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Base Management Games (Revenue Discussion)

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Akaishen, Apr 1, 2015.

  1. Akaishen

    Akaishen

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    Greetings!

    I'm interested in building a base management game, similar to the all popular Clash of Clans and Boom Beach. I'm not interested in carbon copying these games, only that my game will share some similarities.

    -- Build a long-term game that focuses on player retention
    -- Base management, building, planning, and upgrading
    -- Strategy elements for your base, and away
    -- Support the game long-term with large content updates

    I feel that such a game may only work as a free-to-play (F2P) game. Though there are elements of free-to-play that I dislike. In Boom Beach--for example--you use diamonds to speed up development or to fill in when you don't have the required resources. I understand that people don't want to wait and may be inclined to pay for such diamonds, though I feel that ruins part of the game and game balance.

    If you didn't offer a premium currency to speed up building and upgrading within a free-to-play, would this clash with expectations and annoy players who'd normally pay to jump ahead?

    Alas, a pay-to-play (P2P) model doesn't seem to fit the game entirely. There are a number of components to my game that requires waiting. I don't want to hamper the player's fun, though the waiting makes logical sense, as the game is based around growing resources. I feel that in a pay-to-play model, players will dislike the idea of waiting, and complain that such game-play mechanics are too similar to F2P games.

    Further, though, is I want to build the game in a way that I'll update it over the long term. If I spend months building a new section to the game, I would like to be compensated for the work. If the game is P2P, the only way I can get extra compensation from players is to sell the content as an add-on. Being asked to buy game-content in a P2P game is a pet peeve of mine, though it can make sense sometimes. I would, however, rather just release the update for everyone to enjoy.

    How would you build a long-term game that entices the most people to play, while making money without breaking the game? Would you choose P2P or F2P, and what specifically would you sell? For instance, sell the game and in-game expansion packs? Or, make the game free and sell timed expansion packs (Hearthstone)? Or implement diamonds? If so, why?

    Thanks for your thoughts!
     
  2. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Why do those components of your game require waiting? Can you allow the player to switch to another activity in the game while waiting? In an RTS like StarCraft, for example, you don't start a building and sit around watching it come up; you grab some units and start scouting, or optimize your resource lines, etc.

    What about ads? If the player always has something to do, and it's for free, I don't think they'll mind ads taking up some screen space, even if they're frequent.
     
  3. Akaishen

    Akaishen

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    Hi Tony,

    Thanks for your reply. Where I'm not too in favor of having wait times on building and upgrading, there's a part of the game where you farm. Not farm in the traditional sense, though similar. So, let's say you plant a garden for food in your game, it doesn't make sense to make that food available immediately. I guess Sim Farm could be a good example here. Things require waiting, and once your fruit trees are ripe, you pick them and sell the produce.

    Love StarCraft; excited for Legacy of the Void! The main difference between my game and an RTS is, my game is built for one long-term play with many small start-to-end battles. StarCraft is a game that usually ends within an hour, and then you start over.

    I've though of running ads, or possibly video ads. There's a few things I don't like about them. For instance, I want to create a magical world that my player can enjoy and get lost in. I feel an ad would break this illusion.

    I guess I'm against the pay-to-win diamond system (conveniently disguised as a convenience system), as well as against ads. For things that require waiting, I think I'll look into Sim Farm and refresh how it was handled there. For monetizing the game, perhaps I should look over Hearthstone (timed expansions / new content + cards / arena) and Path of Exile (I believe they sell tab space, among other things).

    If you have any thoughts to add to this, feel free. Thanks!
     
  4. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Terra Monsters 2 (made with the Dialogue System!) provides a free online-only version and a paid offline version.

    One way or another, you're going to have to inconvenience the player -- either charging upfront, serving ads, or using in-app purchases. If you feel that ads and in-app purchases will detract too much from your game, maybe it should be a paid title like Republique.
     
  5. Akaishen

    Akaishen

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    Thanks Tony. That's a method of revenue I hadn't considered.

