1) People seem to balk at paying >$5 for a mobile or tablet game. (With some notable exceptions.)
2) The $0.99 or $1.99 price point is not financially viable for most games.
3) People do seem willing to purchase coins or lives or more daily playtime via in-app purchases. Some spend tens or hundreds of dollars on a single game.
If you're building a game for a large company like EA, you're probably forced to take the most lucrative path. EA's not an atelier for starving artists. And if you're a small, struggling game studio, you probably can't afford to leave money on the table.
So what's the solution? If people are unwilling to pay reasonable prices up-front for games, how besides in-app purchases does a game company profit from their work?
This is an honest question, because I also generally hate how IAP is integrated into most games. I'd much rather pay up-front.
What am I missing here? Is this hard to do? Or prohibited somehow?
Disclosure: I'm not a mobile game developer, so maybe I'm missing something here about the rules of the app stores.
Games used to do this somewhat frequently, they just don't anymore because it leaves so much on the table.
Also the much lower RPUs will make paid acquisition unprofitable, and paid acquisition is the only reliable method. App stores are great if you get featured or by some fluke work your way to the top of the charts, but for 99.9% of developers, you're either doing paid acquisition or getting no substantial amount of customers.
I hate these glorified slot machines, I hate the companies that make them, and I do think it's unethical to prey upon children and regular people with bad judgment, but my guess is that the average "whale" is far too wealthy to deserve your sympathy. As a different example of the same idea, do you feel bad for the celebrities that spend hundreds of dollars for a drink at an exclusive club?
It was very interesting to introspect on the self-rationalization, etc, all the while understanding that I was BS'ing myself and also understanding the tricks they were using. It was addiction, pure and simple.
Now, part of the reason I didn't stop sooner was that I can afford that, although it's not a good use of my funds. That was actually built into the rationalizations: Oh, if I'd taken the car to work today I'd have spent $20 on parking, and $15 on lunch, so I'll just take the subway and bring my lunch tomorrow ...
In both cases, I initially considered the games vapid, but my friends got into it, and I wanted to have stuff that was as good / better.
Good article that got passed around in my office on Friday. People who are 'gamers' and by extension people who make games tend to look at "whales" as gullible stupid people but a lot of us tend to exhibit the same behaviour about other things all while congratulating ourselves for not pay 5 bucks to support a game we've played for 50 hours.
That said I think there is a really really fine line you have to walk to keep your IAPs "ethical" and it's very temping (and profitable) to fall on the Candy Crush side of things.
If someone spent $30,000 on my digital cards, I'd look him up so that I could sleep at night and not worry that his kids are going hungry because of this.
(I'm not someone who sells these kinds of things, so I'm fully aware this is largely armchair quarterbacking.)
Creepy. I can't understand why anyone on HN thinks it's acceptable.
Using that information for other reasons without informing me is a clear, unambiguous, invasion of my privacy. It's probably not legal in the UK.
Tl:dr yes, it's creepy. Especially in the context of a game dev.
The main reason it's different for game developers is that in most instances, in-app purchases will undermine the integrity of the game more significantly than for other kinds of apps. Indeed that is the main point of the OP ("There is no game here.")
If you add a rule to chess where you can pay cash to put a taken piece back on the board, you don't have chess anymore. Additionally, consider that videogames are often escapist entertainment that people play specifically to get away from real-life financial pressures or wealth-based status sorting.
It gets "unsavory" when you're focusing more on designing the perfect skinner box than actually creating a game. I think games are all about the feelings and mental states you get into when you play them. An action game gets your adrenaline pumping, competitive ones especially so. Strategy games require incredibly deep thought to stay one step ahead of the enemy. Puzzle games really stretch your brain to the limits of logic (or maybe they're just bullshit). From my experience, the games that people malign when they talk about mobile games and "social games," on the other hand, promote nothing but anxiety, and use it as a tool to wedge themselves into your subconscious so that you will fork over more cash into their creator's pockets. See the common practice of games based around waiting for something to happen, and bugging you with an alert whenever it does. I don't think very well of people that create things (I won't dignify them by calling them games) that do nothing but prey on anxiety, compulsion, and our attractions to flashing lights.
It's the difference between creating something that people will pay $50 to experience, and creating something that is engineered to repeatedly exploit our basest negative emotions. These games are in some senses worse than heroin, because at least heroin is fun while it lasts.
Jonathan Blow does the topic far more justice than I can at the moment (what am I doing, it's way too late to be drink posting on HN...) in his talk "Video Games and the Human Condition", if you're interested. It's nearly two hours long, but I believe it's very much worth your time.
