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(Posted Friday 8th of April 2016 on the DevBlog) Today, we want to share with you our view on a delicate topic: how we plan to monetize our game. Monetizing an online game is a difficult exercise: if it's not profitable, it dies quickly. If it's overpriced, it turns off players and the game dies as well. Adding the fact that there is no monetization model fitting perfectly for every type of game and this can give a quite serious headache to make it right, even when the guys in charge have experience in the field. Finding the adequate equilibrium is never easy. We have given a lot of thoughts on the topic, collected feedback from the community and listed a number of related critical points and checked how each model is adapted for each of them. We wanted to share our conclusion with you. Being able to play the game without spending money Nowadays, this is an unavoidable topic when it comes to start playing a new game. This is something everybody would appreciate. It's possible in some context, but there is always some inconveniences to balance it. But let's see how each model can answer to this point: Free to Play (F2P) This model has been created around this very idea. It gives the opportunity to gather a bigger community and it becomes easier for players to find people to play with. However, it is very difficult to apply it flawlessly, and it's not always a fitting model for a game for many reasons, as you will see below. Buy to Play (B2P) This model is completely the opposite. Even if sometimes you can test for a very short amount of time the game (limited in game time and/or gameplay), a player will have to pay the whole game at some point, and it might be a paywall that turns off players with a low budget. Pay to Play (P2P) This model has evolved through the last decade and yes, it has become possible to play a game for free with a P2P model in its latest form, where the subscription fee can be optional. This evolution have already been successfully implemented by major MMO games, in particular Eve Online (the PLEX system) and it's the one we are interested in. How is this possible? In any MMO community, there are generally two player categories: those with a small/tight budget for games but a lot of free time and those who have a limited time to play games but a significant budget for them. Many activities in a MMO require a significant amount of in-game money. Acquiring a large sum of in-game money takes time. Players with a limited game time generally want to skip that step if they can. The system offers them to buy a token worth a monthly sub and trade it with another player for in-game money. Players with a low budget for games can play for free if they invest enough time in the game and gather a large amount of in-game money to buy a token from a player selling one. As there is also a free trial period, a player who is really active may gather enough in-game money before the end, and continue to play without having to spend a cent. Basically, this is the reward for contributing to the in-game Economy. Everybody wins. Responsibilizing players for their actions Most of the players interact nicely between them without feeling obligated to do so but a small part always like to cause trouble (especially harassment or cheating), just to annoy other people or to gain an unfair advantage. In general, the Terms of Service (ToS) and more specifically End User Licence Agreements (EULA) exist for the troublemakers. To discourage them to generate chaos in a community, the rules put in place need to be efficient, and all models are not equal in this regard. Free to Play This is one of the biggest weakness of the F2P model: Most of the troublemakers are players who do not spend money in the game. As they haven't spent any money, they generally don't care if their account(s) are banned. They just have to recreate new ones and can continue with the same behavior. Buy to Play In a B2P structure, a player wanting to make trouble will think twice before creating disorder in the community, if their account can be banned and they lose the money they invested to buy the game. Of course, this won't make such behavior disappear completely. There are still a few people who will behave badly no matter what, but most troublemakers will refrain themselves if they have something to lose. Pay to Play On recent P2P games some features are locked on trial accounts (especially features that could be abused to gain advantages with an unlimited number of accounts or harass other players). Once the player has invested a significant amount of time in the game or paid for it, they are no longer in trial mode. Hence if the player start a ruckus, they have something to lose. Getting a high-quality Customer Support For a MMO game, Customer support is an important aspect that can make the difference between a player who stays and a player who leaves. Customer support is there to help players to solve any problems they have, be it a bug (in which case CS transmit it to the devs), a question, or a conflict with another player. Again, all monetization models are not equally designed to handle the task. Free to Play F2P games usually have a number of players far more important than the size of the customer support team can handle. The size of the customer support team is dictated by the global income of the company, where the size of the community is not. This tends to degrade the quality of the support, as trade-offs have to be made to handle the increasing number of requests. Buy