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Casual Connect United In Action - Monetization Design for Free-To-Play Games

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Casual Connect United In Action - Monetization Design for Free-To-Play Games

  1. 1. United In Action: Free-To-Play Monetization Design Dave Rohrl Owner, Mobile Game Doctor LLC
  2. 2. Goals • Overview of Free-To-Play Monetization Best Practices • Viewed from a design perspective • Long on case studies; light on numbers • Going broad on a variety of topics • Purchase motivations • Categories of items • Advanced selling techniques • Monetization optimization
  3. 3. Working Group • Dave Rohrl, Chair – Owner, Mobile Game Doctor • David Chiu – Owner, DC Game Consulting • William Grosso – CEO, Scientific Revenue • Bruce Harlick – Sr. Game Designer, Hangar 13 • Ethan Levy – Executive Producer, N3TWORK • Bryan Mashinter – Director of Product, Wooga
  4. 4. Ground Rules • Ask questions any time • Will do my best to answer • Slides available afterward
  5. 5. Why Free-To-Play
  6. 6. How the story is told
  7. 7. In successful F2P dev, these two functions are unified inside the dev team
  8. 8. So Why Free-To-Play? • Massive Audience • Ongoing Revenue • Evolving Product & Community • Best Revenue Potential • Lets Players Spend
  9. 9. Revenue Streams
  10. 10. Revenue Streams • Advertising • In App Purchases • Skill Gaming
  11. 11. Advertising • Pluses • Easy to insert and update • Wide variety of units • Easy to design for • Minuses • Hidden complexity • Lower total revenue
  12. 12. Advertising Types • Display • Traditional banner ads • Unobtrusive • Low rate of interaction • Very low CPM • Video • Current standard in mobile ads • Can proxy for IAP • Interfere with experience • Good CPMs • Good fill rate
  13. 13. Advertising Types • Interactive • Emergent • Rough representation of gameplay • Hard on UX • Amazing CPMs • Lower fill rate, gaining momentum
  14. 14. Hidden Complexity • Multiple networks & mediation • Custom deal negotiation • Surfacing • User experience • Competitive “leakage” • Additional tech issues (e.g. pre-caching)
  15. 15. How Much Money Can You Make • Steadily declining over time • Short answer – not enough to grow without IAP
  16. 16. In-App Purchases • Pluses • Enables large-scale spending • Single, consistent implementation (per platform) • Minuses • Low conversion rate • Challenging design • 30% platform tax
  17. 17. Virtual Currency • Use virtual currency • Funny money syndrome • Variable price points • Seed currency encouragement • Breakage
  18. 18. Alt-Money – Skill gaming • Pluses • Easy model • High ARPU • Minuses • Smaller market • Limited open platforms • Good for ad-supported games • See me for best practices 
  19. 19. Why Players Buy
  20. 20. Time & Convenience
  21. 21. Competitive Edge
  22. 22. Competitive Edge
  23. 23. What About “Pay To Win”? • Selling competitive advantage that cannot be gained without paying • Is this ever ok? • PvE vs PvP • Skill vs. engagement • Consider matchmaking progress • Be cautious of in-match
  24. 24. Power & Validation
  25. 25. Power & Validation
  26. 26. Group identity
  27. 27. Completing the collection
  28. 28. Vanity & self expression
  29. 29. Vanity & self expression
  30. 30. The joy of spending
  31. 31. The joy of spending
  32. 32. Top monetization motivators: • Time & convenience • Competitive edge • Power & validation • Group identity • Collection/completion • Self expression/vanity • Joy of spending
  33. 33. Mechanics of Monetization
  34. 34. Converting Why Into How • Emotions drive players to spend • You must give them stuff to spend on • Stuff must align well
  35. 35. Monetization 101 • One-Offs • Collectibles and Gacha • Consumables
  36. 36. One-Offs • One-time purchases that add permanent value to the game
  37. 37. One-Offs • Pluses • Clear value proposition • No purchase fatigue • Minuses • No recurring revenue • Fresh content can be expensive
  38. 38. Collectibles & Gacha • Large array of objects with variable rarity • Supported by explicit collection UI • Weighted random drops, often bundled
  39. 39. Hearthstone Cards Brawl Stars
  40. 40. Clash Royale Chests Dungeon Boss Summons
  41. 41. Collectibles and Gacha • Pluses • Highly repeatable • Can drive high spend • Minuses • Can feel discouraging • Need to stay ahead of content train
  42. 42. Warning: Gacha Legal Issues • Some view as slot machines for kids • Increasing regulatory environment • Disclosure requirements: • Started in China • Now part of iOS review guidelines
  43. 43. Consumables • Single use items • Consumed during gameplay • Kept in inventory
  44. 44. Candy Crush Saga Game of War Trailer Park Boys
  45. 45. Consumables • Pluses • Most repeatable • Low content load • Minuses • Easy to mis-balance • Value proposition must be strong
  46. 46. Monetization 202 • Events • VIP Status • Currency Subscriptions • Bundles
  47. 47. Events • Time-limited period with exclusive/additional rewards • Leveraging classic selling techniques • Urgency • Limited supply • Herding • Influence: The Power of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini • Beware of overuse/fatigue
  48. 48. Dungeon Boss
  49. 49. Currency Subscriptions • Compelling value proposition • Helps drive retention • Strongly encourages store interactions
  50. 50. Top Eleven
  51. 51. Loyalty Systems • Provide benefits in a variety of game areas • Tiered system with strong benefit ramp • Climb VERY slowly unless paying
  52. 52. Big Fish Casino
  53. 53. Bundles • Combined offers • Overwhelming value proposition • Custom offering logic
  54. 54. • Encourage player to make first purchase with a very attractive offer Juggernaut ChampionsAdCap and Best Fiends Forever Bundles – First-Time Buyers
  55. 55. Bundles: Time-Limited Offers Dungeon Boss
  56. 56. Office Space: Idle Profits Bundles: Event-Linked
  57. 57. Tactical Optimization
  58. 58. Shop UI ▪ Have all items in each section viewable without scrolling ▪ Easier for comparing packages ▪ Clearly call out bonuses for bigger packages ▪ Call out Most Popular and Best Deal packages
  59. 59. Minimize friction  increase conversion and ARPPU!
  60. 60. Shop Tutorial • Seed players with some hard currency at the beginning • Lead them to the shop • Guide them thru a “free” introductory purchase • Player gets a taste of the benefits of buying (like free samples at Costco!)
  61. 61. 1) Hard currency unlocked 2) Show players where they can spend them Almost a Hero
  62. 62. 3) Introduce to shop with free introductory purchase Almost a Hero
  63. 63. A/B Test EVERYTHING! ▪ During soft launch, conduct A/B tests to determine: ▪ Shop UI ▪ Optimal pricing tiers ▪ First Time Buyer Packages and Time Limited/ Event Bundles ▪ When to introduce ▪ Placement ▪ Price ▪ What’s in the bundle ▪ Expiration Dungeon Boss
  64. 64. Closing Thoughts
  65. 65. Closing Thoughts • Have a rich monetization technique blend • Understand your players’ motivations and needs • Deliver real value on every transaction to maintain user trust • Pay attention to your merchandising • Tactical optimization matters • Test everything
  66. 66. Thanks! Questions? Dave Rohrl Owner, Mobile Game Doctor LLC “We Make Your Games Better” dave@mobilegamedoctor.com

