Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

Tag: free to play

Whales in Free to Play Games

For many free to play (freemium) games their revenue relies on whales. Whales are players that spend a disproportionate amount of money on a game relative to other players, and they make up a very small percentage of players.

Wero Creative's freemium game AstroDoge

Wero Creative’s freemium game AstroDoge

This approach to game revenue can be rather problematic if you’re game doesn’t get thousands or millions of players. And as the mobile app stores get more and more saturated reaching that critical number of players becomes a bigger and bigger challenge.

Encouraging these players to play for freemium upgrades can be a challenge and game designers need to design for free to play from the start of the design process. Still, what can game companies do to attract these whale players and is it a good idea?

Michael Lewis at the Toronto Star takes a look into how game companies hunt elusive whales to stay afloat. He even interviewed me about whales and how game companies make their business plans.

Whales, moreover, are not likely to admit they are such, according to Adam Clare, who teaches games design at George Brown College and develops games at Wero Creative.
The vast majority of gamers who play free games never spend on them regardless of how many in-app purchases they offer, he said.

“So the business model has boiled down to getting as many players as possible, then hoping that someone out there will love the game so much they spend a tonne of money on it.”

Game developers have always assumed that this random approach is logical, he said, even though developers also assumed that the people spending $50 or more a month on a game for extra time or virtual prizes must be misguided.

Some research on whales suggests in fact that they are not impulsive but more rational in a kind of hedonistic way — long-term thinkers, cool-headed and methodical who see expenditure on gaming as part of their entertainment budget.

Now go get Wero’s free to play game AstroDoge.

Free to Play, Whales, And Clash of Clans

The free to play (F2P) business model has been with the games industry for years, yet we hardly understand it. This past week I’ve chanced across a few different items which explore aspects of the F2P model.

Back in November, the IGDA Phoenix group had a presentation on F2P methodologies. It’s a good presentation and provides some insights into a few popular F2P games and how their design decisions make sense.

Whales

Whales are people. In social and F2P games, developers refer to people who spend a lot of money on a game as whales. The vast majority of gamers (>90%) who play free games never spend on them regardless of how many in-app purchases a game offers. So the business model has boiled down to getting as many players as possible then hoping that someone out there will love the game so much they spend a TON of money on it.

Game developers have always assumed that this random approach is logical. Even though, developers also assumed that the people spending ~$50 on a game must be crazy.

Ubisoft just did some research on whales and why found out that whales are more rational than assumed.

“One thing that came across was this concept of ‘whales’ was really framing how developers and our marketing folks were thinking about what drives high-value spenders. [The assumption was] it’s impulsive, more irrational, kind of hedonistic behavior,” Yee said. “What we found was almost the exact opposite. Instead of being impulsive, they were long-term thinkers, cool-headed, methodical, and they really supported the game.”

The article continues…

“It’s really understanding those people as hobbyists,” Ducheneaut said. “They’re committed to a hobby. They invest resources in their hobby, just like someone would in model trains, figure skating, or whatever. It’s no different than that.”

Ducheneaut and Yee can relate, as they have their own sometimes costly hobbies. For Ducheneaut, it’s sailing. As for how Yee gets rid of pesky disposable income, he said painting miniatures helps. Of course, they’re no strangers to gaming either, and hope that their work will help make the industry a better place for anyone who counts gaming among their hobbies

Clash of Clans

Supercell’s Clash of Clans has been a huge success and their sequel of Boom Beach looks to prove Supercell’s design choices are rather smart.

Redditor wolfawap spent some time and researched how Clash of Clans puts a price on time. The short of it is “they seem to set fixed prices for fixed time milestones like 1 minute = 1 gem, 1 hour = 20 gems, 1 day = 260 gems, etc.”.

Having looked into F2P social games on a few occasions it’s nice to see pretty graphs backing up what we already know:

Let’s try interpreting the data differently. Think of it in terms of cost in gems to skip 1 second. Skipping more time costs more money, but you get a better deal. Think of it as a set of increasing discounts.

graph_costpersecond

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