Game Development Reference
networks. This collection of models (the specific variations get byzantine and
are the subject of much of the rest of this topic) are also becoming ever more
common in mobile game designs and even on consoles (i.e., XBLA and PSN).
Let's look at some of the major ways you can make money from users when
the core game play is offered for free.
Looked at from a certain perspective, time is the most commonly sold luxury
in most free-to-play games available on social networks. Because Western users
tend to frown on the idea that people can just buy their way to victory, many
social game designers have elected to make things a lot faster and easier for
players who are willing to part with coin, without actually preventing free
players from experiencing the same content. Thus, many social games use a
mechanic similar to one of the following examples:
l A user may only get 12 energy an hour. Energy will be used by performing
different in-game tasks. However, a user can buy more energy and avoid the
one hour wait by paying $1.
l A certain required resource may spawn or “drop” only once per day, which
effectively gates a user's progress. However, users have the option of pur-
chasing more of that resource in a microtransaction, thus allowing them to
continue the gameplay without experiencing the drop delay.
l Some repetitive “leveling up” tasks (i.e., build 100 houses in this area, kill
20 of this monster, etc.) that typically require scarce resources or quickly
expended in-game energy can be automated or simply waved away with a
small cash donation.
l Certain rewards a user might earn after a certain length of play time can be
unlocked by paying with real-world currency. For example, perhaps a player
normally has to be a Level 20 to get a certain type of sword. An in-game
monetization strategy might offer me that sword after Level 5 . . . with a
l Many games allow users to speed up “grind”-type mechanics, in which
players increase their character's power or skill by completing a lengthy
series of repetitive tasks, by selling enhancements that increase the
amount of reward given for the “grind.” For example, Pocket Legends
allows users to buy potions which increase the XP (experience points)
earned from each monster slain. Thus one player may pay no money, but
need three hours to have their character reach a certain level. Another
player might choose to spend a small amount, but reach a higher level
during some smaller percentage of time. This type of item is called an