A Must-Watch for Game Developers—The Seven Rules of Monetization

Samsung Developer Program

Oscar Clark, Evangelist at Unity Technologies, recently hosted a webinar on the Seven Rules of Monetization. If you happened to miss it, you’re in luck because we’ve posted the replay below.

In what was a jam-packed hour, Oscar spoke about the importance of learning through experimentation, failure and data, offering expertise and examples designed to help developers avoid the mistakes he’s seen throughout his almost 20 years in monetization and social freemium game design.

While you’ll get much more detail and nuance through watching the replay, here are a few highlights pulled from the webinar as they relate to the rules of mobile game monetization:

Rule 1: Utility - What Do Your Players Value?

Utility is defined as how well your game functions as just that: a game (and an enjoyable one at that). Rather than building a game with only monetization in mind, by authentically focusing on utility, developers can generate better revenue opportunities in the long run. To this end, use ads strategically, thinking of the places and stages in your game where they will add the most value without being a distraction.

Rule 2: Anticipation - Why Should They 'Expect Future Value'?

How do you help players get over their buying anxiety? Buying is a risky proposition for the end user. Generally, they are uncertain what the outcome will be and are worried they are getting led on. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle that you as a developer will have to clear. Therefore, you have to show the player what the potential reward is. You have to create an expectation of delight. You need to demonstrate value, spark interest and show the player that it pays for them to opt in.

Rule 3: Scarcity - What are the 'Opportunity Costs'?

Build in ‘scarcity’ – it’s integral to your game design. It is a powerful motivator that will often trigger players to pay. ‘Limited Time Offers’ do work. Without scarcity, there’s no dilemma created for the player. With no dilemma, there’s no decision to be made, and with no decision, there’s no challenge. Also be careful to not break the underlining game economy by flooding the market with ‘cheap gold.’ You need to carefully consider how your purchasable items impact the game experience, and make smart choices when you bundle items to ensure there’s always scarcity.

Rule 4: Timing - Understanding the Player Lifecycle

If you’re going to monetize your game, you need to understand the player lifecycle. While the instinct is to convert players to paying customers right away, instead, this is the stage where you as a developer need to figure out how to keep people playing as long as possible. This is often difficult since mobile games only have about a 40% retention rate. Players are just figuring out controls and gameplay, and always don’t have the best UX initially. Therefore, instead of conversion, all your efforts must go into showing players what’s possible in your game, and why they should keep playing.

Rule 5: Repetition - Why Should Players Return to Play?

You need to create repeat customers, because people who play your game more are the people who will spend more money. However, developers need to watch out for player fatigue, so ensure that you’re able to give players an opportunity to take a break every once in a while. You need to design your sessions a bit shorter, so your players can sneak in a few games while on public transportation or waiting in line, as no mobile gamer wants a session that lasts 15 minutes.

Rule 6: Evidence - Why Analytics is Essential

Data is so important. The best game designers already excel at solving problems, so if you as a dev can use testing and analytics to identify problem areas in your games, you can then use those insights to weave creative solutions. When analyzing data, don’t just look at conversions, but at repeat purchases. If your in-app purchases don’t create repeat buyers, then something is amiss. Your monetization model is flawed if gamers only pay to play once.

Rule 7: Scale - The Ultimate Rule of Free-To-Play

Remember, at the end of the day, scale trumps everything. Ultimately, the more people playing your game means there are more people who can potentially contribute to your overall profitability. But in order to scale and grow, you have to again focus on utility and creating an engaging game that people want to play.

The ultimate rule of thumb: Do not sacrifice the quality of gameplay for the potential of profitability.

If you’re looking for more tips and advice, be sure to watch the webinar replay here.