Tag Archives: Free to Play

22 Jan

Ad to Cash and Ad to Fun Ratio in Free To Play Games

Ad To Cash Ratio - moWOW studios

I was reading the other day about Crossy Road and how they made 1 million dollar from video ads.  In the past few months I’ve seen better and better integration between games and ads where currency is being replaced with watching a 15 second video or a banner.

It got me wondering what is the ad to cash ratio in these games and if there is any average or standard to it.  In other words many ads must a player watch to match a $0.99 IAP? Here’s a few games that I tested out and their ratios: Read More

02 Apr

A weird conflict of interests in free to play games


For a free to play game to generate revenue, it must attract and keep players playing.  If the player finds it fun, he will stay more.

Yet despite this, most mobile f2p games that we make interrupt this with blocks and hard gates and “share/invite to continue”.  So we are the ones that are blocking that which would keep the players longer in the game.

On one side we have the games in which you “have to wait for it” whatever the it is (gems, builders, a house, etc.) and on the other we have the you “have to work for it” ones where you have to grind or play more in order to get what you want.

In the “wait for it” scenario, you can either wait, or pay to rush it. You can do something in the meantime, but that is only at lower levels. Later in the game you usually change the account or switch to another game.

In the “work for it” scenario,  you can still continue playing if you don’t want to pay. You don’t really have IAPs that delay the game here.  Instead, they enhance the experience, simplify a process, increase inventory, raise chances for specific actions, vanity/cosmetics and the sorts. You can play on without paying for a long time, and (very important) still have fun doing so, but you can vary and grow that fun through the IAPs.

Some examples of “work for it”:

  • Magic: The Gathering – you can play with your current cards and challenge people, but you still want more creatures and packs to diversify your deck.
  • SmallWorld 2– You can buy new race packs (not that it would need any more honestly)
  • SpaceTeam – You buy different missions, costumes, alien hieroglyphs
  • Letterpress – You unlock playing with everyone + cosmetics

There is also another issue that I have with the delay/waiting mechanics: if a person is waiting on the bus or on a train or on the toilet or on a plane, and he/she wants to play now, if my game doesn’t let him play, he will most surely play something else.  What that means is that tomorrow, he’ll probably start the other game first and not mine.

By letting the person play more, he also gets more invested in the game. One of the reasons why it’s hard to convince someone owning an iOS device to switch to another system is that he/she loses all those 10.000 apps that he has bought or installed.  He has invested a lot and has a lot more to lose than just a different system and different interface. This is also what can happen, to a certain extent, with players in your game. By investing more of their time, by them gaining more items, their hero reaching a high level, it becomes harder for them to leave and also makes them think about spending more on their pleasure.

Finally, letting them play gives you more time to show them the value of the IAPs. The game creates the fun and it also creates needs for the player that can obviously be satisfied via play or IAPs.

So don’t delay. Let them play.

P.S. That goes for us as well… starting with our next game. We learned this the hard way.



01 Apr

No, there is no Bitcoin mining in “The Way Home”, just April Fools

Several hours ago we published and promoted an article stating that we had made over $3000 dollars in revenue from mining Bitcoin when people played our iOS game.

For those who actually thought we were capable of such things – Yes, it was April Fools. We don’t have any code for mining Bitcoin in any of our games and we probably will never have. We have ethical dilemmas when it comes to applying and implementing  IAPs in general.

So why did we choose this topic? Why did we choose the Bitcoin mining in games/apps? Well, here are a few reasons:

  1. Some people have already done this without notifying or telling the users about it. Fundamentally that is wrong. It is even more so when the mining drains your phone’s battery and uses 100% of your CPU and GPU.

  2. After the few incidents that did occur with devs mining Bitcoin without notice (and sadly some are probably still doing it), people will be searching for more info on how to do it (again, sadly). Hopefully, they will come across this post and all your comments on Hacker News / Reddit / Facebook and hopefully refrain from doing such things.

  3. The idea of having a passive monetization mechanic was intriguing to us. We always try and build the game and the monetization/IAPs so that the player’s experience is not interrupted. We hate bad experiences. You are finally enjoying the game and then an ad pops up. Or you’re in the middle of a story and then you need to pay to read the rest.

Bitcoin will not be the answer to our third question, but we are curious whether it is possible in some way for the player (having been fully informed) to trade off some of the processing power of the phone in order to gain money in the game.

