The Free-2-Play (F2P) model drives developers and publishers insane. Who, in their right mind, would spend many hundreds of hours and serious budgets lovingly creating a product and then give it away for free? Especially if there are thousands of competitors out there doing exactly the same thing?
However, from a consumer perspective it’s hard to move on from free and the Games Industry is caught on a hook. But there are ways to be successful in this challenging market- as long as you’re willing to think outside the box.
Monetization in F2P is a real challenge.
Even in the most commercially successful games, over 90% of players spend nothing to play. And it is often the case that in typical online games 1-3% of users pay to play, leaving the other 97-99% of the user base untroubled by taking advantage of the developer’s hard work and the publisher’s investment.
Originally, the F2P model was a marketing tactic to drive high volumes of users into the game. Now this advantage has been lost as this route to market becomes the norm and discovery of games becomes a real issue.
However, games are now also becoming better balanced to ensure players are nurtured in the early levels to maximise engagement. Tutorials are clearer, difficulty is managed in the initial missions and monetization is subtle rather than forced. Developers are learning to be generous to players to make sure that they maximise engagement and make the most of their acquisition spend to drive user volumes.
The Games Industry has had to rethink good game design practice but that is only part of the solution. From the wide variety of targeted messages that combine to personalise the player experience, the one that contributes most to the game’s success is first time payment. But this is often the most difficult to unlock. The key to success lies in implementing five important rules that will maximise first time conversion and maximise monetization.
Rule 1: Make It Easy and Tempting
The first offer should be cheap i.e. not more than $1, and it should be clear to the player that it represents very good value.
Rule 2: Make It Appropriate
A general offer for in-game currency will not work as well as a targeted message based on recognised behaviours. An aggressive player will appreciate a good offer for weapons and ammo; a customizer will prefer decorative inventory that they can show to their friends; a frustrated grinder will respond to boosters to accelerate their gameplay. By using player analytics to segment player behaviours and then create appropriate offer bundles, it is possible to increase first time payment dramatically.
Rule 3: Time It Right
Some players will monetize in the first session and whilst a small number will become Whales, it is often the case that they are buying instant gratification and will not repeat purchase. Therefore understanding why and when VIPs make their first purchase enables messages to be targeted, not only with the right offer, but also at the right time.
This means that oftentimes players should be left alone to grind through the first few levels to learn and engage with the game before first time conversion messages become appropriate and helpful from the player’s point of view.
Rule 4: Suggest Rather Direct
The tone of the message is incredibly important. Helpful advice to enable the player to come to their own conclusion is much better than overtly sales-orientated messaging. And builds a more fruitful relationship.
Rule 5: Follow Up Then Stop
Lastly know when to stop. The tendency to be over zealous can lead to over messaging. This is a common shortcoming in most current player experiences. The players begin to feel like they are on the receiving end of generic, insistent and irritating messages which create a retention issue rather than initiating an intelligent relationship.
Taking care to focus on First Time Payment as part of your overall messaging strategy is very beneficial to the overall health and success of F2P games.