Game Development Reference
Even Though Virtual Goods Aren't Real, Don't
Traditional gamers have proven they are more than willing to pay $180 in yearly fees just to play a single online game (for example, World of
Warcraft), and Facebook game whales will pay nearly as much or more.
A leading Facebook/web game developer once gave me some advice that sounded counter-intuitive at first:
“Make sure that you're pricing things appropriately high... it's easy to price items too low.” He learned this les-
son the hard way, by setting his game's goods at low price points, only to learn that doing this didn't lead to
a significant increase in paying customers. In fact, a low price might hurt sales, because it conveys a message
that the virtual goods aren't valuable in relation to the game, and aren't even worth the time to fish a credit card
from one's wallet.
It's safer to price virtual goods high, in search of Facebook whales (users who spend more than $20 on a
single Facebook game per month), and lower the price only if sales are slow.
Promotional Giveaways Might Only Give Away Your
Time and Money
Although short-term discounts are a common monetization strategy, some insiders are not fans of promotional
giveaways, where players are actually given free in-game currency. In theory, this could “prime the pump,” but
in practice, top developers have told me these promotions only create “free Credits slushing around in the sys-
tem, which did not add value” (as one of them put it). The likely problem is that a currency giveaway diminishes
the value of the in-game goods they're meant to purchase and the experience of the players who get them.
What to Sell: Functional Items Good, Decorative Items
Not So Good
If the enhancements are permanent, they should probably be relatively high-priced.
Facebook game developers tell me regularly that the best kind of virtual goods to sell players are functional
enhancements that improve their gameplay—power-ups, boosters, upgrades, extra lives—however they're ex-
pressed within the framework of the game. These can be permanent enhancements—for example, magic equip-
ment that stays with the players for the game's duration . Another kind of best-selling functional item is short-
Consumables are typically cheaper than permanent items, and consequently, tend to sell in greater volume.
They enable players to sample game content more quickly, and often act as a gateway to greater monetization.
For that reason, it's a good idea to link these one-time power-ups to bulk sales or better upgrades. For example,
“Buy a single power-up for one gold coin...or five power-ups for three coins!”
By contrast, decorative items generally sell less well than functional items. But this isn't to say you shouldn't
sell decorative items (for example, stylish clothing for a player's avatar). These decorative items tend to sell
relatively well when other players can see them, because players can use them to show off their personalities.