 20bucks in their online stores, they would earn nearly the same I assume.
But buying those games is still some money for a limited time of entertainment. F2P games usually try to hook you in for days or weeks (if you accumulate the playing time) and then you might be tempted to spend something.
I agree the price drop isn't the smartest decision they can do, especially for consoles. If I recall correctly, that wasn't the case in SNES or NES days. And Microsoft Flight Simulator was full price for its life time.

(Bit off topic, but anyway)
The reason we work in the industry does not sound logical to a lot of people, but Robert Swift points it out, we do it also for the fun. Why spending 40h a week on a boring job to earn money to spend it yet again on something fun, if you can be paid to have fun 40h a week? this way around, it's actually logical to value life time over money and have fun.

Brian Bartram
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i love my job in the games industry, and wouldn't trade it for any job in the world. every day i come to work and say "i can't believe i get paid to do this!".

i'm more than willing to weather the competition, the economic rollercoaster, and the drama. i can't imagine an industry with more camaraderie, more creativity, or more passion.

granted, i'm not an indie. i work for EA. i was at Pandemic when it crashes, but EA helped me transfer to Bioware. then i just didn't like my work at Bioware, so EA helped me transfer to Visceral. from there i made a jump to Maxis. each time EA more than covered my moving expenses, and my benefits and salary are well above those of my peers from high school. and the biggest benefit is the fact that i can't stop smiling, whether thinking about the past, present, or future.

the game industry has been good to me beyond my wildest dreams.

but i certainly don't mind if other people take your attitude. my friends trying to get into the industry could use a bit less competition.

Long live the games industry!

Justin LeGrande
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All industries share the "engineering mentality", though... "see a problem, fix it". Go for the most efficient method; side effects? Minimize them, instead of thinking... maybe some secrets aren't worth unveiling?

Kevin Fishburne
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Most other industries require [multiple] certification[s], physiological and psychological tests and expect more than just being qualified. Frightening to an artist/hacker who thrives on introspection and privately faultless vision. We just want to improve our game, and they just want to use it to help grease the gears of the world. Sometimes we indulge to survive.

There are some who venture into other industries such as Carmack and Garriott. While that's nice (and we do need engineers) I just want to make games. Single minded focus is a plus, if not mandatory.

Robert Swift
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@Jorge Molinari
Most industries you talked about only offer jobs which are boring as hell for a creative minded software developer, imho.

Brent Gulanowski
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Is it purely a matter of opinion, though? The different roles that are part of game development use different kinds of creativity in different ways. There are other jobs in other industries that use all of the talent used by game developers: writers, designers, programmers, and of course marketing and business skills.

If someone loves making games, I would never tell them not to do it, as long as they are honest enough to admit that they're making the choice of creative expression over financial rewards. But if, for example, you're a graphics programmer, or a user interaction designer, there are lots and lots of other opportunities in software development, to solve hard and extremely interesting problems.

I suppose if your heart is set on game design, there aren't a lot of other alternatives (maybe making pen-and-paper RPGs, or amusement park rides). But I suspect that the market for that kind of entertainment is fairly fixed (in terms of population * leisure hours per person * interest in games %), so it's important to recognize the dangers of saturation.

Brent Gulanowski
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Something to consider: SpaceX is hiring software developers. Granted, they probably need very talented people. But the game industry has a lot of very talented people. But who wouldn't want to help the space program? I bet Elon Musk is a better boss than a few game company CEOs you might think of.

Jorge Molinari
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Robert, I will concede that the games industry may be more exciting (in a general sense) than other industries. But there are jobs videogames that are boring as well (QA testing anyone?). In every industry there is art in designing a product than balances aesthetics, manufacturability, costs, weight, performance, etc. In every industry, the design portion is far more enjoyable than all the work that needs to happen downstream to get a product to market. Again I doubt anyone would enjoy the necessary but repetitive and boring QA testing of video games.

I work on design in the aerospace industry, and when I get to do clean sheet designs I have a blast. Of course I also have to do tedious documentation afterwards which I despise. I think a lot of people in the game industry would benefit greatly by a career change, especially those with families. In most other skilled jobs an obligatory 60-hour work week is almost unheard of, and job security is better. Instead of banging your heads against the wall in these industries where you need to “break into”, why not get into other highly technical jobs where you could instead be received with open arms? It’s not like you need to go back to college, many of your skills are transferable right now.

