Last week,  href="">I compared the
perspectives of a pay-to-play (P2P) gamer and a free-to-play
(F2P) gamer in regards to their investment in a game. My conclusion was
that the F2P gamer is more likely than the P2P gamer to move to a new
title for a fresh start since it costs nothing to try a game and the
old one is always there waiting. Understanding the perspective of F2P
gamers allows us to draft a blueprint for how developers can
demonstrate their commitment to a title and draw in new players.

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Disney had
the luxury of an IP based on a
movie...based on a ride. Most F2P games don't have a known IP to create
an instant fanbase.

For starters, the quality of the game presented and the
selection methods employed during beta testing are crucial. In a recent
interview with Ten Ton Hammer,  href="" target="_blank">NetDevil’s
Scott Brown shares his insight on the use of beta test phases
to positively market a game and the necessity to be certain a title is
as bug-free as possible during open beta. style="font-style: italic;">

F2P approach to beta testing is quite different from the P2P goal of
getting exposure and squashing bugs. F2P developers seldom have access
to an established IP ( href=""> style="font-style: italic;">Pirates of the Caribbean Online is
one notable exception), so they must offset the need to build a player
base from the scratch by using closed beta as the primary tool to
market the game. Usually, developers do not implement NDAs to protect
their F2P titles; the more user-created videos to reach YouTube the
better for them. Word of mouth has to make up for a lack of advertising
dollars, so beta slots go to just about any reputable network or
publication that will distribute them.

F2P developers have to learn to take beta seriously if they
want gamers to take their product seriously. Beta should be more than a
marketing opportunity. The product presented to testers needs to be
stable and robust for as much content as is available for the beta. Get
the first ten levels polished to perfection during beta because anybody
can try them and the window of opportunity to “sell” a player on the
game is woefully small. Except for the rare F2P gamer who truly can’t
afford to pay for subscriptions, most people who beta test a F2P title
will not be satisfied with substandard gameplay. For solid examples of
how to conduct a closed beta test, developers need to look no further
than  target="_blank">Wakfu
or  target="_blank">Runes
of Magic
. Very exclusive betas serve to create
fervor for the game while recruiting serious testers. 

Once all betas have ended, companies have to release a
polished product. Noting the importance of a smooth launch to retain
customers, Brown asserts  href="" target="_blank">in
the same Ten Ton Hammer interview that a game cannot recover
from a poor launch. F2P publishers haven’t received this message yet,
and they often treat launch as another chance to push their game
through media outlets. The players may not notice a difference; barring
major patches or features, a launch for a F2P title can be very

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World International is rare among F2P games in that it has
an expansion..

After launch, F2P teams aim to get new players rather than
focusing on the retention of current players. The first goal is to open
the item mall and get people to spend money; item mall purchases pay
for the development of the next game the community can try from the
same publisher. Then the priority is to correct the most damning bugs
to reduce any negative word of mouth. Content updates usually grow the
game out (with content at various levels) to give players more ways to
spend time in the game so that they will feel compelled to use the item
mall. Expansions are rare in F2P games (even though href="" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Perfect World International
managed it) because income from an expansion seldom makes up
for the
production costs without the aid of the box sales P2P games enjoy. In
short, F2P companies work toward capturing new players while moving the
departing ones to a new game in development. Growth of the entire
gaming network hosting the game comes at the expense of the growth of
any one game.

The next step in improving the appeal of a F2P title is to do
some real marketing. Nexon adeptly used  href=""
target="_blank">pig and  href=""
target="_blank">fish commercials to market style="font-style: italic;">Maple Story. If TV
spots are outside the budget, companies should spend some money on
online ads ( href=""
target="_blank">Atlantica Online is
everywhere on the web!) or some print ads. These advertisements should
not run for open beta but for the launch of the game instead, when the
majority of deal-breaking bugs are no longer in the game. Finally,
instead of relying on accidental customers to sustain their game,
companies should define their audience and market to them.

Spending money on marketing for smaller studios will be tough,
and it requires heeding my hardest advice for F2P developers to follow:
that? I’m not saying to never make another game (Sony Online
Entertainment has a full stable of games); I’m just asking developers
to display some commitment to one title before flinging all of their
resources into the next one. That means reinvesting the item mall
revenue back into the game (not in the development of new one) to fix
the bugs that turned people away earlier in the development cycle. It
means releasing content updates that are meaningful to legacy players;
grow the game up and out to maximize reach even if that means
alternating content updates that add end game content and others that
add a new class, trade skill, or mid-level dungeon. Most of all,
developers who want gamers to invest in their game must first
demonstrate their own investment in it.

The Top Ten

to page two to see Ralsu's
latest Top Ten list.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Runes of Magic Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016