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I'm considering writing a mobile game and looking at distribution. The game will have a server requirement, which means I will have to pay for bandwidth, hosting, processor time, etc. Because of that I'll need to make at least a little money off this thing. According to the press piracy is rampant in the android community. To get around this, I'm thinking of implementing a simple model where the game is free, perhaps allowing play for X number of turns or something, and then requiring an in-app purchase to continue to play. I would clearly explain this in the app description, and the in-app purchase would be managed per account so it would be linked to your google play account so you wouldn't have to re-purchase every time you get a new device.

Would gamers accept this model or see it as unreasonable?

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I noticed that "Where's my water" uses plenty of in-game purchases and it seems to work great so I suppose the model is very reasonable. –  Arthur Wulf White Oct 9 '12 at 7:42
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

That's certainly a legitimate approach, how successful it will be is another matter.

This article is about an iOS game called Gasketball that took a similar approach and how that worked out for them (spoiler: not so great). Based on this article I don't think players are enraged by the idea of getting a free-to-play game then paying some amount of money to unlock the full game.

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Interesting article, thanks for the link. Sounds like the problem was only partially because of the licensing model but mostly because of implementation problems. –  digitaljoel Sep 26 '12 at 17:22
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There's no real way of knowing without trying it. The variability of success in the mobile market seems very high from everything I've read.

In your place, I'd probably adopt a shareware model. Divide the content up into chapters and offer the first one for free, with the subsequent chapters available through IAP individually or as a bundle for a discount. I've seen this model used for a number of free-to-download mobile games, although I don't know how successful it is.

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You could simply provide buyers with a username/password upon purchase of your game and allow them to sign in, actually they could sign in with their googleID which they will provide to you during their purchase and your will add to your server as a payed customer. I did something similar with an education service, it could not be very tricky, could it?

How would you monitor how many turns they played? Sounds like a big database... that could be bypassed somehow by faking user ID, I suggest limiting them to a certain area of the game map in the free version and letting them explore everything in the full version.

Good luck with your project.

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I'll be selling the app through the Google Play store, and the in-app purchase will be processed through the Play store also and tied to the user's account using the normal mechanisms. The big difference between Angry Birds and mine is that mine is multiplayer, which means that every player is going to consume server resources which I'll have to pay for whether the user is paying me or not. I can't afford $1000 per month in server costs to cover a bunch of people that are playing the game for free, that's why I have to worry about piracy, because it WILL cost me money. –  digitaljoel Sep 26 '12 at 22:09
    
Wow, that sounds like serious money, are you sure you have to use so much resources on the server? What are the requirements for the server? What kind of processes is it running? Although I now completely agree that if you are paying for each player you should charge appropriately, I would also offer a single player option, for people with bad connection and people who prefer to solo. I am saying that to save you money in server resources. –  Arthur Wulf White Sep 26 '12 at 22:13
    
I edited my answer to address your concerns –  Arthur Wulf White Sep 26 '12 at 22:23
    
fyi, I didn't downvote you. I pulled $1000 out of the air just to make the point that every player is going to cost money for me. Without going into the details of the game, it doesn't make sense to have single player, but thanks for the suggestion. The database will be big, which also adds to the cost. I'll be hosting on a service that will grow supply to meet demand in order to keep costs down, but that's all beyond the scope of the question. I'm mostly wondering if gamers will be upset at an in-app purchase required in a free game even if it's specified in the game description. –  digitaljoel Sep 26 '12 at 22:30
    
I think if it's specified I would feel comfortable with it and if I enjoy the game, I would probably buy it. –  Arthur Wulf White Sep 26 '12 at 22:40
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I think that:

a) your model won't work

b) you'll be adding cost because the implementation of you in-app shop.

If you need some monitizing, not too much, you can add Ads and get money every time you game is used.

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You think this because of your gut or evidence? –  digitaljoel Oct 1 '12 at 2:16
    
@digitaljoel I may admit 60/40 gut/evidence. I have one published android game, the evidence is that few people pay (even little money, even they like it) –  Zhen Oct 1 '12 at 7:10
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