Monetization with the F2P Model: MENA Games 2016
15 years ago, China and Korea were competing over the gaming market dominance (on PC platforms and consoles), each side proposing lower-priced games to gain traction. This went on until someone decided that its games would be offered for free!
This paved the way for the free to play (F2P) business model, which extended and prospered with the coming of mobile platform games. Basically, F2P games are free to download, with the option for players to make in-game purchases. But this model can be unclear for some developers in emerging markets.
The obvious advantage of an F2P game is that it’s free. On the flipside, players are not hesitant to leave a game for any reason - no matter how trivial - which means the game ends up losing losing traction.
In answer to this, developers can monetize certain aspects of a game in order for gamers to give it more consideration and get involved in it by paying actual money. That’s not as easy as it seems.
Several speakers at the MENA Games Conference - MEGA 2016 in Beirut shared their extensive experience with the F2P model and gave aspiring game developers sound advice to go by.
Knowing the Roles of your Audience
The Test of Gamer Psychology has been in use since 1996, when Richard Bartle published it. The test identified players’ character tendencies (Bartle Types) and is a starting point for any F2P monetization scheme.
“Game designers study the model and design the game while thinking of the type of person who will play it. Being aware of all types of personalities, helps us cater for people who will enjoy different offerings,” said Fawzi Mesmar Director of Game Design at King, part of Activision Blizzard.
Here is a list of the Bartle Types:
The achievers are more than 80% males who want to achieve everything the game offers, as well as show off about it. Since they want to see achievements, they will pay for progress – namely if, or when they fail.
The explorers constitute 10%-12% of the player base, split 50-50 between males and females. They are not after achievements because their enjoyment lies in seeing the game finale. You can monetize a game by offering them the chance to explore new territories for a fee.
The socializers are 80% female gamers who essentially do not want to play alone. Developers can monetize their game by adding chat options, because socializers care about talking to other people in real time. Another more recent option is gifting, i.e. buying game items for other players.
The killers are between 16-25 years old, and 90% of them are males who want to measure up against other players and achieve top bragging rights as well as pump their skill sets. They are key drivers of monetization, because they will pay for any item that gives them an edge.
The traders want crafting, trading, and auctioning. They are economists; in-game wealth for them becomes progress, because they want to collect items and resources, and are willing to pay for those. When a game does not have a built-in economy, they lose interest.
F2P specialist Teut Weidemann, a consultant for Bluebyte and Ubisoft, explained that gamers also tend to switch types. “They might shift from socializers to killers for a short period of time. What is important to remember is that the more roles the game supports, the more traction it will achieve.”
Good Game + Good Monetization Scheme = Great Traction
In today’s gaming world, there is a conflict between finding the right design and experience, and making profit from it. “Whichever priority you put forth can be a problem. If you are too monetization-oriented, you’ll end up with a bad game. And vice versa, if you have a good game design that cannot make money, this is a failure as well,” said Weideman.
Games must give gamers a choice and cater to all levels of spenders. What it comes down to is that some gamers today will pay for value, others will pay for vanity. Some players do not mind passing a certain level or purchasing an item for $100 if that will save them time.
Splitting a game into levels is essential to implement a sound monetization strategy - even more so than selling power-ups and resources. Even casual players could be motivated to pay (or spend more time playing) to advance to a new level or unlock pro/secret levels. By periodically introducing new levels or “stories”, a game will keep players motivated and ensure they play more or pay for these.
“Monetize time – never give anything out for free. Let the players gain it through spending money or time. If a gamer’s avatar is going somewhere, don’t make it instant, let it take a couple of seconds,” said Weidemann.
In the MENA region, there is a challenge with regards to people’s feeling towards F2P games. “Around 2008-2009, when F2Ps were first introduced to the region, games used to trick players into buying within the game. That created a lot of distrust among gamers. These are the sort of old habits that we need to move away from. Instead we must involve MENA gamers transparently,” said Mesmar.