Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Monument Valley, one of the most polished and loved premium mobile games ever, has made $15m in its lifetime. Meanwhile, there are multiple F2P games with over $1b in revenue.

Now, $15m is fantastic, especially for a small studio. But high-production value F2P games from bigger studios cost around $3-5m to make, not including marketing/UA, so its pretty clear to see why studios aren't investing in premium titles at all, unless they are ports of existing content.

Interestingly, there's game theory in play: some developers nowadays are switching to premium games (Assassin's Creed and Crashlands for recent examples) because there is too much competition in the F2P space. Even super polished games with premium licenses get left in the dust if they do not catch on immediately. (Star Wars: Uprising and Marvel's Avengers Alliance 2 for examples).

Whether or not that's a good idea is hard to determine without hard numbers, though.

I can't speak to Assasin's Creed, but in the case of Crashlands we can see that it was a very good idea: they've made enough money that for the first time they're paying themselves salary and even expanding their studio with two new hires. There's no way their original F2P plans for that game would have succeeded at that level - I bought the game because it was premium and because I had a good experience with the premium game Punch Club that same week and wanted more "real gaming." (I've since become a gigantic fan of Butterscotch Shenanigans, the developer, and have a lot of insight into their operations. Their Game Dev comedy podcast, Coffee with Butterscotch, is the highlight of my week.)

Of course that works for them because they're a small studio with small budgets aren't looking for Clash of Clans levels of success. The ceiling is so much lower on a premium game, but it's plenty high for their current situation, and the competition is so much less severe (so the risk is way lower for such a quality game, which again fits their situation).

Those F2P games are in a whole different league of replayability compared to Monument Valley. I played through MV once. The F2P games you refer to are endless competitions.

True, from a gamer's perspective those games are trash, but unfortunately studios discovered it's much easier to make money selling cocaine rather than a fine cuisine.

I think it's more like the difference between Chess and Magic The Gathering.

One is based on some sense of immutability, another is the result of constant iteration and community.

Just because they both end up being games doesn't mean they serve the same purpose

Immutability? Chess has tens of thousands of books written on all facets of the game. Its strategies have evolved over a period of centuries of study and development by countless players who have since lent their names, cities, or countries to those lines. Now, with the aid of computers, the game evolves at a faster rate than ever. What worked at one tournament may be refuted at the next! Chess is anything but immutable!

I think the distinction being made was more that Chess doesn't have weekly patch notes or pieces being added and removed on a regular basis.


Ahhh. Another interesting distinction is to compare game trees. Chess has a finite though extremely large game tree. MTG, on the other hand, is potentially infinite. Heck, MTG is even Turing complete so even a single play has the potential to fail to halt!

I feel like the "immutability" refers more to the rules and gameplay mechanics of chess than the strategies. Certainly the strategies of chess evolve, but that is a result of players developing new and different ways to play the game.

This is opposed to a game like Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone or even DOTA 2 where the strategies change because the game itself is constantly being changed

Depends on your definition of gamer; I'm sure the millions of people that love the games (and are willing to spend that much money on it) disagree with your assertion.

Whoa there. We cannot fall into the trap of slandering the competition to excuse ourselves for not doing as well. I have never played the game in question, in fact hadn't heard about it till today; guess I don't get out much.

Its apparent that the definition of gamers isn't what some suspect it to be. Which means, which segment are you aiming for and are you hitting it. Again, make sure you are hitting where you want to and don't use the low sales as proof.

The same is true of movies. The regurgative crap pulls in the bux, so that's what's made. It makes more sense when you think of the industry as a business rather than a charity.

Theoretically, yes. But I've played plenty of F2P games without dumping a single cent in, eventually hit the paywall and delete the game. (I think the minute you pay a single penny into the game, sunk cost fallacy sets in, so I avoid starting that in the first place).

Is that "I already spent Xk$ for that to have been worthwhile I really should buy this other thing for y$?"

Pretty much. I wouldn't be surprised if F2P games price their offerings to get people "on the treadmill". As they progress through the game it starts requiring more and more money to sustain your current pace.

This task is supposed to take you 1 day but we'll let you skip to playing the game for 0.10$!

