[box_light]This is a guest blog post by David, from Dark Side Of The Pixel. David also has an IndieGoGo page for his up and coming free-to-play game, Hero-Arena, and can use your support. Please visit this link and be sure to pass it around to anyone you know. “Support indie gaming and each other!”[/box_light]
If you want to build your first indie game, or if you have a great game already on the market that nobody is seeing, it may be time to start thinking Freemium!
If you’re not familiar with the term, “Freemium,” it’s a free-to-play video game that has paid additional content (maps, characters, items, etc.). Big name examples of freemium games are DC Universe and League of Legends, which are free to play but have a ton of extra in-game content that you can pay for using credits.
When I started developing our game Hero-Arena, this has always been the model I stood by. The reason is, when you create your first (or at least one of your first) indie games, you’re really putting your foot in a market that companies have already flooded, and you need to stand out a bit and let your product be seen without restrictions or limitations. Games such as Temple Run and Tiny Tower thrive on this model.
When it comes to designing and creating any video game, the risk of making no profit has always been a major issue. It’s why franchises thrive for so long and why companies hang onto them. People learn to trust the titles and companies behind them.
With recent freemium games, however, players feel much less risk jumping into a game developed with a fresh name and by a new company. They are able to enjoy the experience more, and are willing to overlook some of the minor flaws of a game because they didn’t have to spend anything to enjoy it. This lets your game reach more people (which is key for any indie game dev company) and stand it’s ground against competing games in the market.
Because of this sense of ease while accessing and playing a game, the player can then check out the in-app store content, where they can choose to pay money to support the app and earn in-game perks for their money. This is where risk comes in, and where you as a developer need to plan your freemium content wisely.
Depending on the genre, and type of game you’re making, you should always plan your freemium content to never be game-breaking or mandatory. It shouldn’t be easy to tell who paid for in-game content and who worked to achieve it. Making a barrier between the non-paid and paid players will cause players to lose interest in playing because they’ll feel like they have to spend money to be on par with an opponent.
In your Game Design Document ( GDD ) you should plan a section for what you think should be paid and non-paid content. As you develop your game, you’ll notice content that you want to shift from paid to free, and from free to paid.
Things like character skins, additional levels, and temporary items are just some of the popular paid content you’ll see in most games. But you should always talk out your list with other people, playtesters, and teammates to see what they think about paying for your content list. Chances are, if they say “no” then the number of sales after release probably won’t be high.
Freemium games are hard to make—particularly since developers are always unsure how well they will do—but with the right plan and design you can make even optional content earn more than a fixed-price game, by attracting more users and allowing them to play your full game free of charge from the start. This will also get more attention towards your company’s future releases, and will show with both short term and long term gain.
Hopefully, by explaining some of the details of freemium content to you, you’ll consider turning your planned paid games into an experience that everyone can enjoy by making it into a freemium game!