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How has  SingStar  fared as a free-to-play game?
How has SingStar fared as a free-to-play game?
July 9, 2013 | By Mike Rose

July 9, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

When SingStar went free-to-play late last year, the team behind it was on a mission to remove as much friction as possible between the players and the core concept of singing together.

In a talk titled "Lessons unlearned in console for free-to-play" today at Develop Conference, SingStar London studio director Dave Ranyard revealed that the game has seen 1.5 million new users since it went free-to-play last October.

That compares to the 2 million new users the franchise picked up in the five years that preceded the switch. SingStar has now been going for nine years, and first started as a retail game on PlayStation 2.

Now as a free-to-play product, in which users can download the SingStar client for free and then buy whichever songs they would like as in-app purchases, the game is seeing a conversion rate of around 6 percent. Singstar's "whales" will buy 500+ songs, and a handful have even purchased more than 1000 songs.

Ranyard says that developing successful free-to-play experiences on console is all about removing player friction. In previous Singstar installments, "people were doing six or seven clicks before getting to sing," he noted. For the free-to-play version, that has been reduced down to two or three.

And this streamlining of the original concept continues elsewhere. The Singstar team removed the ability to play guitars alongside the singing, and got rid of the voice control for the menus.

The microphone support in particular was opened up, such that any USB mics would now work with the game. This helped greatly, says Ranyard, as the microphones were one of the biggest barriers to play for a lot of people.

Essentially "it was about reducing the barrier to entry," he says. His team made the free-to-play version all about the singing, without all the additional barriers and features.

Ranyard's team was also able to streamline the experience elsewhere too. "Buying touchpoints" were added in numerous areas -- for example, if a user had just been watching a video of someone else singing a song, a single-click button now sits in the corner of the screen to allow the person to buy the song as quickly as possible.

Overall, Ranyard says that free-to-play on consoles is all about streamlining the experience as much as possible -- and he believes Singstar could have easily been free-to-play from the very beginning.

"If free-to-play was relevant [nine years ago], this would have been our business to start with," he says.

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