Most Freemium Revenue Comes From Less Than 1% of Gamers

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Most Freemium Revenue Comes From Less Than 1% of Gamers

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According to a new study, most free-to-play games owe their success to a very small number of very big spenders.

The free-to-play model has been massively successful, yet most gamers try to avoid microtransactions like the plague. You might wonder, then, where these games are making their profits. Well, mobile marketing company Swrve recently did some research to figure out where the money's coming from, with some interesting results. As it turns out, 50% of revenue from in-app purchases can be traced back to just 0.15% of gamers.

Most people who download "freemium" games play for a little while, but never spend any money. Only about 1.5% of players generate any revenue at all, and of those, one in ten are the big spenders who make up half of these games' business. This lopsided ratio is probably why most people are so opposed to the idea of microtransactions: developers using this model make most of their money from addiction-prone players who keep coming back to spend more money.

The study also reveals a few other interesting numbers. The average first purchase comes within 24 hours of downloading a game, but it's a slippery slope; if there's a second purchase it usually happens less than two hours after the first. 67% of purchases are less than $5, yet the average purchase is $5.94 because of the big-ticket transactions. 9% of total revenue comes from purchases of more than $50.

It's no secret that free-to-play developers reap boatloads of money from these "whale" gamers, but it's also telling that without these high-end customers the entire model would be much less successful. Then again, free-to-play hasn't been in the spotlight for too long, and there's still time for it to grow into something more balanced and less exploitative.

Source: Swrve

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I hate to sound like I'm on a downer but these companies are making easy money from people with compulsion control problems; they prey on people who are susceptible to the kind of very bare skinner boxes they lay out in their games and use similar strategy of reward and compulsive and repeated spending online gambling does.

You get stuck putting more coins into the farm shaped slot machine; gameplay rewards are linked directly to monetary input and so the idea that putting money into a game is good is reinforced. It's exactly how a genuine game gets you to use learn it's mechanics; making progress feels good and conditions you to make certain types of choices or actions. This can be a positive thing as it can make a real sense of fun and progression in good games.

In micro-transaction based games it simply wages psychological warfare and it would seem that the small percentage of people who are most susceptible to compulsive behavior of any sort are the ones who end up falling victim to it.

I'm curious what types of games were surveyed and how long a person needed to play in order to be considered a player.

For Facebook/Tablet pay-to-have-fun games like Farmville and Candy Crush, the barrier to entry is a very quick download, but the nagging pay-wall is shady and can turn people off.

Then we have games like Planetside and Warframe which have a large barrier of access but their payment methods are tied to larger "wallets" that work across multiple games like Steam, SOE, or Playstation Wallet. People may be more willing to drop money on things when they have a certain amount of Microsoft Points or Steam Dollars just floating around.

I'm ashamed to admit that I spent probably $300+ over the course of six months on Simpsons: Tapped Out.
I still play, and still have fun with it, but I have since cheated to get a ton of premium currency. I can't throw my money away on that crap anymore.

I vote that those of us who don't pay for F2P games march on the Zynga offices holding signs saying "We are the 99%!"
Not actually protesting of course, just for shits and giggles.

The World Famous:
I'm ashamed to admit that I spent probably $300+ over the course of six months on Simpsons: Tapped Out.
I still play, and still have fun with it, but I have since cheated to get a ton of premium currency. I can't throw my money away on that crap anymore.

That's a bit of a shame. I think I probably spend about $300 total on gaming a year when you average out years i do/ don't buy hardware. It's not like your purchases have any re-sale value either.

The only thing i can liken that to for me is I've been spending a lot more on Magic the Gathering recently (Cardboard crack). But that is offset by the fact that i sell things on (people will pay silly money for Commander decks, made a real profit there) and the fact that if i get bored of my core collection or too poor i can just sell it too(modern playables FTW)

We all knew most of these free to play models were despicable, this just shows how despicable they really are, and why people are so afraid of them.

Scrumpmonkey:
I hate to sound like I'm on a downer but these companies are making easy money from people with compulsion control problems; they prey on people who are susceptible to the kind of very bare skinner boxes they lay out in their games and use similar strategy of reward and compulsive and repeated spending online gambling does.

