Some of you will have had the (mis)fortune to hear my recent speech at the Develop in Brighton 2013 conference.
Entitled 'How They Turn the Screw: A Data-Driven Approach to Ranking F2P Monetization Efficiencies', it was an attempt to explain how we can use open data sources to create processes that will help us more objectively rank games that use in-app purchases, and other monetization techniques.
My goal in the talk was to explain that while this might seem like a complex undertaking, it can be simple and can take as little as 20-30 minutes per game.
Indeed, my main concern in this process isn't accuracy, but simplicity and speed of analysis.
Given my post-talk questioning, however, it's fair to say that a large proportion of the audience were more interested in my personal conclusions about which games are monetizing most efficiently (or aggressively) than my call for developers to do their own analysis.
So, in that context, I present Monetizer.
This will be a regular feature on PocketGamer.biz where I eat my own dog food and try to analyse games.
That is, I will be playing and videoing the first 5-10 minutes of new games, talking about the monetization techniques they are using and ending with a ranking score.
Hopefully, over time, this will build up into a useful body of knowledge, although my wider point will always be that developers should be doing this sort of simple but structured analysis themselves on a regular basis.
1. Turd Birds (2K Games/Cat Daddy Games)
The first game up for analysis is 2K's bird-based endless runner Turd Bird.
Like all endless runners, you're goal is to progress as far as you can, swiping across three lanes to avoid obstacles, while pooping on the people below and collecting items as you go.
Firing up the game, we get the usual push notifications prompt (something I hate) and then experience a short non-skippable intro movie. This being a very casual game, we can get straight into gameplay without any other prompts or login requests.
Checking out the gameplay, as is becoming common in this genre, when you hit an obstacle, the game offers you the opportunity to spend some currency to continue.
Significantly, though, in Turd Birds, the request is for hard currency (1 gem), and as the game doesn't gift you any in the tutorial, you're taken straight into a hard currency request prompt.
This is something I measure in a metric called Time to (Hard) Store i.e. the period of time before a game encourages me to spend real cash.
(If the game doesn't do this in the first five minutes, it gets a score of 10.)
Other things I measure to create my Monetization ranking coefficient are the minimum and the maximum value of in-app purchases, and the number of currency types in the game (that is the number of hard currencies, soft currencies and other in-game resources types). I label this the Currency Confusion.
In this way, my Monetization coefficient equation is ((min IAP price*max IAP price)/Time to Hard Store)*Currency Confusion
The result for Turd Birds is (($0.99*$49.99)/1)*3 = 150
To make a comparison, the score for many games will be (($0.99*$99.99)/10)*2 = 20.
When analysing 40 games for my talk, I decided that anything over 100 could be considered 'high'.
For example Hay Day ranks 20, The Simpsons: Tapped Out 49, and GREE's Modern War 499. (That was the highest I found).
2. Slot Revolution (Konami/Kung Fu Factory)
The second game I'm considering is Konami's new slot-RPG hybrid.
Loading up the game, we have to wait for it to update, and then we're presented with a Facebook login request (incentivised with in-game hard currency). Rejecting this, we're asked to login via Facebook again.
I'm not measuring this sort of social push at present, but maybe look to do in future.
Playing through the tutorial, we're not taken into the store - either to spend hard or soft currency. The game has one hard currency and one soft currency.
Hence constructing our Monetization coefficient we get (($1.99*$99.99)/10)*2 = 40.
So, in comparison to Turd Birds, Slot Revolution is much less aggressive in terms of how it tries to monetize its initial phase.
3. Blastron (Kabam)
Clearly inspired by Worms, Blastron is a turn-based 2D action experience, replacing worms with robots.
Loading up the game, we have to wait for a minute or so for the game to update. The game immediately encourages players to return, offering a Daily Reward as well as a weapon bundle, but during our playtime, we're not taken into a store or given the choice to spend real cash.
In terms of constructing our Monetization coefficient, Blastron is interesting as the minimum IAP currency bundle it offers is $4.99; five times more than the standard 99c.
It has one hard currency, one soft currency, plus a time-based ticket system (as least for the main Campaign mode). Hence its Currency Confusion is 3.
So the equation works out; (($4.99*$99.99)/10)*3 = 150
Hopefully, you can now get an idea of how this sort of process works.
Note, I'm not suggesting that my process or equations are perfect. My point is anyone can come with their own process to highlight any metrics and data that they think is important.
As mentioned in my Develop talk, the other element of my analysis is to rank Monetization against a measure of success.
I came up with a very simple equation for this; ((Number of countries in which a game was top 10 top grossing/Number of countries in which a game was top 100 top grossing)/Peak position on the US top grossing chart.
However, in all these three cases, the Success equation comes out as 0 as none has yet been top 10 top grossing in any country yet.
Obviously this may change over time.