The 'freemium' model of paying for games.


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Sillothian
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Just read this article on IGN about the freemium model used in Real Racing 3. If your damage a car then you can use in game currency to fix it, but you will also have to wait until the repairs are done (from 2 minutes to 3 hours) before you can use the car again. Otherwise you can pay hard cash and get your car fixed instantly!

I think the freemium model can work well, but you should always have the option of just buying the whole game outright so as to avoid any further need for in-app-payments. I've got a feeling though that publishers will not want to offer this option, hoping that punters will lose track of the multitude of small payments and end up spending loads over the life time of the game.

In my mind this is the first step on a slippery slope. If the day comes when you can no longer just buy a full game outright then that will be the day I stop spending money on games. Although with the massive backlog of PS3, 360, Vita and PC games I've got I should be good to go for a few years yet ;-)
#1 at 16:34:42 - 12/02/2013
nekotcha
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I agree with the exception that I think we're already halfway down that slippery slope. :/

There's a review of Pixel People on Eurogamer today that makes a good point saying that games have traditionally been about time or skill, with the player who is short on one able to progress if they have more of the other, but F2P games instead require time or money.

I also have a beef with F2P games because I think they distort the sort of pacing you want in a game. In a game where you've paid for it all up-front, the general principle is to unlock goodies quickly and generously at first, with the pacing of new content being unlocked decreasing as play time increases so that the majority of players who play for only a short time don't feel short-changed, but there's still something there at the very end for the hardcore players who bury many more hours in the game.

But in a F2P title, this logic is reversed - goodies are hidden away only to be unlocked after many hours of play, or after the user has shelled out some extra cash for them. As a result I find it hard to play an F2P title without feeling like it's a waste of my time - because I know I'll have to put in many, many hours before unlocking anything, almost regardless of my skill level.

There is an argument though that much of this is down to bad design rather than because F2P games are flawed in principle. One suggestion I've heard is that for every consumable item in the game there should be an equivalent non-consumable item that will provide an infinite supply of the consumables. So, in your example with RR3, that would be something like offering players a tool kit for purchase which means they can always fix their cars without having to wait for the fix to take effect or pay for a one-off fix.

It's certainly a contentious area, one thing's for sure though - publishers are going to be increasingly experimenting with it for not only mobile titles but also full console games, so I really hope more intelligent design is applied to future F2P titles.
#2 at 16:59:29 - 12/02/2013
Sillothian
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It is definitely a balancing act for the developers when they produce a freemium game. Force the player into purchasing upgrades too early and they will probably feel they are being exploited and give up. Make the game too generous with its content and players will never feel the need to spend on in-app-purchases. Either way the game is not generating much income.

I actually think the model used in Real Racing 3 is the quite fair. If you don't want to invest your money in the game you will have to invest your time instead. There should still be an option to by a premium version of the game for say 15 (which is a fair price for what is close to a console quality release) where everything is unlocked and there is no waiting/paying for repairs.
#3 at 17:15:55 - 12/02/2013
Dragul
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F2P is bad, I just hate Pay to Win (P2W).

Mechwarrior Online, some MMORPGs and some MOBAs got it right.

Cosmetic and characther slots is the best way to do it, even extra levels are ok if they aren't mandatory to play the game.

For example an online rts could do what DaW2 did by selling custom skins for your army, Now if it seel an ubber cannon that vapourises half the map... Well You get my point.

But I really hate this trend... I rather pay up front for the full game!
#4 at 23:14:43 - 12/02/2013
Binky
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Agreed, absolutely hate this trend. In fact I'm not liking most of the gaming trends at the moment. DLC, or more specifically DLC that comes a few weeks after the game release is my biggest bug bare.

Halo4 for instance. Really enjoyed it. Really enjoyed the multiplayer. Haven't touched it since the week 3 dlc dropped. Suddenly the community is divided. Very frustrating.
#5 at 11:38:35 - 13/02/2013
peej
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I don't really care if there's a Pay2Win or shortcut OPTION available (as with most EA and Codemasters games) as long as that's all it is. A non invasive option. I think 'freemium' is a broken model anyway, as progress slows down to an utter snail's pace if you do choose to pay something (ad-riddled, nag screen-filled POS) that goes really far down the freemium route.