You get stuck putting more coins into the farm shaped slot machine; gameplay rewards are linked directly to monetary input and so the idea that putting money into a game is good is reinforced. It's exactly how a genuine game gets you to use learn it's mechanics; making progress feels good and conditions you to make certain types of choices or actions. This can be a positive thing as it can make a real sense of fun and progression in good games.

In micro-transaction based games it simply wages psychological warfare and it would seem that the small percentage of people who are most susceptible to compulsive behavior of any sort are the ones who end up falling victim to it.

Yes and no.

I'm one of those people who has invested heavily in the games he plays regularly, and put some money into games I wound up not playing much at all. The spending patterns are probably pretty accurate, and I admit match some of my own behavior, but I think the reasoning is a little different for a lot of people (especially seeing as I know people in various games who also put decent amounts of money into them).

To be honest when I try a FTP game, I'll often put a few bucks into it if it's doesn't seem like complete garbage in order to hopefully further development of things I like the idea of, even if I don't wind up playing them much. For example a fairly recent transaction had me putting $15 into the whole "Epic Quest For Mighty Loot" game because despite the game's myriad failings and me not seeing much long term play potential in it, I think the whole "Dungeon Keeper meets action RPG" idea has some merit albeit I think their game has some serious conceptual problems. I hope a few people donating like I do will encourage people to re-think the idea and find ways to do it better. Another game I gave some money to right off the bad was believe it or not "Scarlet Blade" the infamous cheesecake MMO, in part because I actually liked their writing and the basic science fiction concept behind the game, even if they turned it into a titillation based cash pit as opposed to trying to follow through on the parts of the game that were actually interesting. Of course there are many more games where I've pretty much looked at them and decide "WTF is this" and
just moved on.

The games I've spent some serious, serious, money on over the years like "Star Trek Online", are ones I liked enough on their own merits to want to support the game. Basically without people paying money, knowing most players are deadbeats, we won't see any new content being developed.

The whole system of having a few people maintaining the game infrastructure is flawed, and really it's going to reach a point where people like me are eventually going to be forced by RL to move on inevitably. See I (as mentioned before) live at home on Social Security nowadays (Brain Damage), for the moment putting some money into MMOs as my primary form of entertainment is possible, but the situation I'm in is one that can't last, and I figure the same applies for one reason or another to a lot of other people doing the same thing. Inevitably a lot of these games wind up on a timer, since unless they can keep a steady influx of new patrons coming in, they are bound to crash when the ones supporting them inevitably move on. It seems to me that a lot of the people maintaining these games are those who either have very good jobs, or like me are in a position where it's the primary use for what little disposable income they have (for me it tends to be gaming in general for the moment).

One of the reasons why I prefer subscription based systems is it spreads out the expense of maintaining the game and justifying new content being produced.

At any rate, the point here is that while it's easier for those who can't or won't pay money to make "skinner box" arguments and talk about pathetic addicts (which is frankly kind of insulting when directed at the guys who are basically sponsoring YOUR gaming), but I think the truth seems to be quite different. I also think it's why this entire market is doomed to crash especially as the economy gets worse. See, unlike an addict a gamer is not generally going to do literally anything to keep paying money to open lockboxes, or to have the shiny new ship in STO (which is why the anti-video game crowd hasn't had violent criminals to showboat around), given actual responsibilities and things like food, shelter, electricity, etc... gaming still takes a distant second.

That said, the numbers don't surprise me. Indeed in games like "Neverwinter" or "Star Trek Online" I've occasionally bellyached with people in the past that the bloody squatters shouldn't get access to new content unless they have paid something into the game at some point. Especially as you can occasionally get scorned if your say riding around on a lot of the premium mounts or ships or whatever (though not as frequently as you might think) and really the whole "skinner box" crack shows up in zone chat regularly. It kind of burns when these same guys line up to head out for the new "Dread Ring" campaign to further power up their character, or are out flying around the "Dyson Sphere Zone" that you helped pay for. Sure I know what they say about "a fool and his money" but you still seem to be having fun in that new content expansion...

