On mobile, the freemium model is still viral. When it works well, it lets a user experience a game with limited access to encouraging them to pay for the full game if they are motivated to. Unfortunately, in some cases, freemium games attempt to frustrate gamers into paying for the full title by making them wait undisclosed periods of time between play sessions or fill out marketing surveys to continue playing. This represents the cynical end of the freemium model, where developers assume that a gamer will not want to pay for the premium version and focus their efforts on extracting income from the player through advertising. Due to this negative reputation, the industry has been looking for new ways to work with players and monetize their products.
There are a wide variety of alternatives to this freemium model that developers are increasingly exploring. For example, design studios could look to the world of online casinos, which have developed a series of refined promotional models that are accessible. Games like online slots often offer daily jackpots and free spins to encourage engagement. These platforms minimize friction in onboarding new and returning players by emphasizing their freedom to play. Ways of monetizing services that are more participatory result in better positive regard for the organization by patrons, who are then likely to access the game in question again and encourage new people to try it.
Another model that is growing in popularity in the video game world is that of the Season Pass. This format first saw the light of day on games like PUBG and Fortnite. These titles are among the best-known free-to-play battle royale arena games. In these games, a large number of players, sometimes over 100, fight it out on a large world map until a single player survives and is crowned the winner. This simple format has proved immensely popular with gamers. These titles have piqued the interest of developers from the broader gaming world because studios like Epic Games manage to monetize their “free” game, Fortnite.
Titles like this offer what is known as a Season Pass or Battle Pass. These are either one-time payments or recurring payments a player makes to the game to be permitted access to DLC (downloadable content) and customization microtransactions. The crucial point is that none of the items, objects, or outfits the player can access and purchase after redeeming the Season Pass confer any intrinsic advantage. All transactions provide aesthetic touches to enable a player to express their unique character and identity in-game. It is because these features do not impact the base game that they manage to be free-to-play. A gamer can play PUBG indefinitely without ever having to spend any money for locked features crucial to progression or development.
This makes these titles incredibly invitational to new players, who have no expectation placed on them to spend money. The impact of this is that this ultimately encourages a player to want to spend money on the game in the long run. As a player continues to invest time and energy into a title, they generally wish to signify to others that they are a fan of the title and an avid player. The most effective way to achieve this aim is to customize their character. This model has led to substantial revenue for these titles, with Fortnite posting an income of nearly $10 billion since it first launched in 2017.
Major game studios are now eagerly looking to adopt this monetization model where appropriate, with Activision launching a Call of Duty spin-off in this vein called CoD: Warzone in 2020. Microsoft Game Studios and 343 Studios, the developers behind the popular Halo titles, have also announced that Halo 6: Infinite, the first Xbox Series X Halo game, will launch with a free-to-play Battle Pass model Multiplayer mode.