Monetization has earned a bad reputation ever since the concept was incorporated into free-to-play (F2P) games. Whether this reputation is warranted or not is another debate for another day, yet the reason so many have become ‘turned off’ to monetization and the F2P model is simple: many F2P games place an emphasis on earning money rather than focusing on gameplay. This is apparent in the F2P games that use the ‘work equals achievement’ model, in that the more you play, the more you earn, yet you can only play for so long until you have to wait to play the game again.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out comes to mind as one of the worst offenders of this type of F2P model. Sure, the more you play, the faster you can build your own personal Springfield, yet you can only play in bursts. Each session consists of a few minutes, and unless you want to continue staring at your mobile screen in order to collect a few dollars every few minutes, your play session is over. Thus, you have to wait hours to continue your progress, and the only way to play the game for hours on end? Buy in-game currency with real-world currency. The game feels as if it is forcing you to spend money to enjoy the game, and as a player, that turns me off like it does so many players around the world.
Most people hate feeling forced into buying something, and in retaliation, they are going to opt to not purchase what is being forced upon them. Of course, there will always be those people that get a ‘thrill’ out of buying in-game items, yet why force people to buy something when you can appeal to everyone despite having a monetization model?
Monetizing your game isn’t dirty and it isn’t wrong; in fact, it makes a lot of sense. If you want to see proof of monetized games doing well, look at League of Legends, or more recently, Card Hunter. So how can you ensure that your game uses monetization appropriately instead of having it feel ‘forced’ upon players? There are a few ways to achieve this, and it begins with thinking about the monetization process before you begin developing your game.
Incorporating Monetization Early On
The moment you find yourself outlining your indie game, you need to be incorporating monetization tactics into the design of the game. Want to know why many F2P games feel as if they are forcing players to buy something? Because the developer designed the monetization and game strategies separately. To properly incorporate monetization into your game, you need to think about what role it will play in your game before you have done anything else.
- How can I ensure that in-app purchases will improve the experience of the game?
- What types of virtual items make sense to incorporate into the game?
- Should my game include a virtual currency?
- Is there a way to incorporate advertising into the game? If so, how can I do it without irritating players?
It’s questions like these that will allow you to have an early idea as to how you can integrate monetization into your game.
Research and Create a Plan For Your Projected Earnings
Before development can begin, you need to conduct a bit of research to discover the retention rates among games that are in the same genre as the game you are developing. Games in the same genre and of the same type that use the F2P model usually have the same retention patterns, allowing you to calculate your projected earnings quite easily. There is a great post by Joseph Kim that provides tools and charts that can allow developers to place variables when designing their game so they can discover how their game can create a substantial return on capital resources and investments. It’s worth the read – and worth bookmarking!
So why do you do this before initially designing your game? Simply put, you need to know how much revenue your game can generate before assigning a marketing budget. By following the advice above, you will have a good idea as to what type of revenue your game can earn before development begins. Thus, this will give you the opportunity to tweak certain aspects of your monetization model and/or gameplay design, will allow you to know if you need to add new areas of revenue, or if the game is not going to be suitable for the F2P model altogether. Remember: plan ahead first, and you won’t be sorry later.
Using Ad Monetization Appropriately
Create a plan for mobile advertising simultaneously with creating the plan for overall monetization of your game. Especially since there are a variety of ways you can incorporate mobile ads into your game, developers need to keep a few of these options in mind whenever the development of their game begins. Some of the most popular ways ads are incorporated into F2P games are:
- Placing a banner ad at a natural break point of a game.
- For instance, when your game is transitioning into a new level or your player makes an in-app purchase, this is an ideal time to show an ad.
- Place an interstitial ad at natural break points.
- Interstitial ads tend to generate improved engagement and conversion metrics rather than banners.
- Product placement into your game.
- Especially if placing a particular product into your game makes sense, you should consider trying to place a licensed product into the game. Of course, you probably are not going to get the blessing of Coca-Cola if your game’s protagonist has to drink soda to power-up, but there are other products that may be willing to pay you to place its product into your game – especially if you have projected that the game is going to sell fairly well due to your monetization model!
In the end, your monetization model needs to be developed alongside your actual game. You need to know the proper way to sculpt the model that will also ensure that your players are not turned off. By achieving this and incorporating a model that is designed to ‘bring in the money,’ you are setting yourself up for success!