Sorry for the rant. It just breaks my heart to read all these layoffs and “barely getting by” stories. Every time I read them I remember that could’ve been me.

Kevin Fishburne
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"In every industry, the design portion is far more enjoyable than all the work that needs to happen downstream to get a product to market. Again I doubt anyone would enjoy the necessary but repetitive and boring QA testing of video games."

It's about the enjoyment of observation of program progress and subsequent player satisfaction. People making their own games with a staff of one enjoy all these pleasures and tedious pains including QA. Before code is even written a theory is ran against a tentative mental implementation and with any success it is then tested in code. First Degree Murder bugs, don't avoid or forget them. Keep a text file listing them. Diligence, not fun drives discovery and happiness.

No need to apologize for a rant. Or layoffs and sad stories. The world's crazy; sobs abound.

Chris McLeod
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I think it'll take awhile to do freemium well. DLC had a hard time in the past. Day 1 DLC for Dragon Age comes to mind as a rip-off tactic. Over time, it seemed that both the gamers and designers seemed to find a balance.

For freemium, there is a lot of abuse across the board. But once game companies treat their non-paying customer base with the same respect as the paying ones, freemium will be much more attractive to gamers themselves. Some companies will get the hang of it and the model will work really well; others will get greedy and fail.

Frankly, I find it all very interesting and cannot wait to see the innovative ways for the freemium model to evolve.

Brent Gulanowski
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Let me try to put some of what you've said into a different context. The most important factor in deciding how to sell a product is the customer's perception of value.

There are two main ways for people to make a value assessment of a product: hearsay and experience. Hearsay requires marketing: advertising, giveaways, youtube, viral, whatever. You pay money to create a perception that your product will satisfy the consumer's needs (wishes, desires, whatever).

Experience requires using the product. If buying the product is a prerequisite of using it, then that puts a big barrier to entry on using it. Lowering the price reduces the barrier, but also reduces revenues.

Freemium (or low-price-ium, or whatever catchy name we might assign to going for lowest pricing without going to zero) is an alternative to price lowering. It is actually a partitioning of a product into multiple products, each with a part of the utility of the original whole product. It's not a new strategy in games or other industries. Subscription models were originally a lower-cost answer to one big up-front payment. A subscription is basically a rental.

But now even rental fees are too high a barrier to entry, especially when the market is trying to grow: to capture customers with smaller budgets and less emotional involvement: casual gamers.

The thing you haven't addressed is how many different approaches there are to product partitioning. For every market there will be better and worse approaches, but there are quite a few to consider.

One of the oldest and most reliable is serialization. Personally, this is the one I find the least contemptible. It's an alternate approach to subscriptions. The customer can buy (or get for free) one issue (or level pack, or whatever), and see how she likes it. If she does, she'll probably buy more, because now she has confirmed that the experience is good. (Flip side: those who don't like it won't buy more.)

The one I dislike the most is pay-to-win. I'm not sure there are analogs in other media. It would almost be like paying an author to write the story to have the outcome you think is best, but on the other hand, it's nothing like that at all. Maybe it's more like paying someone to tell you how wonderful you are, when all of his honest competition wants to tell you the truth and help you make your life honestly better (or "you suck at this game and need to practice more").

If people experience your product and still don't like it, then you have to go back to the drawing board.

Knowing whether people like your game or not is of over-arching importance. Unfortunately, you seem to approach with an overdose of fatalism. How can we know if people will like our game before we ship it?

By asking them!

There is an article on this site about how to use Lean Startup principles in game development. It's an area that deserves a lot more attention. If you approach game development as a pure art, as opposed to product development, Lean principles and the Minimum Viable Product/Game will not appeal to you. But if you want to make your customers happy so that they will buy your game, it is one way to reduce the uncertainty.

Because the fact is, the "lottery" attitude is self-defeating. If you think your best bet at being successful with a game is a lottery, you're crazy to be a game developer. There are plenty of other lower-risk alternatives for work. Of course being an entrepreneur is risky, but it should be a mitigated risk, not a one-in-a-million shot. Freemium helps you get your game in player's hands, but it doesn't help with risk mitigation at all.