As for "why do other startups not get shit for this," I think there's a big difference between A/B testing different versions of your game's site to see which version results in more "conversions" or whatever it's called, and designing your entire "game" around frisking people at every turn and being the best darn frisker you can. Not to mention the ones obviously marketed to children, which reasonable people agree is one step removed from turning up at your local elementary school with a trenchcoat full of free samples.
(I have no idea who you are or what games you make, so don't take these comments personally, this is just my general opinion of the mobile games I've tried. If it (or especially Jonathan Blow's talk, because he's much more eloquent than tired, drunken me) rings close to home, however, it might not be a bad idea to download a pack of the 1000+ NES games and try a few at random for a reminder of what playing a real game is like)
I don't know if MBAs have different jargon, but the term in economics is "price discrimination"/
The same sort of thing happened so mid-90s pay-per-second or pay-for-items games on what we now call dumbphones (ie. java games). They were regulated, essentially demanding up-front information about what they charge and an option to disable it on the telco contract (effectively giving parents a way to disable it for kids, and everyone a way to disable it for themselves), and their market completely dried up. This happened after several high-profile court cases where the telco was preventing from charging large amounts to kids (think $30k-40k). You can't find them anymore at all.
And that's just fine by me.
And the last link on the page goes to:
Which is a site for people who have been fraudulently charged, with comments from within the last few months.
I don't have any essential ethical problems with the question. I have two concerns.
(1) They're called "games" when they're not really "games."
(2) The socio-economic implications of a system where it's easier and more profitable to sell to 50 people willing to pay $30,000+ than to 1.5 million people willing to pay $2.
> It would cost us nothing, all virtual bits anyway.
I see a contradiction here.
Remember that there is a lot of money out there. If you're a millionaire, a billionare has 1000x more money than you. His $30,000 is your $30.
What about someone who spends $30k to get their Aston Martin repainted in chrome paint?
People have to be careful here - this is clearly consensual behaviour as long as they know how much they are spending as they purchase. Everyone wants to compare to gambling - I detest gambling and never do it - I would cautiously support moves to rein in an ever-expanding gambling industry - but at the same time if people want to spend money on entertainment, even all of their money, I find it hard to come up with a suitable argument. People can spend all their money on all sorts of weird obsessions, but these shouldn't be reasons for outlawing the behaviour for the majority of people who get along just fine.
Right. Many apps are designed to be effective Skinner boxes bypassing the brains logic to push at the base responses in order to initiate a "player" to want to continue without engaging their executive functions. Games like Candy Crush and Bejeweled play ever trick possible to part users from their cash.
It's more like having a bar and when the mark is drunk you waft a cheeseburger under their nose, flash subliminal messages on the video screens, pay beautiful people to sit eating cheeseburgers, tell them all their friends ordered one and finally selling it for 3 tokens [$1000] because you know they won't then notice the cost. Oh plus wash that burger down with a beer that's suddenly $500 because arbitraryTimeLimit just ran out.
Most obsessions that people spend silly money on aren't carefully designed to be obsessions. Those that are - smoking, gambling, drinking - are often tightly controlled.
Nightclubs, so far as I know, don't have systems of their own currency specially designed to hide the dollar amounts of their drinks, for example. They also, where I am at least, have to post prices and are by law required to stop serving people who're drunk [though I hesitate to guess how often that law is flouted].
Your position on gambling seems contrary to your position on other for money gaming.
It is simply not your place to decide for others how they should get their dopamine, or how much they should be paying for it.
How the hell would this be ethical, no matter how consensual and non-coercive it is?
The money is not a college fund. Your customer's previously-held inaccurate predictions of the future turned out to be false. He changed his mind. Your assertion that it "is intended for paying for college" is false. It is intended for paying for roulette.
It is not your right to choose for others how they spend their money.
Stop trying to control other people because of your certainty in the belief that you know what's best for them.
It can be better to temporarily infringe someone's rights if it stops them from doing something that they will regret for the rest of their life.
No, this is false. You're incapable of guessing what other people may or may not regret with enough accuracy to use it as a justification for infringing upon the rights of others.
Furthermore, most are heavily influenced by societal norms and customs, making this even more dangerous a justification when used against the rights of those with eccentricities or nonstandard tastes or lifestyles.
It's never ok to infringe upon someone's rights.
A question: how do people find themselves "in the clutches of an addiction"? How do they escape? Could it possibly be their own free will to decide to smoke the first cigarette, or their individual decision to walk past the bar without going in, on their way home from AA?