That said I am HOPING that ESO and/or Wildstar will stick to their guns about being subscription based and won't go FTP in record time. If so I'll probably be retiring from the FTP and "Freemium" games because as a rule, I find the model disgusting, and to be honest it's not something I'll be able to keep paying, to be brutally honest if things keep going down this path I will inevitably have to give up on gaming.

I'll also say, that if you ever do consider wanting to pay into a FTP game, make sure it's one that genuinely plans to expand and actually has some plans it's working towards, and by expand I mean things like new zones, quests, etc... not simply more opportunities to get you to spend real money disguised as an expansion or event. A good example would be Cryptic's expansion, as opposed to some of the Asian MMOs where they idea of "new content" is say adding new kinds of slots to equipment which require you to spend real money to properly fill (not that Cryptics own enhancement system for Neverwinter and Champions don't already smack of this, but they don't generally keep coming up with new variations on that).

Therumancer:

Scrumpmonkey:
I hate to sound like I'm on a downer but these companies are making easy money from people with compulsion control problems; they prey on people who are susceptible to the kind of very bare skinner boxes they lay out in their games and use similar strategy of reward and compulsive and repeated spending online gambling does.

You get stuck putting more coins into the farm shaped slot machine; gameplay rewards are linked directly to monetary input and so the idea that putting money into a game is good is reinforced. It's exactly how a genuine game gets you to use learn it's mechanics; making progress feels good and conditions you to make certain types of choices or actions. This can be a positive thing as it can make a real sense of fun and progression in good games.

In micro-transaction based games it simply wages psychological warfare and it would seem that the small percentage of people who are most susceptible to compulsive behavior of any sort are the ones who end up falling victim to it.

I think you are more referring to the niche market than the newly exploding mass marker. Star Trek online is a game for devoted fans and not a traditional mass appeal 'freemium' game. We are not really just talking about MMOs here (although they do make up a portion of the F2P market) the main thrust of these games are social and mobile impulse buy games.

There has been and always will be a very dedicated hardcore fanbase for some games who offer huge amounts of support, we've seen this very prevalently in EVE online, but these games are a minority and a different case.

The big difference is barrier to entry. Star Trek online has a very high barrier to entry; you have to have interest in Universe, you have to have a high amount of time to commit to an MMO, you gave to register, download and have a desktop computer good enough to run the game well. This is why Star Trek online isn't the same as "Clash of Clans" and so forth, it is a Niche game with a small but dedicated userbase and typically these games have a VERY high maintenance and running cost that justify some of that spending.

The Freemium games we see now are quick and cheap, they are efficient money-hoovers and tend to make these compulsive players spend large amounts in short spaces of time. That is how they are designed. They have very LOW operating costs and usually pretty low time commitment to spend that money in and so they function as instant "Buy this, get reward" gratification for progress.

You are mainly referring to an older model brought about to prop up creaking, expensive MMOs. This model has been warped by smaller, cheaper, more casual games into an almost weaponized form.

I would be very interested in the income spread. Is the 1% the 1%? To what degree are the people who spend lots of money on F2P games, the same people who have rather more money than they really know what to do with anyway? And to what degree are the people spending lots of money on F2P, really suffering for their loss?

I'm not surprised at all. Sometimes people just spend so much money, it's ridiculous. My buddy played some shitty little game on his iPhone, some sort of space empire game. Well, he put in so much time, built this huge fleet and was doing really well without spending any money. Then one day he just got wiped out by a guy who had spent some ridiculous amount of money, like $2000 on it or something. It was crazy. The game just openly shows you who you got beat by and how much money the spent on the game, it's crazy. I mean, after that, he just quit because he knew then that he would be paying money if he wanted to have a chance.

Edit: I feel like I should point out that if this is a successful business model for the company and the people spending that money are willing participants, then there is nothing wrong with it. All the comments are talking about how despicable companies are for taking all this money from people who have no self control. I'm calling bullshit on this. It's human nature to say that if you don't like something, others should not like it as well. Only, there are people out there with resources and money and want to spend their money on this stuff, and they are well within their rights to do it. You can just ignore it and not worry about it. Those people spending money is not hurting you. It's not destroying the game industry, it's not changing how everyone does business.

