"We Must Not Forget The Value Of The Core Gamer"
We've all seen them: the games that give F2P and microtansactions a bad rep. It starts with a pop-up ad, and then you find your sense assaulted by insidious attempts to make you cough up more money, forcing you into a grind or a near-permanent state of waiting unless you get the wallet out.
Sid Meier's not up for that.
Although the legendary game designer is venturing more fully into the mobile arena, being a beloved PC development icon, he's approaching monetisation using some rather old school methods.
"There is a lot of suspicion attached to the free-to-play label," Meier told GamesIndustry. "The way that we look at it is on PC for a long time we had the demo and purchase model where you can download a demo for free and play it for a certain amount of time or to a certain point and get a feel for whether you like the game or not. Then if you like it you'll go ahead and purchase the full game. We are really using a similar model for our mobile titles. It's free in that you can play for a while and get a good feel for what the game is all about, and then the rest of it is for purchase. If you like the game, then you'll buy the rest of it. It's not something like a constant stream of purchases every day, but it's more just unlocking the rest of the game and then you are done."
Sound familiar? It's almost exactly how shareware worked back in the day, only now there's an enormous virtual mouthpiece in the form of platforms like Android and iOS. Meier notes that disrupting the pay-once model, in which everyone knows where they stand, is "not a totally comfortable thing".
"Building monetization into your game design is not a totally comfortable thing; we really don't want to get into a situation where the two are in conflict, where to make my game more fun I would do this and to make my game earn more money I have to do this. I'm looking for places where those two are in agreement," he continued. "Yes, to make my game more fun I'm going to do this, and that also in the long run should make it more appealing and have a larger audience. We're trying to look for approaches to monetization where they help the game be more fun and don't conflict or be opposition of the game. The game should be as fun as it can be."
Meier also noted that, whatever the platform, it's important to remember the core gaming audience.
"I think we've seen historically that the more casual gaming platforms and markets do have a kind of rise and fall pattern to them, whereas the hard-core gaming market... The serious gamers are much more stable, and they're going to be around for a long time and will keep playing games," Meier explained. "I think it reinforces for us the value of our core gaming audience and how important it is for us keep in contact with them and reach out to them, and in this case to kind of follow them to where they are going now, from PC to playing some mobile games; wherever else they're playing games, we want to be there and meet them on those platforms."