Jorge Molinari
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I’d say anyone who thinks luck and connections don’t have anything to do with success in the game industry is crazy to be a game developer. These “break into” industries are littered with the corpses of brilliant and talented people who never made it. But of course they are never featured in documentaries and no books get written about them.

Anyone here think Angry Birds deserves the over 700 million downloads it has so far? Anyone? Suppose one of you created an iOS game that got 1 million downloads. Was Angry Birds 699 million times better than that game you guy created?

Rovio had talent, just like many of you. But unlike many of you, they were also at the right place at the right time. They won the lottery. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling himself. As is any developer who pretends they would not like to enjoy the same success as Rovio.

Jane Castle
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Rovio has been around for quite some time and had made several other games before they became an "overnight success" with Angry Birds. The market determined that Angry Birds was a success. If people didn't want to buy it all the marketing and connections in the world would not have saved it.

A lot of naive developers when they fail fall into this convenient trap. "I was unsuccessful because I wasn't lucky and did not have the right connections....." Then they lash out at more successful developers (who also have better games) and say that their success is a result of their connections and\or luck.

As for your "lottery" reference this is ABSOLUTELY not true. Make a product that people want to buy and you will see that it isn't as big a lottery as you might think.

If you have a crap product all the connections and luck WILL NOT make you successful. Often people who fail in business fall back on the lottery myth. ie. "I wasn't successful because I wasn't lucky....."

tony oakden
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Maybe not entirely luck but much more to do with how good a communicator the developer is and, probably more importantly, how much they enjoy communicating. The fact that being a good communicator and being a good game developer are a rare combination probably has a lot to do with why big hits come along so rarely in the indie/mobile scene

tony oakden
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Oh and I think you are naive Jane. My experience is that it has little to do with product quality and much more to do with how much money and effort the developer puts into selling the product. The rest is mostly down to dumb luck these days

Jane Castle
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@oakden Dumb luck is what makes one successful? Do you own a business that makes money? I do and I know that my success is not based on dumb luck as you naively seem to think.

I don't fault you however. There are tons of indies who put out absolute crap for product. Since they can't accept that their games are garbage they put it down to dumb luck........

You can communicate all you want, if your product is poor, no amount of marketing will help it.

Brent Gulanowski
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There is always some luck factor. However, it's pretty difficult to measure (maybe impossible). Most "luck" comes down to opportunity. After that, success is self-sustaining, if you play it right. Everybody loves a winner. On the other hand, a product might be popular briefly, but it can just as easily disappear if that success isn't nurtured. Lots of great artists and businesses flame out.

Rovio did not win a lottery. They were first to market with the right combination of gameplay, characters, and other stuff. Granted, you can't know exactly what the right mix is, but there are certainly ways to improve (or damage) your chances. You don't have to rely solely on luck. Once you get your foot in the door, there's a whole lot of other challenges that you need to overcome to keep that success rolling. Rovio had what it took to do that.

Jane Castle
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I could not have said it better myself. Luck plays a part as you stated but it is not the sole factor that determines success of failure as many seem to think.

Michael O'Hair
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Eventually, or maybe in some alternate dimension, producers of quality mobile software will put their foot down and demand that their work be taken seriously. Maybe one day they'll demand that their products be worth more than a soft drink or piece of candy from a vending machine.

B-b-b-but what if no one buys it?
Is your software worth less than 100 US pennies? Is it just as disposable as something that can be chewed up and swallowed in less than a minute? Is your labor of love a copy of a pre-existing work that adds nothing to the genre of which it is a part of? Is your product so cheap and derivative that the only way to make money off of it is to sell funny hats and accessories in the game?? Is your game meant to be thrown away in under an hour???
Then, sell it for a dollar. Maybe less.
Hell... why not just give it away for free?

Just how much are your blood, sweat, and tears worth?

Justin LeGrande
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The business of putting a price on the production of creative works has traditionally been arbitrarily decided, then molded into a flat marketing model. Providing a service, rather than just a product, forces this business dynamic to be more flexible to survive- especially in a saturated space. A greater emphasis on the upkeep of skilled workers and artisans is required.

Hence, the increasing gravitation towards "free" pricing models- the traditional sales of products are not always enough to sustain the workers of every company within the video game industry's ecosystem. Rendering a service, rather than simply selling a product, can provide another possible method of survival.