    I just need to identify something that players 'want', though don't 'need' and then charge for it. Something that improves the experience, though without it, the game is still super fun. I only want to make money from players who play the game for months and become loyal fans. I think I have a few ideas now, though I'll have to plan a bit more to ensure it'll work. A bad monetization strategy will not be able to build the required income I need to continue my work on the game. So, I'm looking for a balance. Thanks for your replies!
     
  6. pixelknight

    pixelknight

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    There was some talks about this very topic at the Game Developer's Conference recently. The monetization doesn't necessarily have to inconvenience the player, but rather add gameplay.

    Take for instance an energy mechanic where you do something regularly thru the day... Say the game allows the player a time rechargable "bank" of energy they can upgrade. Sure the player can spend their diamonds to recharge it, but the usual rate of gameplay lets players do their thing in spurts. Usually player will not convert to spend anyway when they can just do a real-life / in-game activity.. with the exception for hardcore folks that want more, and they can either upgrade or spend.

    Conversely when there is a time limited contest, there is a real incentive for everyone to use those diamonds and recharge that energy so they have the added gameplay of top rewards.
     
  7. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    @Akaishen - Another option is a trial or "lite" version and a paid full version. Conversion rates aren't any better than other monetization methods, but it gives a free experience to new players, and an inconvenience-free experience to all players.

    Good points. I see it as a matter of perspective. If a player can buy a better experience, it means that the free version has an intentional limitation, which I would still call an inconvenience compared to the improved, paid experience. Not that I'm against this; if a game can't make money, it won't exist to let any players enjoy it in the first place.
     
  8. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Planning for success? Games like Boom Beach, Heroes Charge, and Pocket Miner 2 are a success because they use strong design techniques that balance long-term goals, monetization, and the dual-event loop. I've made purchases in all three.

    As an Indie, I struggled with monetization, similar to your posts, and it took me YEARS and many products to work my way through to a deeper understanding. I only get a voice if my business survives.

    Gigi

    PS - Is it just you? You are describing game concepts built by teams of 20-50 people. Even Sims Freeplay required ~20 devs, without multiplayer.
     
  9. Akaishen

    Akaishen

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    @pixelknight That GDC talk sounds interesting. Do you know if they have an online video that covers the talk? If so, a link would be great. :)

    @TonyLi My problem with a lite version is that you're building up your base over a long period of time. If the player suddenly wants to get the paid version, they risk losing their work. A way around this is to save their work to a server, or build one game with a free start, and then sell the full game as an in-app purchase. Having two apps is a problem--I believe--because user reviews are kept separate (they don't mix the lite and the full).

    @Gigiwoo Yes, I'm planning for success, though success to me is to be able to do this full time, not necessarily make a billion (perhaps the two are not so different). ;) From my experience from Boom Beach, buying diamonds is pay-to-win. I've researched free-to-play quite a bit, and I understand the mind game that these games are playing. It just seems the main goal is to make money instead of creating an ongoing fun experience. The longer you play, the slower your progress, until you either pay out, or play something else.

    Hearthstone--albeit a game I don't currently play--sells card packs that people can earn, the arena, and getting early access to expansions. Path of Exile sells inventory slots. These games can be enjoyed without paying. Paying improves the experience, though doesn't ruin the balance (from what I can see). That's what I'm interested in.

    I guess my concern is, if a player has to wait for something, and there's no way to speed it up (gems / diamonds / cash), then these players will be annoyed and move on. I recall watching a free-to-play video that said there are some rich people in China that want to be powerful in the game. If you don't provide a way for them to drop a few thousand and be amazing, they'll move to a game that does allow them to do that. I guess your target audience is the question I need to think on, as I'd rather focus on making an amazing game for everyone, and not just create something that makes money, or appeals to the rich.

    Yes, I am a single developer. I've developed a game using XNA for Xbox 360 and know how difficult it is to build a polished game. I'm keeping that in mind as I build the scope of my game. And, this limiting factor does play a role in how I monetize the game and cost / profit outcomes.

    Thanks for the replies!
     
  10. Tiny-Tree

    Tiny-Tree

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    you could replace this mecanism you consider bad by different one, the problem you see is paid user will have advantages, you could replace the "spend X crystals to finish construction" by watch an add to speed up construction time, so all user will have the posibility to speed up which is great for you because $_$..
     
