As part of Gamasutra's latest feature, consultant Ramin Shokrizade pens some rules of monetization design -- based on his observations about the way players really act in games.
Microtransactions and the "pay to win" problem have caused headaches for game designers and players alike. The former have misstepped in how they introduce monetization elements in their games; the latter can feel alienated by the business model.
Shokrizade, a game industry consultant, writes that there are simple rules for applying monetization -- ones that make sense when you realize that "supremacy goods," or items which confer unassailable advantages on certain players, simply ruin the game and cause a downward spiral for monetization. He details this concept in his feature, but here, we've extracted his simple rules:
Don't allow microtransactions to be stacked an unlimited number of times. If you let someone buy a 50 percent boost an unlimited number of times, and they buy 40 of them, it will be like Godzilla stomping on Tokyo...
Make your price menu so simple that a novice will understand it the first time they read it. If reading the Encyclopedia Britannica is fun for you, you are so self-entertained that there is no game we can provide you that will make your life even better.
Allow multiple price points, but keep the number of choices a single digit at all times. If my eyes start bleeding and it takes me two days to read all the items in your premium store, I'm gonna make Santa put coal in your stockings. Remember, it's a game, not a Sears catalog.
Make them earn it (I also call this "play to pay"). No one wants to see a new player walking around with something it took you six months to earn. By the same token, a person will feel more prestige having something earned and paid for, rather than just paid for. Make them earn the item before you let them buy it.
Most virtual goods change in value over time. Most goods drop in value over time; some don't. How this works is a bit complex, and analytics apps don't know how this works any better than you do. I will give an example in the next section.
Experts only - Gamify your microtransaction model. Make a microtransaction purchase a strategic decision. You can do this by limiting how often or when players can purchase one, or better yet give every boost some disadvantage along with it. This is more difficult. Make sure you are comfortable with the first five rules before trying this one.
The full feature, in which Shokrizade explains precisely how supremacy goods warp game designs -- and analyzes three free-to-play games, including League of Legends, to illustrate good and bad monetization models -- is live now on Gamasutra.