I workout like fiend. I love powerlifting. I love it. I hate CrossFit. I hate what it does to people, I hate the people who support it, I feel it's exploitative because they are essentially lying to people about the results they can expect. Most CrossFit gyms are completely negligent in how they allow people with little to no experience in that type of thing to just go till they vomit (some of them, anyway). I can even go so far as to say they are predatory towards people who have extreme personalities. They draw that kind of person in. They are far more expensive than a traditional gym as well. That said, I'm not going to sit here and say NO ONE should be allowed to do CrossFit. That whole argument is really stupid. I don't like, so I don't do it. I don't hang out with people who do it, though I'm not against it. It's the same for Candy Crush. I could go and play, see I'm 10 moves away from completing it and drop money on it every time, but I don't. I simply don't play the game.

If you are anywhere near adulthood in psychological development, you should be able to accept that not everyone is going to share your opinion about this. Some people will even do the polar opposite of you, and that's OK.

Absolutionis:
I'm curious what types of games were surveyed and how long a person needed to play in order to be considered a player.

For Facebook/Tablet pay-to-have-fun games like Farmville and Candy Crush, the barrier to entry is a very quick download, but the nagging pay-wall is shady and can turn people off.

Then we have games like Planetside and Warframe which have a large barrier of access but their payment methods are tied to larger "wallets" that work across multiple games like Steam, SOE, or Playstation Wallet. People may be more willing to drop money on things when they have a certain amount of Microsoft Points or Steam Dollars just floating around.

I've paid at least $40 to Warframe and Planetside 2 each. I still kinda regret my payments to PS2 since I've never quite felt like I've gotten enough out of the money but with me having spent over 300+ hours on warframe and with the great deals they have on plat I've never once regretted my money spent on that game.

For me Warframe still has easily one of the best free to play business models I've ever seen.

Basically, what this means is that those games are just as Niche as many other more commonly considered niche genres and that the vast majority of their audience plays them as a time-waster rather than having any meaningful investment in them unlike those big spenders.

Now, if only they were to target those people belonging in the niche rather than the remaining 98.5% of people who don't really give a damn, they'd have a much healthier approach. It'd become apparent that these games aren't actually popular at all and that most people who may play them a little don't actually give a damn about them.

Realizing this would benefit everyone in many ways. The core audience of the games gets better more pinpointed service, the game makers know what they need to do to make money, the rest of gamers don't need to live in a world where these types of games are percieved to be successful or popular and where gaming as a whole is painted with broad strokes and defined by such games and the casual onlookers who may play for 5 minutes a day get to do something they actually give a fuck about for those 5 minutes.

kajinking:

Absolutionis:
I'm curious what types of games were surveyed and how long a person needed to play in order to be considered a player.

For Facebook/Tablet pay-to-have-fun games like Farmville and Candy Crush, the barrier to entry is a very quick download, but the nagging pay-wall is shady and can turn people off.

Then we have games like Planetside and Warframe which have a large barrier of access but their payment methods are tied to larger "wallets" that work across multiple games like Steam, SOE, or Playstation Wallet. People may be more willing to drop money on things when they have a certain amount of Microsoft Points or Steam Dollars just floating around.

I've paid at least $40 to Warframe and Planetside 2 each. I still kinda regret my payments to PS2 since I've never quite felt like I've gotten enough out of the money but with me having spent over 300+ hours on warframe and with the great deals they have on plat I've never once regretted my money spent on that game.

For me Warframe still has easily one of the best free to play business models I've ever seen.

Well, overall $40 isn't that bad. When I've spent money on online games I generally look at it in terms of how much actual entertainment/enjoyment I'm going to wind up getting out of it, as well as what the people I'm giving the money to are likely to do with the money I put in, I expect them to keep some of it of course (obviously, they are trying to make money) but I also tend not to want to support games that don't seem to have any reachable plans for expansion.