Do you agree that it's right to have age restrictions for buying and selling alcohol?
You realise that many alcoholics start drinking when they're children?
People are social creatures. Trying to ignore that and treat everybody as isolated individuals ignores those.
Clearly it would be immoral for you to intentionally provide a source of liquidity for stolen goods. How does that show anything about your gambler?
Often legality and morality do align (but really not as often as you'd think), and this is fortunate, because it allows good people an easy mental short-cut for weighing one's actions based on legality (and punishment), as well as protecting the weaker-willed parts of society that often end up on the wrong end of moral decisions by people like sneak, who'd let people drink themselves to death because if everybody was completely free they'd surely decide out of their own free will to do what's best for them and nobody would ever prey on the weak-willed like that, ever.
All consensual and non-coercive transactions are ethical.
Another example is the phone scammers offering 'virus fixes'. These are generally in violation of different laws.
Whether software contracts include that same kind of verbiage, I don't know.
Both transactions were consentual and noncoercive. There were no threats of violence. An adult business owner signed a contract for services which were provided exactly as specified. The customer didn't have to agree to the first, poorly negotiated contract. And they don't have to pay extra for the extra services later on - it's entirely their choice.
It's no more extortion than if you need a new ink cartridge for your printer and you find they're expensive.
I put it to you that the situation I've outlined is unethical, even though it's consensual and non-coercive.
A half-way competent attempt to examine this issue would need to dig deeper into the meaning of "consensual", "non-coercive", and the fact that we are engineering these products, knowing that these cognitive biases (defects) exists.
Your dogmatic quote meets none of these criteria, and is frankly a pathetic attempt to address this complex and well-studied problem.
It is clear that they are undertaken with free will, and ended similarly thereby. All of AA and everyone who's ever quit smoking stand as evidence.
Playing the "no one's pointing a gun to your head" card and claiming it is therefore "non-coersive" in defense of targeting and manipulating addictive behavior may very well be profitable but it's delusional and downright dishonest to everyone, including yourself, to think it isn't exploitive and conducive to serious personal and social issues. You need look no further in the historical record to see how this plays out than the tobacco and alcohol industry.
That is not accurate.
If you're really interested in continuing to debate whether your perspective of addiction should be adopted by others feel free to search Google for "addiction" or "is addiction a lifelong problem" or if that's something you don't have time for start with the first Google result I pulled up: http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/subabuse99/chap2.htm
There are plenty of other, better, sources that will provide more thorough descriptions of both the physical and psychological characteristics of addition. Practically all of them acknowledge that addiction, once attained, does not grant an individual the luxury of choice as you entertain it. One can certainly choose to seek the tools to control the impulses of addiction through willpower (be it internally or externally inspired), but that will never mean they can choose to make the underlying addiction go away and never bother them again at any point for the rest of their lives.
Have you ever met a "former" addict? Plenty will tell you it's not as simple as that, unless you're using your own novel definition of "choice," "free will," and given studies generally show genetic predisposition is a factor, "born with."
The ones who actually want to quit, do.
It's unfathomable to someone who hasn't smoked.
If you want to make your business about manipulation of the customer, don't pretend to be morally pure. You are scum.
Should we factor this in, or is public health department a nanny state intervention?
The lines of free will and accountability are blurred by things like mental illness, addictions, childhood naivety, etc.
That's not the case. People choose to stop being addicted to things all the time.
Where did you get this view on ethics? It certainly isn't most peoples view, for sure.
I think every time I hear "you should eb ashamed" the free market guy SHOULD stand up and say NO, morality is actually whining that someone should be coerced into doing something they wouldnt want to selfishly do. If there is a market for your thing then caveat emptor.
Screwing your clients? The market will decide whether you can keep operating.
Convince my girlfriend of that.
Seriously, though, it doesn't even pass the laugh test. People control their own circumstances. Making those circumstances available to be chosen does not alter the source or responsibility of those decisions.
Smokers choose to smoke. Gamblers choose to gamble.
Proof lies in those who subsequently choose to stop.
You always have free will, even if you aren't using it at the moment.
You are assuming that what one person can do, the rest of the population can do with a similar amount of effort. This should be self-evidently false.
Some people can stop addictive behavior with relatively little effort, other people need external help and tons of effort, and other people will literally prefer to die before stopping.
The only way to say that the latter two groups "don't actually want to quit" is to redefine "wanting to" in terms of "being able to", which makes your argument circular.