Editor's Notes

  • DR: Revisit at end
  • 42
    JUAN: Consolidate 38-45 into two slides

    And those evil, money grubbing suits are ruining all of gaming
  • 45
    JUAN: Consolidate 38-55 into two slides

    In order to succeed, you must embrace and internalize the thinking behind successful F2P businesses

    You must be designer and developer and pm and marketer, in order to succeed

    It is this integration of business function that drives frustration and angst with F2P
  • 25
    JUAN: Consolidate with slides 100-101

    ASK MANY AD NETWORKS WHAT THEIR CPM IS. VERIFY NUMBERS THEY QUOTE.

    When you sell advertising space, you get paid for impressions or views.
    When you buy advertising (later), you buy installs (or other actions)

    Declining? Yes. Lots and lots and lots of inventory out there. Especially when you start, your display inventory is of unknown value.

    Games supported by ads tend to rely on “organic” traffic
    By which we mean: SEO, featuring, word of mouth, …
    By which we don’t mean: users acquired via advertising
    The vast majority of games are ad-supported
    Many of these games make money, but they don’t make a lot of money
  • 36
  • 52
    JUAN: 2 case studies on convenience, including time-based pricing (Price-O-Tronic?)

    [image] time is money pack from Lords Mobile

    A major thing that F2P games sell is convenience and time savings. Often times, players are buying the amount of time it takes to become competitive.

    Think about your engaged players in three groups. Time rich, money poor players are those who love the game, are happy to play 8+ hours a day, and grind away to grow their in-game power and score high during events.

    Time poor, money rich players are those who want to compete, but don’t have time to match those blessed souls who can spend 8 hours a day playing. These players spend money to catch up.

    Then you have time rich, money rich players. Wouldn’t it be nice to be one of them? These players are the ones who can buy their way into power and then spend tons of time playing. These are usually the most competitive players in your game.
  • 54
    JUAN: Deep dive on advantages of two Marvel champs

    [image] the 5-star hero pack is advertised

    Many players have a thirst for competition, and a desire to get that validation they seek by proving that they are better than others

    They want a game to validate that they are the best at something, in their league, social group, country or even the world

    Top Grossing F2P games sell competitive edge that allow them to pursue this validation

    The common pattern is to sell something that gives you the chance for the most powerful cards in the game (often for a limited time)
    Pair that with an event where those characters give you a competitive edge
    The event is limited time and grants the top rewards in the game (as well as the validation of winning)

    In most games, you must be skilled, time-rich and money-rich in order to be the best in the world. Buying the cards alone won’t win you the competition. It will give you a chance to if you put in more time and are more skilled than other players who also own the competitive edge.

