Phil Developer
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I'm currently working on a fantasy themed, board/card, turn-based (multi-player only), strategy game for iOS, and I'm wondering on what's the best way to monetize it. I've got some different ideas on this, but it's not straightforward as each method pretty much means a slightly different game-play mechanic so I thought I would ask the BGG community their thoughts on the matter.

I'm just 1 guy building this game (I've worked as a Flash games developer for many years), but I want to try and create a great game with lots of depth. I want it to be fun whether you have just started playing it or have been playing it for a year. Obviously I want the game to do well financially, to cover it's server costs if anything! but also because it would be great to have a successful game. So I'm being honest with my views in this post in regards to monetization, and hopefully will get good feedback on what players would also be happy with.

It is not a CCG, and will be more akin to Hero Academy and/or Summoner Wars on iOS.

To give a rough guide to the game, it will be played out on a 7x5 hex grid. Players can choose different cards to deploy to the grid. The usual manoeuvres are available such as move, deploy and attack.

a 12 sided virtual dice will be used to determine battle outcomes, with a hit being scored if the player rolls higher than the attacked defence value.

The objective is to either destroy all the possible cards of the enemy or destroy their castle card.

In most designs I've come up with so far for the game, the cards will be available in packs of 11 (3 close range units, 2 ranged units, 2 spells, 2 utility, 1 structure, plus 1 main castle card) representing different houses (humans, trolls etc), there will also probably be an in-game currency of say gold.

The game will be free to download, and will feature ads, plus IAP's of some sort. These will either be for extra card packs, or extra in-game currency. And this is where it gets complicated

My ideas so far for monetization are these...

Option 1

1) Players buy (with real money) card packs (cost $.99c)
2) Cards cost gold (the in-game currency)to deploy during the battle.
3) You enter battle with all your gold (whether that be 100 or 1000000)
4) The more powerful the card, the most gold it costs (there are some factors in the game I can use to partly help balance this)
5) You get a battle won bonus in gold.
6) You can deploy up to 100 cards during battle.
7) Players “earn” gold each day they sign in to the game (perhaps according to their experience level) so players do not have to buy gold with real money if they do not wish too, but it means their ability to choose cards during battle might be restricted if they do not have enough of the in-game currency.

Pro's:
1) It's a fairly simple method for players to use.
2) Will monetize well if players do not think it's too unbalanced.
3) The gold basically becomes a resource, which perhaps forms part of the players strategy overall across battles with other players.

Con's:
1) I'm stuck on the "If powerful cards cost more gold, than what's stopping a player with lots of gold winning easily with the most powerful cards" problem! There are ways actually built into the game, which allow me to vary how powerful a card is, for example making certain powerful cards specific to certain situations and so on and battle outcomes between cards are partly decided by dice anyway, but it's more the psychological aspects of players needing an in-game currency to deploy cards and feeling that battles could be unfair if they come up against a player that obviously has more gold than them? (not that you will be able to see what gold the other player has though) that I think could be an issue? personally I don't have an issue with it (in regards to other games) especially if the in-game currency builds back up it-self over time so I don't have to buy it if I don't want to. But this is the main point it would be great to have feedback on.

Option 2
1) Exactly the same as option 1, but battles cost 100 gold to enter, and it's that 100 gold which players have to fight their battle with.

PRO's:
1) It levels the playing field so to speak, in the sense that everyone starts off a battle with the same amount of gold.

CON's:
1) I can see some players not being happy that they have accrued lots of gold through purchasing with real money or in-game play, and yet they can't use that to their advantage during the battle. So I think players might feel unfairly limited.
2) How much exactly do you start off with? I mentioned 100 gold, but that's a somewhat arbitrary figure.

Option 3
This option changes the game-play somewhat. I think it will be a good game still but just different.

1)The gold currency only exists during a battle. So both players start off with a tiny starting amount, say 50g, and they earn more by how many hex locations they occupy during the battle. Each hex occupied earns them say 10g per turn.
2) I would need to introduce a separate currency, which players would use to enter battles, say "Gems", and battles would cost maybe 1 gem to enter. More gems could be bought with IAP's.

