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Can we really create a game with the main purpose of entertaining when we have to integrate monetization mechanics such as progression blockers, time blockers or premium contents?

Remi Mallette, Blogger

June 30, 2016

4 Min Read

Can we really create a free to play game with the main purpose of entertaining when we have to integrate monetization mechanics such as progression blockers, time blockers or premium contents? 

Let's go back in time, back when games were not played in our living room. Where you had to get on your bike and go to the Arcade to play games. 

Back then games were designed to be hard, even impossible to complete. The goal was to give you the hope you could do better after every games so that you would put that quarter for another try. You had to keep playing to master every levels and discover all the secrets within the game. They even add leader boards to make you compete against your friends.

Back then, you had to pay for every session you played. Why didn't we complain as much as we do now with F2P games? 

There is probably a ton of reasons why, but for me the difference here is that back then, you paid to play a game, to be challenged, to be stimulated.

Today, we offer you to pay to reduce the challenge, making it easier for you. You pay to speed up things, to increase levels right away, to get the strongest items without earning it. Paying seems close to cheating sometimes. Remember when we used ''Game Genie'' to cheat at SNES games? Same feeling. The issue here is that if you don't pay, it is close to impossible to progress in a normal way and your global experience is affected. You have to pay to win. 

''Pay to Win'' is an expression often used to describe games where if you pay, you don't need to be good at the game and you will practically win all the time. In games with competitive mode, this method is a great monetization tool since players will push each others to spend if they want to stay at the top. The negative part is that all your Non-Paying players will struggle and potentially churn  since they won't stand a chance. 

Some games prevents these types of negative impact by offering more options to paying players instead of more powers. Hearthstone for example. You can purchase more cards, but the strength of your cards are the same for all players. It can even be a bad idea to purchase all the cards since you will be overwhelmed by the options and won't be ready yet to master all the different combinations perfectly. 

Some games like Counter Strike or Team Fortress offer customization options. This allows the player to express himself and brag, but it will not affect the game difficulty or fairness. 

Spending money in a game should be fun and complementary to the game. If it breaks the balance or if you feel that you need to pay to have a good gaming experience, I guess it will eventually fail to keep you hooked. Spending should influence your experience in a positive way for you, but also for all the other players. If spending makes it interesting for you, but harder for someone else, we are not solving the problem.

Now those propositions are simple to understand, but if you take into consideration one of the biggest issue in F2P, it won't work that easily. 

The biggest issue in F2P games is.... wait for it .... it's free !


See, a lot of players accumulate hours of game time in F2P games, but they won't spend a dime. Knowing that most F2P game will have a low conversion rate meaning that your players don't pay even if they are loving it. Creating a game cost a lot of money. If only a small portion of your gamers will cover bills and pay staff, well they need to spend a lot.

F2P method is not new, but in video games, it is still young. We now see AAA games adding micro transaction with the patterns used in F2P. The methods are evolving, adapting to the customer. The companies want you to spend and they learn how doing it by tracking your behavior.

That means 2 things: 

1- Companies listen to players through data analysis

2- Player have powers

As a customer, we can have an impact on decisions made by companies. If you change your behaviors, they will change. Companies follow the money, that's the players' power. Players decide where they spend and for what reasons. If you are unsatisfied, don't pay and express yourself. Companies listen to their community, they don't want to lose you. 

Now if we go back to the question,  

''Can we really create a game with the main purpose of entertaining when we have to integrate monetization mechanics ?'' 

My answer is yes, but .... 

We as designers need to innovate and create monetization options that will increase the gaming experience, not reduce it. We can offer customization options for looks. We can offer cooperation options such as guilds and community event, that way, paying increase the players experience, but also the whole community experience. We often forget about Ads. Even if it is not a spending, video ads create incomes from both paying and non-paying and stays fair for all the players. Some players will like being rewarded to watch ads. They don't feel pressured to spend, but still generate incomes.

There are a lot of options out there and I think it's our duty to find them if we want F2P to evolve and if we want to design entertainment instead of money grabber.  






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