I'm not a big FPS player, but I tried Planetside 2, and I actually put a few bucks into it because I liked the basic idea, I however felt like Sony was neglecting the game and had few plans, and what's more as an MMO player it felt kind of pointless to me. I'm terrible at FPS games, but I don't have to be good at something to enjoy it, I just kind of felt it was inane to potentially spend hours fighting over some fortification in a deadlock that makes a glaciar look speedy, only to have the eventual win or loss mean nothing since eventually people are going to logout and the other guys are going to take it back if they really want it anyway. Pretty much why I'm not a big fan of "Dark Age Of Camelot" style PVP like they seem to want to base ESO on. Of course when I tried it, a lot of other people were leaving as well (some guys in my old, now defunct, "Secret World" Cabal convinced me to try it for a bit).

I'll also be honest in saying I felt kind of cheated in Planetside 2, I wound up buying this guided missile launcher since it seemed like half the stalemates I was involved in came down to armored vehicles, and I wasn't big on driving (and to be honest I just couldn't handle the aircraft well at all). The thing had a long lock on timer for a FPS/real time game, and when I actually got the missiles off they wound up hitting for what amounted to totally pathetic damage, totally not worth the lock on timer with actual people trying to kill me in real time. :)

One of the big issues I have with a lot of these FTP games is the whole dilemma between money and in game power. On one hand, especially in a skill based game like "Planetside" I see why they can't be selling "I win" guns to people. The same logic applies to other types of FTP games as well. On the other hand if I'm going to spend or donate money, especially a reasonable chunk of it, I tend to expect something in return, and while cosmetic items are nice, you can generally only wear so many at a time (of course) and in some games it's actually not an advantage to stand out to
begin with. I think Cryptic actually came up with a decent compromise on the system by making it so the stuff you pay for is generally nice, but also making it so equivalent items are available if you play long enough without having to put cash into the game (if nothing else there are several events through the year where you can get a ship in STO that is going to be as nice as anything coming out of the Zen store or a lockbox). In "Planetside 2" though it seemed like their gimmick was to sell things to idiots, because the weapon I bought for example seemed like a nice, balanced, package compared to what else was out there, but wound up actually seeming like a disadvantage over standard kit in actual gameplay.... and really I wouldn't have minded, except a lot of people were leaving the game right when I started (and I soon followed) because they felt it was being fairly neglected. Whether they picked it up later or not I have no idea. Part of the point here is that I sort of see where your coming from, "Planetside 2" certainly seemed like a game that wanted to take money from people and not give them anything worth it, they were selling like 50,000 different variations on guns, and apparently I wasn't the first one who thought there was no point to most of them. I cannot comment on "Warframe" however.

At any rate, I just did a long ramble about this (and admittedly probably misunderstood the person I was responding to as they pointed out), but as I said there I kind of hope they DO go back to the subscription system for serious games at some point. The whole "cash shop" thing is a slippery slope that few have managed to balance effectively, since if you want people to think donations are worthwhile you need to give them something useful for the money, on the other hand if what your offering isn't worthwhile it discourages people to donate. What's more you have to rely entirely on a company's reputation and declared plans to know if they are ever going to expand when they get enough money. Honestly I've occasionally wondered if they should just say "we want to make an expansion, donate to our fund and when it hits X amount we'll develop it" like a kickstarter or whatever and see if they works without bringing the whole item/sales aspect into things. Despite all the people who talk about supporting games on cosmetic items, to be fair that's not really practical (as much as I like the idea in theory) because beyond a point it's not something most people can use, once you have a nice outfit for your character or a set of vehicle decals you like, you don't need any more, and indeed getting more stuff probably just wastes inventory slots. Not to mention that if you PVP, or are in some kind of shooter war game, you don't actually want to stick out.

I've only ever really played one f2p, warframe, and after a number of weeks broke down and actually spent real money on it. $20. I won't be dropping any more money in so from me they would have been better off just selling it as a normal $60 game.

Mostly, I have to mirror what ScrumpMonkey said. (hate your avatar, btw, it's really mesmerizing to watch)

F2P is a shit business model developed initially by shit MMO's and mobile games.

