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Community Discussion Topics => Off Topic => Topic started by: AWW_boss on Mar 19, 14, 05:57:11 AM

Title: free to play
Post by: AWW_boss on Mar 19, 14, 05:57:11 AM
I somewhere read that the future of gaming is in the free to play games. What kind of a model is that? Would i have to set my hypothetical game to be free to play to compete with other titles? Where is the money in that?
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: FI-ScottZ on Mar 19, 14, 09:32:13 AM
This has some basic info:
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: keeperofstars on Mar 19, 14, 11:27:35 AM
free to play is never actually free to play. It just sounds good to the community.

Often times games are free to play but have a wide variety of item mall trinkets to buy. From cute outfits, to extra inventory slots, to special crafting recipes, or experience boosters, or any wide variety.

In Asia where the free to play sort of came from, games tend to have insane grind curves, and special crafting fail ratios that force players to buy there way into in game content. Sort of a bait and switch move. This is often common in most free to play games. Take a look at a recent one.

GW2 was a free to play, but with a buy in cost this is a more common American version / twist.
Game doesn't cost anything to play in terms of a subscription, only cost is the game purchase. So after the initial mega windfall. of a 50-100 million for them. they made money buy selling special items in the item mall, nothing that drastically affected game play, but if you wanted to get out of wearing crappy looking armor but wanted it to have the stats you wanted, you had to pay for reskin gems. If you look at the way they did armor sets versus stats they made them off, aka increased the likeliness you would want to buy the reskin gems. Tricky on their part but brilliant from a sales aspect. Oh you a caster lets make you have a flat white sheet, OR.... you could go get this awesome flame burning cloak, but it's got warrior stats ohh so sad, but wait for a meer 5 bucks we can fix that for you.

The other free to play option is with use of adventure packs, so you release your main game. Take that initial windfall, forgo the crazy item malls, and put your team back to work, on making mini expansions. Nothing full on just added areas, regions etc, that aren't key to mainline but offer some nice added gameplay and you sell them cheap for 10 / 15 bucks. giving you mini cash windfalls on a regular bases.

Now you will notice most of this works cause of volume, meaning if you sell a game at 50 bucks to a million players you chirp up 50 million which can tie you over till you get another windfall. But if you are indie without a crazy insane following, you can't drum up those volumes to make that type of instant cash in the bank stuff.

So that makes a free to play game harder to sell / profit from. So options are item mall and subscription, depending on your target player base they will prefer one over the other. For most US players it's a cross up item malls are ok if they don't become a requirement. sort of like GW2 I didn't have to pay to look pretty but I did so I could. If you can't think of a good need to drive item mall without affecting game play then you need to look at subscription, cause US gamers hate pay to win item malls. Those haters will have no problem paying for a subscription based game. Just keep it in check, don't try and get too greedy plan for costs, and come in just a bit over it, and will be ok.

free to play falls pray to things like candy crush, fun game till you get to level 100 and you spend a week beating it or paying 3 bucks to do so. Well how does it make money. Cause it's something like 1 out of 20 people will buy something daily. so take a buck item sell it to 5 million people a day, you have a nice incme stream. Assuming you are as addicting as candy crush is for people.
That is the fine line, keeping a community so people who pay have a reason to keep paying, while letting those that will never ever pay, play for free cause really they are providing their services to you at no cost by creating an atmosphere where the paying client wants and needs to pay. From there it's just a balance between need and have to, so you can keep your non-paying customers happy who in return keep your paying customers happy. While still maxing revenue streams.
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: Thazager on Mar 19, 14, 09:14:16 PM
Some free to play (FtP) games will flash a small window letting the player know the benefits of upgrading every so many hours during game play. Some FtP games will make things like quests pay to use type. I played CO, CoH, DCO, DDO, LoTRO, all FtP. While some let you buy things to help get you win missions easier, like CO and DCO, I find you can still get to end game without them. Others like DDO and LoTRO will give in game points for spending at their store. (I have gained over 3k points with LoTRO and not paid them to play yet, and 1K with DDO.) With DDO its a much slower rate to gain those points, as the max level is a lot lower. There are some games you can play for free, but not at the same rate as the paid players.
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: AWW_boss on Mar 20, 14, 08:52:55 AM
so, what i've read from your answers free to play is actually one of these two models :)

-free, but pay if you want to win
-free, but pay if you want vanity items

Both models sound extremly dumb to me, i don't see how are they a future of gaming.

Title: Re: free to play
Post by: FI-ScottZ on Mar 20, 14, 09:50:03 AM
That first one you mentioned, pay to win, is very bad form.  Allowing players an advantage over others based on having paid more is a recipe for disaster.

That is why things purchased are typically things which do not provide a play advantage, such as a different character skin or other things to customize the character.  Some players obsess about customizing to make their avatar unique and will pay to do so.

Free-to-play of course has the advantage that many more players will try the game when it is free.  Then if they have a good experience they might get hooked to play it, and if you provide tangible benefits to paying then some of those players will do so.  Thus, it can allow you a larger player base, and if the players had to pay money up-front for it, they would have higher expectations and thus greater chance to be disappointed.

