Guest author Simon Newstead, CEO of Frenzoo, discusses designing games for monetization. In it he uses examples from Frenzoo's Style Me Girl, the first 3D fashion game on mobile. Simon can be reached at email@example.com.
A Numbers Game
Our debut game Style Me Girl gained impressive downloads in its first two weeks, reaching the #1 position in the Amazon game charts. Whilst the downloads and rankings were nice, what made us really happy was the monetization, with Kindle Fire performing particularly well.
To look at what drives monetization it's always helpful to look at the core game mechanics:
In our case with Style Me Girl, the primary is a fashion puzzle mechanic where the player must dress a series of models for different Photoshoots, each with a unique fashion genre. The game uses a proprietary judging algorithm to determine scores, taking into account the items used, the fashion genre as well as the attractiveness of the photo taken. Passing the level unlocks the next level (model and fashion genre), progressing the story. Story evolves with new levels added dynamically from the cloud each week.
The secondary is a casual "catch the falling item" mini-game called Style Catch. Style Catch escalates in difficulty and provides and increasing payout of coins, used for shopping.
A freemium game, Style Me Girl has a hard currency Cash (purchased via IAP) and soft currency Coins, earned in Photoshoots and Style Catch.
5 Tips for Monetization
1. Incorporate a storyline
No matter the game type, if your game has levels, story serves up more motivation for players to progress through them. Players are emotional beings, and we are all compelled to be drawn into a good story. In our case, the game could have functioned just fine without a story line. However we saw from player feedback a deep engagement with the protagonist and goals in the story arcs. Given how little engineering resource is often needed on story, the ROI to include it is usually pretty compelling.
2. Replayability and collectibles
One thing that drives many paying users of Style Me Girl is successfully completing all levels with perfect 3 star results. Why? Of course completionism plays a part but the main one is being able to win rare "signature edition" items. These cannot be bought in the shop and a sign of success is sporting an outfit featuring 1 or more signature editions. It's always good to make room for replayability and collectibles can play well in that.
3. Energy and speed up
It's a cliche but it's true - impatient players are paying players. Energy regeneration through paid items is a proven way to open up the purse strings. We saw that in Style Me Girl and cash purchase, even though Style Catch itself is just a game to let you earn the soft currency. Strange but it works.
4. Aesthetics and functionality
Whilst studies show that pure aesthetic items don't monetize as well as time saving and functional virtual goods, if you can combine them together that can work extra well. In our case the cash items bought in the shop are attractive fashions, which lets users both look good and play good. Combinations are always good. Think the success of Toms, based on looking good and feeling good about it. Or owning the latest Macbook Air, a style statement as well as solid productivity tool.
5. A/B testing
Like eating enough fiber, it may not be a glamorous part of game design but it certainly is necessary to get the most out of your game. We implement A/B testing in the major parts related to the in-game economy - coins earning rate, starting currency values, purchase conversion rate etc. We don't go to the point of A/B testing individual item prices yet though, but that's the direction. Running tests has helped us increase monetization while not affecting retention (not always the case), and it's something we're going to dive into even further.
These tips are certainly not rocket science and not the first time they have been used in games.That said, keeping these fundamentals in mind when designing your next game ensures you're getting biggest bang for your development buck. And that makes everyone happy.