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Good Things.
Small Packages.

LESSONS LEARNED: Monitization

April 21, 2015


We’ve learned a lot through the development of Mr. Snapz: Cookie Caper – but most important was settling on a definitive monetization strategy. The model you choose influences everything – from the game design, to the marketing campaign, to justifying the game as financially viable. Along our journey, we made two erroneous stops before we reached our final model for monetization.

Our first option was the traditional method of selling the entire game as a premium experience. The trick with this model is choosing the right price for the game. By “right,” I mean the point where you’re making the maximum amount of money out of each purchase, while still attracting new players. Alternatively, we could sell the game at a lower price, but to more people.

This method was chosen during my stint as a member of the start-up Villainous Software, LLC. Purchasing games outright was popular during the early period of the iOS App Store; however, it relies on amassing a large number of single purchases. That means to make a game viable, you need a lot of sales, which requires a lot of attention. Now we come to the same problem we encountered time and time again at Villainous: getting the game noticed.

One positive aspect of this monetization method is that it requires no code implementation whatsoever. All you need to do is upload your game to the respective store and set the price point. The store takes its cut and that’s the end of it. No need for in-app purchases.

Our second attempt revolved around selling expansions for the game. The first series of stages would be available for free and subsequent stages would be sold in-game for a nominal price. Exposure is still a dominating factor, but in this case, one is not limited to a single transaction. Every expansion provides a new opportunity for revenue.

There are multiple flaws with this approach, the first being that players can experience the core game without spending a penny, whereas before that revenue was already in the bank. Secondly, even if the player likes the game, all the income comes from the expansions. The money spent on development for the first set of stages is distributed across the additional sets of stages. Thirdly, there must be a minimum amount of stages to attract the player and, at the same time, each expansion must be profitable to make it worth continuing. Finally, an in-game store must be implemented.

Our third and final option was micro-transactions. The game remained free to install with expansions as free updates and all revenue is made with in-app purchases. The game is not ‘Pay to Win.’ The purchases are either for the player’s entertainment or to make the game a little easier to progress through. The player is able to either earn in-game currency through play or purchase add-ons and upgrades with real money. Of course, earning through play is much slower than purchasing in-game currency, but it allows everyone to enjoy those extra features however they like.

The main positive factor is that there is (or can be) a multitude of purchase options. In addition to that, there are the options such as consumable or expiring items which must be repurchased for reuse. The problem of exposure and the extra work of implementing an in-game store exists for micro-transactions as well. In addition to those two difficulties, a certain amount of creativity is required to generate add-ons, items and upgrades that will encourage the player to spend real money without feeling cheap or manipulative.

As you can see, Mr. Snapz: Cookie Caper?s monetization strategy has gone through several iterations, so I hope you learn from our mistakes and make sure you choose the appropriate method for your game.