Casual Connect Europe: 5 ways to fail at freemium, by W3i

Casual Connect Europe: 5 ways to fail at freemium, by W3i
It's alarming that, despite being a talk focused on ways to fail at freemium, Ben Sipe of W3i's talk at this year's Casual Connect Europe in Hamburg managed to make reference to an alarming number of different games.

Sadly, few of them were named outright, but the tips for truly botching an attempt at a freemium release were instantly recognisable.

Tip number one for a freemium fail, said Sipe, is to ensure your users have to spam their friends to continue.

Port of call

"When porting games from Facebook it might be cheaper to use what you have, but you want your players to love your game enough to share voluntarily," said Sipe, suggesting many developers simply don't re-tool their titles for mobile.

"Why should you penalise users who don't use Facebook or want to invite their friends? Friending shouldn't gate content – it should compliment the experience."

Tip two is to use psychological mind tricks.

"This is different to building an emotional attachment with a game," noted Sipe, claiming that said tricks can be as simple as shading a button to buy in-game credit a certain colour.

More obvious tricks, such as threatening to dispose of a well loved character or feature unless the user pays to save them, are also commonplace.

Not so ad happy

The third tip on offer for failing at a freemium release is to build in unintelligent advertising, said Sipe.

"There was an RPG that I played recently that had banner ads over the dialogue, so you couldn't actually see what the characters were saying unless you paid to remove the ads," he added.

"Try and make the ads a complimentary experience – make then fit in the game. Advertising revenue won't hurt your IAP revenue, unless you do it unintelligently."

Tips four and five both revolve around money. If you want to develop a terrible freemium game, Sipe recommends you design a pay to win PvP release.

One example is to lock your most powerful weapons away behind an in-app purchase, meaning anyone who doesn't pay out can be wiped from play within seconds by those who have.

"Competitive advantage does not equal pay to win, though," added Sipe. "If you're clever, you can balance it out so those with skill can still dominate anyone who spends cash."

Pay walls

Finally, Sipe's last tip for designing a freemium flop is to make players pay to play.

"This is probably the most controversial one, but if I'm playing a game and within minutes I've got to pay out to complete a quest, then I'm not going to enjoy it," he concluded.

"You can do things with different kinds of players – some more casual players maybe won't mind paying to play on – but locking play away is totally unacceptable to certain audiences. It all depends on who you're targeting."

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


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Magnus S CEO at Triolith Entertainment
W3i rocking it as usuall :D