開發者談F2P模式:細節決定成敗

開發者談F2P模式:細節決定成敗

原文作者:Sam Forrest 譯者:Megan Shieh

衆所周知,給遊戲定價是一件非常棘手的事情。在爲玩家提供價值的同時,你還得考慮許多其他因素,比如自己能不能盈利、競爭產品的標價是多少等等。

取決於遊戲的類型以及具體的機制,有些遊戲只有採用付費模式才能實現經濟上的可持續性;而另一些遊戲則更適合免費模式,開發商需要想出辦法通過付費功能(IAP)來提升玩家的遊戲體驗,進而吸引他們花錢。

一旦決定了產品的商業模式,接下來要做的就是找到合適的捆綁類型併爲其定價,這些產品的價格不僅得讓你賺錢,還得讓玩家覺得物超所值。

一般來說,每年最受歡迎的遊戲的價格從0-60美元不等,這是一個非常廣泛的價格範圍。如果把微交易考慮進去,這一數額甚至會更高。因此,給遊戲定價真不是件容易的事兒。

至於F2P遊戲的情況就更加複雜了,別的不說,光是玩家就直接被分爲兩種——付費玩家和免費玩家。

15年前,韓國遊戲《楓之谷/冒險島(Maplestory)》成爲了首款超級熱門的F2P模式遊戲。當時,開發商WIZET通過一種廉價、合法、零bug的安全方式降低了遊戲的門檻,主要目的是爲了打擊盜版。雖然F2P模式最初大多存在於手遊領域,但經過多年的演變,這一模式現在也蔓延到了各個遊戲類型和各大遊戲平臺上。

像《DC Universe Online》這樣的F2P遊戲玩家數量一度達到了1800萬之多,這些玩家主要來自Play Station 3 和Play Station 4。與此同時,部分長青遊戲系列也開始從付費和訂閱模式轉向了F2P模式,例如暴雪的《星際爭霸(Starcraft)》。

乍一看,你可能會覺得采用F2P模式是在冒險,尤其是對於製作成本較高的遊戲產品而言。

Smurfs’ Village(from insidemobileapps)

Smurfs’ Village(from insidemobileapps)

然而相比其他盈利模式,F2P其實存在很大的優勢:

其中最顯著的要屬玩家數量的提升,這點對於多人在線遊戲而言至關重要。其次,不間斷的收入流和潛在的轉化率(免費玩家在遊戲後期可能會掏錢)對開發商而言也是一個很大的福利。事實上,iOS中90%以上的手遊收入均來自F2P遊戲。

此外,F2P模式也爲玩家提供了其他遊戲中沒有的選項。拿3A遊戲來說,無論遊玩的時間長短,玩家都需要支付相同的費用。例如,在《天際(Skyrim)》中游玩40個小時所需支付的價格和2個小時是一樣的。

但是在F2P遊戲中,玩家可以先玩上幾分鐘再決定要不要掏錢。而且大多數情況下,他們還可以選擇支付真錢來加快遊戲進度,或者通過刷遊戲來慢慢進階。

免費玩家、付費玩家,非得二選一?

F2P模式的美妙之處在於,只要開發商把它給“做好了”,作爲少數羣體的付費玩家不會介意“資助”免費玩家的體驗。根據最近的一項調查顯示,無論是哪種類型的F2P遊戲,都只有2.5%的玩家會掏錢。

隨着研究的深入,這些數字變得更加有趣。Swrve近期發佈的一項研究顯示,平均而言,只有2.2%的F2P玩家羣體會在遊戲中消費,其中幾乎有一半的收入來自這些玩家羣體中的10%,也就是全體玩家的0.22%。

這種現象讓許多開發商陷入了兩難,付費玩家和免費玩家到底誰比較重要呢?雖然免費玩家佔絕大多數,但他們的體驗卻是依賴於付費玩家對遊戲的經濟支持。

但是有些開發商並不注重玩家當下花了多少錢,他們更關注的是諸如社交媒體、個人信息、聯繫方式等等數據方面的額外因素。在多人遊戲中,無論掏錢與否,玩家的參與都已經爲遊戲帶來了價值。

其實對於開發者而言,真正的挑戰在於,你的遊戲不僅要能吸引付費玩家,還要能吸引免費玩家。

那麼問題來了:在F2P遊戲中,玩家掏錢買的到底是啥?

以《德州撲克(Pokerist)》爲例,玩家每天打開遊戲都會收到免費的遊戲內貨幣(籌碼)。此外,他們可以以低至0.99美元的價格購買更多籌碼,這樣的話就可以玩久一點,玩的時候也可以下更多的賭注或參加遊戲內舉辦的錦標賽。玩家還可以掏錢購買其他物品,比如虛擬的禮物和皮膚,這些物品可以用來加強與他人的互動並進一步個性化自身的遊戲體驗。

在這種情況下,雖說付費用戶可以獲得實實在在的好處,但遊戲環境對所有玩家而言都是一樣的。

氪金雖好,謹防引火燒身

如果玩家對F2P遊戲有足夠的好感,他們通常會原諒偶爾的過失,比如一件物品的標價太高或者偶爾的不公平收費。由於F2P遊戲的收費系統是延展性的,開發商有機會在以後避免這種錯誤,所以大部分玩家都會選擇睜一隻眼閉一隻眼。

