Where the Whales live: the
pyramid model of F2P design
N
Nicholas Lovell
GDC Next
Nicholas Lovell, GAMESbrief
• Author: The Curve, How to Publish
a Game, Design Rules for Free-toPlay Games
• Director, GAM...
This talk is a poster
The Funnel is familiar
• ACQUISITION: How do I
get people through the
door cost-effectively?
• RETENTION: How do I
keep pe...
How to maximise the Funnel

• Use metrics
• Maximise whales
• Eliminate freeloaders
What I say in Design Rules
Rule 7: Be free to play
forever

“I believe that you should
enable your gamers to
experience ne...
What about the superfans?

“Allow those who love what you do to spend
lots of money on things they truly value”
The Pyramid is new
• The Core Loop is the
beating heart of
your game
• The Retention
Game is what keeps
players playing
• ...
The Core Loop
The Core Loop
•
•
•
•
•

It’s the heart of the game
It’s what many would call “gameplay”
It’s ideal for prototyping
It’s w...
Core Loop
Core Loop
Core Loop
Core Loop
Core Loop
Core Loop
Core Loop
Core Loop
Core Loop
An apology
Core Loop
The core loop should be free
• If you use energy, use it elegantly
• “Come back this afternoon!” Not ‘pay up or
leave’.
• ...
The Retention Game
The Retention Game
• The Retention Game is what keeps people
coming back for more
• It can work over days, months, weeks o...
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention Game
Retention - summary
•
•
•
•
•
•
•

Score
High Score
Levels
Narrative
To get to the end
Completion
Progression

• Achieveme...
The perils of AAA
• AAA has tended to think of the Retention
Game as ASSETS
– Levels
– Artwork
– Narrative

• For F2P, DES...
Retention is the heart of F2P
• Retention is at the heart of the funnel, and at
the heart of the pyramid
• Track your rete...
The Superfan Game
The Superfan Game
• The Superfan Game is where a game becomes
a hobby
– A small proportion of your players
– A huge time c...
What makes a Superfan Game?
• Kongregate high ARPPU game:
– Mean spend $116; Median $16
– 40% of revenue comes from 2% of ...
Common features of a Superfan
Game
•
•
•
•
•

Guilds/leagues
Guild warfare or leaderboards
PvP (either synchronous and asy...
The Superfan Game
The Superfan Game
The Superfan Game
The Superfan Game
The Superfan Game
The Superfan Game
The Superfan game
The Superfan Game
• The Superfan Game may not be MVP
• The super-fan would not exist without
freeloaders
• Showing off, ha...
The Pyramid inverts the Funnel
• The Superfan Game is where the hobbyists live
• The Retention Game is the heart of your F...
The Pyramid and the Funnel
Continue the conversation
gamesbrief.com
@gamesbrief
@nicholaslovell
Get 30% off the poster:
Use GDCPOSTER
Thank you
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Where the Whales live: the pyramid model of F2P design

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Is monetization ruining F2P games? Funnel-driven design that aims to filter out freeloaders and squeeze the whales is not an inevitable result of the free-to-play business model. We need to build new models for visualizing how we can incorporate the full breadth of the customer demand curve. The pyramid is a way of putting into practice the goal of free-to-play game design: let anybody access your game, and allow people who love what you do to spend lots of money on things they truly value.