I think it's better for players to enjoy a game fully for free (if you're doing IAP), and then provide ways to monetize that enhance their experience. Ramin Shokrizade has lots of amazing blogs about this: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RaminShokrizade/914048/
No pay to win, no timers, no paywalls that ruin the experience: we need to go back to building games as entertainment experiences, and find ways to monetize with things like skins (purely aesthetic so they don't disrupt gameplay, but can make you look cool when you play with your friends).
Unfortunately the sad truth is that for the majority of mobile games if you charge up front you will not have enough sales volume. And a single $1.99 IAP has the same problem because while you might get 10x downloads from being free initially, you'll still only get your $2 from <10% of them, and $2 LTV is not nearly enough to support a game (+ some gamers like those here might be willing to support a great game with more than $2 but won't have the option to do so in this setup).
At the end of the day, when people invest in an entertainment experience they want to be entertained. And thinking about money and waiting for timers during the experience only reduces the amount of entertainment we get out of it. So we need to find ways to design IAP that is separate enough from the core experience, and yet still works well enough to fund the games we want to play.
This is pretty much what id Software did in the 90s with Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake and most people in the industry thought they were nuts and it would never work. Obviously it worked extremely well (the difference being it was levels that were gated instead of features, but same concept).
One other great example i recently experienced was BADLAND. Its a really cool game in which they give you a level pack called "Day I" for free which has 40 levels. If you want the second set of 40 levels (which are way cooler btw), you have to purchase those. Also, they let you purchase multiplayer levels (6 of those are free btw). So just as you said, they let you demo their game and if you love it, you buy the rest of the game.
But one thing i REALLY loved about the devs was that that they you EARN the extra levels. If you unlock a certain achievement, you get the Day II pack for free! So that's like the devs rewarding their biggest fans. (I unlocked those levels for free btw).
Disclosure: BADLAND is also powered by video ads. You can pay a little to turn them off. There's also the option of a small fee that's not enough to buy the levels, but it lets you turn off the ads.
This is the strategy of the Ouya - games on the market have to have a free, playable demo of some type in order to be included. I think it's great, and I'd like it even more on a mobile device since my phone isn't brand new and this would let me quickly find out whether the game will even be playable.
Some developers do do this, but it's much rarer than P2W.
Like literally the only example of paid games I can think of to do one on phones in recent year are Minecraft, Final Fantasy and GTA.
"already established reputation" is overrated in the age of the internet. Lets hope the internet is still around these days.
If prices had kept up with inflation, 'budget' games would be about £12; blockbusters, over £100. Games are well undervalued on app stores, and exploitative rubbish is the result. I've personally paid reasonable small amounts for some of the classic games (e.g. Monkey Island) and am on the lookout for good modern games at about the same price point.
For instance, imagine a game listed as free:
- a freemium model let you play 15 levels and asks for 4.99 to unleash 500 more levels, maybe let a 1.99 option for 100 levels; this should convert 3-5% with a million testing players; v.s.
- free-to-play with locking levels every 10 levels that are so hard you have to use bonus, that would convert 1% to pay for either a Golden Orb for 1.99, or a Golden Blast for 5.99, etc. each who may or may not make a difference, and appease your frustration, and work only once. You get a couple of whales (desperate, clueless players) who pay 50$ a month, but even with a larger distribution (two to three millions players) you don't break even.
The idea in the original comment is not that a price twice higher will double sales, but more that having a price tag (which free-to-play games deny having) makes sense for good games.
The problem new devs face isn't even really that people won't pay for the game. It's that no one knows about the game.
It's all good and well that 100 of your friends and acquaintances will pay $20 for your game, but you really need 10000 people to buy it.
It is not a pay-to-win type of scenario because it is a single player game (with one minor PVP minigame element). It also never feels scummy because you can do basically everything in the game without ever paying a single cent. Even 'premium' content that is unlocked by purchasable items is generally tradable and purchasable with the in-game currency (meat) that drops from the monsters.
Thus you don't have to pay up front... But you do end up donating some money for interesting items at some point due to the game being great, current, funny, having a great community, etc.
The business model probably wouldn't work for most, but in the case of Kingdom of Loathing it works really well.
For more complex games that require more work (and possibly investment), it's questionable that this model could be relied upon. Still, as an old-timer who seldom plays anymore (#53596), I have huge admiration for the Asymmetric team for carving out an awesome niche gaming community with non-exploitive business model.
KoL's donation revenue is currently sufficient to support a full-time staff and a second team working on a new game. I feel like we were extremely fortunate to have launched when we did and to have gotten the critical mass in the beginning that makes it possible for this to be a career instead of just a hobby.
As far as choosing the business model, I'm not sure there was ever a moment when I made a choice about it. A couple of months in, the hosting bills were starting to cost more than I was comfortable paying out of pocket, so I put up a link to ask for donations to offset the cost. A player suggested, "Hey, why don't you give donators an in-game reward?" and I figured "Hey, why not, it couldn't hurt." To my surprise and delight, it was pretty much instantly profitable. I was still processing the donations by hand for quite a while -- the revenue model was really kind of an afterthought.
After it got to the point where I was able to comfortably and safely quit my day job (and finally start paying Josh, who had been diligently working for free for several months), I started offering the monthly specials, which caused another surge in income and allowed me to hire an office manager, another writer/designer, and another programmer. Since then we've added a full-time customer service/abuse-tracking position and part-time forum and chat-moderation supervisors.
What I do know is that it was enough for the two initial guys to now do it full-time and they now also employ something like 4 additional people full-time (I think its 4 additional).
Nothing even close to a major studio adapting an old hit to mobile platforms to squeeze out as much profit as possible.
When I found out that there was a mandatory quest at the altar of literacy to gain access to the chat channels of kingdom of loathing, I knew I was hooked. I even learned haiku to be able to chat on the haiku chan.
On the PC/console side, you of course have ports of popular mobile games. In addition, however, you have AAA games like Diablo 3 that are reasonably complex, yet seem to have been intentionally ruined by IAP and the real money sale of items that affect performance.
I think you might have this backwards: Mobile games lack depth because their developers know most people won't pay full price.
Mobile games can have great depth. Just like PC/console games can be extremely simple and trivial.
(Depth doesn't come from complex mechanics or controls, btw. In fact, those things are often used to mask how shallow a game really is.)
Perhaps you are also right that most developers won't even try to make a real game, due to the difficulty in getting customers to pay for them. Now that its more profitable to milk small amounts of money out of non-gamers, I think the rest of us are going to eventually get stuck playing the kick starter lottery in order to see real games hit the market.
> I think you might have this backwards: Mobile games lack depth because their developers know most people won't pay full price.
Chicken, meet egg. :(
This is why I hate the mobile space for gaming.
The concept of an on-screen virtual analog stick is great in theory. I practice, its always going to be terrible in comparison to its physical counterpart. Games like Modern Combat 4 are pretty impressive when you first see them, but 5 minutes in you realize two things: The controls are bad, and the entire game has been dumbed-down because the developers know that the controls are bad. Its not even their fault. They did as good of a job as anyone has, but a capacitive touchscreen just isn't going to offer the user a pleasant experience in a 3d fps.
Certain genres are well-suited to touch controls. Many genres are not. Board games and card games work very well.
I'd agree that board-game style strategy/war games would work, and also quite a few turn-based strategy games.
Its also possible to make certain types of real-time strategy games. Unfortunately, complex RTS games like Starcraft probably can't be done well without extreme oversimplification.
With mobile touch-screen controls the game has to somehow register a button-press as soon as a button-press is made.
But it must also never (to a first approximation) register a button-press when a button-press was not requested (e.g. an accidental brush of a finger against the screen).
It's hard enough to do this anyways, but the "input device" does no favors for the game developer either. There's a reason that input devices on consoles and computers have evolved over the years into the shapes they have, they are meant to be easy to hold in a certain position (so that you always know where the buttons are) and perhaps more important, they have tactile features that allow your finger to quickly find and stay near the buttons. It's the reason that buttons and the D-pad are not fully-flush with the shell, even though that might have been more stylish.
Imagine trying to play Super Mario World with a NES-shaped rectangular controller where there are no tactile buttons. This might have worked if you only needed Left, Right, Jump, but even that game required all of the following for the best gameplay: Left/Right, Up/Down (for pipes and to literally scroll the screen up), Jump, Run/Hold/Fireball, Spin Jump, Pause, Drop Stored Item and Shoulder Left/Right (to scroll the screen). And if the input wasn't right you'd either jump into a spike you had meant to run under or accidentally run off a cliff you'd meant to jump past.
The controls on Mario seem complex only because they were so completely intuitive when you were actually playing them but I assure you they were far more difficult to implement than you think. It's not until you start playing platformer games with horrible controls that you can realize the great job done by the development teams at Sega (for Sonic) and Nintendo.
What wrecked Diablo 3 was the enormous power discrepancy between what a player could reasonably find on their own and what was readily available on the auction market. The game had to be balanced around the latter to avoid auction buyers god-moding over everything, which left solo players completely screwed. With a tighter power balance between common and rare items, Diablo 3 would have continued to be playable just fine.
Yes there is. Diablo 3 would have been much better if buying gear was the exception to the rule. By legitimizing it and as you mentioned, failing to provide balance, Blizzard unintentionally made the purchase of gear the only viable method of progression for most players.
With World of Warcraft, Blizzard made tons of money off of cosmetic items. If they wanted to increase revenue, they should have gone this route instead of ruining the best action-rpg franchise in the world.
Buying gear in WoW is easy and a given up to a point, but limited to in-game currency. To buy some of the best gear, you just have to be the owner of enough gold to buy something from one of the two auction houses if it shows up. That meant you were active in your server's economy (helpful) or you were buying gold from scammers (which a lot of people are scared to do) - or you were raiding at a point where that gear was equivalent to what you can get, so you just ignored it (a small minority of raiders, not just WoW players overall). If real money was involved, it'd probably turn into something worse than D3's AH fiasco where people would quit playing since everyone playing for non-RP/solo reasons would eventually be forced to spend a bunch of money on top of in-game time to be on an even footing.
Not that I think D3 should have followed the same exact footsteps as WoW in terms of how to make money, but I'm looking forward to next month to maybe get around to start playing D3 again now that the AH will be gone there.
Current-tier raid and PVP gear can show up on the Black Market Auction House, sold by NPCs. The BMAH sells a very small number of pieces during the few months it takes people to clear content. When I played in a top 20 US 25 man guild in T14-15, our BMAH was usually camped by the other faction, so we couldn't buy stuff anyway. It didn't make any noticeable difference.
For others, like myself & Phaus, apparently, we'll just play a different damn game. I think the disconnect here is that people are like "well look its still working, isnt it?" but the idea of "ruining" a game isnt that the thing is broken now, its that casual players dont wanna get involved cuz its an all-or-nothing shitshow where youre not sure exactly when the menu is gonna pop up saying "give us more money or your time invested is now a complete waste".
i only play single-player story titles now for the most part because i know that pretty much anything else is gonna try to mess with my mind & prey on the consumer. COD & Battlefield are the best examples i can think of. They keep game prices high, get players addicted to repetitive mindless multiplayer, then charge $15 for a change of scenery (should 3 or 4 maps cost 1/4 the price of the game itself?)
If you buy, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're being ripped off & it makes you resent the gamemakers. If you don't buy, you're left with a limited set of maps that is getting duller by the second, lol
I'm avoiding by just buying downloadable PC games for between $1 - $10 each & then when its over its over. its the skinner box games that overprice DLC and this alone should be a trigger that makes people see them for what they are & have the willpower to opt out
Now they are a massive corporation with nothing moddable & the balls to sell simple gun skins in like $15 packs :D
I think valve has done the best job out of anyone when it comes to monetization in Counterstrike:GO. You can purchase custom maps and skins to use on official matchmaking servers, or you get all of the same content for free plus a wide variety of mods and use them on custom servers. They get paid, and the customers still have freedom of choice.
its nice to be back in the PC world. my friend gave me an xbox360 & i was playing that for a bit but now instead of a console i have geforce 770... hadn't even realized the notion of "custom servers" still existed, hah :D
Valve also gives the cosmetic items as random drops after matches or from spectating competetive games. The players are then able to sell these items to other players trough Valve's market. From the trades Valve takes a procentual fee (or margin, that is), which can raise quite high as some knives in CS cost over $300 and some couriers in Dota have been sold as high as $9000 a pop.
Even though the cosmetic business model sounds like a golden road, I've yet to across any mobile game which would have used it.
Valve is incredibly unique yet people keep telling tiny companies making mobile games that they should be like Valve.
The problem is that good game design is hard, and not particularly repeatable. Having a single simple mechanic, surrounded by a reusable monetization platform is much more formulaic and repeatable. Formulaic is bad for players, but good for businesses.
I'm an indie developer and my paid games have done very poorly. It's just so much easier to convince someone to download my apps for free, and then try to upsell them later on. I've also resisted bags of coins, but probably to my own detriment.
Sadly I find myself feeling the same way (as a consumer). I don't really want to pay > $5 for a game. Yet, I don't like microtransactions... so I generally just play the free part of a game until I get bored and move on.
PS: i recently ran in to a game for people like you and me. They give you the premium stuff for unlocking a few (surprisingly achievable) achievements. Yay devs! (Its BADLAND)
The Apogee shareware model was extremely successful in its day but was predicated on certain assumptions about marketing and distribution that are no longer true. A standard scenario is that you'd read about the game in a magazine, play the demo episode on the accompanying disk, order the full version by fax or telephone and then have it within a few days.
Games based on the Apogee model were designed from the ground up to demo well and hence monetize well.
i.e. You can play through all of the Doom shareware episode and enjoy the entire experience of playing a complete game.
It's hard to say it didn't work, when it did work very well for many years. Today, games just aren't produced like that I guess. But I guess the equivalent would be say, a Grand Theft Auto Game set in NYC, with what's just the part of the game where you're locked onto one borough/island, and where you complete enough of the game the episode has a logical "conclusion" or "finish". If you want to play more missions and see more story arcs that include other boroughs you can buy episodes 2 and 3. (this is also different than the DLC approach in some important ways).
One could argue, and perhaps somewhat convincingly, that the mobile gaming space is in its chaotic adolescence. It started off as an undifferentiated mass market, but making games for the mass market is extremely challenging unless you're a big publisher with economies of scale. Enter IAP, the best way to bootstrap a game and maintain cash flow over the lifetime of a given gamer.
So now IAP has been exploited to the hilt. It's everywhere. It's the new mass-market model.
Don't want to do IAP? In that case, you should find a lucrative niche. Differentiate. Certain developers are doing fairly well charging large (by iOS & Android standards) up-front prices for deep games in hardcore categories. Square-Enix, for instance, routinely charges upwards of $15 for its Final Fantasy releases, and by all accounts, it's doing just fine with them. (S-E is a fairly big publisher, but I see no reason why a small RPG shop couldn't attempt the same, provided it got itself in front of the right initial audience.)
Devs and publishers who don't have $10M+ in venture funding in the bank are going to have to make their peace with freemium, with niche pricing, or with IAP. Any of these things can be done well. IAP can be done well, for that matter. It's not, in and of itself, an unalloyed evil. De facto-forced IAP, of the sort you need to opt into in order to pass a roadblock, is the dickish (if lucrative) way to go. But IAP that is a fun add-on to an already awesome gaming experience is a bird of a different feather.
On the other hand, in the game market, most games are a one-off experience with a very short lifetime (excluding MMO games). So there is no way they could be constructed through subsequent donations and evolutions.
Add to this the fact that open source communities are only made of programmers (because they are the ones benefiting most from the network effect and from incremental integration of software components), while games require other kind of professionals. Eg: volunteer designers in OSS world are mostly non existent; most of them are on the payroll of some sponsor.
Unfortunately, that won't happen because it's much more lucrative to raise a generation of "gamers" who don't know any better than to provide a continuous revenue stream in exchange for the occasional dopamine hit.
The problem is, there are hundreds games coming out for Android every month. I might like maybe five of them, many are of them are crap and many many more are good games - for someone entirely else then me.
Tell me, how do I find those five I might like? Useful reviews are practically non existent. I'm not willing to pay 5$ for something I will probably play for 10 minutes.
In order to find 1 game you will like, you have to buy maybe 10. So, basically, those games I do not like count into my games budget. They are partly reason why I'm not willing to pay much for one game.
If there were a way (maybe curated storefront) for me to know in advance I will be playing this game for hours next two months, I would gladly pay those 5$. I would see it as cheap. As it is now, it is 5$ for something I will likely not play at all.
That's the solution of someone thinking one quarter ahead.
If a game company cannot find a way to be profitable without IAPs it might want to find something else to do besides make games.
Las Vegas begs to disagree with you.
As a simple example, slot machines are actually implemented as raffle tickets, not mechanical random generators. But not losing plays are deceptively displayed as being "almost" winners. You get a "star star (half star, half bar)" far more often than if the machine behaved the way it appeared.
Then of course you have free alcohol during bad decisions, no clocks, upsells for crap like "insurance" at blackjack....
Similarly, even though a player may lose asymptotically to the house, they can be quite annoying in the short run.
As far as I know, handbag addiction is not a serious problem. Gambling addiction is.
I'd say undertaking such a massive clandestine effort to liberate you from your cash is pretty customer-hostile.
casinos fail all the time.
i'm not talking about keeping what casinos have right now and "tweaking" that. I'm talking about a reimagining.
Casinos don't generally fail because they don't know how to tweak the odds.
I think you and girvo are talking about different things.
That seems to be the most lucrative path by far. There are always more whales that make serving the 99% of players worthwhile.
The dotcom bubble of the 90's taught people to expect everything they do on a computer to be free. We're still digging ourselves out of the very deep psychological hole that VCs of that time dug.
You would probably get a lot of people who would download the game free, try it out, maybe make some in game purchases, then decide to upgrade to the $5 version, so you would make $5 + whatever they spend on in game items before upgrading. (Or whatever price you decide to charge). You won't be making hundreds off anyone, but you'll probably get more bites overall.
Then you'd be able to see easily that more than 50% spend more than $10 on that 99¢ app and factor that in to your purchase decision.
I did half to laugh that the reviewer clearly never played games like farmville. That worked out really well with it's timers and everybody checking in a few times a day to manage their items. so he's a little overreacting. That said, this new game looked really nice but I won't be buying...and I was already skeptical because it's EA. EA has plugged $50 games with this kind of stuff. I wasn't really holding my breath here. I don't want to play "dungeon-ville" I want to play an RTS.
The problem is that somebody could probably put this together for say $20 without using servers at all. But the App store buyers are so stingy with expensive games, only really established games like Final Fantasy can get away with more than $10. So they have to have some other way to get the $20 or even $10 or they can't make ANY GAME to sell you because they have bosses.
I'm thinking specifically of Hero Academy here. A really neat little turn-based strategy game which cost a few bucks when it came out, and had (I think) 3 teams to choose from the beginning. More teams or different skins for your team cost extra. This was the best use of IAP I've seen, and facilitated the devs getting what was essentially a proof of concept out, then building on it.
For gamers it gave you the freedom to just buy the base game, or only pay for the additional features/teams etc that you felt were interesting. I would never have paid $20 for that game off the bat, but because I had the freedom to choose what I DID buy, I probably ended up spending a lot more, and happily so.
So IAP is not inherently bad, it's just frequently (and intentionally) misused to turn games into cash generating slot machines via intentionally bad game design. It doesn't have to, and isn't, always that way.
This sounds like: I want to sell for $5 but customers won't buy my product at that price.
Well, in that case your product, however much your toiled and however much you spend to make it, is not viable?
Exactly, it's not viable. Only IAP driven games are. That is the problem being discussed here.
It defies simplistic supply-and-demand analysis because there is no longer just one price, but many; the customer has to make a constant series of decisions about the value of instant gratification. Some people hate this.
I'd much prefer the free demo + paid full version to be honest as I'd like to see if a game is worth it. If it is, I'm happy to pay a decent price. Then again, I might be a minority.
To limit addiction, I refuse all in-app purchases for games. As such, games suck for me, and I now hate them.
If you think in app purchases are bad, you haven't seen skylanders (activision) or infinity (Disney). These games require action figures to experience the game...wouldn't be so bad if each action figure wasn't over $10!
You mean like getting a NYT subscription for $200 dollars, instead of paying for the 10-20 articles I want to read all year for like $1 or $.5 a piece?
1. Release games for "pay what you want, whenever, as many times as you want".
2. Educate people that if they don't pay voluntarily for things they want to support/see more of, they will end up living in a world where they're forced to pay for crappy non-games (e.g., the micro-transactions above).
It won't happen cuz most people aren't smart enough to see the benefits of paying for things they want to see more of/support voluntarily. I wish they'd be, but it doesn't seem so.
You get what you pay for is pretty applicable here.
Dan Ariely noted that the mobile app industry has done this to itself by ... well better read in his own words: http://danariely.com/2011/12/25/the-oatmeal-this-is-how-i-fe...
I generally find in-app purchases on iOS games to be scummy as hell, though, so the big problem is probably that it's a Wild West for dark user patterns in games on the App Store.
When the game is entirely offline, though, it's just nuts to require the player to put in more money.
We can accept sports where players and teams spends millions of dollars of on training, equipment, etc. What if instead the team just paid the money to buy additional points from the referee?
Yeah, that is not a game.
The appropriate way to do this is to make premium/paid items cosmetic only with zero influence on game play. If your game blows, this model doesn't work.
I guess I'm just gonna play Carcassonne on iOS 6 forever :)
Given Apple & Google take a flat 30% of money coming in, if they get less money, that means developers are also getting less money. So I don't know how that would increase developer options.
Part of the reason for this is that the games suck. When a game is good, word of mouth tends to spread it.
The desktop game CrossFire did $1bn revenue last year through micro-transactions:
1) They become hitman, even if its socially unacceptable
2) They become mercenaries even if it is for enemies of USA
3) They commit suicide
So what's the solution? If people is unwilling to let them kill everyone in sight how does a soldier profit from their work?
This is a honest question, I generally hate mass shooting and soldier suicides.