I read an article today titled “3 rules for Freemium game devs“. The rules were as followed:
Player must enjoy the game without having to pay.
MicroTransaction should NOT affect game balance.
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?