That's not to say F2P can't be done well. I hated GW2 for being a really boring MMO with really boring classes and a complete lack of the thing that I really loved about my early MMO experiences (strict class structure (the REAL holy trinity of warrior, cleric, enchanter (tank, healing, cc))) and the solid difficulty (without gimmicks) that could be built around that. However, I think GW2 handled F2P very, very well. It was unobtrusive. It was not fundamental to the gameplay. It was fluff, and people ate it up. Good for Arena.net for that.

Most F2P, however, follows the model that is currently apparent in the recent release of the (hell can fuck you in an unnamed orifice until you die of sepsia) current Dungeon Keeper Mobile game. Just a game about absolutely milking the player of cash for minimal returns in a pay to play model. There is not even freemium or pay to win. It's straight-up pay to even play. Screw you EQ. Dinafyr.

And that's what I hate about F2P. I am a money-earning adult member of the regular workforce. I make a salary. So does my wife. We have a budget for online gaming from our old EQ, then DAOC, then WOW, then [insert game here] days. I would rather play a super solid good MMO like EVE Online for $15/month than be hounded to pay constant small amounts to even see a game progress.

I also think this takes serious advantage of compulsive personalities. As a moderate-to-severe OCD personality myself, these kind of games offend me, since they try to use weaknesses in my personality to make money.

Yes those are the numbers for most hustlers, you don't need many idiots when one really fat bastard will pay off all the work.

Maybe devs need to consider legit customers and then they will attract some, I'm not buying your bullshit "micro-transactions" when there is no micro part about it and purposefully set up to not have an end point.

The F2P model is comparable to the "Chicken and Egg scenario".

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In regards to the F2P games which came first, 90% of customers not wanting to pay forcing the game to have high prices for the 10% whales who DO pay, or, did the games start off with the high prices for the 10% whales thus guaranteeing the 90% can't afford or don't want to pay?

The reason I ask is because I constantly see people in these game's forums say that they're willing to buy stuff but everything is either overpriced ($25 per character mount) or a rip-off (gambleboxes). Now to a rich person these things are pocket-change but to a regular person these things are simply unaffordable and force the regular player to simply do without. On the other hand I've never seen a F2P game even try to sell the desirable things at affordable prices so that they don't HAVE to rely on the whales.

As a personal example I've had in LotRO they sell their better store mounts for about $20 per character. Many in the forums, myself included, said $20 was too much for a mount for one character and that at that price the mount would have to be account-wide in order for us to be tempted. So Turbine decided to test it out. They made a store mount that was account-wide....YAY!...but they raised it's price to $30 which completely ignored the whole point of the issue.

In other words, all these F2P games are selling Wal-Mart quality products yet they price it at Gucci prices and then they complain that if not for the whales they'd go out of business. Well Duh! There's a reason why Wal-Mart is a much larger more successful company than Gucci. Maybe one day these F2P games will figure it out.

1) lots of dual accounts
2) money distribution goes along similar lines in the real world (so it is no surprise to find it to some degree in the games, where you plan the amount you invest yourself)

I've played a number of F2p games but like LoL, PS2, a few smaller titles. In these games I've dropped anywhere from 10-40 bucks depending on how long I ended up playing. where I refused to pay was on games where it was clear the only way to win was drop hundreds of dollars on a game.

If I like the game I normally try to pay the same amount that I would pay for a regular game.

I put around 30 dollars into League of Legends and Dota 2 each, and a little bit more into Hearthstone.

Gaben gave an interview a year back or something in regards to this very thing. So called "power users" are spending so much money that they make up for thousands and thousands of non-paying players. So in many ways, this is hardly news :)

The World Famous:
I'm ashamed to admit that I spent probably $300+ over the course of six months on Simpsons: Tapped Out.

Their is no problem with that as far as I am concerned. Simpson's Taped Out is a Free-to-play game done right. What ever requires Donuts are either tertiary characters (Miss Springfield anyone?) o slight variation on buildings. The other factor is that their is a a lot of content that is freely available to anyone.

kiri2tsubasa:

The World Famous:
I'm ashamed to admit that I spent probably $300+ over the course of six months on Simpsons: Tapped Out.