    Here’s an example from Marvel CoC. In this image from the home screen, you can see that they are advertising New 5-Star Heroes
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
  • 53
    JUAN: Need a more concrete example/case study

    [left] announcement of the first-ever Global Control Point event in Mobile Strike
    [right] celebrating AnyTwoWillDo the top player in Mobile Strike following their first-ever global control point event

    Videogames in general fill a deep rooted need for external validation

    All the rich audiovisual feedback and structure of games is there to validate the player, provide them with positive reinforcement for their actions that is rare in day-to-day life

    In F2P games, especially those with competitive edges, many times that validation comes from accumulating power and overcoming a challenge or another player

    Whether directly (like in GoW speed ups) or obfuscated (gacha in Yu-Gi-Oh duel links) F2P games sell the power that leads to validation

    For instance, in this global control point event, the guild Original Killer Crew must have spent gobs of money for the right to be crowned the best in the world, and most likely their player AnyTwoWillDo spent the most in order for this validation of being the best.

    Getting their name in a pop up may look trivial, but to the players who earn that validation it must feel sweeter than finally defeating that crazy-hard boss in Dark Souls III
  • 59
    JUAN: Break down info into more slides with more detail

    [Left] guild chat in Legendary
    [right] the guild War Beasts is celebrated for winning the first World Conqueror event

    Guilds/groups are one of the strongest forces in F2P games

    We (the devs) give players a hobby, and then provide them with a pier group with which to socialize about that hobby

    [for instance] in Legendary, players in top guilds frequently use line to call eachother daily. These players were complete strangers before the game.

    Players self select into groups, and their identity within that group can motivate them to spend
    Eg I am the MVP player in my group
    We are the best guild in the world
    We are a competitive guild that stays in the top 100 but doesn’t take itself too seriously

    As a player’s guild identity becomes more and more important to them, their behavior will change to reinforce that identity

    Another common tactic to de-stigmatize spending is to give everyone in the guild something when a player spends money. That way, a player feels like they are contributing not only to themselves, but also enriching their guild, when they spend money on IAP.
  • 58
    JUAN: Find a better example than Fire Emblem

    [left] summon portal marketing in Fire Emblem Heroes
    [middle] FEH advertises the drop rates of heroes in their packs. 5* focus (3%) are the advertised heroes in this pack
    [right] article from launch of FEH, player spends $1k in packs in pursuit of a specific character

    A common tactic of F2P games is to feature a wide array of heroes and release more over time, selling them through gacha packs

    Some players enjoy the thrill of collection for collection’s sake (or in combination with other motivations like power & competition). Or another way to think about it is that they are pursuing that competitive edge we talked about, but the hunt to complete the collection adds another layer of joy to the purchase.

    On the right, an article from the launch of Fire Emblem Heroes about a redditor upset they didn’t get a specific, beloved character after opening $1k worth of packs. In our experience, top paying players will spend more than that in pursuit of a specific character given the right circumstances and motivation
  • 60
    JUAN: Add one more example

    [image] Skins in honor of kings

    Many players enjoy the personalization and vanity elements, especially in those games where other players can see the thing you spent money on to personalize

    Famous in League of Legends, Overwatch, Honor of Kings and many others

    My word of caution is that cosmetic vanity items are generally low arpdau items. They do not make a large amount of revenue per player. Therefore if you want to run your business primarily on skins, you must have a massive audience (like Honor Of Kings, one of the world’s biggest games at the moment)

    If you don’t have a massive audience(or conversely, low operations costs) you are likely to go out of business if you try and sell vanity items alone because “you hate all that free-to-play crap”
  • 51
    JUAN: Replace with HS pack opening video + 1 more game (Clash Royale)?

    [image] card pack opening in hearthstone

    There’s a reason they call it retail therapy. For some of your players, spending money feels good. You don’t have to like it, but those are your customers.

    This feeling is enhanced in many instances by attaching pleasing audio/visual feedback to those moments of spending, such as elaborate card pack opening and reveal sequences

    Opening a collectible card pack (also known as gacha) inherently contains a pleasing tension and release of getting random rewards and occasionally getting something amazing
    For those unfamiliar with the word, Gacha just refers to opening a pack or box that contains variable rewards of different rarities. Depending on where you grew up, this may be most familiar to you as a card pack or as a capsule machine
    Gacha, card pack, loot crates are all interchangable terms
    Just think of it as a box that gives you some number of variable rewards

    There’s a reason Gacha (card pack/loot crate) games are so well represented in the top grossing charts. The act of spending can be rewarding, especially when you get a rare drop
  • 61
    JUAN: OMG! A good slide!
  • 62
    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)
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  • 92
    JUAN: Need 2 case studies
  • 93
    JUAN: Need an in-game example instead of this example
  • 94
    JUAN: Add game name
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    JUAN: Add game name
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    JUAN: Add game name
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    JUAN: Combine into previous section, adding ads/blockers & Gacha (plus legal issue section)

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