然而,如果遊戲中的氪金體系給人感覺毫不留情、咄咄逼人、甚至帶有侵略性,玩家就會產生不滿情緒,這時遊戲中的玩家數量也會隨着開始下降。

部分開發者會在遊戲中提供收費皮膚、關卡、章節、額外內容或迷你遊戲,這種行爲是完全可以接受的。最重要的是,核心的免費體驗必須是物超所值,而不是隻有付了錢的玩家才能享受到遊戲的樂趣。

充滿爭議的“付費贏(pay-to-win)”模式就是一種會疏遠絕大多數玩家的盈利模式。近期,EA因爲企圖通過氪金機制壓榨玩家而遭到了抨擊,這次風波的主角《星球大戰:前線2》的內容也是偏向“付費贏”模式。

現在好啦事情大條了,EA這才知道氪金雖好,但玩家的忍耐是有限度的。《星球大戰:前線2》本可以成爲今年最成功的遊戲之一,可惜它那繁瑣而又昂貴的氪金體系激怒了粉絲(遊戲邦注:本身就是一款付費遊戲,在這個基礎上還加入了瘋狂的氪金機制…),該作在上市第一週後銷售額下降逾60%,甚至連EA的股價也受到了影響。

真錢、假錢,傻傻分不清楚

無論是哪種遊戲類型,最受歡迎的總是那些能夠讓玩家感覺身臨其境的遊戲。然而,這種沉浸感也可能會讓玩家暫時忘掉虛擬遊戲幣和真錢之間的區別,而這種模糊的界限時常會讓開發者和玩家感到頭疼。

舉個例子:《藍精靈村莊(Smurfs’ Village)》是一款圍繞着孩童們喜愛的動畫角色而建立起來的遊戲,但它濫用了iTunes的付費規則——一旦在免費或付費購買時輸入了賬戶密碼,15分鐘內就無需再次輸入。在讓他們的父母安裝完免費遊戲的幾分鐘後,孩子們就會跑到遊戲中的Smurfberry去瘋狂消費。很明顯,《藍精靈村莊》並沒有明確說明這些東西都是需要支付真錢的。

這種“模糊的界限”導致孩子們在不知情的情況下花費了父母數百美元的血汗錢,其中一個孩童的支付賬單竟然高達1400美元,這一現象最終導致了政客們的介入。

美國民主黨代表Edward J. Markey給聯邦貿易委員會(FTC)寫了一封公開信,闡述了他的擔憂。這封公開信也同時點名了蘋果和谷歌公司,後被《華盛頓郵報》引用,他在信中說道:“這些應用程序的推廣和交付方式讓我感到擔憂,尤其是針對兒童的那些應用程序,因爲他們不太可能理解內購交易會帶來的後果。”(遊戲邦注:聯邦貿易委員會是美國聯邦執法機構,負責通過消除不合理的和欺騙性的條例或規章來確保和促進市場運營的順暢。)

在被公開點名之後,蘋果更改了其支付規則,現在iOS上的每筆內購交易都要求用戶單獨輸入一次密碼。

總結

F2P模式充滿了各種各樣的潛在陷阱,錯誤的執行手法可能會疏遠付費玩家或免費玩家,甚至可能最終落得兩頭空,要想找到其中的平衡實屬不易。

好的F2P模式應該是公平的,在爲玩家提供巨大價值的同時,也需要能對付費和免費玩家提供相同的吸引力。而且在開發商尋求征服國際市場的同時,他們還必須確保自己的F2P模式能夠扛得住其他國家的法律法規和文化監管。

簡而言之,好的遊戲不好做,好的F2P遊戲更難做。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

As every developer knows, pricing a game can be tricky. How do you provide value for the player and keep your own books in the black? What are competitors charging and why? And how do you define “good value”?

Depending on the type of game they are building, and the specific game mechanics, some games would only be financially sustainable on a paid model, while others would be better off offering the app for free, whilst incentivising their players and really figuring out how to enhance the playing experience through paid features.

Once the business model is clear, it’s finding what’s the correct type of bundles to offer and “that” precise number that’s not just profitable but that customers also think is fair and enhances the playing experience.

Generally, the most popular games released over any given year usually have a price range from free to $60 (and even higher if you take microtransactions into account) which is an incredibly broad spectrum to work within.

For free-to-play (F2P) titles, it becomes even more complicated; raising questions of what to offer paying players and their non-paying counterparts (who they often play alongside or against!).

15 years ago, the South Korean game Maplestory became the first major free-to-play game. Back then, it was to combat piracy by offering a cheap, legitimate, bug-free and safe way for the masses to access the game. The image has evolved over the years. While primarily associated with mobile games, the F2P model is now making inroads across all genres and platforms.

F2P games like DC Universe Online had 18 million players at one stage, mostly on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. Meanwhile, long-running franchises are switching from subscription and paid to F2P, such as Blizzard’s Starcraft.

