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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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Chris Boers
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This article fails to adress everything that's wrong with F2P 'games'.
Singstar was announced as a free version of Singstar, while it actually is an empty shell that provides only a couple of fragments of demo songs, before you have to start paying.

Next, it was very awkwardly placed: the very VERY first icon you see when starting up your PS3, with a screen-wide advert and sound screaming in your face, which was non-removable to add.

Then, when people were riotting against the misleading advertisement and forceful placement of the icon, the response was "we're listening", but nothing happened.

As on the published numbers, I wonder how those 1,5 million 'new users' are counted. Are those all actually buying customers, who at least bought one song, or does it also count all those gamers that want nothing to do with Singstar at all, but accidentally pressed the 'x', thereby launching the game at startup?

So, without additional info, this entire story is nothing more than a very bad marketing article. So, Gamasutra, do your job as journalists, and get the actual story behind the marketing press release.

Jeremy Reaban
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That isn't even close to what's wrong with F2P Games.

Wrong would be something like if you couldn't actually buy the songs you wanted, but had to buy a package that may or may not include the songs you want, but you'd only find out after spending the money and opening it. And you'd have to keep on buying until you finally get the song you wanted.

Or if you had to wait 2 minutes for the song to start playing, and you could pay (to temporarily) remove the wait.

An actual a la carte model is a good F2P model. Maybe it's not really free to play, though, it's more like a demo

Eric Finlay
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This is hilarious. "I think it's wrong in this way" "No, it's wrong in this way".

From where I'm sitting, what's wrong with F2P Games (for the end user) is when you can't enjoy the game without spending money. What's wrong with F2P Games (for developers) is when you're no longer making a "good" game, but a series of funnels to capitalize on people trying to enjoy your game.

From what I can see, this game is wrong in both ways.