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I'm an indie game developer for the past 5 years. I co-founded Berzerk Studio in 2008 I worked on games like Berzerk Ball, Sands of coliseum, Frantic Frigates and PeaceKeeper.

I never felt like we've shown enough of "backstage" stuff, so I created the show Indie Your Face. Expect to see art, animation, beer, sweat, code and blood. Also plaid... I like plaid.

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In my last post I wrote about 3 rules for Freemium game devs. Today I’d like to go over a couple of different types of MicroTransactions and get into the business side; to give some insights on how to optimize it or when you should use it.
TL;DR Version!

The Tip Jar Approach

It's the equivalent of the street performer passing the hat after a good show. While you are sure nobody will be angry by this type of MicroTransactions, it's not really effective as a revenue. Don't rely on this to pay your bills, just take a look at the numbers for the massive hit Space Team. However, Henry wrote on his blog that he did not made this game for money but made it to put his name on the radar. After multiple awards, and nearly 2 million downloads I think it's safe to say he succeeded :)! Congrats Henry!
One interesting approach is the one Bari Silvestre did for Pretentious game. The game uses the good old Demo -> Full game approach, but when you are about to complete the purchase, you have the option to either buy the game for a dollar or give a little more and support the studio (up to $5). Bari claims that simply doing this got him 30% more revenue. Why? The difference is that in Bari's game, your brain already agreed to pay for the whole game. When he asks for a little more, then what's another $2 to support the guy?

The big difference can be explained with the famous chocolate experiment by Dan Ariely:

In one of his experiments, Ariely set up a booth in a well-trafficked area. Passersby could purchase chocolates :
Hershey’s Kisses for $0.01 a piece or Lindt Truffles for $0.15 each. The majority of people who faced this offer chose the truffles. It was a fine deal considering the quality differences and the normal prices of both items. Ariely then set up another booth with the same two choices but lowered the price by one cent each, thus making the kisses free and the truffles cost $0.14 each.
This time, the vast majority of people selected the kisses instead of the truffles.
- Extract from Predictably Irrational

Basically, once your brain agrees to open your wallet, the price difference between $1 and $5 is much easier to accept.

- Demo -> Full :

If you go down that road, the biggest question you'll have to answer is "Where do I end the demo?". You need to cut the experience when the player wants more, without pissing him off, that's a really complicated challenge right there; It's not as easy as it seems. Gasketball did the demo -> full approach, but unfortunately didn't paid off: "Gasketball has succeeded well below what Solipskier did in it’s first few weeks. Only 0.67%.people buy the game in the end. "
Source : Penny Arcade, HookShotInc

If you put too much content in your demo, people won't bother buying the full version. That's what happened to us with Deep Sea Mahjong. We got great reviews, players opened the game 25 times in average, but they just played the Daily puzzle and left. They had enough with the free version, why would they buy the full version ?

If you can't find a nice way to split your game, just put a price on the whole thing and don't even release a demo. And you know what, if you don't release a demo, if might even a better solution!

Because :

1.You'll spend less. You have to make the demo, release and maintain it. Multiply the whole thing by the amount of targeted platforms. Lots of time and money spent.
2.On mobile, you won't compete against the big guys. The current trend in mobile gaming is on the Free to Play model. As all the big budgets are being spent to promote these free games, being put in the "Paid Games" section means you won't have to compete against their deep pockets for exposure.
3.A demo can be harmful to your sales. According to Jesse Schell, "releasing a game demo can cut your sales in half". Go watch his video for more details on this
- Expansion/ Additional content/More levels:
It’s essentially the same as the “demo-> full” route, the main difference is the game is designed to be updated, to have more content in the future. You know, when you see an interface like this:

