Selling Games: Up-Front Cost or Free to Play?

The phenomenal success of Angry Birds and the potential for making money from indie games might have you wondering whether or not you should put your programming skills to work and design your own game.

However, before you start getting to work, it’s important to consider how you are going to monetize your project. This is something you should consider early on, as your choice will have a large impact on how best to design your game.

For example, if you choose to support the game with advertising, you may need areas of the screen where the ads can be displayed without interrupting gameplay. If you decide to offer in-game items for real money, you will have to incorporate those elements into the game.

By figuring out how to monetize your game before you start creating it, youâ??ll save yourself time â?? and money â?? in the end.

Up-Front Payment

The advantages of an up-front payment for your game are relatively straightforward.

  • You don’t have to worry about people getting the benefits without any money for your efforts.
  • You have an easier time figuring out your financials when you know you will get a set amount of income for every game that you sell.
  • No need to interrupt the interface or display with ads.
  • No need to come up with methods to sell in-game items or credits.

However, there are disadvantages as well:

  • More effort must be expended on marketing and describing the game as people cannot play without paying.
  • Without integrating extra upgrades or ads, revenue per player is restricted to a one-time payment.

Free to Play

In a gaming context, the term â??free to playâ? means games that can be downloaded, installed and played without any financial barrier. However, this does not mean there is no way for you to generate an income.

Free-to-play games can bring in revenue by various means, including advertising and by instituting a payment system for in-game items, rewards or extras. For example, a racing game could allow players to access novelty vehicles like street sweepers for $2.

Advantages include:

  • Technically unlimited revenue potential.
  • An increased likelihood of visits converting to downloads due to reduced barriers for players.

Disadvantages include:

  • The need for integration of your revenue sources into the game.
  • More complicated revenue streams.
  • Potential for a perception of unfairness if wealthier players can substantially increase their abilities through payments.

Both options offer a great degree of flexibility, although this is more apparent with free-to-play. Developers should remember it is possible to incorporate advertising and paid items into a paid-for game; however, this can lead to players feeling cheated or hard done by.

Another option is to release a playable ad-supported demo, which can be upgraded to a full version.

Michelle, a guest blogger, regularly writes about technology, from video games to the technology behind street sweepers.

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