PRO's:
1) The great thing about this way of doing things is that again it's a level playing field at the start of the battle, and what cards players end up using is purely down to how well they play during a battle.

CON's:
1) For some reason in my gut I feel this might make battles a bit long and drawn out, which perhaps (due to the nature of mobile gamers) might be a negative aspect.
2) Perhaps the gems would seem to be arbitrary to players, i'e they would see it just as a method for me to make money and not play because of that. If I take the gems out it would probably mean the game will make much less money than it would otherwise do. Ultimately there will be 6 house decks for the players to buy (6 x $.99c), but even them with ads, I'm not convinced makes the game financially viable (I've already been working on it for 6 months and it's still some months from completion). Or perhaps not, perhaps players will be cool with gems as an in-game currency.


The 2 games that I previously mentioned, both take the card pack IAP approach, and it has obviously worked well for them, but if you take out the idea of cards costing gold to be deployed during a battle, then balancing becomes a lot harder and means that you need to balance every card out, and basically not have powerful cards, this is probably why in Hero Academy, there is only 1 type of really powerful card (think they are called "Super units") and you can only use 1 per battle, also what cards you can choose from are randomly offered to you. All of this has been done I assume to help with balancing.

I like the flexibility of having an in-game currency, which is used to deploy cards during battle, but it's hard to get away from the issue of players with lots of the currency having things too easy. What might happen is that the use of the in-game currency might become a factor in-itself in the sense that players will try to win with spending as little gold as possible (expert players will figure out the best strategies using the least amount of gold, novices with just charge in putting dragons everywhere).

Happy to hear any and all thoughts and opinions!

Oh, one last thing, the game will be called Strategy Kingdom
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Choose no more than one:

1. Charge for decks, levels, or anything else that increases game variety
2. Charge for in-game currency inevitably consumed during play
3. Show ads

I can't think of a successful game that got away with simultaneously doing two of the above, much less all three.
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Phil Developer
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Hero Academy has ads and character packs, but I think the ads get turned off when you buy something.
 
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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As a user, paying per-play is a complete deal-breaker, and I wouldn't touch a game that relied on option 1 or 2. Remember, I can play very well done apps like Summoner Wars, Hero Academy, or Outwitters for free, and I can have every army ever made for them for $5-$10 total and never spend any more money on them. That's what you're competing with.

(Hero Academy has a bunch of cosmetic purchases too, like user icons and team colors, that don't impact gameplay; I have no idea how much they sell, but the answer probably isn't that much based on talks I've seen about monetization options.)
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Phil Developer
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I'm leaning towards option 3 as well, but what's the issue with the in-game currency, if it actually slowly increases automatically anyway over time without you having to buy anything? and if it's tied to experience in the game, then the better you do the quicker the in-game currency increases, meaning the less chance you have to buy any gold with real money?
 
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Bruno
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Have a free-to-play version of the game, then a one-time charge for the full game. That's it. Keep it simple.
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Also, make sure to remove all ads from the full-version of the game.
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Phil Developer
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I'll probably turn off the ads if someone buys any of the card packs, but having a one time charge for the full game, doesn't seem to work...

http://www.whatgamesare.com/2012/08/freemium-is-not-sharewar...
 
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Tiger Wiccan
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Ugh, "monetization"...

Is that even a real word? I'm sorry if it is. Making people pay "per play" will insure that not that many people play your game. Offer a COMPLETE and WELL DESIGNED game for a FAIR price and you will have customers. If you want to have continual income for your game, continually produce content that is worth paying for.

Focus on making a great game, THEN figure out how to make money with it once you have something worth paying for.
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Phil Developer
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In todays development world, monetization (I'm not a fan of the word either) is a fact of life, and has to be thought about before, during and after development.

