Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Thursday, October 25, 2012

[ALL] F2P Is Now Online

GDC Online 2012 that took place in Austin, TX (US) earlier in October (9-11) was my first and last GDC Online. That's because the event is changing its format and switching to mobile and tablets, even though F2P market is flourishing nowadays (as well as mobile platforms).

Austin Convetion Center

Among the biggest participants in client-side section (apart from Wargaming :)) were Riot, NCSoft, CCP. Plus there were lots of Zynga-kind ones and a few F2P research companies. All in all, the online version of the GDC appeared to be poorer than the general one held in San Francisco.

While monetization, marketing, and business development talks were mostly ok, the ones on production, programming, and tech were somewhat worse (based on the feedback of our tech guys) - less innovative, although with some nice exceptions.

I will share some my thoughts on the lectures I have visited personally.

AION example.

By making AION EU F2P (which I believe is not strictly correct since they practically adopted hybrid model) NCSoft managed to overcome underpopulation of game servers and significantly boost the revenue. Their steps were focusing on core community (more likely to spend), making purchasable stuff achievable by playing, not flooding the in-game market at once, investments in huge marketing campaign (they needed to sell 2.5-year-old game once again), and going localized (6-digit amounts are spent to produce single pack VO+text).

General F2P trends.

The share of F2P market (US) in game industry went up from 1% (2007) to estimated 10% (2012). While sub-based games reached their plateau back in 2009 with 7+ mln of users, F2P audience has grown from 9 mln (2007) to estimated 42 mln (2012) - that's taking into account web-based and mobile.  F2P has become the dominant MMO revenue model these days, social games (FB) boast ~40$ ARPPU (average revenue per paying user) with conversion to paying user of about 2.5-3.5%. Obviously, client-side MMOs can have noticeably higher conversion rates (up to 25-30%), while for browser games, it's 5-15%.

F2P has become MP3 in games. It's accessible, affordable, interactive.

Having gone F2P the following titles got much better:

  • DC Universe - +1000% CCU (concurrent players) gain, +700% daily revenue
  • Everquest II - +40% daily logins, +300% new players
  • Everquest - +150% daily logins, +125% boost in Item sales, +350% registrations
The new game ecosystem is now the following: eSports + marketing + global community + livecasting (video streaming). The key focus is now on emergent and sandbox gameplay.

How F2P games are monetized.

The basic principles:

  • regular currency is earned through game mechanics
  • premium currency is earned by money spent
  • no two-way conversion allowed.
Item shop should be a natural part of the game, both regular and premium items should be there.

Leveling/tiering is key to monetization: early game -> mid game -> end game, each with the respective items and prices.

Most popular monetization methods:

1. By unlocks
- unlocks and access to high tiers give access to new items
- monetize rarity: sell rare resources

2. By limits
- monetize storage size or inventory size
- monetize limits of economy power (total cap)
- monetize items with less limits

3. By tiers
- monetize accelerated needs of tiers

4. By power variants
- monetize similar but better items
- use 3 or more power variables (price, duration, power)

5. By time
- universal monetizier: more money spent - less time needed

6. By trade
- amount & slots
- frequency
- time

Pricing guidelines:
- tiering, lowest price is assigned to the lowest tier
- have enough flexibility to adjust prices
- account for psycho barriers - 50, 100, 500, 1000, etc
- use matrix for pricing
- going online a bit expensive, raise item amount per money amount spent

I Invite you to the discussion of the F2P stuff.


  1. Two questions, Overlord!

    1) What are "psycho barriers"?

    2) Any comment on games like Star Trek Online that seem to be having success allowing "two way conversion" between regular and premium currencies?

  2. 1. Psycho barrier (psychological barrier) is a kind of self limiting belief a person may have which affects behaviour. Applying to monetization and figures, 95 or 99 are received by customers better than 100+, 49 - better than 50, etc. Retailers (supermarkets) know that perfectly and take full advantage of that.

    2. To my shame, I haven't played it, so can only assess in general. Allowing two-way conversion you have to be perfectly sure at least in 1) extremely polished game economy balance and 2) solid exploit prevention. However (especially if trade between players is enabled) you are risking to undermine your monetization (and revenue). Of course it may look differently from players' PoV.

    1. 1) Ah, thank you, I understand.

      2) Guild Wars 2 would be another example. In both cases, you make an offer - I will give x regular currency for y premium, or the other way around. That money goes into a system where it is matched for other bids. The exchange is handled server side and the money appears credited to your account or character.

      One of their developers talks about the system here:


    2. Aye, this one is better. GW 2 is a great game which I'm playing at the moment by the way. :)

      The thing is that they already have an entry barrier of 60+$, that's a sort of safety cushion for them allowing more flexibility in what they are doing. GW2 is not exactly a F2P game after all.

