The 69p debate: It's 'not worth' launching a game that sells for less than a cup of coffee, says Bossa Studios
'You're making more clutter for the world,' says Olifiers
How much can a game's price point say about the quality of its content in the eyes of the consumer? According to panellists speaking at Game Connection Europe in Paris today, quite a bit.
The panel, hosted by Applifier's Oscar Clark, spent little time arguing about whether developer should go premium or free-to-play – such decisions need to be made on a case by case basis, it was stated.
Instead, the headline issue was the validity of launching a game that occupies the space between the two – the awkward, but still popular, 69p/99c price point.
"If you make a game that you think is only worth 69p, don't launch it," said Bossa Studios' gamer-in-chief Henrique Olifiers (pictured).
"Seriously, if you've spent months making a game that you think should cost less than a cup of coffee, it's not worth it. You're just making more clutter for the world."
Free-to-play, Olifiers added, isn't a magic bullet, however.
"The perception of value of a game in the eyes of the player is a very subjective thing," he added. "In some cases, it's better for you to go premium – don't go free-to-play with every game.
"The key thing with free-to-play is, don't try to monetise people who aren't engaged with your game. Think about it – people who are fully engaged with your game won't need to be told where to go to buy content. They'll already know.
"And the value of what they can buy won't need to be justified – they'll know what the value of that purchase is to them. And that's when the magic happens."
The panel in action
This kind of thinking, however, relies on developers understanding that monetisation and game design are not two different things.
"Monetisation shouldn't not get in the way of the design," added Sega Europe's head of digital marketing Mike Masuku.
"It's the job of the design to show value to the consumer, so from a consumer journey, it needs to be at the end. But in terms of a design process, it needs to be at the beginning."
Masuku also stressed the importance of using the right monetisation model for the right game. EA's decision to take FIFA free-to-play on iOS, for instance, may prove to be a mistake.
"Is EA not breaking a winning formula? People knew what they were getting paying $10 for FIFA. Now they're going to feel parts of play are locked off," he added.
"I can't imagine how much bigger in terms of scale EA's going to get driving more people to that brand by going free. FIFA's already got it."
Could this be a case of free-to-play being added to FIFA's set up at the last minute? Its track record as a paid release would suggest so, and while Olifiers was less willing to write off the game's chances, it does sound like EA's latest breaks one of his key rules:
"Monetisation kills design decisions, because people try to think about monetisation being detached from design," he added. "You can't think about it that way – if you do, you'll fail. You have to think about them as one and the same thing."
Likewise, Olifiers also believes there's something "fundamentally wrong" with games that monetise on the back of players looking to avoid grinding.
"If you're making money from people who are looking for a way to play the game less, that's wrong," he concluded. "You want to keep them in the game for as long as possible, not give them an option to pay to get out of it."