Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Warcraft continues to prove on a monthly basis that if a product is compelling
enough, users will pay retail, then continue to pay premium subscription fees
for months or even years.
There are a few problems with a strict subscription model:
l The first is that relying on subscriptions forces you into providing a level
of customer service that can be very costly. Blizzard, for instance, employs
thousands of World of Warcraft customer service representatives every
day who work around the clock helping the lost find their way, resolving
technical issues, and adjudicating petty disputes inside the game world of
Azeroth. When you ask your customers to pay you an additional amount
every month, customer retention becomes every bit as important as cus-
tomer acquisition. Thus, the attractively regular, consistent flow of cash
that comes from a well-managed subscription model is sustainable only
alongside a regular, consistent expenditure on customer service.
l Subscription models can limit the total amount of money you can get
from a user in a given time frame. If a game is solely subscription-based,
there's a finite cap on the amount of money a user will pay. But even using
a blended model, in which the user pays a subscription fee and can also
opt in to other ways of being monetized, there are risks. If you employ a
subscription model, you're asking your players to pay you some amount
up front. This makes it that much less likely they'll pounce on your juicy
in-game monetization offers. Some users would happily give you far more
than what you request in a subscription price; others would quickly grow
resentful if they pay for access but are then refused access to the better parts
of your game unless they reach again for their pocketbook. Thus, depending
on your game, you might be better served charging nothing up front, such
that players can save their money for in-game purchases, which might serve
to be more addictive for them and thus more profitable for you.
l Payment systems are complicated for subscription models. You're forced to
either partner with a third-party provider who will handle billing, dispute
resolution, refunds, and the like, or you have to provide these services your-
self, which may or may not be a smart strategy for keeping your margins
high. Billing systems are complex enough that they command books unto
themselves. And as Sony can attest, security is paramount when you're stor-
ing user credit cards and other personal information. A failure or breach
could end up costing you millions.
8.4 Freemium
Free-to-play or “freemium” models, which allow users to play the game without
cost, instead encouraging them to pay for items or services in an à la carte in-
game fashion, are the standard for the Flash-based games found on most social
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