Game thinking from Adam Clare

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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.

How to Make Money With a Freemium Model (F2P)

The free to play (F2P), AKA freemium, business model for games is a popular one but because it’s still a relatively new one for video games people are still figuring it out. That being said, some things are fairly obvious strategies, but the beauty of games is that the mechanics of the game itself may require new monetization methods.

Here’s what people who have experience and researched this topic deeply have to say:

First off, the person who literally wrote the book on Free 2 Play, Will Luton, sat down for interview on the basics of the F2P approach.

With publishers of console games testing the free-to-play, do you think it will work or is it only for mobile gaming?

F2P will work on any platform as long as games can be delivered digitally to it and the platform owners allow the model to occur. Consoles will need to embrace the model, indeed on Ouya free is the only model.

What’s the best way to ensure your game stays free-to-play without just becoming pay-to-win?

By letting players gain anything paid that gives advantage through play. Most games that offer a competitive advantage IAP are really offering convenience: Keep on grinding or pay and get it now.

You can read the full interview here.

A much more indepth article on the F2P cane be found at Gamasutra. Ramin Shokrizade outlines his top F2P magnetization tricks which range from genre-specific to psychological tricks to get people hooked.

Reward Removal

This is my favorite coercive monetization technique, because it is just so powerful. The technique involves giving the player some really huge reward, that makes them really happy, and then threatening to take it away if they do not spend. Research has shown that humans like getting rewards, but they hate losing what they already have much more than they value the same item as a reward. To be effective with this technique, you have to tell the player they have earned something, and then later tell them that they did not. The longer you allow the player to have the reward before you take it away, the more powerful is the effect.

One place to launch a game is on Kongergate, and online gaming portal. The portal has a great presentation on keeping players and getting them to pay.

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