Freemium Game Designs: How They Make Money?Feb 24, 2018 | 1 Votes by jose 10 rate Most MMO games today are of the free2play variety. These games however are designed in such a way that the creators can earn from them despite being free. Let's take a look at how they do it.
When the micro-computer revolution first started in the late 70's to early 80's, apps back then called software, where either included with the PC bundle you purchased or sold separately. This is when computer games first started coming out and being sold. Games back then where sold in package form usually boxed. This contained a disk copy of the game with the included manual and accessories. You, however, had to buy them from the store, computer shops or order them through the mail.
The advent of the internet changed all this as multi-player online games became the gaming norm and you could purchase a game online and download it just like what we have with Steam today. Still, as the years went by the gaming industry had to adopt certain changes to keep up with the continual growth amidst changing tastes and preferences of the next generation of gamers.
Therefore, to make games more accessible and competitive, the games industry turned to a new business model that would be more practical and adapted to the current online computer and mobile device environment. This game marketing scheme is popularly known today as free2play.
One may wonder how a developer or game studio would be able to get a return or earn from a game they took the effort and time to create if they will just make it available online free to play. To begin with, some game studios really put out games that are truly free to play. This is done especially when they are just starting up. These type of games, however, may either be public domain or promotional in intent but game companies really have to make up for their costs. For the sake of argument, these real free games are categorized as free2play.
There is another category of free2play games, however, the commercial one. These are known as Freemium games (Free2play+Premium) meaning they can be free2play and paid at the same time depending on the players choice. Of course, you wouldn't expect a commercially operated game studio to just put out games for free considering how hard and costly it is to make them. Naturally, they have to earn from it in one way or the other and the Freemium business model provides the means to do so.
Freemium games or most online free2play are games designed in a way to get the gamer addicted and go for the paid option of the game. They are designed to game the gamer so to speak. It isn't actually a deception as one can really play it from start to finish without spending real cash but in most cases, it will give you a lot of frustration and one hell of a grind just to move through the game.
Most people who play free2play will never spend anything but their time, but there are around 3% of the gamer market who actually will. They will get hooked, frustrated and finally reach for their money just to get the full experience of the game. Once they start spending, they will probably do it again and again. The game is designed in such a way that it makes them feel that they are spending less for a lot more within the game. As for the 97% who believe they are getting a free game at no cost, well yes they are in terms of real cash but they have already served their purpose as a fresh and continues the supply of players to play with those who pay. The spending 3% is called "whales" and the freeloading 97% are the live bait.
If you look at it, 3% is very small to earn anything substantial but these people actually spend big. Some even rack up all the way to thousands just for the game. They are hooked and they have the cash so they spend while the majority are hooked with no cash so they can't spend and if not for that 3 % won't be playing at all. This is why games like League of Legends and Clash of Clans are able to make billions in a year because of that 3% who are mostly big-time spenders.
In the past, games were designed to provide the gamer with a great experience. Great graphics, great sound effects, awesome musical score and a really good storyline that will leave an impression on the gamer. These were usually packaged one-shot affairs as they have already been paid for prior to play and just deliver the quality and value they promised. With Freemium games, the process is somewhat reversed, the payment comes during and even after playing the game.
The game usually follows a standard pattern design to get the player to spend money on the game which manipulates and controls the player's addiction. After a free download, the gamer gets to know and enjoy the game. Frustrations are introduced but can be solved freely as the game still provides resources for it. An example would be free in-game cash or the equivalent. Eventually, the gamer will come across a bigger obstacle in moving forward and with the absence of immediately needed resources which has already been spent, will have to decide to either grind or spend some real money on the game.
Depending on the gamer, the baits will start to separate from the whales. Some gamers will try to hold on, then spend only when necessary but some will fork out for the amount as they have lots of it anyway. As for the rest, waiting for something to get done for hours or days or going through a lot for these or that will have to make do.
As for those who pay, most of the items are offered in bundles which you pay for in equivalent real cash. An example would be a $3.00 bundle which may contain a lot of resources that can be used outright or exchanged for large amounts of in-game cash giving the impression that for spending a little you get a lot in the game. After all, the bundle may contain an assortment of supplies and items used in the game. Some games allow players to purchase a special in-game currency like gems, hearts, coins, etc. These are called premium currencies as they have to be acquired via micro-transactions.
This is very deceptive as it lulls the player into spending more and more as more resources would be required to progress through the game a lot quicker and easier as compared to the freeloading crowd.
Other methods include the viewing of ads for the non-paying public to defray costs as the developers will also earn from this form of advertising. Another option is to offer an outright sale of the game in the form of a subscription or a one-time premium fee that will free the player from ads and even micro-transactions as well.
Regardless of the method or combination of methods used to induce player micro-transactions that add, enhance and provide a fully immersive and enjoyable game experience, game developers will have to weave this into the gameplay of their free2play games to provide a good experience to those who want to play for free and a great and awesome experience to those willing to take the pay-to-win path of online gaming. Incidentally, this term aptly describes what Freemium games really are - Free2Play but Pay2Win.