Play to win: Skill-based cash tournaments the key to unlocking extra revenue

Cashplay CEO Jarrod Epps on kicks for cash

Play to win: Skill-based cash tournaments the key to unlocking extra revenue

Jarrod Epps is the founder and CEO of Cashplay.co, a game monetization platform that enables developers to integrate cash-based player-versus-player tournaments into their games.

Today's mobile game industry exists in a time warp.

On the one hand, the design work featured in today's games far exceeds anything we could have imagined just a couple years ago.

When it comes to monetisation, however, we're still living in the Dark Ages.

The mobile games market operates like a third-world economy in which the top 25 developers take in half of all the income and only around 5 percent of app developers make more than $20,000 per month.

According to AppPromo, 59 percent of apps don't even generate enough revenue to break-even.

A new way

Struggling against these odds, well-intentioned developers are ruining excellent games and alienating their players by employing interruptive, annoying monetisation techniques to financially support their creations.

An innovative monetisation strategy that matches player engagement is clearly needed.

Real-cash tournaments within mobile games create the sticky environment developers seek to achieve within their community, often transforming single player games into multiplayer experiences, and doing so in a way that significantly increases income, providing a modern solution to a long existing problem.

What are your options?

Until recently, game developers had no choice but to rely on outdated strategies to make money on their games.

First, let's look at advertising, the oldest monetisation strategy.

Advertising has three advantages: it's simple to plug in; it can be outsourced to a thirdparty; and it generates initial revenue relatively quickly.

Beyond that, however, it's all downside. Most importantly, users hate banner ads more than any other monetisation strategy.

In our recent market survey, 73 percent of gamers said they detested in-game ads. I call this problem "game pollution" - all your carefully cultivated player habitats are over-run with ugly advertising, which clogs up your game and poisons your income streams.

Finally, ads just aren't very successful. In fact, you're 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash than you are to intentionally click on a banner ad.

So, if you ever get nervous flying, you should be seriously worried about relying on banner ads to support your company's financial needs.

Give it away?

Alternatively there's today's ubiquitous freemium model, where getting the balance right means you can make millions just like Rovio or King.

In reality, however, that's almost certainly not going to happen.

For starters, you'll need to develop deep analytical capabilities inhouse and deliver a well balanced conversion solution, which tends to be both prohibitively expensive and hugely time consuming.

Integrating the techniques needed to coerce players into spending money - play-to-win, reward removal, bonus purchasing and the subtle balance of skill-to-luck - is incredibly tough when you're focused on building a great, fun-to-play game.

There's also an inevitable trade-off between the player experience and your need to make money: get it wrong, and you'll lose your users forever. Remember, with the amount of competition out there, you only have one shot to get this right.

Power of competition

The beauty of cash tournaments as a monetisation method is they add to the user experience.

Our research shows almost 40 percent of all players want to be able to compete against other users for cash in their games. Cash tournaments increase play sessions by about 30 percent, and they extend player lifetime retention several fold.

They also generate money more quickly than traditional methods, and they're quick and easy to implement.

Cash tournaments aren't appropriate for every type of game, however.

As opposed to casino games and slots, at cashplay.co we operate a skill-game monetization model that focuses on titles where a player's abilities determine the game's outcome.

We have found that the genres best suited to cash-based gaming are racing games, endless runners, sports titles, war sims, first-person shooters, mental challenges, and dexterity challenges.

Checking the small print

If you have a game suitable for cash tournaments, your first question is probably, "Is this legal?" The short answer is probably "Yes" but it depends on how your game functions.

There's an important distinction to bear in mind between cash tournaments involving games of skill and cash tournaments involving games of chance.

Globally, laws are generally much more tolerant of skill gaming than they are of classic gambling.

Cash-based skill gaming tournaments are legal in most US states, for instance, and in all but 13 countries worldwide. However, if there is a great element of luck involved in your game, it is more likely that any 'for cash' version of that title will require a gambling licence.

User experience is critical when dealing with cash-gaming, and the possibility of cheating should be another important concern if you're considering taking the skill gaming route. As you are dealing with real money, it is important that your skill gaming services partner offers cheat prevention as a core aspect of its platform.

You'll also, of course, need a partner who you can trust with your players' cash - one well versed in fraud prevention, client identification, payment processing and other elements of customer service that come with handling people's money.

And it's important to select a partner with global reach that can offer a variety of payment solutions to match your community's needs.

Get these elements in place for your game, and you'll soon be driving your monetisation strategy into the 21st century.

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