While free-to-play games have been a major trend in the West for quite some time, no market relies on the microtransaction-based model quite like Asia's. Free-to-play games originally emerged from this territory, and Asian game studios have learned quite a bit about how to maximize the success of their online games.
At this year's GDC Europe
, Reality Squared Games CEO (and ex-gold farmer) Jared Psigoda took a moment to share what he's learned about Chinese free-to-play browser game design. While the design practices in China are quite different from those in the West, one thing's for sure: Chinese browser games can certainly generate a lot of money.
Psigoda explained that these titles have become especially adept at attracting "whales" -- or highly-engaged players that sometimes spend upwards of $100,000 on a single game. This small subset of players can easily make up a large portion of a game's revenue, and attracting them has become a major part of Chinese game design.
And how do browser games hook these whales? They make it easy for them to keep spending money. That is, they start players off with low cost, accessible microtransactions, and slowly ease users into larger, more significant investments.
"In Chinese browser games specifically, the [cost of virtual goods] increases with your level, or how powerful your character is," and the price of new items will increase exponentially as players progress through the game, Psigoda said.
"A lot of Chinese games have the problem where players will get to a certain level...and then [the cost of virtual items] will skyrocket, and it ends up killing the game," he added. But the ones that offer a smooth pricing curve often become the ones that attract players willing to spend loads of money on virtual goods.
"I'm a gamer myself and it's hard for me to justify purchases like that, but you see it all the time in China. This is not rare."
Throughout his presentation, Psigoda offered even more insight into how the free-to-play market succeeds -- and sometimes fails -- in China, and provided a number of tips to help developers learn from the region's triumphs and mistakes. You can check out his whole talk for yourself by watching the above video, courtesy of the GDC Vault
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