But it is just one more model.  Some people are really high on it, others not so much.  And it may well depend on particulars of your game as to which model best suits it.
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: keeperofstars on Mar 21, 14, 03:22:14 PM
The thought with free to play is basically the free to play community / group of players support the community for the pay to play group.

It's not for every game, and some have and or still charge a subscription and do just fine. The difference is selling the game to your community, and why they need / should pay 10 bucks a month to play your game.
Have to prove it's worth it or you community will leave in a hurry, so that means rapid release schedules of new content, constant bug fixes, changes, and any thing that is off / needs adjusting needs to happen instantly.

Why you ask? well cause the community of players says well you guys have 1 million players, paying you 10 bucks a month you are making 10 million a month. Why can't you afford the staff to fix this, or to release new content, or to........

When it's free to play you magically get lea way with this, cause the players are like eh, no bigs not costing me anything, when they fix the bug I'll start play again, or it's not costing me so not being able to finish that quest line not that big of a deal. It's not fair or right but it's how players react.

Then as pointed out the reason it's often "advantageous" to make it free to play is like GW2 model.
No monthly subscription means people don't mind buying the game cause it potentially has a large amount of return on their investment, 1 time game purchase and that's it a game to play for years to come. So you end up with 4 times the number of players than before, all paying you 50 bucks for your game.

Law of averages start to come into play where most players will remain locked to a game for about 6 months to 1 year. Before the new shiny comes out, then your mass population becomes a loyal fanbase of people that love your game.
So by picking up those extra 2 million customers cause you are free to play, nets you more profit than you would by making it subscription based. Cause the majority of those players will leave your game by 6 months anyways.

That is why "free to play" is the wave of the future. That and you release an expansion charge 40 bucks for it after a year or so and bam. more money. OR you have an item mall that is keeping things generating revenue and you are good to go.

And while you may laugh at the thought of the vanity item mall. I have seen a person drop 100 bucks to get a custom armor skin, that had a floppy bunny on it. Also look at League of Legends, they make millions selling the same character with a different skin on it. Something super cheap and easy to do, yet each month they come out with a speciality skin and people pay $20 for it. Or a new champion once every 2-4 weeks for about 20 bucks a pop.

So the model works really well, extremely well to be honest. Just look at games like Farmville candy crush, etc. That same model is what is the "future" fun games that have zero costs, but feed an addiction that people spend hundreds of dollars on. If a person is willing to spend 100 bucks a month on extra turns for candy crush, they will spend 100 bucks a month on your game buying extra spins at a lottery machine in your game.

Same reason behind value menu's at fast food restaurants, they don't want you spending 1 dollar on a burger, they make zero money from it, but.... you end up getting the large fries with that where they have a 300% mark up. But they give you the burger for free, cause in the long run most people get those fries and drink to go with the burger.
Same thing in games, give it away for free but dangle things in front of the players. Not all will bite but a large enough ratio does that it covers your game's costs, leaving your box sales purely as income windfall.
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: HE-Cooper on Mar 21, 14, 08:24:40 PM
While the MMO "free to play" label, and the free to play label in general still have some differences. Everything pretty much started in the mass market with Facebook, where they realized that with a population not normally used to spending money on games, they needed to lower the barrier to entry in order to have a wider adoption rate.

This is still at the core of all free to play models. Remove barriers to entry, increase userbase, and generate revenue at a much smaller percentage, but from a userbase pool much larger than the game could have had if it has a paywall in place.

So 3% of your userbase ends up paying you to do "something" in your game, and 97% plays for free. Earn things faster, have prettier colors, remove annoyance or frustration. This was only in facebook games, but all of sudden, other traditional games with lower profit margins realized that they could make use of a similar methodology. Many were still skeptical in the traditional development space for massive scale games, especially because brick and mortar represented a huge percentage of revenue still. And then we watched DDO fail, go down, be reborn as a free to play model, and started generating revenue hand over fist.

An interesting correlation that has always existed in the online space is gold farming. I used to raid in EQ2 every night. But the repair bills on my Guardian were so high it would have required me farming all day to raise the funds. I had a day job, so couldn't do that, but that also meant that I had money. So I traded time for money and paid gold farmers to had me a chunk of in game gold every month. That allowed me to have all the fun I wanted, without any of the boring. And that is the basic premise for which most free to play models are based.
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: Amanda_Brooks on Mar 21, 14, 09:39:58 PM
That allowed me to have all the fun I wanted, without any of the boring. And that is the basic premise for which most free to play models are based.