When I started writing this article, I was under the impression that more game were selling [u]single-shot sets of levels[/u] out there (Level Pack 1: $0.99, Level Pack 2: $0.99, etc.). But I keep seeing games that are asking for a one-time purchase to unlock all levels AND future levels. As a player, I much prefer that approach, you pay one time and that's it; you get everything plus what's not even released yet. As a developer though, I'm wondering what's the difference between charging $0.99 per level, or charge $2.99 for all levels.
While I never experimented with that model myself, I did some research and what I found out is that for heavy-story based game, developers tend to charge per episodes. Games like Phoenix Wright, Ghost Tricks, Final Fantasy Dimensions, The wolf among us, Back to the future, etc. If the game has little to no story, like a puzzle game or an upgrade game, developers tend to charge once for everything AND future updates.
But hang on, if people only have to pay once, making new levels and updates won't give you more money right?
For every update you release, you'll get a boost in exposure, increasing your user base. You'll get media exposure, and a possible feature spot. You'll give a new life to your game and you can do that as often as you like. Updates, updates, updates. Developers of Badlands shared the impact of making updates at the last GDC

- Character Customization :
For single player games, that doesn't really work. The whole point of buying cosmetic changes is to show it to people, to brag about it, to be proud of it. It's the equivalent of jewelry. If you can't show it to anybody, it's pretty much useless. In multiplayer games on the other hand, that stuff works a lot and won't even change the game’s design at all. Games like Path Of Exile use that concept masterfully and are able to fund their development team solely from these cosmetic purchases.

The thing to remember here is you don't sell skins and costume, you sell reputation. You sell respect.
If you're working on a single player game, one thing you can do is to sell jokes. Just like the Mankini in Major Mayhem. In that case, you're not selling reputation, you're selling curiosity. "What the hell will it look like?"

That's all I got for today and I've only covered half of what I wanted to, more to come soon!


While a lot of people simply hate the growing presence of microtransactions,  I'm trying to dissect this new tool and just started a new quest for understanding and taming the beast.  I believe that the use of MicroTransaction is still growing and is not going anywhere, and can actually be a good thing when done right.

In my last video, I said MicroTransactions are not good or bad, that it's more complex than that.

So today I I came up with 3 rules that I believe will help game developer out there to use MicroTransactions correctly and ethically.

TL;DR Version!

1: Player must enjoy the game without having to pay.
Make the game fun to people who don't pay, and offer a little extra to those who'd like to support you.  It's basicly the same tactic as http://www.patreon.com/ or ;https://subbable.com/.  If you're a true fan of Smooth McGroove's content he gives for free,  you can give him 15$ to hang out with him in a google Hang out session. A little extra for the fans.  But he doesn't stop his show in the middle to ask for money, just like a street performer don't stop his music in the middle of a song to ask for tips.

Even if your fans don't pay you in the end,  they will remind you, your fanbase will grow, they will talk about you, tell their friends, do promotion for you.  If they love you, they'll support you in some way.

2: MicroTransaction should NOT affect game balance.
Before I continue, I want to talk about something I hear too many times. "Game with Mtx are okay,  but they do not represent the purest form of game design".  First of all, that's just not true. Take a look at Space Team.  Game design is in no way tainted and the guy barely ask for money.  It's a pure game design gem, free to play with microtransactions.
Second, just stop saying that.  What you are doing is dragging everybody down to lift you up, saying to yourself that you're the elite of the group.  It's a classic artist to artist insult.
I won't drag your game down if you charge 5$. I don't go and say "Premium games are okay, but I prefer give happiness, for free!".  That would be stupid.  Don't drag everybody's games down, to lift yourself up.

Now to be fair, "The purest of game design" argument does have a point when crazy investor says stupid stuff like ”Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher.”  

That's freaking scary!  Nobody wants that!  When done wrong, MicroTransaction can break the game experience, pretty badly.  But in the same way a musician can pollute his music by asking for money during his song.  That's why this rule is here.  To make sure the game experience is intact.  You need to avoid anything that creates a gap of power between payers and non-payers. The last thing you want is to piss off players that doesn't pay. So if you give special power-ups to people who pay, those who don't will feel less powerful, they'll say it's unfair, they will leave, decreasing your fans and supporters.

