Is the future free to play?

You’re welcome!

Welcome players and gamers,

today I’ll write a little about one of the new wave in gaming: the free to play form. Basically, it means that, instead of paying for a game, you could have it free, and the developers will seek out their business from something different (usually, you pay to unlock some features, or you have to play with some banners or adv in the game, or even something else without need directly of your money, as data collecting).

The situation, now, is the kind of huge amount of new device released every two or three months, with increasing memory and capabilities. Gaming on devices, smartphones, tablets and so on, is really fast approximating to “normal” gaming by Pc or Console (I’m still arguing if this tendencies will finally make these differences disappear; or if the “top games” with new features and an outstanding graphics will be released on the “top devices” – pc and console – and released for device lesser powerful during the lifetime of a game).

From a gamification point of view, this tendency is nothing new. In fact, gamification will always implies the free to play model. Do you think someone will pay to play your branded game? Forget it, for two kind of reason:

  • none like to pay for something that is not suited on what he needs. It’s really annoying to see someone who want to sell you a game that, in some kind measure, are already be sold to the committee (the business part).
  • the game is your tool, your instrument: it’s not your objective, or your ending point. This is the greatest difference between designing a game for itself (it has to be fun, innovative, with good rules, good setting and so on) and designing a game for a business committee (it has to  got the same qualities: but it has to be also tailored on your business requirement and needs).

So, free to play is the root of gamification. It’s one of the best driver you could find to develop a complex business model or suite of games that connect mobile and social gaming communities, business and gamification.

One of the greatest difficulties you will find to propose a gamification project is convincing the committee to believe in what your game could do. From a business point of view, it’s really important that what you are proposing (spend money to develop something that probably will be released freely) could be economically sustainable. Having some  clear idea upon what could be your business free to play model can let you to show how, also without considering the marketing and brand awareness of your gamification project, it’s economically sustainable. Do you understand what I mean? You have to change your argument: don’t tell how much your game will increase brand awareness and marketing opportunities (this is actually what any game designer proposes to business): distinguish yourself! Tell them how your project is fully sustainable by itself, plus it will increase marketing opportunities and brand awareness. Kill the two birds with one stone!

The greatest difficulties in these kind of job is to break the mental cage of what “can” and “can’t” be done. I’m pretty sure that you, right now, how can a game produce a direct income. So, let’s see a few examples of how a free-to-play-model is sustainable in economic terms. I also create (here is linked) some brief explanation of useable games as example: obviously you can use as example or basic idea to convince your investor, you are not allowed to use them for commercial purpose (if you need something for commercial purpose, write to me or comment on blog: I’m happy to help).

  1. Outsourcing – your game will allow to your committee to outsources some kind of job. That can be more easily than what you think, and it offers really a lot of possibilities. You can use memory of the playing device to calculate something (if a video or mobile game); you can use some online-offline interaction to make market research, data collecting, or ground mapping; or you can use directly the output of the game (and this is the most cool option, if you are able to use it – see Implicit UGC in this post and the example of the Socket Puncher, in the test area.
  2. Direct Analytics – by your game you can collect data (for example) on behaviour, attitude to risk management, disease prevention and others. Also, you can test usability, for example of a dashboard; you can test eyes movement and visual attractiveness, maybe of a new logo. Probably here is quite simpler to find some examples and ideas by your own.
  3. Soft Analytics – more cool, this kind of outcome is strictly related to the fact that games have a stronger value in ext acting information from people than market research: because they lower the “ego defense” usually we raise up when someone is asking something about ourselves. So, with some knowledge of neurolinguistic reprogramming, psychology and sociology you can build up analytics really big and accurate. Unfortunately, this kind of outcome, the most useful if good used, is also the realms of complexity: sometimes you will have some idea you know is great, but don’t know exactly how to use. The Shopping Game Suite here will show you how can you have a lot of different games that let your customer to indirectly, but sincerely, talk to you. If you’re listening correctly, you will learn a lot.

At the end, remember that it’s all a matter of perspective and point of view. If you’re stuck and can’t develop something that you can imagine, probably you’re thinking at it in the wrong way. Change you attitude, and go straight. If something is possible, it will find a way to come out.

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