On Monetisation

Working for a company that deals largely in mobile development, monetisation is inevitably something at the forefront of our concerns when designing. Unfortunately, the only thing we prioritise more highly is making great games – and these two things can be hard to mix well.

I’ve recently been playing Final Fantasy: Record Keeper. It’s a free-to-play mobile game that takes place across multiple worlds from the Final Fantasy series, and it uses one of the most frustrating monetisation systems I can imagine; which is also one of the most common.

Final-Fantasy-Record-Keeper-screens-1

This is the “stamina” system, in which players can only play a certain amount of a game before they need to “rest”. For example, completing a quest in a game may take 10 stamina, leaving you with 30 – when you run out, you’ll need to wait until your stamina regenerates, at a rate of a few every 10 minutes or so (depending on the game).

This, frankly, shits me to tears. It’s my belief that any game – whether free or not – should be able to be played at the player’s discretion. Everybody has a different schedule, and even though some people may put less hours into games all up, their schedule might mean that they have to play it all at once, which isn’t possible with a system like this. I hate the idea of taking control away from players to make more money.

However, money is obviously essential. While we’d all love to make games without having to worry about making money at all, it’s not viable for anybody. Higher income means more (and better) games, as well as the continued survival of the development team, which is fairly important too.

Pictured above: not me

Pictured above: not me

It’s the Stamina system I have an issue with, not the concept of monetisation. Free games definitely need to compromise somewhere along the line in order to be profitable, but I feel as though they’re not exploring their options enough. More often than not, games settle for these Stamina systems, or one of a few other archetypes; the ‘premium currency’ that grants access to special equipment / levels / characters / items, an onslaught of advertisements, and a few more.

People have found varying levels of success with these systems by tweaking numbers, with some almost being bearable. But, at least for me, free-to-play games always run themselves into the ground because of these systems. If I feel like I can’t succeed at a game without spending money, why would I spend money? It could happen again in the future when more updates roll out, and there’re plenty of other games out there. Why would I spend money to instantly regain my stamina? As I’ve said, there’re plenty of other games to play.

Artist's rendering of the app store

Artist’s rendering of the app store

It’s not easy, though. Games need to be make money, and they need to be competitive (especially on mobile devices, where the competition is absolutely immense). I’m not saying that I want monetisation to go away – I just wish developers would experiment with ideas a bit more.

If anyone knows of games that make money in interesting or unique ways, please let me know; either through the contact page, or by commenting on this post. Thanks for reading!

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