That being said, I think the utility I get from each game is probably equivalent. Monument valley was an amazing experience, where as these games are several alright experiences that add up to about the same level of enjoyment.

Endless competitions and a few players that drops tens of thousands of dollars into free to pay games.

    Meanwhile, there are multiple F2P games with
    over $1b in revenue
True, but at least the folks at ustwo games still have their souls.

It's really not fair to keep citing the "F2P is evil!" meme nowadays.

If you haven't played a F2P game in 2016, I strongly recommend taking a look. Game like Clash Royale, Hearthstone, and Kingdom Hearts are fair and are not aggressive/condescending toward in the goal of generating revenue. Mostly because developers finally realized that making a good game is just as important as monetization.

Dota 2 has an interesting f2p monetization strategy: create a competitive game, then sell a $9.99 "compendium" each year. It's basically a virtual goodie bag. Of each $9.99 sale, $2.50 goes towards increasing the prize pool of their yearly tournament, The International.

With that strategy alone, they're likely to surpass a $20 million prize pool this year, which means $60m in pure profit for Valve.

The impressive part is that none of the compendium affects gameplay whatsoever. It's solely things like cosmetics that make your character look cool.

It's tempting to call Dota a one-off, but I think this model could be followed by many other games: make your game competitive, then fund a yearly tournament. The reason Dota is so huge today is because Valve personally seeded the first International's prize pool with a million dollars, which was simply unheard of at the time.

Valve's choice to switch to a casino 'random chance' instead of being able to buy the cosmetics you like has moved them into the darker side of F2P imo.

I play DOTA still when I can, but have lost a lot of my willingness to believe they're not just as evil as everyone else. What keeps me playing are the people I play with, no longer the game.

So they make a great game and do occasional fundraisers with token gratitude prices and happy players donate. Win win

It's heavily gamified and allows you to buy the compendium multiple times to "level" it up, so it's more like a minigame in itself than a donation.

It's definitely taken some inspiration from the F2P mobile gaming market.

And I think this model's success is reflected in Dota's reputation compared to that over games like League of Legends. LoL has a lot of characters and a lot of them cost money (at least for a time). And they keep adding more. Regardless of whether or not the characters they add that cost money are better than the others, it still makes the game less balanced and less competitively interesting in the low-to-mid level than Dota is. Sure, high level LoL is probably interesting, but I do not have the money to find out if I could ever enjoy that myself

Almost all of the money I've spent on League of Legends has been on cosmetics. If you're time rather than cash-limited (like most of us here, I would assume) - you won't have time to actually deeply learn all that many champions. The free champions rotation is great, and gives you plenty of time to try people and then buy with in-game currency if you like the play-style.

You're never going to play 123 champions all the time anyway, so dropping money on them doesn't make much sense until you're already deep in the game. You absolutely don't need to unlock 100+ to enjoy yourself with it.

You're never going to play 123 champions all the time

Speak for yourself. As a veteran of both hon and dota, I'm a frequent player of "all random" mode. In both games, this means you get a different experience every game. You may say that you'll never master all of them by doing it this way but that's besides the point. By playing a character you learn all of their abilities and how they work, what their cool downs, mana costs, attack and ability ranges are etc. Doing this at least once for every character gives you a much better grasp of what you're up against than trying to learn only by way of opposition.

The 'all the time' part of my statement was quite an important bit.

Sure, ARAM exists - but like I said there's an always-changing array of free champions, so it's not like you'll never get them. And again - if you're just starting out, there's going to be some time before you even get around to trying every champion for the first time. Even if you go with ~30 minutes per game(below the average length in normal modes, slightly above average on ARAM) - you're looking at upwards of 60 hours of playtime just to try everyone once.

You can complain about F2P games all you like, but I don't think for a second we'd have had as many new champions released if they'd been on a pay-once model. I don't think that's exploitative, just different.

-edit- before my play patterns are criticised again, I should say I've been playing LoL to varying degrees of intensity for about 5 years. I think it's more accessible in terms of champion acquisition now than it was then.

It dampens the competitive scene not to have access to all the characters. It's difficult to join a team and play support if you don't have access to the support character you need to play. And since the most recent Dota world champion was 16 years old at the time, kids matter. And kids can't purchase the characters they need to purchase, since they have no money.