Their is no problem with that as far as I am concerned. Simpson's Taped Out is a Free-to-play game done right. What ever requires Donuts are either tertiary characters (Miss Springfield anyone?) o slight variation on buildings. The other factor is that their is a a lot of content that is freely available to anyone.

See, this is why I don't get Jim Sterling ragging on it. It's totally possible to play the entire game without purchasing a single thing.

I don't know, if free-to-play games are only preying on .15% of gamers, maybe that's just the price we have to pay. Let the people who want to spend too much money on a game do so. As far as Darwinism goes, it could be a lot worse.

The World Famous:

kiri2tsubasa:

The World Famous:
I'm ashamed to admit that I spent probably $300+ over the course of six months on Simpsons: Tapped Out.

Their is no problem with that as far as I am concerned. Simpson's Taped Out is a Free-to-play game done right. What ever requires Donuts are either tertiary characters (Miss Springfield anyone?) o slight variation on buildings. The other factor is that their is a a lot of content that is freely available to anyone.

See, this is why I don't get Jim Sterling ragging on it. It's totally possible to play the entire game without purchasing a single thing.

My guess is that they do not play far and assume that it is all like whatever the first few minutes are. I have to wonder, did he even speak (and by extention most people on the forum) to ANYONE that played Simpson's Tapped Out and ask any questions, clarifications, or anything?

This doesn't surprise me too much. If I'm going to spend any money in a game at all, it ends up $50+ over the lifetime of my interest in the game, and it's been well over $100 in a few cases. I'd be very curious to break down the hours played versus money spent, since if the people who aren't spending much aren't playing much, then it's just not a game they're interested in.

This sounds a lot like lotteries and casinos... Except without the excuse that a proportion of the earnings are supporting schools.

This last weekend, I bought every Assassin's Creed game from I through III for under thirty dollars. It was a very, very good deal on games I'd been curious about for a while but never quite gotten to (in part because of Ubisoft's DRM system, which has since been revised). The idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a "free" game designed with trying players' patience is kind of horrifying to me.

Equally horrifying, in some ways, is that in three to five years there won't be an era of classic games to look back on; there instead will be lots of simplistic games with dead servers that rolled their player base as much as they could and then moved on.

I've always been fairly grateful for the "whales". Without them, many of the games that I play for a few hours would not be economically viable and would simply not exist. The fact is, we of the 99% rely on the 1% to finance our playing.

We get what we want for free, and the 1% get what they want for cash.

If we treat freemium games like drugs, i.e. things that people have to be protected from themselves against, then perhaps a company like Apple should take the lead and prohibiting any one customer making more than $50 or $100 worth of in-app purchases in total on any particular game, limiting the damage to individuals who cannot be trusted to spend money in their own best interests.

Of course, that would be the end of Apple as major gaming platform.

mindfaQ:
1) lots of dual accounts
2) money distribution goes along similar lines in the real world (so it is no surprise to find it to some degree in the games, where you plan the amount you invest yourself)

3) Lots of people who play a free game once, then deciding it's not even worth their time.

4) Generally poor value for money once you do open your wallet tends to discourage people who aren't rich and/or dedicated.

Scrumpmonkey:
I hate to sound like I'm on a downer but these companies are making easy money from people with compulsion control problems; they prey on people who are susceptible to the kind of very bare skinner boxes they lay out in their games and use similar strategy of reward and compulsive and repeated spending online gambling does.

When you are using actual casino terminology to describe the paying 'customers' then you know there's something severely underhanded and rotten with your business model.

(listen to the terminology the Casino guy uses at 2 minutes in)

-compare to this quote from the article:

It's no secret that free-to-play developers reap boatloads of money from these "whale" gamers

We are using actual gambling terms to describe the payment functions of videogames; that children have unrestricted access to, that have no limits on advertising, availability or limiting spending. That is seriously messed up.

Kuala BangoDango:
The F2P model is comparable to the "Chicken and Egg scenario".

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

The egg, but that's a different point. :P

Isn't this sort of the same with gambling? I mean, I only visit a casino once per year at best and usually break even. They get their money from the big spenders too.