The industry is always looking for new and inventive ways to get chumps parting with their cash, or indeed to raise the per-unit price to consumers for each game. Freemium just feels like yet another way the industry's trying to shill you for the pennies hoping they'll also get to ream you for the pounds.

#6 at 13:26:25 - 13/02/2013
nekotcha
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Another unusual aspect of the freemium model is that the users that do cough up some cash are essentially subsidising those that choose to play for free. This is the only reason it's economically viable - a few users spend disproportionate amounts on the game ('whales' is the rather unflattering marketing term for them), whilst most downloads of the game make no money at all.

This is also why, although it would be trivial for developers to place a cap on the amount of money users spend on their game (for instance, you can buy extra content packs until you reach a price threshold, and then after that everything is automatically free), it will never happen, because it's unlikely to persuade many more people to spend on the game, but it will limit the amount of money spent by those who do.

Of course you could argue that all this would do is to stop games like Temple Run generating their creators millions in profits, but the more common situation is it would stop most games from making a small profit or even breaking even.
#7 at 14:57:46 - 13/02/2013
Trip SkyWay
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Someone on my twitter feed suggested a cap for micro transactions on freemium games, where you invest in the things you want until you hit the cap then you get it all, or you can just buy it outright. Thought it was a nice idea for the consumer but probably not going to happen.
#8 at 15:54:06 - 13/02/2013
Sillothian
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Binky said:Agreed, absolutely hate this trend. In fact I'm not liking most of the gaming trends at the moment. DLC, or more specifically DLC that comes a few weeks after the game release is my biggest bug bare.


This was always going to happen with DLC. I mean when a game gets announced now they also talk about the DLC schedule (not to mention the pre-order and format specific DLC). There aren't many games now that don't get DLC and it is obvious that a lot of it is created when the main game is being developed and then held back to try a make a little bit extra after the game is released.

At the end of the day though you can't just blame the rise of DLC on developers and publishers. If gamers keep buying it then companies would be daft to not cater to the demand and make some extra cash.
#9 at 16:19:32 - 13/02/2013
nekotcha
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I think it's a bit unfair to depict DLC as always being a result of game makers gouging consumers for cash. The fact is that the development cost for console games has been increasing for a long time now without the retail price increasing at all. From an economic point of view that just doesn't work.

For instance, when I started making games on the PS2, you could sell 1 million units and break even. These days, most AAA titles need to sell 3 million plus to do the same. That's a threefold increase in costs whilst the end price per unit hasn't changed at all.

As a result I have absolutely no problem with developers attempting to make a little more money out of each title they release. Sure, there have been some bad examples but mostly it's just a case of developers trying to continue to make the economics of large-scale console development work.
#10 at 17:16:04 - 13/02/2013
Sillothian
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I'm not knocking DLC as a great way of helping developers and publishers actually make money on their games, but you can see how some gamers feel that releases are being strip mined of content for DLC that is promoted even before the game itself has come out.
#11 at 18:04:31 - 13/02/2013
Dragul
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Binky said:
Halo4 for instance. Really enjoyed it. Really enjoyed the multiplayer. Haven't touched it since the week 3 dlc dropped. Suddenly the community is divided. Very frustrating.


This raises another question... Now with the season pass are we sort of reverting to an "expansion pack" system for games?





nekotcha said:
For instance, when I started making games on the PS2, you could sell 1 million units and break even. These days, most AAA titles need to sell 3 million plus to do the same. That's a threefold increase in costs whilst the end price per unit hasn't changed at all.


Yeah, I remember buying PS2 games for 60 and 70 euros in 2001 and now in 2013 games still cost the same even if the production costs have sky rocketed...

I think it's like everything in life, if it's well done then no problem, but if it's done the DLC Capcom way that the content is on disc and they over charge you for it, is just wrong. I have no problem with real DLC... If I like the game I buy, if not, well, I won't buy!
#12 at 18:20:08 - 13/02/2013

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