Paid vs Freemium: Why A Price is Sometimes Right

Freemium Xcom

Kicking ass $20 a go

With the freemium economic model up, running and making big piles of money, paying up front for apps has increasingly felt like an action of someone on the fringes of social acceptability. Like the uncool kid at school bringing Pokemon cards in a week after everyone else has stopped playing (note: definitely not me as I had an awesome deck, thank you very much), parting a set amount of money for an app has felt increasingly unfashionable of late.

Which is why the tale of Xcom: Enemy Unknown has warmed the cockles of my cold, corporate heart. With developers falling over themselves to offer their products for free before reeling back as much money as they can with IAP, makers 2K China looked at the product they were selling (essentially a full port of a console game), decided it was amazing and slapped what is now considered an expensive $20 price tag on it to make sure they got their money back.

And, despite some initial scepticism about whether it could cut the monetisation mustard in the freemium landscape, a report by Pocket Gamer suggests it is more than keeping up its end. While 2K freemium games like Haunted Hollow and Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol have slumped down the monetisation table, Xcom has enjoyed notable success in the Top Grossing Charts in a number of key countries, such as Germany and the UK, as well as doing well across Eastern Europe.

What this suggests to me is that app developers need to really take a moment to step back and decide whether freemium really is the best model for them. Of course it is a successful model and one that should be considered; Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga wouldn’t have made the piles of money that they’re currently rolling around in without it after all.  But whether it is necessarily right or not for you depends on what game you’re offering to users and whether your aims solely extend to monetisation.

If you’ve made a social and co-operative game with an emphasis on playing with friends, content updates to keep the gameplay fresh and which features a consumable system that drives the gameplay, then freemium works because the service nature of such a title demands it.

But if you have a product that feels like a complete package with real marketing clout and an established brand behind it, then going paid and guaranteeing a decent return makes sense. Fifa 2013, Football Manager, Minecraft and Knights of the Old Republic may not have made as much as a Supercell title in app form but they have still monetised while reinforcing a broader brand loyalty across platforms.

So when you head out on the road to mobile monetisation just remember what your parents at school may have told you about following the crowd: just because the cool kids are doing freemium, doesn’t mean that it’s always right for you to do it too.

 

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