  11. khanstruct

    khanstruct

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    I don't see why people always make this distinction of "making a fun game" vs. "making a game that generates money".

    First, people will pay money for a game they enjoy. Second, why are you automatically assuming that the people who "pay to win" aren't enjoying the game? They spent money on it, they must like something.

    I'm a fan of free games myself, and I love the microtransaction model. However, I think this entitled attitude towards gaming has just gotten ridiculous. "Why can't I be as powerful as the guy that paid for the game?" :( Well, cuz he paid for the product. Don't like it? Take your freeloading kiester somewhere else. Your vast riches will not be missed.

    Now, I don't think spending $1000 should make you more powerful than someone who spends $20 (or whatever), but I do think there should be a distinction between "paying players" and "non-paying players".

    All that ranting aside, you have to boil the game down to clicks and seconds. That's all a game really is, and that's all people are paying for (aside from aesthetics). Does my $0.99 save me a dozen clicks? Does it save me an hour? Figure out the value of clicks and seconds in your game and you can figure out the pricing model.
     
  12. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    It's an argument immemorial - art vs life. Games, actors, musicians, painters ... 'you sold out' vs 'gotta eat' vs 'why not?' It's a gradient that is heavily correlated with size (individual).

    Gigi
     
    khanstruct likes this.
  13. Akaishen

    Akaishen

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    I wouldn't say this discussion is about fun vs money (Edit: scratch that, maybe it is). I feel it's more about what revenue model fits different styles of games. Traditionally, I see most base management games (in the like of Boom Beach and Clash of Clans), being free to play. And, there's benefits to that. Though, can such a game be Pay to Play? And if so, what trade-offs do you have to make?

    There are things in base management games that I don't like. Paying for convenience, to me, ruins the balance of the game. Though, so does waiting a week for an upgrade. If you balance the game fun factor to paying players, then eventually the non-paying players will hit a wall (if we're talking about a pay for convenience revenue model).

    For example, I've paid $20 into Boom Beach and $10 into Clash of Clans. This gave me a temporary increase to the fun of the game, though now I've hit a wall (and my purchased resources are gone). If I want to have "fun" again and progress pass my wall, I need to pay more, or dedicate a large chunk of time / risk to get over the wall. Eventually, I'm just going to stop playing the game as the challenge and work required to progress is too much (or takes too long).

    I still play Boom Beach, though I've hit a wall. I hit the wall in Clash of Clans and have stopped playing it. It's just "not fun" and I've moved on. I understand that companies need to make money, and of course, I want to make money as well. Though I also want to present an ongoing "fun" experience while making money, and this discussion is about how to do that.

    -- Ads
    -- Optional ads for currency / item
    -- Sell items
    -- Sell expansions
    -- Sell cosmetics
    -- Draft / Tournament system
    -- Pay for convenience
    -- Pay to win
    -- Pay for community (so you can make a clan, run a clan, grow a clan)
    -- Pay to play
    -- Pay to play with ads / IAP

    That's all I can think of off the top of my head. This isn't about selling out - this is about finding a strategy that works the best, and doesn't hinder the fun of one group over another. I'm also not saying that Clash of Clans or Boom Beach are bad games. Just that the games grew old to me, or I hit a soft pay wall. Supercell deserves all the money they've earned and I wish everyone the best of luck in finding success for their own games. :)
     
  14. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Why re-invent the wheel? There are dozens of wonderfully compelling examples with nearly every possible free-to-play monetization imaginable. Like:
    • League of Legends (the pinnacle of Free-to-play for so many reasons)
    • Candy Crush (the other end of the spectrum, some say evil)
    • Pocket Miner 2 (deep gameplay, with or without pay)
    • Heroes Charge (Great example of a monthly subscription - $2.99/mo)
    • Boom Beach/Clash of Clans (pay to win, moderate game play without payments)
    • (Insert your fav)
    I had done my research, played hundreds of freemium games, and thought I knew everything. Yet, it hadn't truly hit me until I started releasing actual products. Free-to-play monetization is HARD. HARD - IN ALL CAPS - HARD.

