Freemium service models – paying for convenience in games February 20, 2008Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, business models, digital goods, freemium, mobile, subscription, virtual goods.
Last week I noted that free-to-play games will become increasingly dominant. I’ve also noted in the past several use cases for the digital goods business models that will be one of the primary monetization mechanisms for free-to-play games. Selling increased functionality can result in user dissatisfaction if players perceive that the only way that they can “win” is to buy more powerful in game functionality. This can be managed through the use of a dual currency system, as Matt Mihaly noted in a guest post.
One other monetization mechanism that free-to-play games can offer is services. Some games, especially real time strategy games, can be somewhat inconvenient to play because they require constant monitoring and occasionally require actions to be taken in game at a certain time. Gameplay can inconveniently interfere with other activities, like work and sleep.
Travian is a good example of this. In Travian each action takes a certain amount of time, and there is no way to “queue up” orders (e.g. if you want to upgrade your mine after you’ve finished upgrading your farm field), or to “schedule” orders to be carried out at a certain time (e.g. if you want to time a raid on another village to be coordinated with another attack). Instead, Travian requires a player to be in the game at a specific time to give an order.
Offering a player the ability to queue up orders or schedule orders as a premium service is a non controversial way to monetize users. Players who do not want to play can be just as effective as players who are willing to pay (they just need to be able to get online at the right times to give their orders). Players who pay for the service are paying simply for convenience, not for additional in game power.
Managerzone‘s mobile premium service is another example of such a service. As I noted previously, the mobile service gives a player certain alerts and allows a player to take a number of actions in the game from their mobile phone, without having to log on to the website from a computer. This makes the game much more convenient to play, but again doesn’t disadvantage a player who choses not to pay for the mobile service since they can still do everything from the website. It looks like Blizzard may also be considering a mobile version of World of Warcraft.
I’d be interested to hear from readers of other examples of games monetizing premium services.
Games 2.0: The Facebook app Zombies is a huge MMOG December 21, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, facebook, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg.
As I mentioned in my last post, you can think of Zombies* and its Monster app brethren (Vampires, Werewolves and Slayers) as an asychronous massively multiplayer online game. It is essentially a PvP dueling game, not unlike duels.com, but much lighterweight. Many of the core elements of a game are already there; experience points, the ability to level up etc. In an interview with Virtual World News back in August, Zombie co-developer Blake Commagere said:
… the game play element is just a new form of interaction.
“Facebook serves different purposes for different people,” he said. “For some people, it’s a business contact site. They probably don’t want zombies on their pages, but a large number are looking for something to do. They’re looking for ways to interact. They use it to message their friends and organize parties. This is just one more way to interact with friends.”
In a random sampling of the users, Commagere found that the app draws slightly more women than men, mostly between 18 and 30. That’s a slightly younger and more female-biased demographic than Second Life or many of the other MMOGs.
In May the average visit time for a user to Facebook was just about 13 minutes, though they visit frequently. So Zombies works as a sort of casual MMO built on the social network. Commagere credits the app’s success to being simple, fun, and tied to a sense of community.
“You can build something for people on social networks,” he said, “but if you don’t leverage the social aspect, it’s just not as interesting. Then you’re ‘Oh, here I am with a widget on my page, all by myself.’ If you can see it on other people’s pages, that’s when users get into it. One of the things that’s compelling in the games we’re making is that you can see ‘Oh, here’s my friend John, and he’s got more points than me.'”
Arguably, the Monsters app are only proto games right now. They certainly derive more of their popularity from their social aspects than from their game design today. Biting someone or attacking their monster is a lightweight way of saying “I’m thinking about you” without having to actually compose a message. It also opens up the opportunity for reciprocity, one of Cialdini’s six weapons of influence). But collectively they have over 18m app installs and 700 daily actives. That is an impressive number for any MMO. As gameplay improves (and it will) you can expect to see daily active rates go up. Scrabulous has shown that with a good game dynamic, a game on Facebook can get up to 30% daily actives which suggests a lot of potential upside.
Watch this space!
Games 2.0: Ian Bogost on Asynchronous Games December 13, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, business models, casual games, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming.
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As I dug more into asnychronous gaming, I found this great paper by Ian Bogost titled Asynchronous Multiplay: Futures for Casual Multiplayer Experience, which he presented at a conference in 2004.
Bogost notes the following four characteristics of asynchronous games:
1. Asynchronous play supports multiple players playing in sequence, not in tandem.
2. Asynchronous play requires some kind of persistent state which all players affect, and which in turn affects all players.
3. Breaks between players are the organizing principle of asnychronous play.
4. Asynchronous play need not be the defining characteristic of the game.
It is a thoughtful history and analysis of multiplayer asynchronous games and has proved to be remarkably prescient in its predictions for casual online MMOGs. The historical perspective in particular is quite useful. Worth reading the whole thing.