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There's a heck of a lot of free games available out there, some of which are as good as games that you have to pay for. My question is, what makes the difference between a game that people will be willing to pay for, and one which is best left as a free to download/play online game subsidised with advertising?

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3 Answers 3

It's a decision made by the developers/publishers. In markets where a price-tag is an obstacle (eg. Apps), a lot of developers choose to go with a free-to-play game and get their revenue from ads or in-app purchases.

This business-model is also very common in browser-games. I'm not aware of any browser game that you actually buy before you can play it.

That being said, it's not a matter of how "good" a game is that makes it fall into the category of free-to-play or pay in advance.

As with everything else you want to sell, you'll have to study your target market/audience and find the appropriate way to sell your game. Also you'll have to decide whether or not you want to release a demo (or light) version of your game and a paid version, or if you want to just ship one version which is free-to-play and has in-app purchases.

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I think you're conflating two unrelated concepts - "free-to-play" and "advertising supported". A lot of the free-to-play games have many ways you can plow money into the game if you so choose, and they encourage you to do so at every opportunity. See Puzzle Pirates for an elegant example of this and Age of Wonders Online for a significantly more hamfisted version. Both of those games are "free to play", neither of them have advertising, and both of them make money off users anyway.

(Puzzle Pirates, with true design elegance, manages to make money off even the users who aren't interested in putting money in.)

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+1 for noting the difference between F2P and ad-supported. –  chaosTechnician Aug 18 '11 at 16:48

David Edery (Spry Fox) posted a piece earlier on Google+ discussing this topic. I think you'd find his post and the followup comments and discussion worth a read for this particular question.

Rather than copy and paste the text, I'm linking to it below. Do read it.

https://plus.google.com/104582272037881191614/posts/PLqGbor8q9J

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