Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Interview with Everett Lee of OMGPOP:
The Science of Social Game Design—cont'd
upfront cost is a very old and well understood model, ranging from box
sales at a retailer to downloadable games you can buy on Steam, iTunes,
Xbox Live, or PSN. I give you money, you give me a game.
Games that are given away for free introduce interesting methods of
monetization—or, in traditional financial terms, interesting means of gen-
erating revenue. All things being equal, you should be able to start with
a higher install base because the risk to someone trying a free game is
much lower than for someone trying a game they have to buy up front;
in the former case, the only thing lost is their time. Some developers try
to sell users a monthly subscription to continue playing every month,
which is common in the massively multiplayer games genre, both for
games that are free and also for those that have upfront costs.
Some developers try to advertise in-game to the players and generate
small amounts of revenue from impressions, a marketing term for when a
person sees an advertisement, or click-throughs, which measures a user's
acknowledging and interacting with an advertisement. Generating incre-
mental revenue through advertising will work, primarily because of the
assumedly larger install base drawn from a free game. We see this most
often in banners on mobile apps or web-based games, primarily because of
the guarantee of an Internet connection, but also because of the availabil-
ity of third-party advertising APIs (as compared to those available for PC or
console games). Sponsored apps can be a giant advertising campaign for a
product wrapped around a piece of software. This is effectively generating
revenue for the developer by advertising a single product for a company.
Finally, there is the microtransaction model, also called freemium or
pay-to-play. This is where companies give the software away for free and
then sell to the player from within the game. The basic idea is that if the
game engages the player, he or she will be more likely to pay to progress,
get additional content, and so on. This method of monetization has been
around for over a decade in East Asia but is just now really gaining trac-
tion in the western world with the success of Zynga in Facebook games
and games like Tap Tap Revenge on the mobile side. Although other
methods of monetization are still prevalent in free-to-play games, micro-
transaction games tend to top the top-grossing charts on the mobile side
and utterly dominate in the web-based social games space.
The designer will always need to think about how he or she will drive
players to spend real money in the game, because otherwise they've just
made a nice charitable donation to the game community. Quite a bit is
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