5 game monetization optimizations for Vainglory

Don’t feel like reading? Enjoy this quick video analysis instead.

Trumpeted on stage at WWDC, given the Editor’s Choice on release and featured to an unprecedented degree in the Gamers television ad for iPhone 6, no game has seen as strong of a promotional push from Apple as Metal showpiece Vainglory. The fantastic take on MOBA for mobile devices has seen strong reviews and industry support. And yet the game’s performance has underwhelmed relative to the amount of attention garnered. To date, the game has failed to break into the top 150 grossing in the US for iPhone or iPad. In the past three months, Vainglory has not appeared in the top 150 downloaded apps chart in the US on either device.

Featuring an all star team of accomplished executives, Super Evil Megacorp has raised $15 million to date (according to Crunchbase) and no doubt has the ability to raise millions more if they are in need. As a company set on building a 10-year plus franchise with Vainglory, it appears their focus is not on overtaking Clash of Clans this year, but on being the first touch game to fill a stadium full of eSports enthusiasts League of Legends style some years from now. In a recent interview, COO Kristian Segerstrale explained the company’s community first approach to development and how they’ve “deliberately chosen from the start to almost be the caricature anti-monetizer.”
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5 monetization missteps in Midnight Star’s UI

Don’t feel like reading? Check out this video analysis instead.

First announced over 2 years ago, Industrial Toy’s Midnight Star is the latest attempt from a group of industry heavyweights to translate first person shooters for mobile devices and the free-to-play business model. With an impressive pedigree including Ex-Bungie head Alex Seropian, the PR around the game has implied that Midnight Star will be to the mobile FPS genre what Halo was to the console FPS genre. Included in this mission is the heartfelt desire to do free-to-play right, as expressed in a pre-launch article on GamesIndustry.biz last week:

“The other big difference is the mentality; Industrial Toys are looking for longterm engaged players, not quick win idiots who will spend $30 on a diamond hammer and never return.”

If you have followed my work on game monetization, you will know that much of monetization happens in the UI/UX layer. The motivation to spend must come from the fun factor of the game itself, but thoughtful UI flows that balance making purchasing present with respect for the player are key to good monetization. With that in mind, I wanted to quickly touch on five monetization missteps Midnight Star makes with its presentation layer.
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I spent $100 in Assassin’s Creed Unity so you wouldn’t have to

This article originally appeared on Kotaku

Ten hours into Assassin’s Creed Unity, I’m having difficulty finishing up memory sequence 6. That’s just about the middle chapter of the game. I think my character is too weak. His armor isn’t strong enough. Neither are his weapons.

I could stop working on this memory, instead grinding on side missions and locating chests until I have enough Livres to buy more powerful gear. Instead, I open up the eStore and without first looking into what I can buy with Helix credits, opt for the $100 package, the biggest in-game purchase available from Ubisoft, a publisher that would presumably love for me to buy it.

Stephen Totilo AC Unity Tweet
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The free-to-play opportunity in VR

Don’t feel like reading? Watch this video analysis instead

CES 2015 has come to a close and one of the big stories as it relates to gaming is VR. Oculus Rift had a huge presence, Razer and friends announced the Open Source VR ecosystem and headset, Samsung showed off Milk VR and we all had a good laugh about 3Dhead’s taughted Oculus Killer.
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How Peggle Blast employs a most hated F2P tactic


Don’t feel like reading? Enjoy this short video analysis instead.

Peggle Blast, a free-to-play entry in the fantastically addictive Peggle series, was featured last week as one of Apple’s Editors’ Choice. It has reached top 25 downloads in the US on both iPhone and iPad and is just as fun, whimsical and addictive as the original game. It also employs one of my most hated free-to-play monetization tactics.

Much of my work as a monetization design consultant comes in the UI/UX. Most free-to-play games are built on a small pool of monetization features and their success or failure is determined by a combination of the game’s inherent fun factor and the presentation to the player. Just like Candy Crush, Farm Heroes or any number of Saga games, Peggle Blast offers the player to buy extra moves instead of giving up when they are about to lose a level. But the presentation of this feature uses a trope I find annoying and disrespectful as a player.
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The messy interplay between Steam and uPlay in Assassin’s Creed: Unity


Don’t feel like reading? Enjoy this analysis video of the AC: Unity checkout flow

In many ways we are in a golden age of PC gaming. Nowhere has this been clearer to me than the ease with which I turned down current gen Black Friday console deals. Most of the games I want to play are on PC. There are platform exclusives I am eager to play, but no one system has a critical mass of exclusive titles that demand a purchase. With my overflowing backlog of games purchased in endless sales and bundles and most multiplatform games being available day one on PC, there has never been a better time to be a PC gamer. However, with the dominance of digital distribution has also come a glut of digital platforms.

Steam, Origin, uPlay and Desura are all installed on my gaming rig. Soon GoG’s Galaxy will make my backlog of classics much less of a library and more of an active collection. Of these platforms, 3 have a clear place in the world. Steam is my primary gaming platform. GoG is a repository of classics. Desura is home to all the Humble Bundle games that have not made their way through Greenlight.
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New approaches to free-to-play game design – from GDC Next ’14

Slides and audio from New approaches to free-to-play game design, my game monetization talk presented at GDC Next ’14 in Los Angeles. Here is the talk description:

Too often, a game team chooses the free-to-play business model without truly considering the design of monetization elements early in the project. Only when it is too late into the development cycle do they learn that there is not a clear or compelling reason for players to spend money within a game. This talk goes in-depth on concrete methods for designing a game’s monetization from day one. Using the design methods in this talk, a game team can ensure that they are building a F2P game that has both a sound business foundation and proven fun factor.

Paying to win – guild vs guild events

For those mobile games angling to dominate the top grossing charts, few features are more important than a limited time event system. For instance, in August of 2013, Gree released an infographic for hit game Modern War trumpeting a 600% increase in average daily revenue when events are running. Further, the infographic states that the game makes as much as $2.3 million during an event weekend and, at the time, the game was making its highest revenue to date two years after launch thanks to events.

Whether running the epic, 48 day Clash of Clones event in Simpsons Tapped Out or a 24 hour Faction vs Faction flash event in Modern War, limited time events are the key to long term retention and monetization among many of the app store’s top games. As a monetization design consultant, one of the critical features I most commonly point out as missing from design documents or beta builds is some form of social elder game. Social, event based elder games are something many developers know they need, but have very little experience designing, let alone participating in as a player or spender.

I only play pokemon
Last month, I wrote about what it was like to spend $100 climbing the leaderboard in a weekly PvP event in a fairly standard mid-core game. This month, I wanted to explore what it is like to be a high value player participating in a limited time Guild vs Guild (GvG) event. In the same game I had already spent $100 and many hours grinding away in, I left my starter guild and found a more competitive team with active, higher level players. I participated in a 3 day event as a free player, bought $200 in currency and participated in the next 3 day event as a high value player. As not all game developers can make this sort of time and dollar investment into event participation, I thought this article would be a valuable resource for those looking to implement a time-limited event system in their game. Continue reading Paying to win – guild vs guild events