3: People need to fall in love with your game first.  
Too many time I've seen games where right off the first 5 minutes, it ask me if I want to pay for something.
Example :
- You open the game press start and then BAM ! UNLOCK THE FULL VERSION! Nobody.  NO-BO-DY will hit that button. We don't even know what the game is about.  You told me the game was free to try, so let me try it first!   Wait until there's a naturally break in the game, after let's say 10 minutes of play at least. Or show that screen only when the player re-open the game for the 2nd or a 3rd time.

Another example :
- You play a little, then you eventually die for the first time, because you are learning. It's normal to die. "Do you want to resurrect for 5 crystal?"  No I don't !  I don't even know what are the consequences of dying!  Do I lose score? Do I lose experience /gold ? Does even something happen?   It's already hard to learn your game, don't confuse me with stuff I need to ignore when I'm learning.  No I don't want to resurrect for 5 crystals.  Maybe later.  For now, I just want to mess around with your game.

Focus on giving the player a good time, make him happy first.  Think about a street performer. He's making music first, then he ask for money.

That's nothing new, just start looking for other exemple in life. You'll see that everywhere:
- They offer you a dessert after your meal.
- They offer you a t-shirt after that big roller coaster ride.
- At a museum, They make you leave by the souvenir shop.
- At then end of a rock concert, you can buy t-shirts.

These are all exemple of asking money when people are happy.

So let's recap :
1: Player must enjoy the game without having to pay.
2: MicroTransaction should NOT affect game balance.
3: People need to fall in love with your game first.  

Now, what I am not saying :
- Every game should have micro-transaction because that's the way the world should go.
Nope, I'm not saying that.  

If you don't want to mess with that big whole science that is MicroTransaction, just don't. As Rami Ismail said "Don't be shy to charge 3$".  

Marc (the artist behind Berzerk Ball) and I, are currently working on a project together. Something we don't want MicroTransactions in, because it just fit the game.

What I am saying that if you go that road, think about it during the game design, not at the end of the project.  Don't forget to make the game for people who don't pay.
Just like street performer make music for a lot of people who don't give them money, or the youtubers like SciShow, MinutePhysics or Smooth McGroove who give you free content, and gives a little extras to their fans.

Hope it helps!

Today I’m talking about Microtransactions.  Why some are using it and should it be considered good or bad.  Another beefy episode, I took me x4 more time than usual, and I only covered one third of what I wanted to say.  

Thanks to Juicy Beast, Toge Productions and Chris Jeff’s games!  You guys rock!

Today I’m going deeper into clean code.  Last episode I talked about “why”, today I’m talking about “how”.

It’s a beefier episode, but there was so much to say !

Clean Coding is the best advice I ever got in my 10 years of coding. And this is why.
If you are not a coder, please watch anyway, I need you out in the video. 


3:04 PM on 12.06.2013

Recently, we had to lay off everybody working at Berzerk Studio, sell pretty much all our stuffs and move away from our office. Leaving only the 3 co-founder with no office and little to no money left. 

It's a very sad fate for the long ride we had, this December will be our 5 years anniversary (...yay!). 2013 has been a very bad year for us, we lost a lot money, and finally our kick-ass team.  It was all going along nicely, but yeah, our bank account told us that... we should go... f**k ourselves.

Why is there no money left ? 

We have a couple of ideas, errors we did that we need to avoid in the future, but it's hard to pinpoint. What we do know is we ended up spending too much money on games than what it gave in return. We wanted to make good, quality games at the point where we were losing money making it. Fans before money.

Still, we are not giving up. 

We may be back at square 1, we might have lost a lot of projects, we may have lost a lot of money but we are not giving up, we are still working all day, making games, as our primary jobs. 

We lost this round, but the fight ain't finished.

As rocky said : "...it ain't about how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done."

I hope this video will give hope to any indie going through a hard phase!

- Lachhh