There's a thriving competitive scene in both games, so maybe the effect isn't so bad in practice. But if you want to play soccer, you'd find it difficult if you didn't have access to certain parts of the field unless you pay money. That seems like an accurate description of League's model.

The central issue is this: If you want to follow the strategy of making a new game competitive and then funding a yearly tournament, your game is more likely to fail if it uses League-style "pay for access to the competitive landscape."

League works for League. It's largely thanks to history and timing that League grew to such a degree: When League launched, there was no Dota 2 and no HoN to compete with them. League's model is less likely to be replicable to a new game.

All Random in hon and dota is played on the standard map with standard rules. Each player gets a random hero chosen from the entire pool. The only restriction is no duplicates. This mode can be played from the very first game on a brand new account.

ARAM in League is totally different. It's not even available to players until they have purchased/unlocked enough champions to have a pool, a situation that could take a very long time to resolve for players who have no money to buy them.

You gave an estimate of 60 hours for a new player to try all 120 heroes in hon or dota. That could be accomplished in one week by a dedicated new player. How many hours do you think it'd take to unlock every champion in league? Thousands upon thousands, at least.

Edit: I'd also like to point out that in hon/dota you get to play a hero at their full power and effectiveness from the very beginning. This means that a veteran of one game who switches to another is not at a disadvantage, unlike a new player to league playing against people who have played long enough to max out their summoner level, runes, and masteries.

Without going into the balance/entertainment part: You can get all of the LoL characters for free, even the new ones (although those will be a bit more expensive for 1 week). I haven't been following the game closely lately but as far as I remember all the content can be unlocked for free now (that includes skins).

There are compendiums multiple times a year now. It does work out very well for them, the prize pool is $7M and it was launched less than a week ago.

Hearthstone is a unique bird as its playerbase is used to Blizzard and Magic and so expects to pay something like a AAA game price for card unlocks. It's not really necessary for Blizzard to sell the idea of paying in Hearthstone.

Clash Royale is very aggressive about getting money. It does appear passive because it's better for revenue if non-enthusiastic players progress slowly, but trying to do anything but play a few games a day without spending money is intentionally made difficult as you'll run into progress blocks faster that way. It's quite clever. It also benefits from increased sophistication of players in that it can signal when to make the premium purchases more subtly than was necessary a few years ago.

I haven't played Assassin's Creed, but it makes sense to me that a AAA game franchise has a better chance standing out on mobile as a premium game, rather than associating with less prestigious IP. I certainly think Ubi has learned from its poor attempts to milk its lower-priority IP by farming it out to F2P developers, so a transition has been made in the company overall.

> I haven't played Assassin's Creed, but it makes sense to me that a AAA game franchise has a better chance standing out on mobile as a premium game, rather than associating with less prestigious IP.

A little more context: Assassin's Creed was F2P during soft launch, but player feedback drove Ubisoft to retool it as a paid title without typical F2P gimmicks (although online-only requirement remains): http://toucharcade.com/2016/02/24/assassins-creed-identity-b...

Ah, okay. Sounds like it was part of their general recognition that they were damaging their brands, then.

> trying to do anything but play a few games a day without spending money is intentionally made difficult as you'll run into progress blocks faster that way.

In contrast with many games which are nearly pure skinner boxes, Clash Royale's gameplay itself is fun and there are skills to be mastered.

The monetization scheme is just as bad as other games in that it lets you put in exponential dollars for linear gain. But the refreshing thing is the base game is fun and can be played freely without any time limits or other barriers.

That said after about 100 hours I may have finally reached my top skill and may get bored of the game before I unlock any new cards.

I struggled so hard with that game before eventually "winning" my internal battle and deleting it. As you say, the core gameplay is actually really fun and skill based but the psychological pressures at play with all the chests and timers just felt too oppressive. Opening the app just got to feel too much like exposing myself to radioactive highly optimized whale food, and I had to just say "NO!"

There have always been a few F2P games that aren't awful, and if there's starting to be more of them now, that's excellent news.

