Why it pays to be generous
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 November 2013, 3:26 am
Green Armadillo is discussing the paradox of generosity: "An odd quirk of the non-subscription business model is that generosity can make paying for the product less attractive. The more stuff you give away for free, the less stuff you have left to sell people." Now I am pretty sure that many people think this is true, and there are even developers who design games based on this assumption. But me, I am not convinced. I don't think that "less stuff you have left to sell people" exists, because you aren't selling physical goods; there is no upper limit to the amount of virtual stuff you can sell to people. For example World of Warcraft has an achievement called We're Going to Need More Saddles, which you get for collecting 150 mounts: Does that suggest to you that there is an upper limit for the demand for mounts? You can always sell more.

In my opinion the danger of making an unsuccessful Free2Play game is much more on the side of you being not generous enough. If I play a new game, and from the first minute I play I constantly get pestered by the game to spend money on it, and the game visibly is trying to make my experience as a free player as uncomfortable as possible, I simply stop playing. It isn't as if there weren't enough other games out there, of any genre.

But if a game lets me enjoy the gameplay for free for a while, so I grow to like the game and get attached to it, I'm far more willing to open my wallet. Even for things I don't strictly need. I spent $100 on Card Hunter not because I needed to, but because I loved the game and wanted to support it. I spent money on Marvel Puzzle Quest after thoroughly enjoying it, and liking the prospect of having a larger space for more different heroes. The game didn't force me to spend money, it even offers all this for free if you prefer grinding. But once I like a game, I'm more willing to pay for comfort.

I am also totally okay with the old "pay before you play" concept. I still buy a lot of games on Steam or in app stores like that, just based on announcements or reviews. But I believe that once you decide that your game should be Free2Play, it has to be actually free to play to some reasonable extent. You can't pretend your game is free and then shove a paywall in the players face right at the start. You need to be generous to engage players with your game. There is always enough stuff left to sell people, because people will buy the most useless virtual crap if they love a game.
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