The Power of Free-To-Play


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Adrian Crook's speech at GDC 2008, entitled "The Power of Free To Play". Focuses on free to play revenue models in games, design tips, growth challenges and market trends. More info at

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  • Hello and welcome to the talk I gave at GDC 2008 on Mon Feb 18 at 2 pm at the worlds in motion summit entitled The Power of Free to Play. That’s a very Anthony Robbins-esque title, I’m not very much of an Anthony Robbins-esque speaker, but I’ll do my best.
  • The Power of Free-To-Play

    1. The Power of Free To Play
    2. Adrian Crook [email_address]
    3. “ Free” In the Real World
    4. Free To Poop No cost to public or taxpayers Providers recover costs/profit via ads on exterior
    5. Free To Rock Download only launch Free / Name Your Price 40% conversion $3M revenue Still debuted at #1
    6. Free To Fly Nearly free, 5€ flights across Europe Airline derives revenue from cargo, incidentals, etc
    7. Back to games…
    8. What is Free To Play? <ul><li>NOT a genre </li></ul><ul><li>NOT a platform </li></ul><ul><li>Numerous revenue models </li></ul><ul><li>Players play without paying </li></ul><ul><li>Increased player base allows for alternate monetization </li></ul>
    9. KartRider 160M users world-wide
    10. Runescape $60M annual revenue
    11. Webkinz 7M unique users per month 340% growth in 1 year
    12. Club Penguin Bought by Disney for $700M
    13. All Eyes On Free The Battle for Attention NPD: 91% of kids PC Online gaming = f2p
    14. Current F2P Revenue Models
    15. Virtual Item Sales <ul><li>Unlimited ARPU – users decide ceiling </li></ul><ul><li>Value drivers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rarity/price </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visibility </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Dual currency systems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Attention-based </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real money-based </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Basics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>5-10% conversion rate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Functional, decorative, consumeable, etc </li></ul></ul>
    16. Merchandise <ul><li>Barbie Girls </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9.5M users in 9 months </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Webkinz </li></ul><ul><ul><li>$20M retail in 24 months </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Maple Story CCG </li></ul>
    17. Information Sale <ul><li>Food Fight </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Surveys for Vcash </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Potential </li></ul><ul><ul><li>36K users daily </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avg 2 surveys/user </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>25c per survey </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>$18K/day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ANNUAL: $6.6M </li></ul></ul>
    18. Other Revenue Models <ul><li>Advertising </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Banners, PPC, Video, Sponsored Items </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Auctions/Player Trades </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Live Gamer, Entropia, Station Exchange </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Subscription Tiers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>RuneScape, Club Penguin, DR </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Event/Tournament Fees </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shot Online (Golf), Ultimate Baseball </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Real Estate/Land Use Fees </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SL, Entropia </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Affiliate </li></ul><ul><ul><li>TrialPay, $uperRewards </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Donations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kingdom of Loathing </li></ul></ul>More on
    19. Looking Forward…
    20. F2P Design Tips <ul><li>Respect the free players! </li></ul><ul><li>Support integrated graphics </li></ul><ul><li>Be browser-based (or small dl) </li></ul><ul><li>Offer regional payment systems </li></ul><ul><li>Provide short compulsion loops </li></ul><ul><li>Defer user sign up </li></ul>
    21. F2P Growth Challenges <ul><li>Virtual property </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Linden v Bragg </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Slow broadband </li></ul><ul><ul><li>6mbps US vs 45mbps Korea </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Rising dev costs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Battlefield Heroes </li></ul></ul>
    22. F2P Growth Challenges <ul><li>Second Life slowdown </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Electric Sheep layoffs; UX issues </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Secondary markets </li></ul><ul><ul><li>IGE; unsanctioned item sales </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Kids-only games </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NPD: After 18, kids leave F2P </li></ul></ul>
    23. F2P Trends & Opps <ul><li>New F2P platforms: social networks, iPhone </li></ul><ul><ul><li>$upercash, EA Blueprint </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Breaking down the walled garden model </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Metaplace, WoW Armory, DR Char AP </li></ul></ul><ul><li>NPD top sellers as F2P games </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ We’re looking at the sort of game that five, six or seven years ago , they would have been putting in a box and selling on retail shelves. With the new technology, we can deliver this through the browser.” – Mark Faulkner, Jagex </li></ul></ul>
    24. Adrian Crook [email_address]