May 24

IAP Types

In free to play games there are a number of IAP types that can be used for monetisation. Some are very effective, and some are not. Here is a brief summary from my experience.

Here are some additional notes for each of the types:

Impatience

It’s counter-intuitive to think that adding friction and frustration to a game would result in generating the most revenue. However, after test after test after test, I’ve found that Impatience is by far and away the best technique to generate revenue.

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The lives system from Candy Crush Saga is a classic example of impatience. You can wait and get lives for free, but can pay to get more and keep playing.

As long as there is a compelling reason to *want* to speed-up / spend (usually because the loop is so fun), this is a proven and consistent way to generate revenue.

Continue

Continues are a very old monetisation method, the principle dates back to coin-op games from the 70’s and 80’s, asking a player to pay to keep their progress in a game and keep going. Any game that offers a challenge with progress that you would want to keep is a good candidate for this type of monetisation. Puzzle and Dragons by Gung-Ho is a great example, with extra moves in Candy Crush Saga being another.

An example of paying to continue in Puzzle and Dragons.

An example of paying to continue in Puzzle and Dragons.

Continues are great at “skimming” from a player as they are often cheap but worthwhile purchases for a player to make.

Continues can be purchased over and over, giving them even more fiscal value as an IAP.

Consumable

A consumable can be thought of as many things, but in this case I refer to a consumable as an IAP effect that has a positive one-time only effect. A classic example is from Farmville, which offers many consumables that restore all withered crops for the cost of Hard Currency. If you choose not to pay, then you have to plough your crops and start all over again, which takes time and effort.

An example of paying to restore withered crops in Farmville 2.

An example of paying to restore withered crops in Farmville 2.

Consumable IAP’s are another good method for skimming as players pay for convenience. In the case of Farmville, a player in theory never has to pay for this type of consumable if they manage their time correctly, so it feels fair.

Perma-Buff

A perma-buff is a power-up or item that offers a permanent positive effect in the game you are playing. Classic example include builders in Clash of Clans or the Charm of Frozen Time in Candy Crush Saga. Perma-buffs are usually expensive to purchase but the worth to the player is clear and is very good value seeing as the effect is permanent.

 A perma-buff from Farmville. An amazingly desirable item as your crops will never wither again.

A perma-buff from Farmville. An amazingly desirable item as your crops will never wither again.

A word of caution with this monetisation method, however. It is possible to provide items that are too strong and that can break the balance of the game. For example, you could provide an item which doubles the amount of XP you can gain from all actions. This may then result in players levelling up so quickly that they run out of things to do quickly and leave the game!

Episodes

Some games are broken into episodes / seasons, a little bit like TV shows. When a player hits the end of one episode, they hit a pay-wall as they can only progress if they purchase the next episode outright.

The game Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney was split into episodes for the iOS port of the game. The first episode was free, but the player had to pay for each subsequent episode.

The game Phoenix Wright – Ace Attorney was split into episodes for the iOS port of the game. The first episode was free, but the player had to pay for each subsequent episode.

This is a very poor monetisation method as it relies on a number of things. Firstly it relies upon the player to finish an episode to get to the point where a second episode purchase is worthwhile. Secondly, it relies upon your game being good enough or captivating enough that a player actually wants to pay to continue.

As this is a straight-out pay-wall blocking any further progress, you will see massive drops between episodes and as a result, there are very few players that purchase all episodes compared to the total number that start playing for free.

Additional Content

One of the most common and effective ways to keep players paying for a game is to keep creating new content or gameplay features. Doing so is one of the best ways to improve spending and long-term retention as it re-engages long time players, bringing them back and tempting them to spend.

A new (and fun!) mechanic added to a recent Hay Day update.

A new (and fun!) mechanic added to a recent Hay Day update.

The only problem with continuing to create content is that it often leads to the “content delivery trap” where you find that you HAVE to keep delivering new content in order to keep players in your game. If you have a complex game this can lead to lots of difficulties as it becomes harder and harder technically to keep adding to the original binary. It can also lead to wearing out a team out as they have to work on the same product for months or years at a time and often leads to a lack of creativity or execution as a result.

Gacha

The Rare Gacha machine in Puzzle and Dragons. It gives you a random chance of a guaranteed 3* or higher character.

The Rare Gacha machine in Puzzle and Dragons. It gives you a random chance of a guaranteed 3* or higher character.

Gacha is a classically Japanese method of monetisation. It’s super effective for engaged players, and a very interesting case of human psychology. Check out my post on Gacha for a more detailed look.

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