How To Make Money With Your Free Game: Free-to-Play Game’s Monetization Strategies
I’m sure you have come across free-to-play games at least once in your life. There has been an increase in popularity in this type of game in the past 10 years. Some of them failed and some of them succeeded and have been doing fine for over a decade. There must be a secret to how they stay afloat, right?
In-app advertisements, in-app purchases, paid DLCs, and Gacha System is the most common monetization strategies for free-to-play games.
Make sure you keep reading because I’ll explain how each of them works in detail, and later on, I’ll show you some examples!
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In-app advertisement strategy is most commonly used in casual mobile games that don’t take long to finish but have high replayability.
A good example of this would be something like puzzle games. They are short but addictive and have good replayability. It doesn’t take long for players to finish each play session. You can display an ad banner at the bottom of the screen or at the top of the screen for players to see and possibly click on them if they’re interested.
Some games opt to put an unskippable video ad after each play session so players will be forced to watch the video ad even if they don’t want to. These types of games usually offer an in-app purchase to get rid of ads forever in exchange for a small fee.
Personally, I don’t like the forced video ads strategy. It’s annoying and kind of feels disruptive. Depending on how greedy a developer is, it can be very, very annoying and obnoxious. I’ve played games where it would force you to watch an unskippable ad every minute. It was so bad I couldn’t stand them.
A better strategy for this would be to make it optional. You ask your players to watch ads in exchange for rewards. If they accept, then they go and watch your video ad, and then you give them rewards once they’re done watching. It’s a much better way than forcing ads in their faces because that can end up in people uninstalling your game.
In-app purchases exist in a vast majority of free-to-play games and can be integrated into any game genre. Free games with in-app purchases are usually referred to as “freemium” games, from the word “free” and “premium.”
Games with in-app purchases are usually free to download and play but they offer something in-game in exchange for real money. These games are free and not free at the same time, hence the word “freemium.” This is why Google updated its Play Store some years ago to change the download button for free apps from “Free” to just “Install” because those apps aren’t exactly truly free.
There are many types of in-app purchases.
For example, some games offer in-app purchases as a way to make players progress through their games faster or easier by selling things like in-game currency or premium items that are more powerful than those you can find in-game.
Another good example of using the in-app purchase strategy could be to offer a monthly subscription to your players where they a set of items and/or other benefits such as buffs and discounts every month as long as they stay subscribe. This is most common in online games.
There’s another interesting use of the in-app purchase strategy called the “Battle Pass” system. This system is similar to the monthly subscription system, but instead of giving benefits to players for just paying, it makes players work for them.
“Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Why would I pay and still have to work for rewards?” You might think.
Here, let me explain:
The thing is, Battle Pass System is usually available for everyone, including non-paying players. It gives players a set of tasks or quests to complete. Players are rewarded “Pass Level Experience” for completing those tasks and once their pass level hits certain thresholds, rewards are unlocked.
Here is where it gets different for paying players: Battle Pass doesn’t give everything to all players. Some rewards are locked. Players can pay once to unlock all these extra rewards.
I personally like this Battle Pass approach as it offers something for non-paying players too. It makes potential customers stick around far longer and results in fewer people screaming “OMG THIS IS A PAY TO WIN GAME”
Paid DLCs are not exactly common in free games. You don’t usually see this type of monetization strategy unless it’s a paid game or an MMORPG as it doesn’t make much sense to make players pay to get more content in a free game.
It’s not common, sure, but it can work in some games.
The common paid DLCs for free games are Starter Packs where you pay to get some starting items or some exclusive pieces of equipment. This is quite common in free MMORPG.
Here it is, the Gacha System. This one is, depending on how you approach it, one of the highest-earning strategies.
Gacha is a system where players pay for “a chance” to get something in a game, usually characters it rare pieces of equipment.
The name Gacha came from a machine in Japan called Gachapon Machine, a machine with item capsules inside where users can put money in and turn the knob in front of it to get a random item in there.
Gacha is extremely common in free mobile online games or free mobile social games. Players spend money to get powerful characters from Gacha.
I mentioned above that the Gacha system is where you pay to have a chance at getting something. That’s right. Even if you pay, you might not get what you want. This is why the Gacha system is amazing at making money if done right because it plays with players’ desires.
Let me give you an example of a “Gacha game”
The one that’s popular right now and probably anyone who plays mobile games must have heard of it: Genshin Impact.
In Genshin Impact, you pay for a chance to get powerful characters and weapons. These characters and weapons are varying in rarity. The chance to get the highest rarity characters is around 0.6%. It’s very low, these characters are, for the most part, extremely powerful. That’s why people are willing to pay to get their hands on them.