to Play Due to the fact that each player must pay for the game, the customer support team will be able to better manage the number of requests they have from the community as a part of the money coming from each sale can be allocated to financially support the customer support team. However, for an MMO (for which we can hope a very long life, like a decade or even more) this might cover the first years but after that, the situation will be the same as the F2P game, where the sustainability of the game will rely only on the players spending in a possible Cash Shop, unless a paid DLC or expansion system is put in place to generate revenue. Pay to Play This is the only long-term, healthy way to support financially high quality Customer Support. If budgeted well, the Customer Support team should be proportional to the size of the community and should be able to handle all players without prioritizing or favoring some players before others. Having a regular income is justified for permanent Customer Support. It's also true for other production costs like, for example, server maintenance (some MMO games have cheap server maintenance costs while other have expensive ones. It all depends on the amount of computation power needed on the server side. And on a game like Dual Universe, it will be far from trivial. This is the drawback for handling technological challenges). So what's the conclusion? We have synthesized a bit all the things that were taken into account, but you have here all the main reasons why we are aiming toward a Pay to Play model. In a nutshell, here's what we have planned: Free Trial period: between 2 and 4 weeks. Monthly subscription (optional with a PLEX-like system) Possible (cosmetic only) Cash Shop. If deployed, we will make it in order that every month, players who have paid a subscription will be able to get some cash shop items for free. Of course, we will remain open to discussion on this topic like any other: don't hesitate to give us your feedback on the Social Media and/or on the forum! The Novaquark Team.
From what I have read in devblogs I got impression that though the monetization model has not been decided yet, still the subscription of some kind is the way the developers are mostly inclined to go to. And I have read a lot of responses from potential players who tell, that they don’t like the idea about implementation of subscription as they have limited time to spend in game, therefore they would waste their money if they’ll be paying for whole month and will have time to play only few hours a day or even few days a month at all. Therefore the best solution IMO would be to give them option to buy the time they actually play – they would not feel wasting their money on game that they do not play and still they would have ability to subscribe. Other thing is that if the person buy only few hours of game time and it will cost him just small amount it might be problematic to sell it as transaction cost remains the same as if he pay for a monthly subscription, thus at some point it’s not cost effective to sell small installments of game time. I see the solution in making it possible to pay the same amount as the full month of game time would cost (or what ever the lowest subscription plan will be chosen) but make it possible for player to choose if he wants to pay for the full month, or he wants to play at a certain time and pay only for that time. It can be done that if the person decides to pay for the time he actually plays, he would pay at higher rate than it would be if he just choose ordinary monthly subscription, but still he could use his time more effectively. For example person has time to play game only on weekends Saturday-Sunday. This is prime time in game and server loads are the highest at that time, so it makes sense, that the rate that he’ll need to pay at will be double – he’ll get just 15 days of game time for the same price that would cost an ordinary subscription for 30 days. But still he would be able to play game for almost 2 month (on weekends only though). In my opinion that would make both game developer and the player satisfied. Other thing, speaking about the server load and price for the time on it – even in a global server where everyone play in virtually same shard there are prime time when the server load is highest and there is lover load at a certain time. For instance experience of EvE Online (which is well known to developers of DU as I have seen) shows that the prime time on a global server is from around 15:00 untill 21:00 GMT. And the lowest load is from the early morning untill about 11-12 at GMT as this is the time when European players are at work/school and NA players are sleeping/waking up/going to work, so naturally there is a gap in a load. Taking that into account it might make sense if you would implement option to pay for the actual time in game, to diversify the rate according to the time when the player is playing: if he plays at weekend and during the prime time he pays higher rate and if he plays when the server is less loaded, he pays at bit lower rate. That would make players to feel that they are being billed more fair and in some cases may be it would even distribute the load on servers. This diversification in payment models would require come additional coding and so on, but I think that for the developer who tries to implement the most modern technologies anyway it should not be big challenge. And the happy customers making wider auditory of subscribers should really cover the cost of development of this system.