Free Is The New Future (Is It?)

Remember the blog post I made about how all games could be free (and how you guys started giving some good ideas)? Well, Mr. refaktor pointed me to a good video about new economics and free. I found the video quite interesting. It’s not suggesting that “all should be free” but there is stuff about “freemium” as the business model.

Some points from that video:

  • Instead of “play 30 days and then stop” (trial-buy model) one should go for “play as long as you want, but look – here’s a shiny new thing you might wanna” (free-premium model, or “freemium” as it was put). (I suppose this works well in multiplayer games but doesn’t necessarily sound a good model for 2-hour casual game…)
  • We are in the middle of going into way different economic model (digital distribution vs physical goodies). Everybody in the gaming industry is probably saying “yeh, I know” – but I think it’s still worth highlighting: it’s worth thinking about how to proceed from here.
  • Interesting point about piracy. Chris Anderson (in the video) was quoting Bill Gates about piracy in China: (saying something along lines) “I’m not too worried about piracy. At least we want to make sure that they pirate our products. Maybe at some point they’ll buy something from us (when they have spent loads of time to get familiar with our products)”. While it’s not equivalent to indie game developer’s situation, I think it’s still pretty interesting point-of-view.

There was some other stuff in the video, so in case you are interested about “free” (or “freemium”) and the new pricing models, you might want to check it out:

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. “2-hour casual game”: I was thinking of adding an optional story line… that way you can let your players choose the freemium model instead. I’m not sure if it’s worth it or not, it’s just an idea.

  2. Yeh, depends how you define “microtransaction”, so true. :) From that video it was suggested about paying pennies or something. Guy on that vid didn’t think Appstore as microtransaction ($0.99)

    I don’t know if club penguin has it… I know it has 5ish eur per month membership?

  3. So the microtransaction I was talking about is the free to play game and then typically you buy a chunk of game currency and you use that to buy stuff with. It seems to be working for Club Penguin etc but yeah it would be neat if you could just make tiny transactions but the payment providers just aren’t set up to do that, currently if your transaction cost was too small, it would COST you money as the supplier!

  4. Jake: guy on that vid actually suggested that microtransaction model isn’t really working – the transaction costs haven’t got that small, and there’s always the psychological barrier for “buying again” (no matter what the cost).

    Of course there’s possibility that pirates hack things, but they’ll do that no matter what one does ;)

  5. Good link. This reminds me that I actually don’t (all the time/often/sometimes) choose free programs/libs for the reason that there’s no guarantee of upgrades. With paid versions (and if there’s load of customers) at least you know that you are at “safe hands”.

  6. So with the microtransaction model where you have a free game but buy extras, does anyone think that maybe pirates will start pirating the extra stuff so you don’t have to pay to add it in, you just hack your account or install a new file etc.?

  7. Robert: 60 min is at least an easy way to limit something. They’ve probably tested it… (but who knows :)

  8. That was very enjoyable to watch! It’s kind of a topic we already were aware was happening, but needed it explained and possibly verified.
    I also agree with what Katherine says regarding demo playtimes. I think out of all the trial based demos I’ve played, I’ve only ever bought a few, and they were games I had already intended on buying. A free level of a game in a demo though, is quite different. Being able to replay and knowing I can take my time through that demo is a great thing, and encourages me to see more by purchasing the full game.
    Most ‘AAA’ game demos choose this way rather then time limited trials. So why is it so poplular in Indie games?

  9. dear gandhi:
    – sorry, will answer the question here :)
    – I just like to write stuff. Here’ll be a good place to do that. In fact… I think I’m gonna write a detail post about this.

  10. hi, im new here, this is my first post to this blog, i just ask to this blog owner, what is your target to build this famous blog with million traffic? does it including for making money? can you reply my question to my mail? thanks very much for your apreciation, i pursiate that if you want to reply my answer,

  11. Thanks for this Jusso, this definitely brings a new perspective on free content, piracy and the psychology of buying!

    I’ve just downloaded the free(mium) audiobook to accompany this, there seems to be some other good relevant stuff in that video link too (yet to check out fully).

  12. If the game is too small for a demo then I have nothing to say really. I don’t tend to shell out on games that don’t have a demo because who knows if they will work on my computer? Peggle doesn’t, nor do most other PopCap games (something to do with my sound card!!)

  13. “[freemium] doesn’t necessarily sound a good model for 2-hour casual game…”

    I disagree. As long as the trial part is small enough that there is still a significant amount of game left for you to purchase, I think this works better than the demo model where you can play for an hour only.

    If I download a demo, play it for an hour, and then get no more play time, I’ll delete it off my computer and forget about it, or perhaps look for a similar game with a similar demo. If I can play the first few levels or the initial part of the game as many times as I like, if I like the game I’ll probably return to it, or at least leave it on my computer where it will remind me that the game exists and that maybe I should buy it.

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