A quick guide through microtransactions and free-to-play

Although microtransactions and free-to-play look like the flavor of the month, they have been part of the industry for years, garnering enthusiasts and critics alike. Part of the prejudice around this type of monetization comes from many poor implementations and a lot of excessive use.


However, when the free-to-play approach is well crafted and an inherent part of a game, it can be successful not only for the companies, but also for the players, reaching a broader audience and catering the experience to different needs.

Given that now even Nintendo is experimenting with free-to-play, I thought it was a good moment to bring the Extra Credits team to give a quick guide through the art of microtransactions.

Hearthstone (2014)

Hearthstone (2014)

In this 9-minute video they cover why you should allow non-paying players to earn hard currency, and at the same time, why you should never sell power, but convenience. There other practical tips as well:

  • Make the game more enjoyable.
  • Make paying more palatable.
  • Make the whole experience feel cohesive.
  • Never split your community.
  • Market test your prices.

In summary, always keep your monetization model in mind when building your game.

Here’s the video:


Nintendo’s first free-to-play experiments

Nintendo's RustyLately, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has been a lot in the news, be it to address the company’s surprising annual loss or to outline some of its next steps, including the much-commented possibility of expanding its business to smart devices. Everything had a refreshing honest approach:

The way people use their time, their lifestyles, who they are have changed. If we stay in one place, we will become outdated.

It is our intention to release some application on smart devices this year that is capable of attracting consumer attention and communicating the value of our entertainment offerings, so I would encourage you to see how our approach yields results.

Apparently, the moment of truth is here (or at least, part of it), as  Nintendo is starting to chart the free-to-play waters with Steel Diver: Sub Wars and Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball. Both of them are exclusive for the 3DS eShop.

  • Steel Diver: Sub Wars is a submarine-based first-person shooter.
Steel Diver: Sub Wars

Steel Diver: Sub Wars

Its free version offers a couple of submarines, some singleplayers and the multiplayer mode. Paying $10 unlocks the rest of the game. In other words, the Steel Diver: Sub Wars’ free-to-play approach looks a lot like a demo.

Steel Diver: Sub Wars' free-to-play approach

Steel Diver: Sub Wars‘ free-to-play approach

  • Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, in turn, is a collection of baseball-related minigames, and is scheduled for April (it was originally released in August for the Japanese market).
Rusty's Real Deal Baseball

Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball

The game comes with some free minigames, but additional ones must be unlocked by paying $4 for each of them. However, here the free-to-play approach comes with a tweak: the players can bribe the shop owner (Rusty) to get a real discount on each minigame.

(…) Players can purchase additional mini-games in a unique way: by haggling to lower the real-world price for each downloadable game. Additional games start at $4 apiece, but giving Rusty items or listening to his problems might improve his mood and motivate him to offer steep discounts.

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball's bargain system

Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball’s bargain system

In the year in which Sony and Microsoft have a lot of guaranteed press coverage because of their new consoles, Nintendo is doing a remarkable effort to stay relevant. Fortunately for us, so far every announcement seems to be part of a bigger strategy.

We’ll see how this attempt at free-to-play works for Nintendo. The good news is that, putting the monetization experiment aside, both games look fun.

Source: Gamasutra

Sony offers a single subscription for all its MMOs

Starting April 02, Sony Online Entertainment will offer a single membership plan called All Access, that will cover all its MMOs (EverQuestEverQuest IIDC Universe Online PC, PlanetSide 2 PC, VanguardSaga of Heroes, and the upcoming EverQuest Next and EQN Landmark).

For $14.99 a month (with extra savings for 3, 6 and 12 month plans), subscribers will be able to:

  • Claim 500 Station Cash monthly from within the game marketplaces.
  • Receive a 10% discount on marketplace purchases.
  • Gain access to exclusive promotions and offers throughout the year.

Besides, all players with existing memberships will be automatically upgraded into the new plan. As IGN points out, free-to-play members will still be able to play games without paying for them and the new consolidated payment options are only available on PC right now.

I’m interested to see how this single subscription model works. As I see it, lowering the barriers for those who want to play (at least) more than one MMOs is a clear vote of confidence for the free-to-play model. Why? Because now the only way to monetize those players (outside the single $14.99 subscription fee) will be through in-app purchases, as they will be spending less per game. Of course, those who only play one MMO won’t see any change.

In the end, it’s about giving people more for their money.

Source: SOE Community

League of Legends made $624 million last year

League of Legends (Riot Games’ hit MOBA) continues its hugely successful run, having earned $624 million during 2013 (its 4th year in the market). The game is free-to-play, so the earnings came 100% from in-app purchases. However, that number wasn’t enough to make it the most lucrative online PC game, as it was surpassed by CrossFire, SmileGate’s first-person military shooter, which earned $957 million during 2013.

If we divide the top 10 free-to-play earners by publishers, the Chinese giant Tencent is the clear winner, having a combined annual gross of $1,581 million and holding the top 2 spots. The South Korean developer Nexon comes second, with 3 of the top 10 slots and an $873 million annual income.

  1. CrossFire (Tencent/SmileGate) – $957 million
  2. League of Legends (Tencent/Riot Games) – $624 million
  3. Dungeon Fighter Online (Nexon) – $426 million
  4. World of Tanks (Wargaming.net) – $372 million
  5. Maplestory (Nexon) – $326 million
  6. Lineage (NCSoft) – $257 million
  7. World of Warcraft (Activision/Blizzard) – $213 million
  8. Star Wars: The Old Republic (Electronic Arts) – $139 million
  9. Team Fortress 2 (Valve) – $139 million
  10. CounterStrike Online (Valve/Nexon) – $121 million

It’s important to note that the study doesn’t include paid subscriptions, so World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic have even bigger earnings.

Source: SuperData

Apple to pay more than $30 million for kids’ in-app purchases

Apple has agreed to refund consumers for at least $32.5 million for in-app purchases made by kids without parental consent.

Under the terms of the settlement with the FTC, Apple failed to tell parents that, by entering their password, they open a 15-minute window in which children can purchase unlimitedly.

Besides, the original complaint alleges that Apple’s password screen doesn’t explain to the account holder that password entry will confirm a purchase.

Besides, according to the FTC report, “Apple also will be required to change its billing practices to ensure that it has obtained express, informed consent from consumers before charging them for items sold in mobile apps.”

Source: Inside Mobile Apps