Published in: Design, Entertainment & Humor

Where the Whales live: the pyramid model of F2P design

  1. 1. Where the Whales live: the pyramid model of F2P design N Nicholas Lovell GDC Next
  2. 2. Nicholas Lovell, GAMESbrief • Author: The Curve, How to Publish a Game, Design Rules for Free-toPlay Games • Director, GAMESbrief • Clients have included: Square Enix, Channel 4, Channelflip, Exient, Firefly, Rebellion, Supermassive and many more • Masterclasses on F2P game design
  3. 3. This talk is a poster
  4. 4. The Funnel is familiar • ACQUISITION: How do I get people through the door cost-effectively? • RETENTION: How do I keep people coming back for more? • MONETISATION: How do I build moneymaking strategies into gameplay
  5. 5. How to maximise the Funnel • Use metrics • Maximise whales • Eliminate freeloaders
  6. 6. What I say in Design Rules Rule 7: Be free to play forever “I believe that you should enable your gamers to experience nearly all of your game for free. Make your game truly free”
  7. 7. What about the superfans? “Allow those who love what you do to spend lots of money on things they truly value”
  8. 8. The Pyramid is new • The Core Loop is the beating heart of your game • The Retention Game is what keeps players playing • The Superfan Game is where the whales live
  9. 9. The Core Loop
  10. 10. The Core Loop • • • • • It’s the heart of the game It’s what many would call “gameplay” It’s ideal for prototyping It’s where FUN lives Ideally, it would be short enough to pass the Starbucks test • And it’s free!
  11. 11. Core Loop
  12. 12. Core Loop
  13. 13. Core Loop
  14. 14. Core Loop
  15. 15. Core Loop
  16. 16. Core Loop
  17. 17. Core Loop
  18. 18. Core Loop
  19. 19. Core Loop
  20. 20. An apology
  21. 21. Core Loop
  22. 22. The core loop should be free • If you use energy, use it elegantly • “Come back this afternoon!” Not ‘pay up or leave’. • Engaged freeloaders should be able to play for free forever, even if there’s a wait mechanic.
  23. 23. The Retention Game
  24. 24. The Retention Game • The Retention Game is what keeps people coming back for more • It can work over days, months, weeks or years • It has been around in AAA games for decades, but F2P has some of its own twists
  25. 25. Retention Game
  26. 26. Retention Game
  27. 27. Retention Game
  28. 28. Retention Game
  29. 29. Retention Game
  30. 30. Retention Game
  31. 31. Retention Game
  32. 32. Retention Game
  33. 33. Retention Game
  34. 34. Retention Game
  35. 35. Retention Game
  36. 36. Retention Game
  37. 37. Retention Game
  38. 38. Retention - summary • • • • • • • Score High Score Levels Narrative To get to the end Completion Progression • Achievements • Appointment mechanics • Nested Loops • Quests
  39. 39. The perils of AAA • AAA has tended to think of the Retention Game as ASSETS – Levels – Artwork – Narrative • For F2P, DESIGN is more important – Systems – Mechanics – Emergent narrative
  40. 40. Retention is the heart of F2P • Retention is at the heart of the funnel, and at the heart of the pyramid • Track your retention rate, churn or duration • Don’t get to Alpha and say “Well, that’s the Core Loop nailed, now let’s tack the Retention Game on” • Learn to prototype the retention game • It will be the core of your success
  41. 41. The Superfan Game
  42. 42. The Superfan Game • The Superfan Game is where a game becomes a hobby – A small proportion of your players – A huge time commitment to the game • A different kind of game altogether: competitive, collaborative, highly social • This is where the biggest spending happens
  43. 43. What makes a Superfan Game? • Kongregate high ARPPU game: – Mean spend $116; Median $16 – 40% of revenue comes from 2% of players who spend >$1,000 – 90% of revenue from players spending $100 or more – Top whale has spent $6.7k • “Every high ARPU and high revenue game on Kongregatehas a strongly social and competitive end-game”
  44. 44. Common features of a Superfan Game • • • • • Guilds/leagues Guild warfare or leaderboards PvP (either synchronous and asynchronous) Visible status & character progression Guilds/leagues (it bears repeating)
  45. 45. The Superfan Game
  46. 46. The Superfan Game
  47. 47. The Superfan Game
  48. 48. The Superfan Game
  49. 49. The Superfan Game
  50. 50. The Superfan Game
  51. 51. The Superfan game
  52. 52. The Superfan Game • The Superfan Game may not be MVP • The super-fan would not exist without freeloaders • Showing off, having followers, being more skilled and more successful • Love your freeloaders! • “We treat every user as if they were a whale” – Robert Winkler, CEO 5th Planet Games
  53. 53. The Pyramid inverts the Funnel • The Superfan Game is where the hobbyists live • The Retention Game is the heart of your F2P game • The Core Loop is where the fun lives! • The free game is the foundation on which the rest of the Pyramid is constructed • The Pyramid and the Funnel are symbiotic
  54. 54. The Pyramid and the Funnel
  55. 55. Continue the conversation gamesbrief.com @gamesbrief @nicholaslovell Get 30% off the poster: Use GDCPOSTER Thank you
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