F2P looks like a risk at first glance, especially for relatively expensive productions like the games mentioned above.

There are though huge advantages that F2P has over other payment methods (for developers and players alike).

The most obvious is the potential for higher player numbers, which is essential for online multiplayer games. The ongoing revenue and “down the funnel” conversions (payments deeper into the game) are a big boon for developers too. Indeed, over 90 per cent of mobile game revenue on iOS is from F2P games.

The payment method also offers options to the players that are absent in other games. With a triple-A title, everyone pays the same cover charge, regardless of how deep or shallow their dive is. (Someone who plays Skyrim for 40 hours pays the same price as another customer who plays it for two.)

However, in F2P, players don’t pay until after they’ve played for a few minutes (and on most cases, they don’t pay at all). And they might have the option of speeding up progress with payments, or to progress more slowly through “grinding”.

Who foots the bill and is it fair?

The beauty of F2P, when it’s done “correctly”, is that a minority of paying players are happy to subsidise the other players. In fact, according to one recent survey, regardless of genre, only 2.5 per cent of players pay in F2P.

And the numbers get even more interesting as you delve deeper:GameRant reports that: “A recent study from Swrve has determined that only 2.2 per cent of a free-to-play player base ever pay for the content on average, with almost half of the revenue coming from ten percent of that number, a minuscule 0.22 per cent.”

The dilemma lies in the equal importance of both paying and non-paying players. While non-payers comprise the majority of participants, their experience is subsidised by payers.
Then there’s the added factor of data, as some developers value players’ information than the cash they spend; social media, demographic information, contact details and so on.

In multiplayer games, players add value as participants, regardless of whether they pay. The challenge is making the game equally compelling for the players regardless of whether they open their wallet or not.

This brings us to the big question; what do you pay for in a F2P game? Using one of our games as an example, Pokerist is free-to-play, and players receive in-game currency (“chips”) every day they take part.

They can buy more for as little as US$.99, which opens access to longer games, higher stakes or special tournaments. Players can also pay for cosmetic perks, such as virtual “gifts” and skins to boost their interactions with others and to further personalise their experience.

In Pokerist and countless other examples, paying customers see real perks but the playing field is even for all players. Conversely, developers can venture into choppy waters when they give paying players perceived unfair advantages.

Microtransactions and their micro-aggressions

If a player has sufficient good will towards a F2P game, they’ll forgive the occasional misstep; one item costing too much, an occasional unfair charge. Since F2P games and their payment systems are malleable, it’s possible to course correct.

However, it’s when the microtransactions feel relentless and pushy, even aggressive, that resentment kicks in… and player numbers begin to drop.

It’s perfectly acceptable to allow for more skins to be bought, for access to other content such as a paid-only level, chapter or mini-game, which some developers offer. However, it is vital that the core, free experience should be worthwhile in itself, not just for those making the micro-payments.

The controversial “pay-to-win” model is one way to alienate a majority of your fans. Recently EA came under fire for “over-milking” the in-game micro-transactions and leaned on the pay to win model with a recent product – Star Wars: Battlefront II.

Unfortunately they learned the hard way that you can only push it so far. Star Wars: Battlefront II should have been one of the biggest gaming success stories of the year. Instead, its onerous and expensive microtransactions (on top of an initial cover charge) angered fans, saw a sales drop of over 60 per cent after its first week, and even affected the company’s stock price.

The blurred line

The best games, in any genre, are immersive experiences, which might lead players to temporarily forget the difference between imaginary, in-game currency and their own money.

Those chips, coins, gold and builders accelerate your progress in an imaginary world with money that’s earned in the very real world. The blur between real and imaginary money causes headaches for players and developers alike.

Smurfs’ Village was a wholesome game based on the beloved children’s characters. But, to quote Forbes: “Smurfs’ Village takes advantage of the iTunes rule that once an account password has been entered after a free or paid purchase, it doesn’t need to be entered again for fifteen minutes. So minutes after getting their parents to install the free game, kids are going on a Smurfberry spending spree. Smurf Village apparently isn’t making it explicit this costs real money”.

This led to children spending hundreds of dollars of their parents’ money, in one case racking up a bill of $1,400. Politicians started to wade in.

US Democrat Representative Edward J. Markey wrote an open letter to the Federal Trade Commission outlining his concerns. In the letter, quoted in The Washington Post, and also addressed to Apple and Google, he said: “I am concerned about how these applications are being promoted and delivered to consumers, particularly with respect to children, who are unlikely to understand the ramifications of in-app purchases.” The FTC is America’s federal enforcement agency for unfair and deceptive advertising and marketing.

Apple now requires a password for every in-app purchase.

F2P – The secret end of level boss

The F2P formula is fraught with potential pitfalls. The wrong approach can alienate paying players, free players, or even both at once. It’s a tricky balance and a relatively young discipline.

When it’s done the right way, it’s fair, it offers great value to players and is equally compelling to those who pay and those who don’t. And, as developers look to conquer international markets, their F2P model will also have to withstand regulations in other countries, laws and cultures.

The best app games are deceptively tricky. The same can be said about mastering the F2P formula. ( Source: pocketgamer.biz )