Tag Archives: Free to Play

A Hard Paywall Can Be A Huge Barrier Between A Customer And Paying You

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Paywalls are one of those things that have had us scratching our heads for a while. We had questioned the New York Times for its paywall and have shown that it might not be quite as successful as it claims. The main problem with such paywalls is that people don’t like to have their use of a product interrupted and further use blocked unless they pay. Such reactions are not limited to online news either. Other forms of media have much the same issue.

Over at Games Brief, a number of game developers were asked about paywalls in games and whether they should be used at all.

Harry Holmwood writes: “A colleague and I downloaded New Star Soccer at the airport and were playing it on a flight back from Germany last week, got hooked, but then hit the ‘hard payment’ point where we had to pay to continue the career. As we were on a plane at that point we couldn’t do the IAP and had to stop playing. Over the weekend I was tempted to pay and play but didn’t bother – the moment was lost, and I suspect now I won’t do it at all.”

Are hard paywalls a good idea, or should you always make it possible for players to keep playing?

While most developers were pretty varied in their opinions on this question, the general theme is that putting up walls in front of the consumer and preventing them from playing more is something that should be avoided. Take this comment from Philip Reisberger from Bigpoint.

In general, we’ve seen that it’s most important to have the users playing. Monetization is always to be regarded as consequence of gameplay.There are some really core-style titles where a hard paywall is possible, but I’d regard this rather as an exception than the norm.

While it is possible for such hard paywalls to make some money, it would be better to have as many people playing as possible. As soon as a person is no longer able to play, they are less likely to pay into the game. The question then goes to how do you get those people to pay if they can play for free? This is where opinions vary widely.

By allowing a consumer to continuously play, you can provide multiple opportunities for the consumer to evaluate how much they actually value the game they are playing. This is where proper selling of freemium options comes into play. If you have already sold the person on the game itself as something fun to play, then the next step is to sell them on the extras. This can be done by showing them how the core experience can be enhanced by such extras. As Tadhg Kelly of What Games Are explains.

In some cases (Temple Run, Bejewelled Blitz) it’s the same. They basically sell boosters and cheats to make better score runs, and since the core action of the game is so compelling it’s more likely over time that you will buy. Bringing a money-now question into that dynamic is inappropriate for the same reasons as the grind game.

The core issue to remember with paywalls is that it is very difficult to convince someone that paying for the ability to keep playing something they have been playing for free is a very tough sell if all they are getting is just more of the same experience. You need to sell them on an expanded experience, one that they wouldn’t otherwise get if they were playing for free. Of course, there is no one way to do it. There are a variety of market factors that can determine how and when you go about charging your customer.

Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO of nDreams, sums up this overall market reality.

I’d be very wary about ever saying that a particular model/route is ‘the correct one’ or that you should ‘never’ do something. Every game is different and every platform is different. In PlayStation Home, where we publish most of our games, it’s beginning to appear that ‘paymium’ may be the most commercial route given the size of the audience, their propensity to pay and the ease of generating awareness. But on iOS, being new to the platform, freemium is the only model that makes sense to us currently.

FYI, I don’t believe the gaming world will end up existing purely of games that you can play forever with continuous loops, return mechanics and daily bonuses. I believe there will always be games that have a beginning and an end and a strong linear storyline. For these kind of games, I’m not convinced that freemium is necessarily the correct approach.

This variation in the marketplace would then allow for many different ideas of monetization both good and bad, both successful and unsuccessful. However, putting barriers between the consumer and your goods makes it more difficult for that consumer to buy. Look back at the original question. Because of external circumstances at the time of hitting the paywall, that potential customer was not able to process a transaction. That delay then led him to rethink the idea of purchase and, as far as we know, he has not made a purchase, even though he enjoyed the part of the game he played. Why would you want to limit your potential to make money in such a way?

Piracy Is A Cultural Opportunity; Embrace It

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Piracy has become a force of nature in the entertainment world. No matter what you make or how you release it, there are pirates waiting around the corner to try to get it for free. No matter what you try to stop this from happening, you just can’t — much like a storm, you have no control over its movements and power. All that is left is to embrace it and hope to harness the storm’s power for your own benefit.

This is what Daniel Cook from Spry Fox has decided is best. In a reprint of his comments at Gamasutra, Daniel explains that piracy is a fun activity that can be harnessed for good.

Being a ‘pirate’ was being part of a community. You and your friends shared games like social gaming gifts on Facebook. It didn’t cost you anything to copy a game and give it to someone. A game was a social token to chat about, a gesture of kindness to reciprocate. A key takeaway from that time is that copying and sharing vast quantities of digital goods is a deeply fun, social and highly useful activity. This is a new thing, a new behavior in a post-scarcity world.

This is perhaps the most commonly ignored or overlooked aspect of piracy by those who want to end it. For many people, sharing games, movies and music is a fun activity that allows them to share what they love with their friends. Despite what those who seek to stop piracy think, there is very little animosity involved in the activity. It is this love of sharing that can be, as Daniel puts it, hacked for the benefit of the creator.

With shareware, we hacked the copying behavior. People would play the random floppies and some of clever programs would say “Hey! Did you know that you can pay for this?” And a small portion of users did. ‘Pirate’ and ‘consumer’ are not mutually exclusive properties. In our capitalist society, almost everyone (with a few notable exceptions) is trained to buy stuff. People who like checking out new software for free are really just another audience of potential consumers.

