15 Simple Rules For Making A Successful Free-To-Play Game

Free-to-play is the driving force in today's mobile and social games — we start playing them because there is no cost to do so. Whether or not we keep playing them may well depend on the 15 rules of free-to-play outlined by Gamesbrief's Nicholas Lovell earlier today at the F2P Summit in London.

Edge's Nathan Brown wrote up a lovely summary of the talk, so I'll touch on a few of the points I found particularly interesting before scooting you over there for the full list.

As my wife has worked at Starbucks for six years, I'm particularly ford of The Starbucks Test, It's an idea borrowed from NaturalMotion CEO Torsten Reil (makers of the amazing CSR Racing, pictured above), who asked "Can you play a game and have a meaningful experience in the time it takes for a barista to make your macchiato?" The game doesn't have to be bite-sized and snackable, but the gameplay does. I can hop on to Happy Street, restock my shops, get some crafts going and collect lumber from the forest, and by the time I am done my wife still has not made me a macchiato. She's pretty terrible.

"Be Generous" is also immensely important.

"If you want people who spend money in your game to be better than other people," Lovell said, "there have to be other people in the game for them to be better than."

You can't make it too easy for the paying players to trump the non-paying, so you have to make sure the cheapskates (go cheapskates!) have enough power to keep them competitive. It's a delicate balancing act that even the most popular games are constantly tweaking.

And possibly the most important rule of them all: Be Free Forever. If I download a free game, advance to a certain point in the game and am asked to pay money to advanced, it is no longer a free game, and I am no longer playing.

Hit up the Edge story below for all 15 of the free-to-play rules. For players it offers interesting insight into the mindset of F2P developers and how they work at opening your wallet. And for developers? These are brilliant. Follow them.

F2P Summit: The 15 golden rules of free-to-play [Edge]


    I'm really not a fan of Free To Play. I understand that it's kind of risen up out of a necessity for developers to find new finance models, but I feel that it negatively impacts the design of games.

    I was playing "Heroes Call" recently, and as much I would really like a game like that on my phone there are just too many paywalls for me to get into it. I'd much rather have a little free content and pay one price to unlock the rest, if I really like it.

    “Can you play a game and have a meaningful experience in the time it takes for a barista to make your macchiato?” I really disagree with this one.

      I disagree: long-term meaningful experiences are built up from short-term meaningful experiences. A game's simply not going to be interesting long-term if, short-term, you're not given an interesting decision to make.

        Conversely, if everything is just a series of short moments then you will quickly tire of it because there's never anything to hold your attention or build up your interest and intrigue.

        Well have a think about old style base building RTS's. It takes a while to get your base built up and your army made, but once that's done the payoff makes it worthwhile. Lets just say that making a macchiato does not take a lot of time and I don't need a constant drip-feed.

    “You must never lose a free-to-play game,” Lovell said. “There are no fail states.”

    This is the sort of free to play games that I have no interest in. Time sinks that hold you in place with a time invested mentality.

    Dota2 is the only decent free to play. All the others are just screens of spam trying to get you to buy useless items. The second i see a box that asks for real money i uninstall.

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