    3. Well you cannot kill yourself by allowing free conversion although "real" money to game money is less painful for devs and its impact can be reduced when you still need time (xp to progress in game.
      In what category are "decorations" included? Or are they? I mean things like I dunno... flags etc

    4. you also forgot EVE OnLine where you can buy subscription (PLEX) with game curency

    5. don_banan,

      1. In some cases, eg imbalanced economy or massive exploiting/botting, you can self-inflict some serious damage. Kill is probably too strong of a meaning.

      2. Customization features can be monetized by tiers (like in WoT) or by unlocks, when you need to reach a certain stage.

    6. zMe ul,

      still the grind there is rather steep. Doubt many would buy monthly prem in WoT for let's say 10.000.000 credits.

    7. if the economy is balanced right, yeah they will; I did payed almost 2 years of PLEXes only by currency in EVE
      it will also promote a steady stream of f2p active players along side the paying ones

    8. or look on how STO does it for the lifetime subscribers and monthly subs, they receive a predetermined amount of premium coin each month and they are free to sell it to others via the exchange
      but in order to do this, STO has 3 currencies

    9. "Right" in this case may have somewhat different meanings in perception of devs and players by the way.

      This should be conisdered in both ways: players want cheap and fun, devs want maximize the revenue and (sometimes) satisfy the playerbase.

    10. "players want cheap and fun" - untrue
      players will pay 60USD for a game if it has something to offer

      players want fair content for what they pay

      if WoT,would've went subscription like STO did, at launch (and I said this in the CBT many times(!!)) I would've purchased a life time on the spot

    11. Ah, good point about the buy in factor for GW2. Still, STO does not have that buy in factor and still has had success.

      I am not arguing that WoT should do this, just interested that the developers conference says "don't do this" and yet - it is being done successfully!

  3. Overlord, interesting you'd share some of the overarching F2P strategies on what is essentially a player's blog. Thanks for giving us a glance at how the "other side" views it.

    1. I have stepped out from WoT these days, and the current NDA for WoWP prevents me from posting really delicious things on the game. So, there is nothing more left. :)

    2. any clues as to when the nda will be lifted :D

    3. Upon open beta. Or earlier. :)

  4. Overlord I've got two news for you:
    1) Historical Polish tank, FT-17 is returning home after 90 years! Tanks was lost during Polish-Soviet War in 1920 and Soviets gave it to Afghanistan.
    here polish news: http://www.rmf24.pl/fakty/polska/news-wyjatkowy-zabytek-wraca-z-afganistanu-do-polski,nId,644379
    2) Land-Lease Valentine was excavated from river in Central Poland. Tanks was lost in 1945 and (according to news) is very rare - only 3 pieces of L-L vehicles are preserved.
    here video material from polish TV news: http://www.tvn24.pl/wideo/z-anteny/cenna-valentine-wydobyta-z-rzecznych-odmetow,533623.html

    About F2P
    I'm not quite sure that adding 3-4 premium tanks in each update is good, off course we need diversity and premium tanks are needed in game (to grind money and train crews) but I think that WG need to think twice before decide on which tier specified tanks will be added i.e. SU122-44 should be at T8 not T7.
    And game still lacks proper end game, clan wars are not a proper end game content (only for clans and on specified hour). Maybe some sort of campaigns should be developed (with fixed tank setup, two teams fights to push each other from a last map - something like operations in Close Combat III), maybe historical battles or T10 only mode with special achievements.

    1. I do not feel that I need any endgame. I grinded all lines interesting for me and now I just play a few random battles a day with my elited tanks in different tiers, cause its fun. I am also very slowly grinding other lines too.

      I am not interested with clans and companies. Even declined some offers from good clans.

      And here I meet huge plus of F2P approach. When I was hastily grinding to top tiers I spend quite a lot of money. Now I pay nothing cause there is no need to have premium account for such casual playing as I am doing now. So I can still have fun in my favourit online game even if I stopped paying. If I had to pay some money every month I would stop playing some months ago. Well, to be honest I would probably never start playing. Whats the point in grinding your tanks for months, when you have to pay always, when you want to play with them a few battles?

      So WG approach is very good and flexible for player. And WG F2P system would be ideal if not things like gold ammo or gold consumables, which are P2W elements (by the way P2W is very weak in WoT, it is another plus of this game). Making gold ammo and gold consumables buyable for credits makes them a little less p2w, but still people paying money have easier acces to them, so situation is not fair. And I write it as a person, who can use a lot of gold ammo for credits because of 3 VIII tier prems and no need to collect money for new tanks (although I will go for the Brits, but without haste). I can have premium ammo in every my tank and use it when necessary without thinking about going in the red. So money I spend on this game will give me advantage over many players.

    2. I have been thinking the exact same thing over the last few weeks and came up with the same idea ish. the game definatly needs end game content. we are losing players every week in our clan that are getting bored with the game.
      My idea is like yours used in the close combat games.Join a campaign at any time when space becomes available after each round or join a new one at the begining. It would consist of about ten maps and whoever wins the first battle starts at the enemies base and the losers start on the other side of the new map. In other words the new map would include a portion of the last map.
      One drawback is that if you die , you have to wait until the next battle starts, but if a player leaves, he could be replaced by people in the Q.
      Another idea would be to have capture points in which you can respawn like in counterstrike.
      Whatever WG come up with though ,they will have to do it soon, because when the masses start to leave, it wont be easy to get them back..

