I doubt it, but we can hope.
Free to Play success story 2013
In 2013, the average marketing spend on mobile games in December was three times the monthly average. ($4.36) according to Source : Superdata.
2013 was a the best year ever for freemium or free to play strategy games such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush. However the old school of monetization, meaning the Facebook style free to play models as seen in Farmville are starting to draw resistance and resentment from industry and game press. EA Mythic’s free-to-play Dungeon Keeper reboot Dungeon Keeper mobile was an example of this.
Reaping the backlash
Here’s the dichotomy. Players can commit time or money. Not time and money up front. You know, where you normally buy a game (for money?) and get to spend as much time playing it as you like?
No, rather Dungeon Keeper and lets be fair Clash of Clans are the worst kind of free-to-play, the sort that puts up an arbitrary roadblock of a timed delay to prevent you from playing something you were otherwise enjoying.
And to be honest I’m not convinced that I was ‘otherwise enjoying it’. The longer you or I ‘Play’ the longer the waiting gets. Time in game vs time waiting in CoC is now at the point wear I click maybe 20 times on the screen and then close the game for anything up to 6 day waiting for my village to upgrade. Enjoyment isn’t part of the process.
APPs because I don’t actually believe that there is a game underneath the monetization.
So at this point in my rambling I am going to refer to these games as APPs because I don’t actually believe that there is a game underneath the monetization. For instance; I could have thrown hundreds even thousands of Euros at any of these games, and once I had purchased the speed up I would have been back to grinding again. There is no complete game to own at the end of this. How ever much I buy I will never have the complete game, because there isn’t one.
A complete Clash of Clans or a Dungeon Keeper is a Village or a Dungeon that is finished with nothing to do. With Candy Crush it’s that ability to replay previous levels until the developer makes a new one for you.
Where is the game? The game is waiting.
For EA I think they got a big surprise with the backlash they received on the launch of DD. But this wasn’t a Free to Play backlash. If it was then CoC would have had the same results. This was a mistake in the naming. If it had been called ‘Dungeon Clash’ or ‘Dark Realms ‘ people would have probably said ‘hey what a clever twist’ this game is a little bit like DD but for free on the mobile. The backlash was from people who had played the original game(s) back in PC’s distant past and got upset that the new mobile App wasn’t what they had wished for. The target was the monetization but it wasn’t the reason for the outrage.
I am still waiting for this backlash to start for real, until then the hard sell of free to play will continue to make money.
As mobile gamers get more sophisticated, 2014 might be the year when we see the end of this type of hard sell Free To Play, the same way we witnessed the demise of the Facebook gaming bubble in 2012. Remember Social Games?
Hopefully this demise of hard sell free to play will take with it the high costs of user acquisition. If games are fun to play the retention rates are higher, which means you will have to spend less on acquiring new players to keep the endless flow of high churn going. It also means that the consumer choice in the appstore should increase as more and more good games float to the top, instead of the top 10 or 20 games (Apps) being there because the publishers are out bidding the smaller guys with larger UA budgets. (The day after writing this, news of the successful premium game The Room hit the news.)
With the term free to play coming under fire is from governing bodies as well, F2P maybe in for an interesting ride this year.
Please Pay 30 cents to speed up 2014 to see the results.
Or just grind your way to the end 😉