Microtransactions are fueling numerous free-to-play MMOs -- in some cases, quite nicely, and they pull their weight with social networking games as well. But is there potential for microtransactions revenue in the single-player Flash game space, too?
There's nothing stopping developers from leveraging this business model in Flash games, says a new Gamasutra feature
. Several developers share stories of how they've made it work for them:
Ninja Kiwi built SAS with MochiCoins in mind, having rejected the idea of funding the game using pre-game advertising exclusively, as in its earlier games.
"That model just hasn't delivered for several reasons," Harris observes. "One obstacle is getting the advertisers to understand how it works; another is that our games are played all over the world and, in places like China where we're really popular, our CPMs looked pretty pitiful -- almost zero because none of the information on how to buy things is in Chinese. Obviously localization became a problem."
And so, since SAS launched in mid-June, it has made between 20 and 30 cents CPM on advertising -- compared with the average $3.60 per thousand game plays that it has generated, through over 50,000 completed transactions for premium weapon packs and level upgrades.
What does it mean to design with microtransactions in mind from the get-go? Microsoft designer and Lost Garden blogger Daniel Cook chimes in:
Games that are well-optimized for microtransactions do much better, he says, which may mean that they are designed with a longer play cycle in mind.
"The majority of gamers tend to start purchasing after a week or two of play," he explains. "If your game is only capable of, say, an eight-minute play cycle, it's going to be more difficult to convert players into paying customers. That's why the games on Facebook, for instance, are doing so well -- those games tend to have longer game cycles."
Cook suspects we'll soon see a return to what used to be called the "shareware" business model that Apogee Software, Epic Games, and other publishers embraced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1991, for instance, gamers would get the first third of, say, Duke Nukem for free and would have to pay for the subsequent two-thirds of the game.
"It just shows you that nothing has changed much in almost 20 years," Cook says. "Developers are still saying, okay, we're going to give you a great gaming experience but, if you want more, you're going to have to pay. The method of doing this has slightly changed, of course, but the basic idea keeps getting rediscovered every time there's a new electronic distribution platform."
The two biggest questions, says Cook, is whether gamers will pay for the additional content... and will there continue to be a user backlash against the system?
The full feature
has more success stories from this promising model for Flash games (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).