Free-to-play on mobile: dos and don’ts


Free-to-play is growing apace throughout the industry, but especially on mobile, where it’s rapidly becoming the dominant business model. After the success of games like CSR RacingNew Star Soccer and the Stick Sports series, we asked their creators for their insight into how to succeed – and fail – in the free-to-play space.

Do: Read Chris Anderson’s ‘Free’

Jason Avent, BossAlien Free-to-play gets a bad press because in the past the games required no skill to play and were viewed as being exploitative. A book called ‘Free’ by Chris Andersonconvinced me that freemium is the inevitable conclusion for digital content.

The key tenets are that if something is free, it’ll have the best market penetration – and digital content is free to distribute, so it fits the model perfectly. Then if people can pay as little or as much as they want to for the game, it will convert the maximum amount of the people who received the free part to paying customers. It gives you choice and lots of different price points so you can tailor the experience.

Don’t: Limit player progress

Simon Read, New Star Games Sometimes grind can be fun but I want to see some progress or reward for my two minutes of play time, even if I don’t spend any real cash. Imagine if the game was a straight up paid app without any in-app-purchases to take shortcuts. Would it still be fun?

Do: Focus on platform reach

Paul Collins, Stick Sports Android might not monetise as well as iOS but it will add a massive potential audience which in turn drives the viral effect, building both your brand and your customer base.

Don’t: Worry about bad press

JA Once you get past the negative associations and fear of change, freemium just makes sense. Try it for free; if you don’t like it, walk away. If you do like it, then pay what you’re comfortable with. Pay what you can afford. Real freemium must allow you to play forever for free. That’s what I believe. But at the other end, cater for people who really love it.

Do: Try something new

PC Free-to-play models have already evolved significantly since their wide adoption over the last couple of years. There is no ideal model, each has its qualities, so it is more about effective application.  There is far more evolution to come than we have already seen.

Don’t: Make it too easy

SR Spending a whole load of real cash should not completely remove the challenge from the game. You could even argue that more powerful weapons or equipment should require more skill to use effectively, particularly if this is an item that is also available to players who worked hard to earn them through skillful play.