For me working out the best way to monetize my game is not about the best way to take money from customers but the best way for my game to earn what I think it's worth. Of course the game has to be great, if it's not it won't matter how you monetize it, but equally it's possible to make a great game and not make much from it, if you get monetization wrong.

Right now I'm leaning towards, option 3, and offering players card packs for $1.99. As soon as someone buys a card pack, then that turns the ads off. There will probably be 2 purchasable card packs available at launch, with probably 5-7 available eventually. I might also offer a bundle discount.

Thanks for all the feedback so far!
 
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Tiger Wiccan
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Biggerplay wrote:
In todays development world, monetization (I'm not a fan of the word either) is a fact of life, and has to be thought about before, during and after development.

For me working out the best way to monetize my game is not about the best way to take money from customers but the best way for my game to earn what I think it's worth. Of course the game has to be great, if it's not it won't matter how you monetize it, but equally it's possible to make a great game and not make much from it, if you get monetization wrong.

Right now I'm leaning towards, option 3, and offering players card packs for $1.99. As soon as someone buys a card pack, then that turns the ads off. There will probably be 2 purchasable card packs available at launch, with probably 5-7 available eventually. I might also offer a bundle discount.

Thanks for all the feedback so far!


Can we take extra ads for free content packs? Ads don't bother me at all.
 
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Phil Developer
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"Ads don't bother me at all."

Which is why unless you have 100k's of clicks on those ads, unfortunately they won't make much of anything for the developer. The card pack purchases is what actually pays for the game

The game can be played completely for free, but you only get the 1 free card pack to start things off.
 
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Tiger Wiccan
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Biggerplay wrote:
"Ads don't bother me at all."

Which is why unless you have 100k's of clicks on those ads, unfortunately they won't make much of anything for the developer. The card pack purchases is what actually pays for the game

The game can be played completely for free, but you only get the 1 free card pack to start things off.


That's fine, I was really just kidding about the ads. But I do miss the old days when you bought a game complete from the get go. What changed?
 
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Phil Developer
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Facebook/Zynga and Apple's App store has changed everything, now most people expect games to be free at the point of starting to play.
 
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tigerwiccan wrote:


That's fine, I was really just kidding about the ads. But I do miss the old days when you bought a game complete from the get go. What changed?


That game complete from the get-go cost more than .99 and takes longer to bring to market.

That's both what changed and what hasn't changed. If you want to buy a game complete from the get-go, you can still pay a complete from the get-go price after waiting long enough for the game to have been fully developed.

Selling games in increments gets them into more phones faster & to market faster.

If you want that game for free, you are going to have to see ads. TINSTAFL
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John Michael
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It seems for them that the issue was that the game was not that good...

Outwitters seems to have done pretty well for itself.

Biggerplay wrote:
I'll probably turn off the ads if someone buys any of the card packs, but having a one time charge for the full game, doesn't seem to work...

http://www.whatgamesare.com/2012/08/freemium-is-not-sharewar...


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Phil Developer
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john1134 wrote:
It seems for them that the issue was that the game was not that good...

Outwitters seems to have done pretty well for itself.

Biggerplay wrote:
I'll probably turn off the ads if someone buys any of the card packs, but having a one time charge for the full game, doesn't seem to work...

http://www.whatgamesare.com/2012/08/freemium-is-not-sharewar...




I'll probably offer a discount bundle price, which will be a similar idea.
 
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Biggerplay wrote:
john1134 wrote:
It seems for them that the issue was that the game was not that good...

Outwitters seems to have done pretty well for itself.

Biggerplay wrote:
I'll probably turn off the ads if someone buys any of the card packs, but having a one time charge for the full game, doesn't seem to work...

http://www.whatgamesare.com/2012/08/freemium-is-not-sharewar...




I'll probably offer a discount bundle price, which will be a similar idea.


Charging for extra content is fine. Offering bundles is great. Develop a customer base that will buy your next game because your first one was great.

Divising a money-grabbing scheme, ingrained in the gameplay is insulting and immoral in my book.

