Game Development Reference
Allowing busy users to trade money for time is very popular with users and
game designers alike, because it doesn't feel as if it “breaks” the game balance.
Such a trade still allows players to see new content or accomplish in-game goals
without putting huge amounts of time into the game.
Sell Virtual Goods
The sale of virtual goods is likely the most common model for monetizing users
who don't pay for the core game. From avatar item sales that can make your
character look “cooler” (common in dozens of RPGs), to purchasing better guns
or ammunition in Cross Fire , to the sale of user-created items in games like
Second Life , users have proven that they are willing to spend regularly—and
occasionally spend very large sums—on the right kinds of virtual goods. There
are different schools of thought about what kinds of items to sell, how to avoid
breaking game balance, and so on. In fact, these are often some of the most
heated debates among game designers. For the moment, we'll simply mention
this as a top way of monetizing users with microtransactions (and occasionally
not-so-micro), but Chapter 9 will treat with this topic in detail.
Game Content Unlocks and PDLC
For decades, games have released demos for free in an effort to convince
users to buy the full product. Doom and many of the great “shareware” prod-
ucts of the early 1990s used the virality of BBSs and the Internet to distribute
these demos and even gave away install discs containing the first few levels of
gameplay. This practice is still common on Steam, Xbox Live, the PlayStation
Network, and many PC products. Fundamentally, this method of giving some of
the game away but asking users to pay to unlock the rest is just a variant on the
practice of asking users to pay for content.
The strict division between a demo and a full game is beginning to dis-
solve, though. Instead of making the user's choice a binary one, you can offer
many different bits of content and let users pick and choose which they want
to unlock. For example, in a world with many different play spaces to explore,
you can charge a user a small fee to gain access to more advanced areas.
Alternately, you could allow users to play with one character class, but charge
them for the ability to play as characters of a different type. Pinball FX on the
Xbox gives the core pinball experience away but asks players to buy different
“tables” upon which they might continue their game. New songs are available
for a small charge in Rock Band , as are certain pay-to-play side missions in
games like Dragon Age .
Additional content of various sorts is often available for download outside
of the original or core game “package.” Such content often goes by the moniker