More than ever before, game makers need to think carefully about how they monetize. It is no longer enough to decide between free-to-play or premium business models as the line between the two is blurring. Games like Overwatch charge a premium price upfront but also utilize free-to-play-inspired cosmetic microtransactions.
Meanwhile, free-to-play titles often capitalize on fan enthusiasm by charging upwards of $40 for access to a closed beta before opening up to all players at a later point. Epic has announced its new title Fortnite will follow this plan.
Publishers not only have to consider a mix of business models to maximize revenue, but also where and how they sell their game content. Companies that do not take the proper precautions could be hit with unexpected fees, consumer complaints, or both. Here are the top 5 things publishers of all sizes need to know about the current state of game monetization:
- More players than ever expect game support after launch. Many game makers of all sizes must continue to release and sell a steady stream of in-game content to both serve player expectations and push up their revenue ceiling. But this does not just apply to free titles. In 2016, a quarter of all digital revenue from PC games with an upfront cost came from additional content.
- PC players are more price conscious than their console counterparts. There are far more low-priced and free game options on PC than console: the average price of a premium PC game sold last year was $22.27 versus $49.41 on console. PC gamers are more likely to wait for a sale, which contributes to their lower spending. This audience also visits game key selling sites in search of deals.
- Gray market key-reselling sites affect publishers of all sizes, so it’s essential to know what you are up against. Key resellers can buy game keys from publishers using stolen credit card information. The fraudsters then load the keys on gray-market sites at low prices. When the fraud is detected, publishers who sold the keys are hit with fees and fines that can ultimately ruin in-game economies. Game makers can deactivate illegitimate keys, but the players who bought them do not usually know they are part of a scam. Gamers may believe their keys have been deactivated for no reason, and this can cause a negative backlash.
- Game makers who distribute their own titles must invest in a commerce system that combats fraud and safeguards their games. This way, they can stop fraud at the point of sale and deprive markets of illegitimate game keys. Publishers should also clearly state what third-party sites are authorized to sell their products, since hardcore gamers are becoming aware of the issues with gray-market fraud.
- Titles that make it easy to trade in-game goods are most vulnerable to account theft and money laundering. Virtual items are becoming more valuable to players and fraudsters. A miniskirt in one particular game recently fetched over $400 on the Steam Marketplace (where users sell in-game items for Steam store credit). Hackers commonly steal game accounts to trade away their virtual goods. Similarly, users can open a new account, buy items with stolen credit cards and sell or trade the items on gray-market sites. Developers will make fraudsters’ lives harder by adding safeguards like trade waiting periods and trade blackouts for new accounts. By properly managing what players can do in-game, developers can stop fraud before it starts.
To learn more about monetization and fraud solutions for your game, download the full report.
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