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3 Rules for Freemium game devs. - Destructoid

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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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Hey!

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!



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