Thus, the quality of service comes into question. This remains to be explored. Hopefully, the current provisions of service will evolve!

Brent Gulanowski
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I think the problem is more complex than you're making it sound. The value of a person's work is determined by a lot of factors, including their own opinion and that of others. One problem with the games market (and maybe all markets) is that it doesn't correctly take into account the size of the individual market for any particular product. This is mostly because of the miserable problem of discoverability.

There are definitely people in the world who would love the products produced by plenty of creative people who just haven't found one another. I don't think the size of this problem can be overstated.

On the other hand, sometimes the market for a given product may not big enough to justify the expense of making it. To some extent, with proper research, you might be able to figure this out, but it actually requires you to identify your market *before* making the product. Even then there is some uncertainty, and it's still very difficult to identify and locate the people who represent a unique market niche. But if the problem can be overcome, it will take a lot of the fear and pain out of the development of entertainment products.

GameViewPoint Developer
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All the people that say something like "I won't be seen dead buying a game with IAP, and I would gladly pay up front for a game I like!" have to realise something, they are a tiny tiny minority in the mobile gaming market, the majority have the exact same attitude to pay up front, they simply won't even entertain buying a game on a mobile device, why? because there's so much free content, so why would they? they are not hardcore gamers, they do not know of the latest, greatest game about to be released, they download their games from word of mouth, from the national media, and if it's in the top 25, and that's it. I pretty much agree with everything the author is saying, as an indie developer there really isn't much choice about which way to go with all of this it has to be freemium.

The area I would disagree with though is the "So you do what you can. You set out and make the game you want to make and you make it to the best of your abilities." bit, although that's undoubtably correct in the sense that you can only do what you can do, you better hope "what you can do" is pretty damn great, otherwise (as I say on my blog) it's not going to be good enough, not in todays mobile market. Average, or better than average doesn't cut it anymore, you're game or some aspects of it has to be great, it has to stand out from the crowd, it has to be the kind of game that not only do you enjoy playing (there are lots of games on the App stores that are fun to play) but you wouldn't hesitate in downloading if you saw/heard of it.

Like the saying, go big or go home.

Justin LeGrande
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If it's feasible to survive while providing a service through a middleware company, surely it's feasible to survive while providing a service through a smaller company?

Brent Gulanowski
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The reason is only partly that so much stuff is free. Free is a desperation measure to get people to experience your game. But with so much stuff, free or not, the problem of finding what you like is still very hard.

I think that most customers are happy to pay a fair price for something that they will value. But there's a problem if there are too many games that fill the same niche. But that's a creative problem. If game developers only remake the same games over and over with different skins, of course the value will drop to nearly zero.

If you want to be able to charge for a product, that product has to be different, in a meaningful way that people can recognize. If people see unique value in something, they will pay for it.

Still, you're right in that there is an expectation of dollars spent per hour of enjoyment (which is by now in the $0.10-0.50 area, or lower). But it's not written in stone. Exceptional quality is determined by exceptional experience. IF you can deliver 10x the experience, you can charge 10x as much. Sure, a vocal minority of self-entitled assholes will hate you vehemently, but fuck them. We can't let them dictate the market.

Toby Grierson
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Thats hardly even the only reason.

The other day I tried two games; Steam Punk Pirate Something Something and Rime...Scape? Rimelands?

Anyway, Steam Whatevers was freemium. First chapter or whatever was free, and it was badass to the max. I bought the subsequent chapters at $3 each, which is trivial and I know it's trivial and everyone knows it's trivial.

Rimelands was $5 up front. The screenshots looked promising. I bought it. It was ass.

It's not that $5 is a lot of money to lose. I simple feel bilked. I don't like feeling bilked.

Back in the day with $50 games, you wouldn't just go pay $50 and find out. You'd go to Blockbuster and rent it for $5 (which was trivial then too).

Sometimes, freemium is that.

In any case, I'd like to see anyone bring some data that actually shows dollar-games are the winner because the top hundred grossing shows precious few among numerous freemium and multi-dollar apps.

Daniel Cook
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F2P is a distribution strategy as described in this article. By offering something for free, you can get a lot of people to try it that would otherwise not have given it 30 seconds, never mind 30 cents. What will sell more of an unknown brand of icecream? Standing on crowded corner offering free samples or selling a gallon for $60 bucks without allowing people a taste?