But the fact remains that 95%+ of F2P games build their entire business model around dark patterns[1], and as long as that remains true, new games will reasonably be expected to prove themselves better than that.

[1] http://darkpatterns.org/, if you're not familiar

So Supercell, Blizzard, and Square Enix/Success are not awful. That's great, but what about all of the others? Kabam, Big Fish, Machine Zone, King, Playtika, EA, and the list goes on.

I see them as entirely different products. Casinos will always make more money than museums.

It's even worse than that. ustwo isn't a small studio. They're a digital product studio with offices in London, Sydney, Malmö, and New York. They have a few hundred employees.

Their games are basically marketing for their real business.

How is that worse?

Most of their employeess are making other things than Monument Valley making money in many other ways.

Not sure what the problem is.

It's worse for gamers, because it implies that making good-quality premium games is not sustainable as a primary revenue stream.

Why should making a game 2 years ago be a revenue stream today?

> Meanwhile, there are multiple F2P games with over $1b in revenue.

But how many make near to nothing? I'm told that some, small-to-medium players particularly, are moving back towards premium because the initial effort of generating sufficient content (or tweaking and testing the algorithms that generate content programatically, or fine-tuning the balance of PvP/co-op segments) is quite a risk.

The bigger players can afford to invest in a number of such projects on the risk/value analysis of one or two being successful will more than cover the cost of the ones that aren't, and very small players (individuals, small indie groups) do it by sinking time not money (i.e. products that start out as an experiment or side project), but in between it becomes harder to justify.

Amazing Indie films pale in box office numbers compared to summer blockbusters. Both have their place and will attract different type of creative individuals.

And from another perspective, each will attract different types of developers.

MV is less about making money than it is about challenging oneself, delivering a creative vision and being outside the mainstream.

They have also invested many many many times what UsTwo have in marketing budgets and development of the game.

Read a wired article that SuperCell spends $5m a day on advertising.

Yeah exactly. Revenue is big but what is profit?

"With just 3 games, Supercell made $924M in profits on $2.3B in revenue in 2015" http://venturebeat.com/2016/03/09/with-just-3-games-supercel...

I love MV but I've gotten 100x the enjoyment from Boom Beach which was released around the same time and on which I've spent a grand total of $5 which could easily have been zero.

The conventional wisdom around much of the internet about f2p is, while true for many titles, just incredibly myopic as a general pigeonhole. F2P games can be great. Clash Royale, on which I've spent nothing, is by far the best new mobile game I've played in over a year.

I love that you've received downvotes for expressing an opinion.

I've also enjoyed playing Clash Royale, and have nothing against F2P as a model, generally.

How pushy is it in regards to buying consumables? I don't mind F2P with a $2-$5 "no ads" unlock or similar. (I'll get unreasonably angry if I see a single ad after that, though)

I've played it for months, haven't spent a penny. The only thing you really get from spending money is tougher opponents anyway.

AFAIK it doesn't have ads, you pay for in-game currency to spend on cards which can also be won in-game. It's entirely possible to play the game without spending any money, although grinding may or may not be fun. I played a bit when it launched and stopped after a week or two.

> has made $15m in its lifetime

Is that true? I thought (even though it says 2015) that the ~5m ish was total revenue for the project? This seemed pretty good, and clearly I was happy for the devs as over a 3 year period if you back out the costs and divide by 3 it was ~$1.4M profit a year, a nice bottom line. $15m would be better, but again not the mega block buster.

Where did that $15 number come from btw?

less office/backoffice/distribution ect...so not really a bottom line.

Check the infographic[1] again, it states $14.3m all-time revenue.

[1] https://d262ilb51hltx0.cloudfront.net/max/1600/1*OnCkdwQnNOO...

ahh thanks. I was looking at just the year 2 stats[0]. Good for them. Not only is the disclosure/information super cool and forthcoming and a good way to help out the community, but just a cool take on an industry that is typically secretive and cutththroat.


Can you provide some examples?

Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, Game of War, Puzzle and Dragons, and I believe Monster Strike have all crossed the $1b mark.

I'd add Line/Disney's Tsumtsum to that list. Possibly Shironeko by Koropura.

Candy Crush, Clash of Clans.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact