Friday, February 22, 2013

[Study] Monetization in Games

Monetization in Games:
Lately the topic of monetization in games seems to be a hot topic.  With many PC games transitioning away from a subscription based model to free-to-play / cash shop based models and with the rise of mobile and tablet games using new types of monetization strategies I have been thinking about new ways to monetize games and when types of strategies are appropriate.

Here are some strategies that are currently used in mobile and pc games.  My goal in this post isn't to talk much about what is currently used but to generate new ideas and discuss alternatives and the types of games that different pay structures could be used in.

Mobile games tend to use a few different strategies.

Grotland Media has a slide show that sums these up so I'll post the link here and just list the four they talk about:

- Pay per download (PPD)
- Freemium
- F2P
- Advertising

I am much more of a PC gamer personally and PC games tend to use a few different models too:

 - Buy to Play (one time purchase)
 - Subscription (dying out to a degree)
 - Free to Play (cash shops, virtual currency)
 - Buy + DLC updates

If I've missed anything on that list feel free to add to it, it's just a quick tally of various systems I've noticed in games lately.

What I want to talk about however are two alternate pay strategies that I thought of.  Admittedly the scope of these strategies are limited to a few game type ideas but I think that people can be more creative about making money off games as long as it's done with the right type of game.

The two strategies are:  Pay per Server Session and Pay to Win (not so much a strategy as a philosophy)

Pay per Server Session:
  What do I mean when I say pay per server session?  Well, first of all let me quickly describe the type of game I think this would work well with and then I'll explain why it would be good.  A competitive, pvp oriented (or with heavy pve competition) MMORPG where each 'world' has a set time in which players race to kill the final boss of the world and advance through levels and the world.  Advancement would need to partially carry on to the next 'world' and would have to leave you with a sense of accomplishment but discussing the game type is another conversation.

  Pay per Server session would basically involve paying to create your character on that server.  Basically you would pay for a server slot.  If the world progression lasted for three to six months at a time, you could charge 10-15$ per character slot on a server with possibly a free one with limited progression for a "trial" character.  

  This would require a very specific type of game, but I think that in a competitive game with limited time and rapid advancement, this could substitute a monthly subscription without jumping to free to play entirely.  You could offer limited advancement for one free slot on the server or offer an entirely free to play server that simply resets every so often.

  The problem with this game type that I see is a need for rapid releases of content and constant updates to the game to keep people advancing through 'tiers' of servers.  (If you progress a certain distance in a Level 1 server you can join a Level 2 server, etc).  You would have to have enough content to satisfy hard core players and something to this degree might only be viable when procedural generation becomes a lot better.

Pay to Win:
  Despite the stigma against Pay to Win, I believe it is a completely viable strategy.  The problem is that it is used in way too many places that it simply does not belong.  

  The biggest place I can see a straight up Pay to Win scenario being acceptable is in Collectible / Trading Card Games.  In tabletop card games, the more cards you buy, the better sets you have and the more likely you are to have a better deck and win with more powerful cards.
  However to balance this out, free trading would be necessary and deck building would be important as well.  Essentially, you would be better off buying "packs" as you have better trading options with a larger card base with rarer cards.

  A gambling factor has to absolutely be present.  Yes, I call this Pay to Win, because paying money gives you a heavy advantage compared to someone who doesn't, however with trading and a random factor to buying card packs, the philosophy of Pay to Win could work out very well.  It works in table top games and I think it can work well in mobile card games as well.  (As mobile seems the best platform to build a card game on).

These were my two different ideas of alternative strategies / philosophies that I haven't really seen yet.  What about you guys?  What are some less commonly used monetization strategies and when would they be acceptable to use?

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