With F2P you go one step further from the demo and say "Hey, we are going to be here everyday and everyday you get a new flavor so you find the ones you really like." Instead of being a boxed product, you are a friendly neighborhood shop that has an ongoing relationship with all the folks that stop by. Some may take quite a few samples before they buy a cone, but that's okay. It all balances out in the end.

A smart essay.

take care,

Daniel Martinez
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That's some good perspective in this article, Kyle. The mobile market is as oversaturated and highly competitive the East Coast of the U.S. is hot: very. Opening up your game for donations based on what consumers are willing to pay isn't a bad strategy when you consider you are appealing directly to your demand curve and extracting as much consumer surplus as possible. In other words, you will capture the frugal consumer who might give you $1 or the generous one who might give $10 and everything in between. Furthermore, this is beneficial to the consumer because it incentivizes companies to produce games that consumers will value and be more likely to donate to. Consumer welfare and utility improves in the market and the quantity and quality of donations do to. Win-win. Hopefully, not too many gamers take it for granted, that's the only caveat. Best of luck Itzy Interactive!

Jorge Molinari
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Ah yes;

Teh market has spoken.

@John Castle:
Here is a fun fact about “the market”: In 1976 “the market” decided to make the My Pet Rock creator a millionaire. To become a millionaire in 1976 you would need to make at least $4 million today. Each rock was sold for $3.95 dollars back then. Or $15.93 in 2012 adjusted for inflation. (using the US government’s bureau of labor statistics inflation calculator). Examples like this abound, I just happen to like my pet rock better than 8-minute abs.

So yes, “the market” determined that a rock in a box with instructions on caring for it is worth $15.93. This same “market” has also decided that your game is not worth a pack of bubblegum; and you still put your faith in it? (Not to take away from the highly-skilled specialists who spend months in crunch-time trying to develop that “perfect flavor” of gum).

Also, I don’t think anyone here expects a crappy video game to sell well, but as mentioned above, crazier things have happened in the almighty "market".

Jane Castle
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Anyone can cherry pick specific examples. If you don't like "the market" determining that your game is worth no more than a pack of bubble gum then don't make casual\iPhone games. Or better yet make games with much higher production values.

BTW do you make games for a living? I have my own company and the market does not value my games at the price point you stated. I make a decent living and have no problems with the "market". Can you give examples of games that are not worth the price of a pack of bubble gum?

I also see several indies whining on this site that they can't get on Steam or that they were rejected. When you ask them to provide a link to their games it is either a craptastic casual game, a shoddy stale knockoff of another game or they don't bother to respond since they know their game is not good. If these are the types of games you are referring to then yes they are worth the price of bubble gum. And for the most part Steam was right in rejecting these games.

I agree the market isn't perfect and we can all pick specific examples that seem to defy logic but for the most part if you make a good game that people want to play you will get some measure of success. The issue here is that many indies think that their games are excellent and that there are nefarious forces at work that are stopping them.

If you would like another cherry picked example take Mine Craft. I don't think it is a good game and frankly I feel it is unfinished. The market however says otherwise. So if people want to play this game or buy a pet rock that is their decision.

If you feel the game industry is unfair, then perhaps you should get involved in something else besides making games. However, every industry has its problems and tribulations. I watched the indie movie and while I liked it, there seemed to be constant whining and bitching from these indies. What most indies fail to realize (especially the ones in the movie) is that it doesn't matter what industry you are in, there will ALWAYS be challenges and tribulations. Welcome to the joys of starting your own business.

Most people quit and give up and then comfort themselves with blaming the market or lack of luck. A select few decide to soldier on (sometimes for years) and eventually achieve success. This pattern is repeated whether you are selling shoes, coat hangers or games.

Brent Gulanowski
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I agree with most of your comment, but comparing Minecraft to a pet rock is ridiculous. Minecraft may feel unfinished as a game, but as an original, atmospheric, creative sandbox toy, there is nothing else in the world that compares to it, even two years after it exploded in popularity. The body of work that Minecraft fans have produced has no equal. How badly game developers seem to misunderstand what Minecraft is and what it means continues to amaze me.

Moreover, Minecraft is the best example ever of how a "game" developer used his audience as a priceless resource to make a product that they wanted, without abandoning his own principles and beliefs about what was fun.