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Players won't pay just because they like your game
Players won't pay just because they like your game Exclusive
November 13, 2012 | By Staff

November 13, 2012 | By Staff
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    17 comments
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Idealistic free-to-play developers Flippfly had to face reality when their app, Monkey Drum got great ratings but generated little cash: you need to leave them wanting more.

"Our thinking with Monkey Drum went something like this: 'If a good conversion rate is something like 1-3 percent, maybe we can achieve that by delighting our users into wanting to give us more,'" writes Aaron San Filippo, co-founder of Flippfly.

Turns out, not so much.

"The more we look at effective F2P design and contrasted it with our app, the more we realize that this doesn't work in reality. Your users need to love your app -- but you need to leave them wanting more."

"To date the app has been downloaded over by over 80,000 users, and has a 4.5-star rating. Users love it," writes San Filippo.

On the other hand, he writes, "the conversion rate was pathetic, and the average revenue per paying user was low enough that despite its decent download numbers and great review scores, we had achieved less than $500 in revenue after several months."

San Filippo writes of the company's overarching "determination not to be evil", which led the developers to make everything unlockable with a virtual currency users could earn as well as purchase. This didn't work out well: "it turns out that most of our audience really enjoys the process of playing the instruments and unlocking these."

In short, the developers made the mistake of letting players unlock it all, and didn't ever steer them towards spending money.

To find out all of the problems Flippfly encountered making its first free-to-play app, read the new feature, 7 Ways to Fail at Free-to-Play, on Gamasutra.


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Comments


Alex Boccia
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I always wonder, why not just charge less instead of doing free-to-play? The developers of Ravaged and Natural Selection 2 seem to have done that and they have both been successful.

Emppu Nurminen
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Eh, the download rates for freemium games are completely different from paid games. Also, every day I see people pirating 0.99 $ games for their 599$ phones, yes, I think freemium is one inevitable way to try to make money.

Paolo Gambardella
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We can't expect every player acting as we want. As game developers we have to choose a target and work for that. Of course there are many people, like me, who will never pay money for a free to play game. But people like me contribute in other forms (virality, population), so is not a problem. We are paying too, with our time. And time is money.

Michael G
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I've played several MMOs during their transition from subscription to free to play, I no longer play any of them. It's like going on your favourite website and suddenly seeing it filled with adverts for smiley's. In fact my kin from LOTRO went from 250 active members down to 3-7 in the 5 months before and after the transition.

A S
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Seriously you have to be mad to release a game as a commercial endeavour and not have a predicted revenue stream (with predictions stronger than "we'll probably get a 1% conversion rate"). If you're branding and going for mass penetration sure, give it away, but if you have any expectation of profit at all you should be getting paid every time someone plays (ads or in app purchase).

Aaron San Filippo
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Every product has an optimal price for any given time. With Monkey Drum deluxe (the paid version we released after this experience) we tried $5.99, $0.99 (briefly) and we're currently at $3.99 because that seems to be the sweet spot.

Biff Bird
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A lot of it depends on the game/community. Toady seems to be doing pretty decent with Dwarf Fortress using the free to play/donate route.

Eric McQuiggan
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Dwarf fortress is not Free to Play, it's straight donationware. Unless there has been a change in amounts of donations, I wouldn't describe the money they receive as "pretty decent".

Biff Bird
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There is no charge to play the game, therefore, free to play.

In the 3 or 4 years I've been watching, I've never seen the donations drop below $1,000 a month. Usually they seem to be between $3,000 and $4,000, and occasionally over $10,000. Compared to the less than $500 over several months described in the article, I'd say that's pretty decent.

Aaron San Filippo
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Yeah those stats for Dwarf Fortress are pretty incredible! It's awesome that they've been able to carve out a method that works for them, and build such a tight-knit community at the same time.

The ability to build a community and create games that are intensely social like this, are one of the reasons we also moved to PC as our primary platform. It just seems very hard to do this kind of thing on mobile.

Ramin Shokrizade
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It is possible to use non-coercive monetization models under the F2P umbrella, but it can be just as complex as the game design itself, and both have to be consciously integrated. It isn't all that easy, but your commercial success depends on it in the current environment.

Aaron San Filippo
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Yep, no argument from me there, although I would've ended your last sentence "in the current *mobile* environment" because I think there's still a space on PC where purely paid games can thrive.

I think for us as a two-man shop, we just feel that we'd rather focus our efforts and time on creating incredible experiences within the games themselves rather than figuring out how to make effective, ethical F2P.

Benjamin Branch
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[Edit] Actually having foot in mouth. This game looks a lot better than what screenshots led me to believe. I'm honestly not sure why it's not making a few bucks, but I would still contend it has something to do with the presentation.

Maria Jayne
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To date, I've given money to D&D Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea, World of Tanks and Mechwarrior Online, this is the extent of my Free to play spending. I gave money to these games because I believed the games where enjoyable and of sufficient quality to entertain me without spending money, except that spending money would make that experience better.

Whenever I play a free to play game I'm acutely aware that the game wants to convince me to spend money, so I'm looking for reasons why I would rather stop playing than do that....because I don't trust the game to entertain me otherwise.

I recently bought A Game of Dwarfs on Steam for about 7, which would imply it's not top drawer, to be fair it's not, but at 7 my expectations of entertainment were much lower, yet I enjoyed playing it immensely, it turns out I'll play a game I spent 7 on more than I'll play a free game that wants to encourage me to spend money.

For me, I'd rather buy a cheaper game than a free game, because then I know the game is trying to entertain me rather than convince me to spend money. It's almost like I can let my guard down and just accept what I experience rather than immediately distrust it.

Nooh Ha
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I am exactly the opposite. I have blown way too much money on games that I did not/could not try out properly and which turned out to be unenjoyable. Paying in advance for an experience I might or might not enjoy is too much of a gamble for me in a market with so many free alternatives. A properly balanced and well designed F2P game (which are still few in number but do exist) allows me to fully explore a game in a way that no premium priced game demo would let me. That 7 spend becomes completely discretionary but is guarnateed to enhance the game experience for me. I dont spend any more or less on online and mobile games these days, I simply make sure I get value for money and premium priced games are forming an ever decreasing part of this equation.

Terry Matthes
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Does anyone every stop to think that a over half the downloads could be from children or younger people who don't have the funds or the ability to pay for these games?

Sven Uilhoorn
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Agree, just like piracy of console- and pc titles..


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