SGVGF 2012: Mobile Pie, FDG, Future Games of London and Tag Games on why the freemium debate is over

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SGVGF 2012: Mobile Pie, FDG, Future Games of London and Tag Games on why the freemium debate is over
The first panel at this year's Social Games and Virtual Goods Forum wasn't designed to justify freemium's existence - freemium isn't going anywhere was the message - but rather lay out the next steps for the model.

As a result, Will Luton's opening gambit – that those who still say the freemium model can't work "are equivalent to climate change deniers" – was probably the soundbite that stood out from the entire debate.

Developers shouldn't feel the need to justify the model, said Mobile Pie's creative director. It's all about getting the most out of the business model now.

Time saver"What we're actually selling is time – letting people jump to the good stuff quicker," said Luton, defining the model.

"As a designer I want people to play my games. Why stop them at the door and say you've got to pay 69p? Just come in."

Paul Farley, MD of Tag Games, countered it might be better to charge people to get out of some games, rather than let them in.

More seriously, however, he suggested developers moving from paid to free need to realise the model "isn't a magic bullet".

Bullet time

"The freemium model is obviously here to stay," he opened.

"It doesn't solve all your problems, though. It doesn't aid discoverability or make it easier to make money. It's very difficult.

"We've brought in a full time data analyst – these are new roles coming into the games industry. The role of the data analyst is going to important as the games designer over the next 20 years."

Developers reluctant to switch their entire business across to freemium need not do so, added FDG Entertainment co-founder Philipp Doschl.

"Freemium and paid can co-exist in the same company," he offered.

"There will always be people who will pay $1 for a game so they know what they get. They just want to play a game on their own. It will be a niche, but there will always be a market for it."

The price is right

Those who do make the leap however, will need to focus on how they're going to price in-app purchases.

Ultimately, argued Future Games of London's MD Ian Harper, it's the consumer who decides your price points.

"All we do is set the price and see if the consumer takes it up," he said.

"The consumer sets the price, but it's always worth putting in goods at $100 to make the $50 one look cheap."

The biggest issue facing many of the studios already invested in free-to-play releases, however, is the ever-increasing competition.

"A year ago there was very few companies going free, you could get a high chart position with a quality release," concluded Farley.

"Things have already changed. Even an Apple feature will not give any kind of tangible benefit."

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.