Three notable free-to-play mobile game designers sat down to chat at Develop Conference today, each with the opinion that monetization in free-to-play is slowly but surely leaving behind that idea of grabbing players quickly, milking them for cash, and then moving on.
Jason Avent, director at CSR Racing studio Boss Alien, has had plenty of experience when it comes to monetization in mobile games. This industry veteran believes that mobile players have changed the way they spend money in games now, and as such, mobile studios have had to change tack.
"I think we're moving away from the aggressive initial monetization," he says. "Those people who love your game are happy to pay for it. It's getting people into that longer game."
"I don't think paywalls are the future," Avent adds. "We need to move away from exploiting a small number of people, and instead work to make lots of people stick around."
Matthew Wiggins of mobile studio Jiggery Pokery agrees, adding that, "I would rather have 10,000 people who play my game for two years, than a million people who only play for a short time."
"The kiss of death for mobile is being able to pay to win," he notes. "What that means is that you don't even want to have anything that hints at that. You want players to not even be able to think that a game is pay to win."
There are psychological effects going on in this area now, he reasons. "People look at a free game and say, 'There's going to be a catch here.' So for us, we think about ways that players can extend the game and express themselves."
Simon Oliver of Hand Circus is in an interesting position. He originally built premium mobile games like the Rolando series, and is now finding that building free-to-play title Seabeard is proving very different.
"Designing a really long lasting game was something we hadn't done before, it's really interesting," he says. "Listening to the audience and seeing what they love. We can now build something like a skeleton and watch it grow."