Five ways to fail at freemium

The freemium or free to play (F2P) business model is still new and in an immature state. There are some early adopters that have used exploits or tricks to squeeze money from their players, while others created what we call a “pay-to-win” experience where you’re almost guaranteed to win if you pay money. While these tactics may have generated a lot of revenue for these developers, as the market, business model and player expectations mature, these tactics will become less and less accepted by players. They probably won’t go away all together, but it’s better to get ahead of the curve and start designing and executing smarter games today. Here are examples of 5 of these tactics:

There are a lot more than five ways to screw up the free to play model, but these are five big ones. The one that particularly galls me is “Design a free to play Player vs Player (PvP) game to be pay-to-win.” That drives me absolutely bonkers.



  • Domicinator

    I feel that Clash of Clans is a good example of how to not fall into any of those traps. The game by itself is addicting without having to pay for one thing. You may feel the need to recharge your gem supply every now and then, but you certainly don’t have to. As far as battles, the game seems to match you up with players it thinks you can handle, or at least have a shot at beating, so people that choose the fast track and pay to get ahead do not necessarily have an advantage over you. They just simply have a more powerful and way cooler looking village than you do.

    I have played several games that are much like Clash of Clans (earn resources, build stuff, wait 3 days for it to be done or until you can do anything at all) but Clash of Clans succeeds because there are things you can do WHILE you wait for other things to happen, and there are 3 or 4 different aspects of the game to keep track of, not just building things and going to war.

    And because I have been getting so much entertainment out of a free game for months now, I will happily give the developer some money for gems. Any money they make off of this game is well deserved.

  • lucascott

    To me the best freemium games are those that are fully playable without spending any cash, aside from perhaps to remove ads which should be only like 99 cents. But if you are really that impatient you can use real cash to buy more game cash.

    Like the Temple Run games. I think they do this well. I’ve been playing the first game since about a month after it came out and never spent a dime.

    EA and Real Racing 3 where you can pay to speed up the time for a repair is okay too. Unlike the Simpsons where after about an hour of play you are basically stuck unless you pony up real cash for those donuts.