First there was shareware, and that was good. Games like Demise pioneered the model of giving us unlimited access to a good portion of the game (nine whole levels in the case of Demise), in the hope that we would transfer some money for the rest if we liked it. Then came free-to-play, and after a few rocky years it was mostly good too. We got access to excellent games like Team Fortress 2, Dota 2And League of Legendsjust to name a few, and if we liked them, we could give back to the developers by buying silly hats and other such cosmetic enhancements for our avatars.
So far, so good for frugal players. But then came the dreaded freemium game, and things took a nasty turn. The games were still free, but instead of giving away all the content, or making sure games were balanced, nice pieces of software, someone somewhere decided that by charging a premium fee for special features, powers, or content, they could make a significant amount of money from a small subset of players, known in the company as ‘whales’. Soon after, they discovered that by purposefully building levels too difficult to complete on skill alone, or poor online matchmaking, they could turn even more players into whales out of sheer frustration.
This is not to say that every freemium game out there is like this (see Hearthstone), but there are many who deliberately prey on people with addictive personalities to make money. The other way to do freemium, which some but not all prefer, is to load them full of ads. By selling ads to willing companies, developers can release their product for free, while also offering a paid product for those willing to shell out some cash. The problem is that flat display ads don’t make as much money as they used to.
So what if you’re a developer and like to give your games away for free, but don’t necessarily want to go down the classic freemium road?
View to play
Well, if you’re Jami Laes, Rovio’s head of games who oversaw Angry Birds And Bad pigs, you go “view-to-play.” Laes, who left Rovio earlier this year, has started a new studio called Futureplay Games, which – in one of the most dry and unappealing descriptions of a games company I’ve ever heard – will focus on “a natural integration of broad accessible gameplay and ad-based monetization.” And really, isn’t that what playing video games is all about?
While Laes hasn’t revealed what genre of games his studio will be working on, or what platforms it will be making games for (although it’s likely to be mobile given his background), he did reveal more details about the business model. , which requires players to view an ad before playing the game. “Our focus is on creating a new category of ‘view-to-play’ games – widely accessible gameplay with natural integration and rewarding ad-based monetization,” reads the about page on the company’s new website. studio. “We believe in F2P and ads – both can be great, you’ll see. We want to develop quickly and have fun launching multiple games per year, not working on one game for several years.”
Interestingly, Laes will be backed by a number of industry veterans, including Kai Auvinen, formerly VP of games at Remedy; Mika Rahko, who worked on several Angry Birds games at Rovio; and Arttu Mäki, who led level design at Rovio and was VP of design at Boomlagoon. Laes himself was head of Playfish’s global studios for EA before joining Rovio.
Whether that will convince people to watch a pre-roll ad before playing a game remains to be seen. While pre-roll ads are common on video streaming sites like YouTube, as well as free services like airport Wi-Fi, the nature of mobile games — which often involve quick bursts of play on the go — don’t lend themselves well to having to serving a 30-second pre-roll ad. On the other hand, we don’t yet know how long those ads will be. And how often should you watch them? Every time you start the game or once a day? Laes promises answers will come soon, but in the meantime I’m starting a campaign to bring back the joys of shareware. Who’s with me?
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