Monetization in games is a hot topic and one that will stay with us for a long time. Right off the bat, it’s important to note that there are many different ways to monetize – both in the approach and in what can be monetized. There are subscription based games, such as many popular Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs), which require a set fee each month in order for you to be able to play. There is Downloadable Content (DLC) you can also buy. DLC’s unlock new and amazing features. We shouldn’t forget micro transactions either.
Let’s Break it Down…
There is a lot of variety involved with micro transactions so I won’t focus on the purpose or ‘how to’ of micro transactions, but will be examining the role played by International Community Management.
Micro transactions in Free-2-Play (F2P) games as a business model is relatively new, and frequently developers and producers alike are unsure of how and when to implement what.
On several occasions the team and I have been asked for ideas and feedback on monetization. We’re very engaged with our communities, and we often know what it is the players want, what they would like to pay for, and most importantly; when they will or won’t spend money on your game.
From a development and business perspective it’s easy to make the following assumption:
‘We’re getting a steady influx of players, but they’re not spending. Therefore, we must limit what players have at their disposal so they’ll be forced into spending.’ It’s actually quite common that the opposite then happens. When a player feels forced to spend, he or she may just leave the game!
More often than not, this mindset is a leftover from non-social games development. Income graphs for Social Games are very different to console or pc-titles. Whereas the bulk of the income for console titles gets made in the first few weeks of release, social games tend to have a longer build-up with user spending being spread over time. So ultimately, the longer you’re around, the more income you’ll have due to increasing popularity and repeat spending. To ensure you’re around longer though, you’ll need to be in touch with your community!
As a Community Manager, players wanting to spend money on the game, but not feeling secure about the way it’s heading, is something I deal with on a daily basis. Friends leave because they do not agree with recent monetization changes, which ultimately makes the customer experience less fun, and that in turn chips away at the number of your potential customers. So the need for having good International Community Management in regards to monetization changes is two-fold; firstly, in advising – what changes to make to ensure your community will embrace them. Most of the time this means steering you, as a developer, away from the pay-to-win path. Pay-to-win is a valid business model, but more often than not it is received very negatively and only attracts a very specific group of players. It should also be communicated up front if this is the case.
The second role played by International Community Management plays in dealing with new monetization changes is in the actual communication effort. As valid and respected members of the community, the Community Managers will play the biggest role in making sure your community knows how to deal with the changes, and will make them understand why the changes were made. Mind you this isn’t done by just one English Facebook post, occasional posts in other languages, or even a more elaborate explanation on a forum; this is done over a period of time, by listening, talking and responding to any community critique, questions and praise.
Sometimes, players just don’t feel the need to purchase any of the items that are being put out there. That’s when they start coming up with things they would like to see, and potentially even pay for. Understandably, as a developer, knowing what your players would be willing to pay for is invaluable information. Well, not invaluable because there certainly is a set value, but you get the gist…Community Managers can let you know what items would be very popular, and thus could be monetized very well. In online Trading Card Games for example, this can range from how much you would price a new and much requested card to which card would actually be worth releasing. Of course, this needs to be seen in perspective. Players often request items that would throw off the game’s balance, making all your subtle monetization efforts for nothing. It is then also up to the Community Managers to explain why certain requests for items, even if they would be monetized, are denied.
A common mistake is that wrongful decisions can be made because of false analytics. An example could be South American countries not doing well in your monetization statistics, and you had hoped these figures would surprise you— in a good way. You’ve been reading everywhere that social games are a rapidly expanding market in Brazil, which made $136m on social games last year alone and has an expected growth of up to more than double by 2015. The monetization percentage seems to be good for every other game, but not yours for some reason. The problem you’re experiencing might not be so much that they’re not wanting to buy, but that they’re unable to buy. Our team gets questions every day about how they can purchase certain items in-game. For example, the question we answer the most for our South American communities, is how they’re able to pay with mobile phones, since a large number of them do not have access to credit or debit cards. It’s easy to see then that this hurdle might be causing the less than expected monetization figures, but wouldn’t necessarily show up in the analytics. Of course, this is factoring in that you have localized your game for these markets, which really is step 1 in the process. The next step is having good International Game Community Management and support to pick up on these cases. This is very important to avoid issues such as the example above.
When all of these factors are combined, it becomes quite clear that International Game Community Management plays an essential role in the monetization of your game. Not only should you involve them after it has been put in place, but you should involve them in the analytical research and brainstorming sessions as well. They have valuable information from your international player base, but it’s up to you to listen and use that information to your advantage.
MO Group International will cater to your international community management needs – be it full support or reputation management. Monetization no longer needs to be a headache. For a free quote regarding our services, contact us today!
Natchai Stappers, Community Manager, MO Group International
About MO Group International
MO Group International is an award winning video game community management and localization provider. With linguistic expertise in over 40 different languages for every genre of game, MO Group International delivers high quality game testing, QA testing, and website translation services. Working on small-to-large-scale projects, MO Group International caters to the cultural and linguistic needs of both its clients and its customers. For more information, visit www.mogi-translations.com