Interview

Why Piloteer developer Fixpoint swapped premium for free-to-play in Remedy Rush

Why Piloteer developer Fixpoint swapped premium for free-to-play in Remedy Rush

You might not be familiar with Fixpoint Productions or its President Whitaker Trebella, but you've likely seen its games.

Between Polymer, Pivvot and Piloteer, Trebella has been behind some of the best-known premium mobile games of recent times.

However, his latest - a fast-paced action puzzler in which you fight germs using explosive remedies such as a cookie or a teddy bear - is the developer's first to opt instead for a free-to-play model.

With the game launching today on the App Store, PocketGamer.biz reached out to Trebella to learn more about the game and the thinking behind its monetisation.

PocketGamer.biz: At what point in development did you decide that Remedy Rush would adopt a free-to-play model?

Whitaker Trebella: I've actually been wanting to make a free-to-play game for quite a while now.

It's a model that I've been wanting to explore for various reasons, not least of which is my constant desire to challenge myself and push myself into things out of my comfort zone.

Ever since I began working on Remedy Rush in August of 2016, I planned on it being F2P.

Is it that Remedy Rush is better suited to free-to-play than your previous games, or was your decision influenced by other factors?

A big part of what makes Remedy Rush fun and interesting is its large (and ever-growing) collection of remedies and their side effects.

I hope the game being free and its more accessible nature will result in a larger player base.
Whitaker Trebella

I wanted to make a game where part of the fun was getting access to new and interesting remedies and side-effects over time. I also had a strong desire to make this game more accessible more than my other games.

This time around, I wanted to make something a bit less difficult and more approachable, that hopefully appealed to a larger audience.

My hope is that the combination of the game being free and its more accessible nature will result in a larger and more diverse player base.

The likes of Piloteer and Pivvot are relatively well-known, as far as premium mobile titles go. But how did that translate in revenue terms? Have you been satisfied with the performance of your previous games?

Piloteer and Pivvot were both quite successful and allowed me to continue making games for the foreseeable future.

Having said that, the revenue generally came in short, focused bursts, then quickly died down.

While Pivvot's long tail was actually pretty good for awhile, Piloteer brought in the majority of its long-term revenue in the very first week of sales.

Most of Piloteer's revenue came in the first week

I'm hoping that I'll be able to maintain a F2P model that is a little more levelled out and predictable. Time will tell.

How are IAPs implemented in Remedy Rush? Does your background in premium game development make you more cautious in your monetisation design?

I do feel that my background in premium games has made me cautious about a lot of F2P aspects in the past.

But with the recent rise of more respectful yet successful F2P models, I've felt more inspired to try. My first priority was to make sure that most of the IAPs were unlockable in-game (only one isn't: the piggy bank.)

I wanted to make sure that the core gameplay was fun, polished and interesting regardless of IAP.
Whitaker Trebella

Further, I wanted to make sure that the core gameplay was fun, polished and interesting regardless of how many external IAPs you owned.

I spent a tonne of time fine-tuning the core gameplay loop, which I feel is fun regardless of any of the F2P layers on top of it.

Another thing I've had to be cautious of is dealing with the fact that the various remedies and side effects change the gameplay in many ways.

If I wasn't careful, it could have morphed into a pay-to-win model, which I wanted to avoid at all costs.

Do many of the side effects improve scoring abilities? Sure. But there are so many of them that give contrasting types of advantages that there is no one "best" way to play.

I really wanted to support all kinds of play styles, and I believe I've accomplished this.

Do you worry that as a free-to-play game, Remedy Rush will have to reach a larger audience than your previous titles? What's your strategy in regard to this?

Yes, of course. It's definitely a legitimate concern. However, I'm hoping that at least some of that will occur naturally, simply due to the fact that there's no longer a paywall.

In my mind, the most important thing is going to be keeping people coming back. Even if I don't get the biggest audience on launch day, if I can maintain a steady player base, that shouldn't matter as much.

Remedy Rush

Plus, I'm really excited to hopefully focus my development efforts on content updates for current users than constantly having to start all over again with a new game launch.

Are there any other free-to-play titles you particularly admire or have been inspired by?

Crossy Road, King Rabbit, Looty Dungeon and PinOut are some wonderful ones that come to mind.

Are you working alone on the project? With free-to-play often seen as the domain of the big companies, do you think more indies should consider the free-to-play path?

I've worked on this project alone. It has been quite a challenge.

I'm honestly not sure how viable F2P is for indies, since I don't have any data yet.
Whitaker Trebella

There is so much more that goes into F2P games. I can't just make a game and be done with it.

I'm honestly not sure how viable F2P is for indies, first of all because it's just hard to do right, but secondly, since I don't have any data about how this game will do yet.

On top of that, even after my game launches, I'll just be one example in a vast sea of monetisation styles, so it's hard to say exactly.

Fortunately, if I do want to make another F2P game at some point, I at least have a lot of the structure nailed down so that it won't be as hard to deal with the second time around.

Honestly though, a lot of my opinions on its viability have yet to be formed, since my game hasn't launched yet.

Does Remedy Rush mark a move away from the paid model, or will you be continuing to experiment with both approaches?

I'm always open to trying new things, to challenging myself and to experimenting.

I wouldn't call this a "move away" from the paid model... but it could be. It really all depends on how successful it is, and if I'm able to make it work in a way that's sustainable.

You can download Remedy Rush for free on the App Store.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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