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Crescent Moon founder Josh Presseisen on the quiet death of premium games

New York indie increasingly embracing F2P
Crescent Moon founder Josh Presseisen on the quiet death of premium games

There seems to be something of a growing trend for premium developers to cross over into free-to-play development.

Storm Casters Ultra from Get Set Games, the subject of our most recent IAP Inspector column, is a notable example.

Another developer losing faith in the premium model in 2015 has been New York indie studio Crescent Moon, who began its F2P experiment by wheeling out ad-supported versions of Mines of Mars and Neon Shadow on Google Play.

And while it was thought that this may be little more than an attempt to stave off high levels of piracy on Android, Crescent Moon has now launched Mines of Mars Zero - a F2P version of the originally premium title supported by ads and "non-invasive" IAPs - on the App Store as well.

To find out more about the reasoning behind this decision, and to find out exactly what the state of play is for premium developers on mobile right now, we got in touch with Crescent Moon founder and creative director Josh Presseisen. Yours is by no means the first example of a traditionally premium developer dabbling with F2P. Do you feel that we'll begin to see it more and more with the diminishing returns on premium games?

Josh Presseisen: It's true - premium games have really died in the past 2 years, down by at least 10x the revenue they used to have.

Is F2P the answer to the problems? Not really, its just another way of getting games out there to more people and hoping that they buy things within the game or watch the ads.

“Premium games have really died in the past 2 years.”
Josh Presseisen

An F2P game might make the exact same amount as a premium game. It depends on a variety of factors: how well the game is monetized, how well its featured, etc.

It's a lot easier to release a premium game - most of my developers are used to that and prefer that. To have successful F2P games you have to know a lot more about user data.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge in converting games from premium to F2P, and were there any internal disagreements over how it should be handled?

No real internal disagreements - at first it seems that video ads can make an okay amount of money if you get a really good amount of downloads.

Mines of Mars was what I would call a modest outing in premium - and for the amount of work we put into that game, it deserved to make more than it did.

Adding a free version seemed like a good idea, and in fact switching to free on Android has completely turned the sales around - from about $10 a day to about $200 a day on Google Play (in ads and IAP).

What F2P systems do you use for your games, and why?

So far, just ads and IAP. And we're starting to use analytics to find out why users are exiting the game - are they having problems understanding the UX? Are they dissatisfied with the content? Are they just confused?

Free-to-play has given <em>Mines of Mars</em> a new lease of life
Free-to-play has given Mines of Mars a new lease of life

In one regard, doing F2P with Mines of Mars is forcing us to make the game better in terms of UX.

What do you think about the wider F2P landscape? Are you happy to be part of it, or would you rather position yourself as an exception to the norm?

I'm not really sure - I think I'll continue to release games both Premium and 'lite' F2P - based on the developers I usually deal with.

I'm learning more how to handle things on the F2P side but I'm just getting my feet wet at the moment. I'm sure it will continue as a work in progress.

Will the performance of free-to-play Mines of Mars influence the monetisation model of its just-announced sequel?

It might and it might not. Mines of Andromeda may actually come to Steam first and then be a mobile game, but right now we are just figuring out how big we want to make it and what we want type of resources we are going to put into it.

The idea of leaving Mars to explore space is exciting, and the moody atmosphere of the game is perfect for this scenario.

Mines of Mars Zero is available for free on the App Store.