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Game Flow Design of Traditional Freemium Model (Part 1)

Why the traditional model is bad, and why the trend is changing


Traditional freemium games have always relied on building a ton of obstacles, that users have to wade through, either via the proverbial 'grind' (free), or through paying with real-world money. It's almost comical how business teams are created within game companies, whose role is to think of ways to actually interrupt users gaming patterns, in order to sell them digital goods. The business teams would come up with a variety of different flows and funnels, test how each funnel would perform, and then optimize on that positive funnel even more by conducting split testing.

While I'm all for analyzing user behavior in games, I believe the trend is shifting towards a more direct approach to monetization. I believe players are now much more aware of spending, and gravitate their spending towards games that can provide them the best value, with least friction. They don't need business teams to guide them through a funnel, in order to get their dimes.

The old model of freemium games have always been about the chart above. I'm seeing newcomer game teams come up with entirely weird and effective flows, which take the user out of their mind-numbing zombie flow, and delivering the punchline to the games almost immediately.

Some interesting flows I've seen:

  • launch game, immediately introduce a conflict point with some neat storytelling. The value of the items are cleverly insinuated in the storyline
  • simulate a near-loss (eg: near-death) experience for the user's character, and slowly bring them up again by encouraging them to purchase items, with pre-allocated virtual currency
  • allow user to purchase items only at specified times (goes against the norm of letting users spend as much as they wish)

I predict 2015 will bring forth more creativity from smaller game teams, because they're able to innovate faster and try new ideas with much lower cost.

Part 2 of my blog post shall include more details on this.


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