GDCE 2011: Building an audience for freemium games requires user acquisition spend says Applifier's Laakkonen
#gdceurope Relying on virality is playing the lottery
"In the free-to-play market, the audience is promiscuous. It gets sucked into FarmVille, Bejeweled and Angry Birds. How can you stand out compared to them?" he asked.
There are many issues that you have little control over, he argued; brand, virality and reviews.
Something you can use however is advertising, fine if the cost of buying a user is less than their lifetime value.
"Firstparty advertising is good but expensive, while thirdparties solutions are cheaper and not so effective," he said.
"But if you want to grow your game, you have to understand advertising and you'll have to spend money. There's not enough viralty in the market any more to survive without advertising," argued Laakkonen.
I need somebody, help!
Another option is looking for some part of external distribution. There's no upfront risk, but you're giving away some of your user life time revenue.
The nice thing is in many cases you can do non-exclusive deals, or just give away your IP and do a traditional publishing deal.
"As a developer, I want to be in control of my destiny," Laakkonen cautioned.
Join the network
Of course, as CEO of Applifier, his point is that a cross promotion network makes the most sense.
"Everyone gives away free users to each other, but it works better because you're all encouraging players to play more," he says.
"We went from 0 to 150 million users in 12 months, but more importantly, the network broke 100 million installs on Facebook."
Laakkonen's point is that there's a huge demand for new content from players, and it will be filled by someone. Hooking into a network such as Applifier gives you an opportunity to access those hungry fingers.
"You have to understand how you get your users," he added. "Don't rely on a single solution, don't just use cross promotion, and work out how you can scale your user acquisition."
"Owning your company is owning and understanding your user acquisition."