Not long ago a book just came out called Game as a Service that kind of explain a bit about this paradigm change that it’s not better or worst than seeing them as products it’s just a different and valid approach that fit’s better to the current market. A lot of people usually think about freemium when we talk about games as services but MMOs with a subscription model are also a service. The freemium in principle is not bad it’s just bad monetization design what it makes it bad.
Last year I went to the GDC Next and the guys from Start Treck MMO which uses a freemium model with a very special monetization design. They realized that there are two kind of players the ones that have plenty of time to play the game and the ones that can play just from time to time but have plenty of money to spend in the game. Now the interesting approach they took for the monetization design was to create two currencies one that you can get by paying cash and one that you can get just by playing. They established a non-regulated exchange rate system so the players could determine the exchange rate in the game that would let the system balance by itself. The last important point in their monetization design was that there are important items that you would only get by spending real cash and others that you would only get by spending time on the game.
A few months ago I was checking a game called Hay Day and with that game you can notice that there is nothing more powerful to engage any user that mechanics that make sense to the game you are developing. I have to say that I hate playing freemium games like Farmville or Candy Crush but I have to say that I really enjoyed playing Hay Day and there were to special things about Hay Day. One was the resources transformation flow the game has thus producing carrots or corn in the first place make sense because you want to produce food for you animals that will help you to get milk, eggs, wool or bacon which are needed to create other thing that you will end selling to get money to be able to buy something you want. Every single thing that you do in the game has a purpose and the fun is in managing that production pipeline the guy who progress faster is usually the guy that optimize this pipeline by optimizing resources like time. Other thing that Hay Day does pretty well is hiding content in other words the player can see a limited set of content and as the player progress new content is revealed this gives the user a feeling of refresh and creates an expectation to see the next thing which produces at the same time an incentive to keep playing the game.
I have hear big criticism to the freemium model by different people but even that I grew up in a time were games were developed mainly as products and that there are plenty of awful freemium games out there I insist that games as services is great as long as it has good mechanics to engage the player and a good monetization design which doesn’t destroy that fun. My perfect examples on how freemium games can be great even for the so called hard core gamers are DOTA 2 and League of Legends. Just DOTA 2 has accumulated 8 million dollars in prizes for it’s international championship and that’s just 25% of their sales.
In the next post I’ll talk about the “game evolution” and I will talk about how the transition from “games as products” to “games as services” took place.