I now make free to play games. Nearly every day I read or listen to pundits deride and malign the validity of what I do. I personally share the same skepticisms of the critics, specifically those concerned about moral implications of the model. I left my previous career for very similar reasons. Recently a number of established game developers have entered the (indie space?) kickstarter arena. These projects ask for increasingly high targets with increasingly high premium donation options. The success of these projects is in large part reliant on these premium donations.
Am I crazy? Is there a double standard? Am I even upset?
In true Peter Molyneux fashion the choice is yours; wind me up or calm me down.
The sustainable Free-to-Play model
90-95% of players never directly pay a cent.
Many contribute to revenue by clicking on ads or using offer walls such as Tap Joy. These users typically generate between $0.03 and $0.25 each. This makes up 40-60% of revenue.
Around 5-10% use in app purchases to by premium content or currency. Most spend between $1-10. A small percentage (sub 0.5%) pays more then $25+. In extreme cases they spend over $100. These users are often (unfortunately) referred to as whales and killer whales respectively. This small sub set of the users makes up the majority of non-add/offer wall revenue.
With all the cards on the table the average user in a sustainable free-to-play game is worth between $0.30-1.00.
It’s been my observation that much of the morale debate surrounding the free-to-play model stems from the fact that a few players pay over $25 while most pay nothing. Primarily, the Skinner box argument is levied against successful games, suggesting that they employ unethical systems that take advantage of people with compulsive or addictive personalities. While, I share many of these concerns, the validly of this argument is not the focus of my comparison rather I’m interested in the simple fact that any morale objection arises.
I’d like us to consider the question. Should the current batch of Kickstarter project elicit similar concerns over an extremely inequitable distribution of funding?
The AAA? Kickstarter Model
Peter Molyneux is someone who I admire and have incredible esteem for I do not mean to malign his work, Godus is just a current example.
I want to lay out the economic breakdown of the Godus Kickstarter project.
Bellow is the breakdown for High tier (whales) donations.
5 people for 5000 pounds
6 people for 999+ pounds
200 people for 622+ pounds
1000 people for 322+ pounds
The total whale allotment is over 760 000 USD.
At the time I’m writing--
3% of backers are providing 30% of the total. These are kickstarter whales.
0.3% of the backers are providing around 18% of the total. These are kickstarter killer whales.
This is for an iOS game that doesn’t exist.
In what ways is this different then the free-to-play model? Why does one bring about concerns of morality and the other is simply a matter of personal choice?
Is 22cans on different moral ground taking thousands of dollars from people for something that many do not see similar value in?