Most online games today are based on F2P or Free-to-Play model. Countries in Asia are more used to this type of business model than Westerners. In this part of the world, F2P games have been hugely succesful businesses. Only WoW has been the exception, most notably in China and Korea where it is bigger than some local F2p MMORPGs.
F2P games are based on “microtransactions”. You get the game for free, register for free and then you’re in. But if you want added value for your character, usually in the form of either a “premium service“; where you get more EXP and mods, or in the more common item mall, you’ll have to shell out cash.
This is where you separate the men from the boys. Those who know what they’re doing, both in terms of running (developing) the game and marketing (publishing) it will excel in getting players to pay.
But why would your players pay? Let’s find out.
Last March, I wrote about how experts in the industry debated on F2P vs subscription. Now that we know those insights, let’s analyze why F2P players would open their wallets or credit cards for their characters.
Why They Won’t Pay
Repeat after me – Your players will not pay if…
- There’s something wrong with the game – cheats, exploits and bugs are your top bane. Work with the developers to fix the game FAST… or else, you’ll start losing players. Technical problems are a fact of life in the industry. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen some through my watch. But trust me, we hate it just as much as you do when there’s something wrong with the game.
- You can get away without paying – if the game design is poor… i.e. you can just farm your way and get strong even without paying, then there’s something wrong with the game (see above). The average joe must spend a little more time doing this than someone buying items from the item mall or paying for premium. If they don’t… Houston, we got a problem.
- It’s a damn boring MMO world – that’s where the creative genius of the community team comes in. This is why publishers do events… all to make the players happy, have something to do, and yes, to eliminate boredom. Besides, you don’t want to kill monsters 24/7 eh?
- Service Sucks – Customer service is an integral part. Not just in the gaming industry but in any business. And any company would welcome changes to improve upon this. A satisfied customer is more likely to play more and THEN pay.
Why They WILL Pay
- Right Pricing – The key to a good F2P game is how the Item Mall is designed and how the prices are managed. A lot of conflict boils from developer vs. publisher debates on pricing. Don’t model your price on the country where the game was designed, damnit! Price the items too high and you’ll get a very small conversion rate. Price it too low and you run the risk of damaging game balance and integrity. In this war, it’s the consumable items that will win you the battles.
- There’s nothing wrong with the game – This is the direct opposite (obviously) of the above. There might be MINOR bugs, but not enough for the community to be pissed off. This means that the game is great and you’ll just have to work your butt off for it to stay that way.
- The items give VALUE – perhaps one of the most important reason why players will pay. Case in point, if all the items you sell are just better versions of the normal loot. Example, a potion that just slightly heals better – then that’s just a lazy excuse for game design. Chances are, you could play without it. During testing, you should’ve spotted this like a wolf inside a sheep’s pen. Look at the how specific items give real value to the players – not just as individuals but also as groups (when going on instances, at arenas or during territorial battles). Buyers of games seldom check this fact.
- It’s a fun game – If the game isn’t like 80% of other MMO’s out in the market (which are basically clones of each other), then you’ve got your work cut out for you. At the end of the day, when you yourself play the game, if you don’t have fun, don’t expect your future players to enjoy it either. That’s a no-brainer.
- There’s nothing new – A good game will soon fall to pieces if there are no new updates. I’ve often observed games going through the hype of pre-launch, launch and then they go spiraling down for a crash landing a few months into it because there’s no new content. Make sure you have something new at least every quarter. You don’t want a community of gamers (all into the level cap) without anything to do, right?
Like what I always say
It’s the game that will make them PLAY
It’s their friends (community) that will make them STAY
Then it’s content (and how you manage everything) that will make them PAY
If you really look at it, MMORPGs are just like a guy’s Barbie doll. You may get the doll for free (or cheap) but spend a lot to make it look good and impressive.
Strength and Honor,