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F2P Games: The Difference Between Paying and Non-Paying Players
by Ulyana Chernyak on 02/21/14 05:02:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

One of things that makes the F2P consumer base unique is that each consumer invests different amount of money into the game. In F2P games, players invest as much money as they seem fit: Therefore, some consumers may invest a lot of money into a game while other may invest nothing. Most developers welcome this, but regardless they would obviously prefer if all consumers invested into their game. Xsolla takes a look at the difference between paying and non paying players, and how developers can strike a balance between these two.

Players – Who Are They?

Before focusing on having a high amount of paying players developers need to simply focus on obtaining an audience.This information is hard to come by because each developer has a different opinion over what an “active” user is. Most studies however focus on two groups that represent a video game’s audience. These groups are called Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU). MAUs are consider to be the best way to understand how big your user base is. DAUs are also important, but they are best used to figure out how a game could possibly change in order to increase your MAUs.

Game apps with the highest MAU’s are developer King’s Candy Crush Saga and developer Zynga’s Farmville 2. These are two very successful social games that have strong active userbases. These games remain active for years, and have become some of the most successful video games in history. While DAUs can represent a popular or unpopular change in your game, it never fully shows how popular your game is. They’re many games that have had a high DAU for 1 week, but dramatically fall in popularity soon after. The key is developing a product that consumers want to play constantly. Paying attention to your consumers is a key role in creating a high MAU. OnceF2P developers have a healthy community, they can proceed focus on how to raise the amount of paying players while still keeping customer satisfaction.

Monetization Model

“Pay to Win” is one of the criticism that the F2P market constantly receives. This phrase typically refers to a game that follows a “free to play” model, but gives severe disadvantages to players who don’t pay. Many consumer don’t like games that do this, and these games usually end up becoming failures due to consumer dissatisfaction. While it may seem like a smart idea to give a lot of advantages to paying players, it doesn’t make consumers happy. Games like World of Tankfocused on not creating a “Pay to Win” atmosphere with their main focus being to give incentives rather then advantages. These games have mostly been successful because the product keeps the consumer’s choice open. When a game advertises itself as being “Free to Play” consumers want to know that at any point they could not invest in the product and still have fun. When the consumer doesn’t feel forced to buy microtransaction, they will invest in them more because they want to.

Payment Methods

Payment methods also play a key role into this because consumers will only invest money in the product if they can. If certain payment methods are not offered, there will be a lot less paying consumers simply because they can’t pay with their method of choice. This can become a major issue because it simply doesn’t allow money to get through: Regardless if the F2P Game has a large audience or not. Lets take a look at how a developer can use this info to their advantage.

Developer A has released their new F2P game worldwide. Their game has been moderately successful, but the developers are looking for new ways to enlarge the game’s audience. Firstly, they decided to include mobile payment methods: Which seemed to drastically raise the DAUs.  In response, Developer A decided to focus on offering more payment methods and solutions, which ended up raising their MAUs.

However, Developer A also decided to add in game micro-transaction that gave players advantages over non paying players. While they thought this would raise the amount of paying players it ended up drastically dropping their DAUs. In response, the developers decided to revamp the game’s mechanics and offered micro transaction that didn’t give gameplay advantages. These changes raised the DAUs and MAUs, and Developer A went on to further balance the experience. In addition, negative criticism for the game started to lower drastically. By looking at these points, Developer A was able to successfully address the issues the that come with balancing the amount of paying and non paying players.

In summary, all of these points show the difference between paying and non paying players and how developers can balance their community. Developers need to focus on creating a high amount of MAUs in order to have audience that can invest in their product. To get that audience,  the F2P games need to not follow the “Pay to Win” strategy, and instead focus on offering incentives that don’t give certain players an advantage over others. In order to help balance this, developers can look at DAU data to figure out when their game spiked in popularity; which can help them find popular changes.

Developers also need to make sure that players have the chance to invest money into the game by offering a variety of payment methods. Consumers will not invest money into F2P games if their payment method isn’t supported, regardless of the incentives offers. Players will typically invest money into F2P games when it is of their choice and available to them. Players will not invest money into  a game if the game has a lack of payment options, lack of immediately exciting incentives, or simply because they choose not to. While the amount of paying and non paying players fluctuates between each game, these issues should help developers have a balance community.


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