Developers, are you fed up with F2P? Have you tried passive Bitcoin mining?
Icoplay's Simon Hill talks monetisation matters
Monetisation. Freemium. Cromulence. Other made up words. If you're part of a development team wrangling with the beast that is mobile development I'm sure you've done more than your fair share of talking about these things.
Increasingly, ways to make money are creeping back into gameplay itself - a model that hasn't been this popular since kids stood around pumping coins into arcade machines.
It seems that developers in general (particularly indies) see freemium and in-game purchases as a compromise to their game's integrity - there are certainly enough horror stories floating about for that to be understandable.
Bitcoin mining and you
The tools on offer are the usual suspects: in-app purchases, interstitial adverts, video ads, incentivised and non-incentivised offer walls and paying up front for the app. For the last few months, we've been looking to add some tools to this arsenal - and that's where Bitcoins come in.
For those who aren't familiar with Bitcoins, they're a valuable digital currency that is created by users through a process called 'mining'.
This is done by users running a program that uses their computer's power to mint the currency - a method that's pretty intensive and requires the kind of computers that become sentient if you leave them alone long enough.
There's a chance that, whilst you're running the mining process, you'll be rewarded with Bitcoin, which is a distributed, secure and wholly digital currency that can be exchanged for dollars, pounds or whatever you choose.
The biggest problem with mining Bitcoins is that it takes a large amount of processing power that most people don't have at their disposal.
A well recognised alternative to this is to have a group of people mining at the same time, distributing the load and making the process a bit easier. It's this concept that proved interesting to us - much like the SETI program, which is run over millions of computers to decode signals from space, distributed monetisation is an incredible concept.
Passive grinding - a network of everyone
The core concept we worked towards is this: A developer installs the software, and every instance of its game running at any time, anywhere mines Bitcoins using the latent power of the device it's being used on.
The developer then takes its Bitcoins to spend or invest.
Bitcoin growth over the last 4 years has been pretty insane. From a value of almost zero three years ago, each Bitcoin is now worth around $180. That's a massive increase in value by any standards.
It's a new model for monetisation and requires no user input or expenditure, which is pretty much the holy grail when it comes to monetisation.
At Icoplay, we've spent the last few months making this a reality. We've ended up with software that can just be dropped into a Unity project (on any platform at all) and make this distributed model of 'passive grinding' work.
The mining is done dynamically and carefully.
For example, if your user is on a menu screen they're going to have more spare processing power than if they're mid-battle with twenty Ogres. Thus the miner will use more resource on the menu screen and scale back during anything more intensive.
The performance baseline is set and only spare power is given to mining, so that the user will never see any performance dip or even notice the plugin is humming along in the background.
All of your users will be mining collaboratively at their own rate, providing Bitcoin currency to exchange or invest as part of your own distributed network.
It's very important that the developer lets their users know that there's a process running in the background, but with that comes problems.
Share the mining, share the knowledge
The main problem with passive Bitcoin mining is that it's difficult to ensure transparency. Any new concept for a large group of people can be pretty difficult to swallow, and as a financial model I'm sure this will take time to be understood.
The issue of freemium purchases already sends most developers into hulk-style rages, particularly because it's become a bit of a catch-all for reasons a mobile app hasn't performed well.
One of the biggest tasks ahead for any new monetisation technique is acceptance by app developers and then, in turn, their users.
For this reason I'm happy to offer clarification on any of the concepts here and would also ask you to share this with any developers you know - the current stagnation that exists in popular app stores can be broken, but not without a bit of a coordinated effort.
We believe it's incredibly important for teams, particularly indies, to experiment and lead the way when it comes to making money - it's difficult to rely on larger companies to innovate.
If you'd like to have your app mine for Bitcoins with your users, we've made it possible and easy. Whatever your personal thoughts on the technique, however, when saturation point for one model is reached within any market, it's up to the small and nimble developers to push the frontiers.
Simon Hill is currently product lead at Icoplay, a specialist software and monetisation company. Before this he was a producer and mobile product manager at Mind Candy, having previously come from a background of indie flash game development.
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Ric Moore | 14:29 - 20 November 2013
Dev got fined $1m for doing this:
Adam Philbin | 17:37 - 1 November 2013
If you're one of the first people who got in on the pyramid scheme, it's quite useful that people mine to keep the currency alive.
promoteindiegames | 17:33 - 1 November 2013
Does there ever come a point where Bitcoin mining isn't pointless?
Adam Philbin | 17:28 - 1 November 2013
I've joked about this idea before (remember the ESEA League scandal where the owner ran hidden Bitcoin mining software in the client?).
In reality it's completely pointless. A top of the line modern graphics card can generate about $0.15 worth of Bitcoin in 24 hours (assuming today's value) - whilst consuming about $0.6 worth of electricity. Even custom ASIC chips only generate a tiny percentage of their cost per day. With the hardware available today, it's almost impossible to make a profit from Bitcoin mining.
Whilst mining on a smartphone client bypasses the electricity and hardware costs, the hashing power of an iPhone is almost non-existent, you'd generate next to nothing. Running the client on desktop hardware might generate a few pennies, but would be quite unethical considering the users' machines would be consuming multiple times that in electricity costs.
Of course, running a Bitcoin miner in a graphically intense game would also kill the game's performance, so there's that.
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