Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 08, 2016
 
Capped Free-to-Play

I was reading an article on Pocket Tactics on the Free-to-Play model of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, soon to be released on iOS (a game I'm waiting for). The game gives you between 100 and 300 gold for beating a scenario, depending on difficulty level, plus very small amounts of gold for stuff you do in those scenarios (e.g. 1 gold for killing a monster). You can then use that gold to buy characters and adventures. There are 5 characters costing 2000 gold each, and 4 characters costing 4000 gold each. The first adventure costs 750 gold, but the other 5 cost 4000 gold each. So if you want to buy all characters and all adventures, that will cost you 46,750 gold. If we estimate generously that you'll make on average 250 gold per scenario played, you'll need to play 187 scenarios to buy everything.

Or you can get all characters and adventures for $25.

I find that a very interesting and fair business model. $25 for all the content in the game is probably something I am going to buy. Unlike other Free2Play games which can ask for endless amounts of money, the money cost of the game is capped at $25. On the one side you'll get people who "buy to own" Pathfinder Adventure Card Game for $25, and on the other side you'll get people who refuse to pay anything but can still unlock all the content by grinding a lot. Not sure what intermediate options there are going to be.

And this isn't the only game that works like that. Magic Duels just released the latest version on the iOS and added not one, but two expansions to the game: Oath of the Gatewatch and Shadows over Innistrad. If you decide to buy all cards instead of playing for them, you still can't spend much more than $50 per expansion to get all the virtual cards. That might seem expensive compared to other iOS games, but for the Magic player that sounds dirt cheap, as buying enough physical cards to get one expansions is easily 10 times that expensive. Personally I am using a mixed strategy here, I spent enough money so that with the gold I had already accumulated over the last months I got the complete Shadows over Innistrad, but I'll earn the cards from the other expansion by playing.

Right now I'm quite happy deckbuilding with all those new cards, doing a "vampire deck" and so on. Having access from cards from 4 expansions makes it easier to create theme decks that don't suck. I only wished that there were better filters, right now it is hard to find for example all cards containing the word vampire in the game without using external sources. But to come back to the business model, I am also quite happy with that, knowing that I did spend what I wanted to spend, and that the game isn't pushing me towards spending more.

Comments:
I like this model. I like it a lot.

Essentially, the game is designed to be "buy to play" and costs 25 bucks for the whole game.

And as a marketing ploy, you CAN play for free, grinding slowly until you get tired of that and quit or buy the game.

Question: If you buy the game, do you still earn "gold" for playing? You apparently have no use for it. In an MMORPG type game, this would be a problem in that it would give rise to a secondary RMT market.
 
I was wondering the same for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. For Magic Duels the answer is that there are regular expansions, and all the gold I earn while playing with one expansion can be used to buy the next one, instead of buying that gold for real money.
 
I also like this model. If the buy cap is reasonable, than it's not pay-to-win, as everyone can pay the cap money and no one can outspend you, nor can you outspend reasonable competition.
 
This is a terrific model for players but will it work for the game devs? It is my understanding that f2p games make most of their money from whales. If you cap the whales then do you lose most of your income? I only hope that the fairness of the pricing model encourages more sales from non-whales to compensate.
 
The issue with this system is that the F2P portion is a "loss leader". If the F2P players are using network bandwidth and other developer resources, then the conversion rate -must- be in favor of the developer for them to continue the game for any length of time.

@Tobold

Not sure what intermediate options there are going to be.

Yeah, and without up-front transparency about what those options will be, you can bet that it will morph into something as represented by the majority of F2P games.
 
@Chris

If the F2P players are using network bandwidth and other developer resources, then the conversion rate -must- be in favor of the developer for them to continue the game for any length of time.

Without the F2P players, there is no game - the F2P folk are the "content" in these games. And in that capacity, they pay for themselves. If the devs thought the game would work otherwise, it would be B2P instead.
 
the F2P folk are the "content" in these games

That might be true for Clash Royale, but I don't see how it can possibly apply to a PvE game.

Yeah, and without up-front transparency about what those options will be, you can bet that it will morph into something as represented by the majority of F2P games.

If you can buy *all* of the content for $25, how can that possibly morph into a system where you sell parts of the content for hundreds or thousands of dollars? I'm pretty certain that if you buy that content bit by bit, the sum of the prices will be a bit higher than the attractive bundle discount price, but still below $50. It's like a DLC season pass, if you buy the DLCs individually you pay slightly more, but the bundle price still caps what you can reasonably ask for the individual pieces.

If I don't know the exact cost of the intermediate options it is only because I am not in the beta, and the beta testers haven't leaked all of the information.

If you would buy a game for $25, then how can you be against there being an option to play for free or less than the full price?
 
Yeah sounds like a fair model. in my mind the only way to improve upon something like that is if they reduced the price if you grind out certain expansions or characters.

Like say you play for free for a bit and buy a character with gold then feel like buying the complete game you pay say $23 or something like that.

Might be asking for a lot there though. But anyways this sounds a lot more fair then games that start out as free but eventually end up as being pay2win once you get further into the game.
 
I prefer one off purchase as well. I think it's more honest than the slot machine micro purchase model. And it's still open to paid expansions as well, so they can still gain more money that way.
 
@Tobold

If you would buy a game for $25, then how can you be against there being an option to play for free or less than the full price?

If this game is truly PVE, then I have no objection whatsoever. This would be the first game of this type that I would actually be willing to play and evaluate. If I pay the full price of $25 and the game is good and I enjoy playing, the devs have then earned my trust and support and I would be more willing to purchase a future expansion. But don't ask me to pay that $25 only to face an in-game store asking for more money.
 
@Chris

As far as I understand it (remember, this is from forum leaks from beta testers, not own experience), if you pay $25 you get absolutely everything there is to buy *now*. If the game is a success, I think at some point they are going to add more content, that is more characters and new adventures. At that point you'll probably have again the option of either buying that new content with cash, or with gold. But if you paid the $25 and played the game a lot you might have gold accumulated that you couldn't use for anything, so you won't need the cash option.
 
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