And that's where the biggest problem with so many F2P models, and the way publishers and developer view them.
More and more games - which as a form of entertainment are meant to give the user enjoyment and pleasure - are being deliberately designed to cause boredom and frustration in order to squeeze money from the players, who are encourage to pay to take the bad parts away, when there shouldn't be any bad parts there in the first place.
It really is a total minefield when it comes to designing an ethical F2P system that doesn't exploit the players or degrade the game into some kind of tacky digital shopping experience with occasional bits of genuine gameplay.
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: HE-Cooper on Mar 22, 14, 12:34:07 AM
Well, I think that's a relatively common thought process for players, but developers know online games have been designed like that since the beginning. Compuserve and prodigy charged by the minute, so they needed to keep players online as long as possible. Then the graphical games came along and started charging monthly, but players being online cost developers money, so they needed them to use the smallest amount of content over the longest amount of time. The eq producers had a mantra, "make it as long and as boring as it can be without making the player quit".

I think the new danger might be to point out that a number of games are now charging brick and mortar prices, but then adding free to play pricing structures on top. But even in those cases, price is whatever the market will bear.
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: keeperofstars on Mar 22, 14, 08:21:19 PM

I think the new danger might be to point out that a number of games are now charging brick and mortar prices, but then adding free to play pricing structures on top. But even in those cases, price is whatever the market will bear.

I think this is the compromise option. Where the devs don't put in forced item mall cause there is a box top cost. And then just leave item mall for mainly visual or modest help.

GW2 did that, upfront cost, then secondary option with item mall. Not a think in the item mall was needed, adn they didn't tweak the game to make the item mall a requirement at all. Even provided players with options to use game currency converted to item mall if they wanted to invest the extra time.

So it didn't have that grind / feel to it, yet a bunch of people bought the reskin tools, fireworks boxes, halloween customes, etc. None of it had any impact beyond being fun for the players, for those that have a few bucks, extra here and there, it was just icing on the cake for Devs.

So by having the upfront costs, devs don't have to put in the pay to win / grind model as much.

Now in regards to games making grindy or frustrating content. They have to, or they have to come up with some constant struggle to force players into playing the game.

This means you either make something grindy or you build out a highly robust PvP aspect. Or both. Problem is players are super smart, creative, abusive, and coordinated beyond imagination.
This means any content you create will take 2 weeks maybe 3 to consume if you are lucky. Think my guild was able to go through almost all the content in GW2 in about 1 months time. After that we figured out their crafting power level, and had all of our alt slots maxed level and geared up within 2 months of game launch.
Only thing left for us to do was the PvP. Which while was fun for 3 months or so cause of the leader boards. Note mainly just for leaderboard bragging rights. That we were top notch guild, deals. Did we stay around that long.

So to recap, with a subscription you would of gotten 10 bucks a month, for 4 months from 30 people before they left. That is $1200 bucks from subscriptions. By the time you work, billing costs, support costs, account maintenance, and server bandwidth costs etc. the devs didn't make a dime. if they went subscription based.

So that is why you see upfront costs. So got $1500 out of us for game purchase. Now cause we wanted to rush guild creation, which cost decent game money nothing horrible, but we wanted it on day one for cordination reasons, and cause we wanted a commanders rune, once again wasn't bad in context of game, we just wanted it day 1. The guild spent something like 600 bucks or more on day one to get all of that stuff. Then for most of us we dropped 5 bucks on extra inventory. Not that it was needed, they gave you like 40 slots, without buying. We just wanted extra slots cause we were power farming. Didn't want to constantly have to port back and forth. Minor task but we didn't want the hassle. I mean took like 1 extra minute per trip, so wasn't an advantage to have the extra slots, we just didn't want to waste the minute. So we bought slots. Then most of us spent 10 bucks to change our gear around how we wanted it to look. Nothing special about it, just different appearance, was all.

So to kind of pull it into perspective. With out the devs adding any grind, or dumb mechanics to make gamers life hell, just by providing a fast pass to the front of the line to say. (note amusement parks do same thing). The made far more money.

Option A: just subscription
Income: $1200

Option B: Upfront box cost no subscription no item mall
Income: 1500

Option C: upfront box cost, no subscription, with item mall
Income: 1500(box sales), $600 rush on guild stuff, $150 on extra inventory slots, $300 on changing outfit appearance.
Total : 2550

So by just providing a small fast track in item mall, a minor nicety but not requirement items they nearly doubled the income they would of gotten. Doesn't seem like much but I know of 10 guilds on our server alone that were doing the same thing we were to thats. 2550-1500 about 1k extra times 10 guilds. 10k extra dollars they made in 3 months of us playing. Just cause of a few minor item malls. They didn't build the game around it, didn't penalize or force players for to use it. Just made life faster for those that did. And not even that much faster, we got guild setup day 1. Most normal guilds had it the "hard" way by day 10. So we saved 10 days of "grind" to get the same thing. So wasn't like it made or breaked the game.

So that is the reason you see it being mentioned as future. With a well thought out item mall. you can almost get 25% more income, while expanding your player base, which keeps your game alive longer.
Title: Re: free to play
Post by: Farina on Jul 19, 16, 03:23:45 AM
are there already scientific papers about making money for independent developers?
one developer who has shown all his revenue public?

Kickstarter and advertising should also be relevant sources of revenue.