    All this talk of 'how to do monetization right' first supposes that you will you both 1) finish a game and 2) have enough customers that it matters (>500 downloads per day). Since both are extremely unlikely, any hour you spend thinking about it is probably time wasted.

    Gigi

    PS - In general, banner & interstitial ads are a terrible way to monetize, unless you've gotten lucky with a freak success (aka Flappy Bird). Incentivized videos are slightly more effective, and allow a sort of meta-game for players.
     
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  15. khanstruct

    khanstruct

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    Not that I'm defending games like Candy Crush, but I do play it, and I have paid a dollar here and there. Just curious as to what you think is wrong with their model?
     
  16. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    I tend to abscribe to Ramin Shokrizade's general argument that F2P works best when the money provides something players WANT (aka skins in LoL) as opposed to provide ways to relieve anxiety (aka Candy Crush). Extra Credits explains it well here - and it summarizes in one sentence: "Create an environment where the player is happy to spend money".

    Some have criticized that Candy Crush is psychologically manipulative (OMG, I MUST pass level 240, it's been 2 weeks since I leveled!), whereas LoL is generally praised for monetizing player's enjoyment and social status (I WANT to show my love of Lee Sin!). There's lots of great articles on Gamasutra and other sites.

    My point is that the OP may be giving a fair amount of thought about ways the game might make money. Since it seems like a novice attempt (apologies if I'm wrong), some people might argue he should not monetize at ALL. At the very least, he should avoid reinventing the wheel until he has more mastery of his craft.

    Gigi

    PS - I've no issue with Candy Crush. It's a good game. It makes LOTS of money. It's presumptive to argue with success.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  17. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    On a related note, it's easy to criticize games for using energy. The argument is that it's bad to push players away from your game. And yet, it's hard to argue that forcing players to take a break from your game is unethical. "Hey Jimmy, consider taking a break and going for a walk!" So, though the hard-core gamers tend to dislike it, it's a humane and successful way to monetize.

    Gigi
     
  18. Akaishen

    Akaishen

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    It should be clear--from all of my posts--that my effort is in building a quality game. My interests are in making something fun. Something people are excited to play. To me, this is what makes the creation of games fun.

    That article states it's almost unethical to ask to be compensated for your work, given the assumption that your work sucks when you start. Or, that you're predisposed to release crap in an effort to make a quick dollar.

    If you work hard on something and build a fun and unique experience, there is nothing wrong with charging for it. I don't agree that you should release your games for free unless that's something you want to do. If your game isn't good enough to ask for a few dollars, then it's probably best to keep it to a tight group of friends and family.

    Let's be clear here, making money is hard. There's no cutting corners. If you want to make good games, the effort is a marathon. Commit to it. If you want to be a good writer, you need to eat, sleep and breath writing. My effort here is not to find a get rich scheme for a shoddy game, it's to find a good monetization strategy to "fit" a game, and to discuss how to adapt a game that's typically free-to-play to a pay-to-play.

    "Free-to-play monetization is HARD. HARD - IN ALL CAPS - HARD."

    I'm currently working on a smaller pay-to-play game. I know, all too well, that free-to-play is hard. Which is why it requires a lot of upfront work and discussion to figure out how it should work and how it should affect your game.

    The subscription idea is something I hadn't considered, thanks for bringing that up.

    As for re-inventing the wheel, it's a matter of thinking for ourselves and not copying other games because they appear successful. If I made a base management game, I shouldn't just copy what Clash of Clans does because they make money. I should think about my game, what makes it fun, and try to build a revenue strategy that compliments it.

    The take away is, the focus of your game should always be about making the best experience you can. With that said, this thread is about applying different monetization strategies to games, and how that changes the game for better or worse.
     
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  19. khanstruct

    khanstruct

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    When Ultima Online originally came out, they would shut down their servers for a couple hours every night to force people to stop playing and go to bed.
     
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  20. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    I suspect the trick is pushing them away when they want more. So they leave looking forward to coming back later, instead of when they're exhausted with the activity at hand.
     
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