Lets first define the word ‘freemium’
So, you purchase the game for free, but not with everything enabled for you to use. A risky concept since people can get the game and not purchase a single thing within the game itself. Yet more and more games are starting to use this concept as its actually more profitable than regular games that have a retail price on them, so what’s the secret?
Before I talk about the secret lets explore a little deeper into the freemium model. I did some research but couldn’t find the very first game that was a freemium game, so I decided to focus on League of Legends. League of Legends is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game and was a freemium game since its release, having micro transactions for new champions and different skins to name a few.
Riot Games (Developer of LoL) decided that not everything could be purchased with micro-transactions, along the route of League of Legends players collect in game currency that can be used to buy new champions and other stuff so players that aren’t interested in spending cash on it still have the ability to get every champion in the game, just at a much slower rate.
These days LoL is the biggest freemium game out there, having over 32million registered players and millions of players playing each day. Let me also remind you that it’s the biggest E-sport out there as well… Bigger than Starcraft and Dota2 in terms of viewers.
An example of a game that was a Premium game at first but switched to the freemium model is Team Fortress 2, A first person shooter with loot. Before it was F2P (Free to Play) it was a game that could be purchased from Steam or with the Orange Box set. A shooter with multiple classes that each had their unique skills and loot. There have been many changes to the looting system of TF2 but to put it in a nutshell, just play the game and at random times you receive a new weapon. Or complete an achievement and you will receive a reward as well. Back in the days that TF2 wasn’t a F2P games the arsenal of weapons wasn’t really big. I can’t recall the exact number but I think around 30.
Valve decided in 2011 to bring the game to a freemium model with an in game shop where micro-transactions could take place, varying from the hats to weapons. But Valve created a way of constant income in Team Fortress 2 with the use of Keys. When playing TF2 you sometimes receive a crate which can hold a rare hat with a visual effect that are worth a lot of money in the Team Fortress 2 community, however the chances of recieving one are very small. So how do you open the crate? Valve included keys that can be purchased from the in-game shop that can open these crates. but they cost money. However knowing an item is worth over £1000.00 to the community is something a lot of people simply can’t resist and will buy a key to open the crate. It’s gambling in a virtual way, you win some and you lose some.
There are tons of other games like this, especially on iOS and Android. Games like Songpop & ‘Draw Something’ are 2 example of freemium games on those systems. With ‘Draw Something’ you can purchase new colors for your drawings and with Songpop you can purchase new playlists. But what is the secret of the games? And is it such a huge success?
The secret, I think, is that you are able to play the game for free and know what kind of game it is, if dislike it you can quit it and are happy you didn’t spend any money on it. If you, for example, buy a game of $20.00 and the game doesn’t meet the expectations you thought it would you’ve lost your £20. With freemium game this isn’t the case. You might not receive the full game at first but the things you would like to have are available for you, and the things you never want to have in the game… well you simply just don’t purchase them. In League of Legends you can purchase champions, each week new champions are available for free so you can try them out, if you like them you purchase them or wait till you have enough in-game currency to buy them and if you simply don’t like the champion you never purchase them. Another thing is that you can invite your friends over to play the game with you since its free and there is no reason for them not to try it out.
But developers need money to keep updating their game / publish new content and you name it, so your game need to be successful to be able to do these things. So is the freemium model gaming a success?
Hell yes. As I said League of Legends have over millions of people playing the game everyday! Team Fortress 2 keeps bringing out new hats and other equipment for people to purchase and more games are going freemium. There are rumors that Starcraft 2 might go freemium so it can compete in the E-sport scene since Dota 2 and League of Legends are the main E-sports out there and both of them are freemium and Starcraft 2 isn’t. I think it will be the right move so the community of SC2 will grow and more people will watch the game. Because Dota 2 and League of Legends are both free and Starcraft 2 is around £40. An easy choice if you want to try out an E-sport. In addition now with Hearth of the Swarm coming out people need to pay another £30.00? for the game, so a total of almost £70.00.
It’s funny that I pay £70.00 for a game because I’m sure people spend more than £200.00 on just one single freemium game. Therein lies the danger of the model. League of Legends champions can vary from 5 to 10 pounds. If you buy 10 of them you’ve already spent more than £50.00.
All in all, the freemium model is a successful business model for the gaming industry, and more and more games should follow the style. Although the model isn’t suitable for every game.
What is your opinion on the model? Let us know in the comments below!