Hero in a half shell:
We are using actual gambling terms to describe the payment functions of videogames; that children have unrestricted access to, that have no limits on advertising, availability or limiting spending. That is seriously messed up.

Exactly. Companies that do this are scum. I read an article in 2010 that said the same thing about Zynga. They make all their money off the >1% of there users who spent a lot of money each month. Many of whom are probably children, mentally challenged, control issues, or some combination of all 3. Then people had the idiocy to say "hey you guys shouldn't be happy Zynga is closing! A lot of people lost their jobs!" It's like being sorry that a thief is getting taken off the street as he gets arrested

Hero in a half shell:
When you are using actual casino terminology to describe the paying 'customers' then you know there's something severely underhanded and rotten with your business model.

Not necessarily. When you gamble you walk away with less money and nothing to show for it. With f2p games, you spend money and get things. Generally things that are of questionable value given the money spent on them, but you do get things.

Scrumpmonkey:
I hate to sound like I'm on a downer but these companies are making easy money from people with compulsion control problems; they prey on people who are susceptible to the kind of very bare skinner boxes they lay out in their games and use similar strategy of reward and compulsive and repeated spending online gambling does.

You get stuck putting more coins into the farm shaped slot machine; gameplay rewards are linked directly to monetary input and so the idea that putting money into a game is good is reinforced. It's exactly how a genuine game gets you to use learn it's mechanics; making progress feels good and conditions you to make certain types of choices or actions. This can be a positive thing as it can make a real sense of fun and progression in good games.

In micro-transaction based games it simply wages psychological warfare and it would seem that the small percentage of people who are most susceptible to compulsive behavior of any sort are the ones who end up falling victim to it.

Spot on, you hit it on the head.

Bad Jim:

Hero in a half shell:
When you are using actual casino terminology to describe the paying 'customers' then you know there's something severely underhanded and rotten with your business model.

Not necessarily. When you gamble you walk away with less money and nothing to show for it. With f2p games, you spend money and get things. Generally things that are of questionable value given the money spent on them, but you do get things.

But do you always get the things you want?

EA in particular love to use randomised drops that you pay for to access, offering some very unique and special items that everyone wants, and then a pile of useless junk that's either cosmetic, consumable, or time restricted so you pay real money and only unlock the item for several days.

They use this model in Battlefield Play4free and hide certain gunscopes behind it, causing many people to literally gamble $100s of dollars on trying to win the single item they want, and many of these never actually get their item (but... but they'll have just one more try, maybe it'll come in the next purchase... just one more purchase...)

http://battlefield.play4free.com/en/forum/showthread.php?pid=833615

http://cdn.battlefield.play4free.com/en/forum/showthread.php?tid=147212&pid=1757785

http://cdn.battlefield.play4free.com/en/forum/showthread.php?tid=83914

Literally every single thread there has at least one person pointing out "It's a gamble"

There are far worse threads of people paying literally $100s and getting nothing, but they are usually locked by the forum devs so I can't dredge them back up.

And of course there is the Mass Effect 3 random reward packages that you can either purchase through desperate grinding, or spend more money on the AAA priced game you bought for full price, because they have locked all the upgrades behind a randomised system that includes consumable items again. It caused huge amounts of frustration from players unable to play the harder difficulties because they had unlocked a pile of useless gun upgrades and consumables instead of the things they needed, and many players that never got to try out some of the classes that were locked away in these random packs (including some of which they had to shell out more cash to purchase them from ME3 DLC - essentially they were buying the ability to have the random chance of unlocking extra content - although there were other things in the DLC that they had instant access to.)

http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/343/index/11085506/1

Free2play is designed around wringing the paying customer for all they are worth - enticing them into making that first purchase - and then suckering them in to pay more and more and more and more... until they've invested so much time and money into the game that it would seem a waste to stop playing and lose all that 'progress'. I will concede that many F2P titles do offer an actual definite digital item/resource for a set price, but in many cases F2P titles are also manipulating human weakness to the enticement of randomised gambling in the vein of Skinners Box, and that is absolutely abhorrent.

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