Hello, and welcome to Dev Talk, the weekly iFanzine feature in which I ask a panel of indie game developers their opinion on a topic or current hot-button issue related to the games industry.
This week I posed the following question(s): “Where do you fall on the whole free-to-play vs premium debate? Is F2P the way to go these days if you want to make money, or is there still a market out there for high quality paid games?”
I think that nowadays players are more likely to install free games than the paid ones, and such games can be easier to monetize. But let’s not forget that the game’s genre, mechanics and player experience are directly connected to the monetization model, and still a lot of games are only suitable for the paid model — as players do not want to see any F2P mechanics in those games and would gladly buy them instead.
For the mobile market, it definitely seems like F2P is the way to go. While there’s definitely still some room for premium apps, as evidenced by quality games like The Room series, these are getting fewer and farther between. Unless you’re already a recognizable name on the market, it’s unlikely a premium app will net you quite as much as a F2P game. And as much as I hear people say they would pay money to get a quality game on mobile that doesn’t push in app purchases, most people will default to free. The race to the bottom for mobile games requires game developers to really consider smart implementation of ads and in app purchases and how they can incorporate it seamlessly into gameplay.
It’s also starting to look like that race to the bottom has started affecting PC games as well. While it might not get to the levels of mobile, many PC gamers would rather wait for a sale or get a game in a bundle rather than pay full price. While not bad per se, it definitely makes it pricing a game much harder as you need to consider the appropriate price point.
Certain F2P games seem to be doing exceptionally well, making staggering amounts of money, but there’s definitely still a market for high quality paid games. We decided with FRAMED that we didn’t want to contrive an In-App-Purchase system in an attempt to maximize profits, instead offering it for a reasonable single payment. We feel that customers appreciated this as it really suits the nature of the game. FRAMED was successful enough for us to fund the making of FRAMED 2, which has also done very well as a paid game, so we’re a case in point that it’s possible to thrive without going down the F2P route.
F2P is okay as one of many business models, but it shouldn’t be the only one. Personally I prefer playing a premium game, as the whole game is designed as one consistent experience, rather than a service trying to get most money out of the user. Of course this doesn’t apply to all the games and I do play F2P games, but mostly only on my phone. On consoles and PC I’m exclusively playing premium games.
Mobile and console / PC are very different markets. Premium is having a very hard time on mobile unfortunately. Almost everything here is about F2P, user acquisition, LTV, ARPU and ARPPU and all these other fancy buzz words. If people like these games, fine. I’m pretty much convinced that there are more than enough people out there that want to play a completely, well designed experience — just like reading a book or watching a movie.
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