Free to Play Mobile Games within all genres usually follow the contemporary monetisation trends, and have tried to create the synergy between the Free to Play business model and Gameplay accordingly. But with the F2P Mobile Games Business continuously maturing, we are seeing recent releases show an interesting trend in mobile games that are trying more unconventional strategies, a F2P Mobile Hybrid if you will. The following looks at this current trend through a recent featured title;
Bethesda Pinball by Zen Studios
On a high level, these kind of games are showing a similar combinations of;
In Comparison, on a more traditional note, you have games that have dominated the Top charts for ages;
Clash of Clan (Core & IAP), Clash Royale (Core & IAP), Candy Crush Saga (Casual & IAP) and on the Top Free list you would see Crossy Road (Casual & Ad-driven) and everything Ketchapp every released (Casual & Ad-driven)
With the games above it is a two-out-of-three tendency, and choice on Core or Casual, combined with a choice on IAP or Ads. This might seem rather Black 'n White, but if you compare with the hybrids mentioned above - there are clear differences. The question is then, how are these hybrid doing in comparison. Let's have a Quick Look at them from a business perspective (IAP and Ads), and from a player-centric view (Casual Gameplay and Core Meta-systems/Complexity).
Common for all these hybrids is the difficulty in truly evaluating their commercial success, because of the mix between IAP and Ad-driven revenue streams. You might see these game rarely in the top 100 and quickly write them off as 'not brining in the dough'. Though the ratio between IAP and Ads is something outsiders can only try to guess, common for Bethesda's Pinball and others of its kind, is that they haven't been close to either Top Downloads or Top Grossing, so we at least have an indication that these games aren't super hits. But we can't really write Bethesda's Pinball and others off by looking solely at their monetisation strategy. There are plenty of examples of games that do really well, and utilises a mix of revenue streams. Poor synergy or overall implementation of your monetisation strategies might aid in an overall failing, but I don't believe it to be the cause.
One of the major reasons these games not making it big is the lack of synergy between a casual gameplay and the overall complexity of the meta systems. The gap is simply too big. When either Theme, Meta Systems or Gameplay in a F2P Title is vastly different in complexity compared to the other two, we tend to see a sort of Uncanny Valley in Game design and experience as a player.
In the example of Bethesda's Pinball game, it fair to argue that players are either drawn by the theme or/and the gameplay. The first problem then occurs in the disconnect between the rather deep narrative of Doom/Skyrim/Fallout and the simplicity of the standard pinball gameplay, but this is a pretty standard implementation of Pinball games outside of the digital realm, so... Well... onwards!
The real problem, and I guess the point of this whole thing is the disconnect between the actual gameplay of Bethesda's Pinball and the meta systems surrounding the experience.
Player Levels, 2x Currencies, Asynchronous PVP, Perks/Powerups, Rankings
..None of which directly affect the gameplay, or the narrative/theme. The two reasons why players engaged with the game in the first place. It becomes this, Jykell/Hide experience where the Meta System is standing in the way of the Gameplay, and ends up becoming rather frustrating.
The Complexity of the Meta Systems feels Forced and rather Rushed to be honest. When the player eventually gets to that moment of truth where a potential purchase is afforded, its driven by the meta systems and a lack of currency, not by driving the gameplay or the narrative.
I'm all for experimenting with pushing the boundaries of 'the norm' of Mobile F2P executions with combinations of Casual Gameplay and Core Meta Systems and vice versa. I'll argue that what we are seeing now is the rise of games that are trying to combine some of these Meta Systems, Gameplay and Monetisation strategies in their attempt to create something new, something that will make it on all fronts - but we aren't there yet.