    3. plasot,

      thanks for the news.

      1. As for the rate of adding new prems, based on what we see, it's more or less fine. We are adding a few different ones each update, cause tastes differ. Naturally not all players are interested in all tanks.

      2. Agree that we need better end-game than we have got now. And that's one of the top goals for WoT 1.0, we need to make a great push in this direction. And this is not only about CWS. Can't share the details for now.

    4. Dead_Skin_Mask,

      Making prem stuff available for credits is definitely a move forward, those who don't even consider paying now are getting a chance to get hold of it which is fair. Although, some other adjustments may be required to balance this change.

  5. - monetize similar but better items
    Isn't a case anymore. Generally games that sell power are a lot less succesful than others. The only way to go really is to sell cosmetic stuff and boosts. WoT got away with it's gold ammo simply because it owns the entire market in it's genre ;)
    Besides it's pretty fun, and gold ammo doesn't ruin the game mechanics (at least yet, cuz it will in 8.1) and with an exception of howitzers, who will own face of anyone.

    1. Power items still have right to be in place in some games, but it can increase P2W factor.

    2. And especially Western audience (primarily US) is extremely sensitive to it. Many have guarded look towards F2P type of games in general, which should be changed.

    3. no they should not change because p2w is wrong
      you alienate, by choice, the f2p player; and who will the p2w players will play with if the playfield is only owned by them?!

    4. mmm?

      I was talking about the reception of F2P games in general. And you?

    5. perception of p2w in f2p games

  6. Thanks! I have just been searching for info about this topic for a while and yours is the best I have found out so far.

    simple mobile

  7. I have to admit, I'm a fan of WoT because of the way it's handled the F2P aspect - by not forcing players to buy anything at all in order to experience all the content, it's very attractive to both hardcore and casual gamers. My father's 70, hasn't spent a penny on WoT and happily chugs around in tanks up to a Tiger II with an average kill/win ratio and loves it. I can buy him the odd prem tank for his birthday and he's never used a gold round since he started.

  8. Selling power is of course a big no-NO with F2P game models. Purchasable items should only enhance gaining within the game or be cosmetic but should not give the paying player an edge over a free player.

  9. I would like to thank Overlord for his article covering the F2P model and mentioning the developers convention.

    From my own experience there are a few things about F2P, WoT and EvE online.

    1) ... is there a perception in the player community of P2W as for me this is often the first thing I consider after reviewing the traditional aspects of a game review (graphics & audio quality, story plot and atmosphere). P2W is a contentious issue in F2P games with an in-game store.

    2) Overlord said it best "F2P has become MP3 in games. It's accessible, affordable, interactive." as I have seen many games go from subscription to hybrid F2P business plan. I do how ever still enjoy a one off payment of £200 GBP for lifetime subscription which includes a monthly stipend. Wargaming's success has shown the old subscription based on-line games that there is another way to generate revenue if you have a good product and falling subscribers. Star trek online, LOTRO - EU, champions online, and The Secret World (not F2P) are examples where I have had or currently own a lifetime subscription. In the case of TSW the Grand Master pre-order pack contained the subsription so for me its F2P but for others it is still subscription based.

    3) My personal experience WoT is that I have over 100+ tanks mostly elite and/or premium tanks which I have used to get experience and convert. The special weekends with 5x the experience for a win helps my tank research. This means that I have spent a lot of real world money on WoT, New tank slot for each tank, Tank from store with 100% crew at start, often need to convert gold to credits to buy tanks. I think the perception would be that I am P2W though I do not use much in gold ammo. There are benefits from driving so many tanks which usually equates to knowing their strengths and weaknesses so I will drive each one differently and aim accordingly on my targets.

    4) To me gold ammo in WoT is controversial issue as it can give a potential advantage to the user but thank fully is usually limited to CW and TC. I hope the use of credits to buy gold ammo removes the P2W perception about it.

    5) for me CCP and EvE online though is in a way F2P by using ISK does have the penalty for new players. The new players are way behind the skill grind and until they can earn enough ISK in-game to to pay for game time they have to rely on a subscription which for me is too high. I have felt for a few years now that EvE online will slowly have to go more F2P and this seen by an increase in the PLEX price. Since Feb 2010 the PLEX was sold for 330 Million ISK approximately and now it is approximately 620 Million ISK in October 2012. That is a 187% increase and you can see for your self [url="http://www.eve-markets.net/detail.php?typeid=29668#history"]here[/url].
    For me this is based on demand and supply, I can only see the PLEX cost rise even more. So what is your view, will EvE Online go F2P. There is already an in-game store for cosmetic changes only time will tell if the scope of the store items increases.