You may trick some people once but rest assured that they will not come back.

I much rather pay a higher price for a good game than be milked by these ridiculous schemes.

What's next ? An end-game screen, that while it congratulates you for winning the game, it also requires you to pay to regaing access to your tablet ?
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Phil Developer
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teg2 wrote:
Biggerplay wrote:
john1134 wrote:
It seems for them that the issue was that the game was not that good...

Outwitters seems to have done pretty well for itself.

Biggerplay wrote:
I'll probably turn off the ads if someone buys any of the card packs, but having a one time charge for the full game, doesn't seem to work...

http://www.whatgamesare.com/2012/08/freemium-is-not-sharewar...




I'll probably offer a discount bundle price, which will be a similar idea.


Charging for extra content is fine. Offering bundles is great. Develop a customer base that will buy your next game because your first one was great.

Divising a money-grabbing scheme, ingrained in the gameplay is insulting and immoral in my book.

You may trick some people once but rest assured that they will not come back.

I much rather pay a higher price for a good game than be milked by these ridiculous schemes.

What's next ? An end-game screen, that while it congratulates you for winning the game, it also requires you to pay to regaing access to your tablet ?


I agree, but I came at the in-game currency issue from the perspective of say the old game Defender of the Crown, where you spent gold to buy troops to build your army, it just made sense to me to use an in-game currency to help build your army during battle, and then that follows across to a currency which persists across battles, so the in-game currency basically becomes a resource the managing of which becomes part of the strategy in the game as a whole.

But I take your point that a lot of people just see it as a money grabbing exercise, which is why I'm not going to do things like that, and rather I'll go with card packs which are purchased for $1.99, and a discount bundle offer. Players will still use gold during battles, but the gold will be generated and exist during the battles only as a means to buy the various characters, knights, trolls etc to battle against the other player.

I'm pretty excited about the ideas I have in Strategy Kingdom though, I think it will make for an interesting game with lots of depth. I should be able to start posting some art from it within a week or 2.
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Biggerplay wrote:
teg2 wrote:
Biggerplay wrote:
john1134 wrote:
It seems for them that the issue was that the game was not that good...

Outwitters seems to have done pretty well for itself.

Biggerplay wrote:
I'll probably turn off the ads if someone buys any of the card packs, but having a one time charge for the full game, doesn't seem to work...

http://www.whatgamesare.com/2012/08/freemium-is-not-sharewar...




I'll probably offer a discount bundle price, which will be a similar idea.


Charging for extra content is fine. Offering bundles is great. Develop a customer base that will buy your next game because your first one was great.

Divising a money-grabbing scheme, ingrained in the gameplay is insulting and immoral in my book.

You may trick some people once but rest assured that they will not come back.

I much rather pay a higher price for a good game than be milked by these ridiculous schemes.

What's next ? An end-game screen, that while it congratulates you for winning the game, it also requires you to pay to regaing access to your tablet ?


I agree, but I came at the in-game currency issue from the perspective of say the old game Defender of the Crown, where you spent gold to buy troops to build your army, it just made sense to me to use an in-game currency to help build your army during battle, and then that follows across to a currency which persists across battles, so the in-game currency basically becomes a resource the managing of which becomes part of the strategy in the game as a whole.

But I take your point that a lot of people just see it as a money grabbing exercise, which is why I'm not going to do things like that, and rather I'll go with card packs which are purchased for $1.99, and a discount bundle offer. Players will still use gold during battles, but the gold will be generated and exist during the battles only as a means to buy the various characters, knights, trolls etc to battle against the other player.

I'm pretty excited about the ideas I have in Strategy Kingdom though, I think it will make for an interesting game with lots of depth. I should be able to start posting some art from it within a week or 2.


Nice response ! Thank you for being open-minded here.

All this sounds good. Just avoid the temptation to link the in-game gold to purchasable currency via IAP or the like.

Hope everything turns out well for you and your game !
 
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