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Searching For Success in Free-to-Play Conversion

The free-to-play MMO, Skyforge, has been out for nearly a full year. Red Fox Insights latest research questions how devs, like those behind Skyforge, find success in F2P conversion.

Skyforge has been out for nearly a full year and Red Fox Insights wanted to see how things are going. We received over 4,700 responses from 526 naturally targeted gamers that helped us understand the audience driving MMO's free-to-play conversion, specifically in Skyforge.

Red Fox Insights' research revealed 81.9% of players have spent money on free-to-play console/PC games from the audience of MMOHuts.com.

Skyforge is a free-to-play PC, MMORPG that blends fantasy and sci-fi. Developed by Allods Team and Obsidian Entertainment, and published by My.com, Skyforge looks to evolve MMO’s with its stylized world, dynamic combat and class switching action.

We proceeded to ask our audience if they had made purchases in the free-to-play MMO Skyforge - 14.64% of players answered yes. This number is roughly 10% less than games like World of Tanks, which describes itself as a "global-scale MMO action game." The focus here is free-to-play pricing more so than specific genres.

The predominantly PC audience surveyed, who has a history of making purchases in free-to-play, appears hesitant to spend in one of last year’s biggest MMORPG releases.

Skyforge’s Premium Services

Skyforge is structured so players will “never be locked behind a paywall” and premium services and monetization will "never affect a player’s ability to access all activities.” However, an overwhelming 85.41% of the game’s perceived target audience had yet to make a purchase. The game has successfully avoided the dreaded "pay-to-win" but has ended up with, "why-pay-at-all?"Skyforge's Lanber Forest

In Skyforge, players can speed up their character development with real money but "players who opt to invest money never hurt the experience of players who do not [invest real money]."

Developers have been backing away from free-to-play recently, because players fear "they’ll get ripped off.” Others teams embrace the model, offering audiences a chance to access content for free. Skyforge's issue appears less with the free-to-play model, and more with its application.

Retention and monetization are two of the biggest challenges for any free-to-play game developer. Allods and Obsidian can look at other games, in other genres (World of Tanks, Hearthstone), that have balanced free-to-play both from a developer's and player's perspective. To achieve that balance, studios have followed these lessons learned:

  • Giving players enough free content
  • Offer players the right kind of paid content
  • Provide a steady stream of new content
  • Don't force players to play

While most revenue in free-to-play is earned through "whales," GDC 2014 assures us that design should still aim to "convert users as much as possible" and "increase the likelihood that any user will convert."

The Bottom Line

Players who participated in Skyforge’s beta made purchases 5.8% more often than the sample audience. This proves that a group of beta players have committed themselves to the world and characters of Aelion.

In addition, Allod and Obsidian are generating a stream of new content, and have adapted controller support to help showcase combat, “inspired by the best action-combat console games.” These strategies may help Skyforge further embrace its free-to-play model, and reach new, paying audiences - providing the company the revenue and community it needs to stay healthy for years to come.

 This research comes from the gaming audience of MMOHuts.com.

  • 93% of the audience were male, 7% female
  • 93.52% ranked PC as the platform they game on most
  • 53% of the audience was between ages 18-24
  • 30% of the audience was between ages 25-34

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