Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Friday, June 11, 2010

Free-to-Play Forecasted to hit $7 Billion

Free-to-play is a business model pioneered in Asia that's taking the world by storm. This article highlights info from analysts forecasting the market to double to $7 billion in revenue by 2015, about twice what it is now. Interestingly, while social games in the US get maybe 1% of users to pay, in Asia games get over 10% of users to shell out money. It's not all virtual goods, either; enhanced subscriptions are another tool used. Again, the game design becomes critically important to this marketing tool, and analytics are key to refining your design. Both design and marketing become a process; your effort shave to be ongoing, informed by the data coming in.

It's very different from the fire-and-forget style of game design and marketing used for decades by American publishers, which is no doubt why bigger publishers have a harder time switching to this model than new, small companies. Free-to-play is a powerful marketing tool that actually puts piracy to work for you. Essentially, your servers end up tracking each individual user, which means piracy becomes useless.

This business model has implications beyond electronic games, though. It could turn the paper-and-pencil RPG industry around. How? Give the rules away, and  sell a steady stream of add-on products. Of course, this doesn't work economically if your products are paper ones sold through retail stores... but it could work if your products are e-books distributed electronically. And perhaps the physical and electronic products could dovetail nicely... it's worth some thought.

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