It was just recently that Ubisoft learned a similar lesson. That the percentage of people who pay for single purchase games is about the same as those that pay in free to play games. If you want people to pay for games, one of the best ways to get them to do so is to let them experience the game first and for free. By giving fans the ability to share the games with others who may not have heard about it on their own, you can expand the pool of potential paying customers.

Unfortunately, there are many creators and gatekeepers out there that want to vilify such behavior. They can’t fathom that someone is playing, listening, reading, watching their work without paying for it. They see no benefit in it. This mindset has dangerous outcomes for their paying customers.

It has been a really confusing time for businesses. Some lashed out by labeling consumers as evil, some tried to protect the old ways with DRM. Relationships with customers…who see themselves as just having fun sharing cool stuff…became antagonistic. 30 years. When you raise kids in a warzone, they grow up parroting propaganda. No wonder the conversation is polarized.

It is actions like adding DRM, anti-piracy ads and threatening fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars that will end up costing the entertainment industry more in the long run. As those in the industry seek to threaten and lash out at paying customers, many of those customers will begin to lash out as well. They will end up doing exactly what the industry wants to stop, pirate. For many purchasers of games, it often starts by downloading cracks for games in order to remove restrictive DRM. But there is a lot that can be done to turn the tide.

Detach yourself from the emotions of history. Give up the past forms of what games were. Adapt to the current environment with one eye firmly fixed upon the future.

People copying digital goods as an inherently joyful social activity is an opportunity. It is an artistic opportunity. It is a business opportunity. It is a cultural opportunity.

There are opportunities out there that many creators have found and are enjoying. It can be things like adding a “Cockroach Edition” to your payment options. It can be adding pirate hats to all your characters and putting the game on the Pirate Bay. It could be giving players the ability to set their own price. It could be anything really. By embracing the sharing culture of your fans, you can expand you fan base and increase the potential to make a living.

Super Podcast Action Committee – Episode 15

Super Podcast Action CommitteeIn episode 15 of the Super Podcast Action Committee Andrew Eisen and E. Zachary Knight talk about Harry Potter games, OUYA’s Kickstarter success and pre-order, a dehydrated teen, piracy, free-to-play spending, and Nintendo and Sony’s trouble getting third-party developers to love their hand-helds. Download Episode 15 here: SuperPAC Episode 15 (1 Hour, 5 Minutes).

As always, you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and use our RSS Feed to add the show to your favorite news reader. You can also find us on Facebook (where there’s an app that will let you listen to the show), and on Twitter @SuperPACPodcast. You can send us feedback on the show by dropping a note to superpacpodcast@gmail.com.

Credits: The Super Podcast Action Committee is hosted by E. Zachary Knight and Andrew Eisen, and produced by James Fudge. Music in the show includes “Albino” by Brian Boyko and “Barroom Ballet” by Kevin MacLeod. Both are in the public domain and free to use.

In A Strange Turn Of Affairs, EA Decides to Recognize Reality Of Game Pricing

Originally Published on Techdirt.

This is a strange one. A few months back, we highlighted some comments from EA in which it postulated that deeply discounted games were bad for business. This comment from the head of EA’s Origin digital distribution service was in response to Steam’s sales that it holds regularly. In this comment, DeMartini claimed that such sales devalue the games and trains people to only buy cheap games. Perhaps this comment was a prophetic statement of sorts, because EA is now recognizing the reality of cheap games.

In a recent interview with the folks at MCV, another EA exec, Nick Earl, stated that people are making the switch to free games and there is no stopping it.

The future is not about one-time payments, the future is about freemium. A decent number of people convert to paying and they may not pay a lot but most of them actually pay more than you’d think.

I don’t know if freemium gets to console but I do know that humans like free stuff. I also know humans who will pay for something if they’ve tried it out and they like it.

I’ve wondered if freemium expands beyond the tablet, Facebook and smartphones, and out into consoles? I don’t think it’s impossible for that to happen.

It is actually quite refreshing to see someone in a large game studio willing to accept this fact, something that his counter parts in publishing are incapable of doing. But this is the reality. We have seen it happen in rapid fashion, particularly in the mobile space. Because of the nature of the market, game prices quickly dropped to $1 and then to freemium or free to play. These options allow for potential customers to limit the risk of acquiring a new game. This is also forcing the games industry as a whole to reconsider how it prices its software, which some still seem unwilling to do.

Another interesting thing about this comment is that Nick realizes that it is only a matter of time before free games come to consoles. This is something else we have observed with the recent announcement of the Ouya console. One of the Ouya’s biggest selling points is that all games available for it must offer some form of free option, something not currently available on any current console. This idea and the low cost of the console itself led to a huge positive reaction from the gaming community, shooting the Ouya into record breaking pledges on the first day. So yes, people are shifting to free games.

As the market for games shift toward cheap and free options, it will be interesting to see what the current console leaders do in response. Will they all follow Nintendo’s lead and continue on the course of “premium” prices for console games, or will they recognize that there are more ways to make money from gaming than retail sales? If they do continue down the premium path, they are quite liable to be left far behind when the market shifts. Something that EA seems to be preparing itself for.