Following the first part of this post I am going into some details about in-game advertising and alternative revenue streams that enable “free to play” games.
In-game advertising is nothing new. The US company Massive, which was purchased by Microsoft in 2006, provides services to host advertising within videogames. However the placement of adverts is restricted by game-play, story and many other creativity related points. Imagine the placement of a branded virtual energy drink vending machine or a commercialized weapons shop in a game; would it be fair to players who cannot afford paying for the energy boost or weapons upgrade with real money?
If this creates a gap between wealthy and poor players, where the wealthy become the most powerful, nobody would play anymore. That’s why it becomes important to maintain a balance and not enable players to “buy” their winning advantage. After all the free to play model should not limit a gamers’ fun with monetization methods.
Let’s look into other sources of revenue. Many of you know Facebook. Long before that, Korean’s had a social website, or mini homepage, called Cyworld which is to-date often replacing the usage of emails. When I worked in Seoul over the summer in 2008 I learned how face-to-face communication and community sites were overshadowing the use of emails.
My wife also has her own free Cyworld account where she receives paid digital presents from her close friends and family. These micro transaction presents were for her site’s music theme, online desktop background, special animations and many other decorative elements.
The same principle applies to online games; players can for example repair their combat gear or buy experience points if they are eager to play in a more advanced league. Alternatively why not declare peace and send your enemies some digital flowers for Valentine’s Day. Just imagine receiving a bullet proof sports vehicle for your birthday…
As mentioned in another post many Korean internet cafes, called PC Bangs (stands for PC rooms), pay game publishers a fee for hosting or installing their games in their public gaming room. I had the most fun when playing a first person shooter called Special Force with four other friends in one room. We paid for the hours we played, which helped me schedule my day, and had some publisher branded soda from the real vending machine.
Korea has established a variety of methods to pay for online content, these include paying by cell phone, by landline, credit cards and prepaid cards. Although the western world is nowhere near the widely spread high speed internet network of Korea, the country’s free to play games model is not far away.
By Navid Firouz