Freemium vs. Lite/Paid

06 Jul

I was actually going to sell the game in a traditional way until now. Like this:

  • make a free Lite version with about 10-20% of the content (2-3 maps) to give potential customers a chance to try it out,
  • then sell the full version.

There is one problem with this approach. I’d like to “stay” with this particular game for a bit longer. Or even very long, if it proves successful enough. That means adding additional content (maps, adventures, items, monsters etc.), listening to what community has to say and tweaking things here and there from time to time and so on. This takes time and there is no way to get any revenue from such things in the traditional way (one sell). New content won’t result in any new purchases. Or in very little. It will only please existing players, who already bought the game. And give me something very pleasurable to do in my free time. But I cannot live from that, right?

So what are the options?

Either just make a new game each 4-6 months and sell it. Which means there is no time for polishing of existing titles, listening to the community, slowly making your game more and more perfect.

Or… freemium. I know, this sounds like a curse for some of you. Even I don’t like this term. Usually it means, you get something half baked for free and discover quickly, that it’s impossible to have an enjoyable gaming experience without paying for a horse armor or some potions regularly. This is unacceptable. This is why I don’t like DLC and and don’t like games with InApp purchases.

But recently started to change my mind. Especially when it comes to iOS games (or generally gaming on mobile devices). If done right, freemium games can be a winner for both sides – gamers and game producers. I think the key to success is, that a freemium game has to have enough potential to be enjoyable without making a single InApp purchase. You can buy this horse armor if you wish to have a shining horse, but you can fight perfectly well without it. You can never spend anything and still enjoy the game.

Can it work from a game producer point of view? I mean can I earn money comparable to the standard model (one purchase) this way? Well… this article suggest, that yes, it’s possible. Even more, if done right it can be much more profitable.

What would this mean for Infinity Dungeon (if I’m going to follow this route)? Probably a free to download game with the content I was going to pack into the Lite version. And InApp purchases of additional content (chapters, dungeons, maps etc.).

And what about in game items, potions and whatnot purchased for real money? I don’t know if this is such a good idea. If you can play perfectly well without them… well… maybe. But I’m also a gamer and as a gamer I don’t like this thought. What an inner fight… 🙂

What do you think?


Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Marketing


Tags: , , , , , ,

6 responses to “Freemium vs. Lite/Paid

  1. baz

    July 6, 2011 at 17:26

    I think free+IAP is the way to go. I share some of your worries about IAP looking to ‘trick’ the consumer, but you dont have to do it that way, be clear that there is a good free portion too.

    I’m currently working on some IAP code myself, and the only downside is that its not trivial to add.

    • habrys

      July 6, 2011 at 18:21

      I know, this is another layer of complexity not only to add, but also to manage constantly when your game is out already. But it’s worth this additional effort I think.

      Is it also a game you are working on?

  2. Nicholas Lovell

    July 7, 2011 at 21:51

    I think it’s a great idea (although I am known as a free-to-play fan). F2P/freemium are ways of identifying your biggest fans and enabling them to spend money on the game in a way that gives them more value/satisfaction.

    If you want to see an iOS game that gets it right, try Pocket Frogs or Tiny Towers, both from Nimblebits.

    And at the core end, Infinity Blade from Epic is now making about half of its revenue from IAP purchases, and Mark Rein said at a recent conference that it was amazing how many people who spend $6 for a game will subsequently spend $50 in IAP.

    See and

    Good luck.


    • habrys

      July 8, 2011 at 11:12

      Yes, Pocket Frogs. This is the shining example, which got me considering IAP in my game in the first place. Even if I don’t like this idea as a gamer.

      I was not aware, that Infinity Blade makes so much of its revenue from IAP purchases though. Really interesting, thanks for pointing that out.

  3. DD

    July 7, 2011 at 23:24

    I think IAP is more often than not abused so horribly that it really pisses people off.

    I once bought a game (a space shooter the name of which i have purged from my memory because i was so enraged) that let you play the game just fine and it was kinda fun. Then, as i came to find out, to get all the really useful upgrades you had to pay real money (as opposed to the crystals you collected for the more mundane upgrades). We are talking like $5-$10 for a single upgrade. On top of that, they had no protections in the game so my 3 year old daughter who also played this game could spend $50 on useless stuff……….

    That is bad… apple should not allow for an app to do that in the first place imo…. password protection should be required.

    Anyways, after years of counseling i got over it mostly. 😉

    I would say if you do it only charge for new content (i.e. new chapters or adventures) not for things they would normally use or do in the course of the game. Each purchase should be completely playable without any other purchases required at all. Buying item A does not affect item B in any way, ever. I don’t want to feel like my purchase could be made better if I buy more stuff. Because then I feel like I’m being taken advantage of and you are trying to manipulate me into giving you more money. It’s a slimy business practice imo. No special endings, can’t beat the last boss unless you buy this $5 sword and special $10 armor…. Delete App? yes

    Think of your app as like a book of short stories and people can buy whichever ones they want and read them whenever no matter what other stories they bought each of which is a complete story with its own moral purpose. It may complement other stories but each story can stand up on its own. As you write more stories they get added to the table of contents but they don’t have to buy anything and can just enjoy the freebie story if that is all they want. Maybe there is a better analogy but that is my philosophy on it anyways.

    Imagine reading Aesop’s Fables but you had to buy each page separately… it’s just ridiculous.

    I’m not sure if doing it as DLC is easier or better than a separate game though. I would be interested in discussing the differences between the two.

    • habrys

      July 8, 2011 at 11:28

      Well… the original idea (minimal plan) is just to sell new chapters/adventures as IAP. This is the most clean way to use IAP and nobody should be pissed of by that I suppose. I think it’s way better, than just releasing new games in the same setting but with new content (Infinity Dungeon 2, Infinity Dungeon 3 and so on), because it is so much easier to make your fans aware, that new content is available this way. And it’s easier and faster to just click a button in game to buy a new chapter, than go to the AppStore and buy part 2. I’s only one click more, I know, but sometimes it’s the difference between purchasing or not. Some people got incredibly lazy these days. I know it from my own personal experience. (Yes, I am lazy.) Additionally you have just one game/icon in your iPhone, instead of one for each part of the game.

      IAP of in game items is completely another matter. If done right it could be a benefit for both players and game producer. But it’s incredibly easy to make people angry if they are too intrusive. Or if you need these paid items to progress further. So… here I have my doubts. Really don’t know if I’m going to follow that path.

      On the top of the whole matter is the fact, that implementing of IAP is not trivial and costs additional time. Which could be spent on making the game itself better. These dilemmas…


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