« Beware Arcane Actions [Game Design] | Main | Synchronous or Asynchronous Gameplay [Definitions] »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Meanwhile, in other news, Minecraft just passed the 3 millionth paid customer mark. Customers paying for software? Fancy that!
OK. I read this article very carefully to see if there was any nugget of actual useful information behind all the hand-waving. I'm disappointed. Your argument is that game/app developers should think about making money indirectly instead of - you know - directly, from the things we actually do well. Fine.
Unfortunately, for most of us, that just isn't a realistic business model. Mouths to feed, etc etc.
Reading this I was reminded of a Software Architect we used to work with. He had a lot of high-minded notions. When asked about specifics he'd dismiss our enquiries with a wave of the hand and a curt "That's an implementation detail". Infuriating.


Hi Walter,

The "mouths to feed" argument is the same as the market trader one. It is simply another way of saying cash is king. And while I respect that we all have commitments in life etc, it doesn't change anything about the rules of how online works.

The problem with citing Minecraft or Rovio is that not only are they outlier examples, they are also poor fits. In both cases the developers constantly provide updates to the players long after sale. They're both givers rather than traders, and so their audience markets their work for them.

But like I said, it's a belief issue, not a pragmatic one. The details are important, but what you're aiming for is more so.

Thanks for the comment.


The GAMBIT MIT event addressed this very issue last night. Where the Moderator from Owlchemy Labs, talked with Ichiro of Dejobaan Games, Eitan of Fire Hose Games, and Scott from the now closed MacGuffin Games. A very similar question was asked by one of the MIT students. She has an app/game, and wants to find the right revenue model and worries about giving it away for free but knows that can get a lot of notice.

I think your point is absolutely correct from the point of view anyone with cash on hand. But anyone with the point of view of a bootstrapping start up will see it differently. Small companies pay very close attention to the money coming in because if they do not, they fail. The go back to work as a receptionist at an M&A company, or in America at the moment go back to unemployment.

Eitan's advice was stay away from any apps store of any brand of mobile gaming. Because a startup can't wait for a fan that got something free to turn into a paying customer.

On the other hand the moderator from Owlchemy labs broke in with a different answer to the same question. He suggested a free game, but with small in app purchases. Let a player love the game first, then allow them to pay for something if they want to.

Another member of the audience who, I don't know and can't remember the name of, suggested making two versions of every app. One free with ad support, and one with a cost to the user but with no adds.

Ultimately the answer is that the creator of said App/Game needs to pick a business strategy that works for them. But newcomers to game design generally aren't aware of those options. They look at chasing fans like going bankrupt. It seems like that may be a the source of some of the angst associated with the issue.


Absolutely. Any kind of medium or long term plan can feel very flaky when you have very little in the bank. Money now is very attractive, and yet its eventual failure rate is very high. Most studios that end up going that path either become hand-to-mouth outfits or contractors.

The right approach comes from the software itself. For example if you're making a stand-alone game that has no way to deliver extra content then it's just immediately harder because such a game will naturally max out its interest level and then decline. And yet the bulk of games that appear on mobile platforms are exactly of that type.


Simon Strange

@Jeremyspringfield - Mobile Apps are somewhat different from open web-based products, which is Tadhg's main thrust here. "Money Now" is absolutely a viable strategy... sometimes. In the past it was always the primary strategy, and now it's just one of several potential strategies.

The real takeaway is that a business strategy is now something you have to develop from scratch based upon your particular product. For more on that topic, I direct you to my own blog:


Gavin Zalinger

Given that Minecraft/Rovio/Super Meat Boy are outliers, where does this leave perfectly decent products/developers who will only ever manage a modest following?

At what point is asking for money not mean? Charging up front isn't mean because that's a model that everyone's familiar with and thus contains no trickery, but it runs counter to fan-chasing. You cite charging for levels as mean, but what about games that come in installments, the first of which is free (e.g. Monkey Island)?


Hi Gavin,

It's not the asking-for-money that's mean, it's whether the product itself is miserly (how much am I spending on this???) versus generous (am I doing what it takes to make this awesome?).

Episodic games are an interesting case in point. I think they're a very difficult business model to make work because they're just poor value for users. They feel like metered content.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Follow What Games Are

What Games Are is about game design, game development, games as art, craft, culture and industry and how you can make better games, written by Tadhg Kelly.

You can follow Tadhg on Twitter here:

Follow @tiedtiger

You can also subscribe via email:

Or RSS (Google Reader etc):


Search What Games Are

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...