The best April Fools’ pranks that we experienced (suffered) were the ones that were half believable. That is why we also chose this topic. You wouldn’t have believed us if we said that we bought EA. No hard feelings.

As for actually having a chance of mining Bitcoin on your iPhone or iPad, it might take around 30.000 days to strike such luck.

 There were some interesting talks on this topic on Hacker News.

01 Apr

How playing “The Way Home” earns us revenue by mining Bitcoin


Because of the nature of our newest title, “The Way Home”, an arcade game play meets a time traveling story, we knew that players would spend a longer time in the game. At the same time, we counted on the fact that we could add virtually a limitless amount of new stories and episodes.

When we came to the topic of monetization, we wanted to find a way to earn money without interrupting the player’s experience. That is when the idea of mining for Bitcoin came up.

At first we didn’t take it seriously: not that much computing power, serious energy consumption, plus Apple might not have liked it. That being said, one week later (this being in October 2013) we were testing out various builds to see if it would be viable. Sure enough, with certain limitations and constraints, it was. “Meet play to pay”.

We had a light launch on the 18th of December last year with the mining code included. Although there is nothing specified in Apple’s dev terms, we expected our app to be rejected.  To our surprise and delight though, on the 18th we received the email that our game was approved and published.

Since then, we’ve been mining through all the active devices. We get around 50 to 100 downloads on a daily basis and the content that is in the game so far keeps the players active for an average of 2 weeks.  At present, “The Way Home” has earned just a bit over $3000 by mining.

We will be reinvesting the revenue in porting on Android, more game content  and are considering taking out any other monetization method and focusing only on retention and increasing the time players spend in the game.

We find that mining Bitcoin is a better and more passive way as opposed to coin doublers, hard gates, lives or other IAPs (since there is no annoying the player).

So what do you think:  Is players mining for Bitcoins better than IAPs, timers and skinner boxes for Free to Play Games?

 UPDATENo, there is no Bitcoin mining in “The Way Home”, just April Fools.

P.S. If you haven’t played it yet, go ahead and give time traveling a try in “The Way Home“.



31 Mar

What IAPs have you bought and why?

Pocket trains

I read an article today titled “3 rules for Freemium game devs“. The rules were as followed:

  1. Player must enjoy the game without having to pay.

  2. MicroTransaction should NOT affect game balance.

  3. People need to fall in love with your game first.

Very sound rules that make sense and that me and Tudor also strive to uphold and respect. However, I felt like there was something missing.

It is very true and very important that the IAPs in the game do not affect game balance in any way.  However, I think that for revenue and profits, it is equally important that the game proves the value of the IAP to the player.

If a player reaches a point in your game where he is presented with items or taken to the shop (with the purpose of him purchasing. We are not talking about the tutorial) and by that time the game has not “explained” why that power up or extra life or extra inventory slot or map or hint is valuable, the player will not buy.

That part of the game, from the first screen, tutorial, first levels and up until the first purchase prompt is in a way your sales pitch. The game is the one that creates meaning and builds up value for the IAPs.

Here are three examples:

1. The Walking Dead – the first chapter is free. By the end of the first chapter, you have several certainties about the game: the quality and entertainment value of the game, how long a chapter is and that you want to find out what happens next. The funny part here is that with each chapter, you invest more in the game and implicitly, you have a stronger desire to play it all.

2. Word Mage – a pretty good combination of word game and battle RPG. You unlock powers by combining certain elements dropped by monsters you defeated. Your inventory space however is limited and that is where the IAP comes into play.  By the time you face this problem though, you are already 1-2 hours into the game with several powers unlocked.

3. Disco Zoo – a Zoo management game that also has a cool disco. You obtain new animals by rescuing them. You do that by tapping on a 5×5 tile map. Each animal has a different pattern though and you have a limited number of moves. Knowing the patterns for all the animals really helps. And that is what they are selling. For the first set of animals, you get the patterns for free = you are shown the value of this power up. After that, you are invited to buy the “Zoopedia”. In a way, you could say it is a better version of the classic coin doubler.

So I would add a sub rule to number 2 or an extra one:

Rule no. 2.01… or 4 – The game should create meaning and value for the IAPs (while respecting the first 3 rules).

Apart from the 3 examples above, what IAPs have you paid for (happily paid for without feeling bad about it) and why?