With the increased amount of people looking to sink a bit of spare time into gaming, the “Free to Play” market of video games has gained so much traction that it now is responsible for around 1/3rd of all revenue within the games industry. Unfortunately, it would not exactly be ridiculous to say that most of this revenue is made by games that could very rarely be considered “good” games. Games like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Clash of Clans and the much maligned Dungeon Keeper mobile game are terrible, money grabbing games designed to prey on addiction and exploit it to make as much money as possible.
So how do you, as a designer, work on a game that is free to play, financially viable, and still easily considered a “good” game by the general public?
Make it Fun
So many current free to play games couldn’t exactly be considered this, which is a shame because if a game is fun, people are more willing to put money down towards it. You have to have a simple concept that is immediately understandable like “match the three blocks” or “shoot the enemies,” but then give it your own spin.
Whether or not this is due to the art style (think Battlefield Heroes), the mechanics at play (Loadout and the “Build your weapon” mechanic), or even the writing, you need to actually make the game fun to play. Make it something that people would be willing to put down $15 for to play for the first time and people will be more than happy to end up spending far more on it. Just look at the thousands of dollars individual players drop on League of Legends or Hearthstone.
Make it Fair
Never balance your game against those who do not put money into it. Team Fortress 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive do this really well. It shouldn’t really have to be said, but do not make the game blatantly push micro-transactions onto the player. Give them incentive to do it with visual customization options, but never have “better” abilities, tools or anything that impacts the players experience simply playing the game.
Make it Full
Give your game plenty of content to keep your players engaged over a long period of time. If there aren’t enough things in the game to justify your player spending their time with your game, your player-base will eventually dwindle and no one will remain. Ultimately, this comes down to making sure you have a variety of content for your players to play through and then as a result of this, they will be more willing to spend money on it.
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