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I'm trying to decide between a paid game and a free to play game. Is there research on the pros and cons of each one. I would really appreciate some concrete data on this and not just opinions. This is for mobile (currently iOS with Android later) game.

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Can you change the question to be more generally about mobile apps? – you786 Oct 11 '12 at 23:18
Yes - let me do that – Lisa Howard Oct 11 '12 at 23:37
I hope it's ok to reference my own project here - but if you end up implementing free 2 play you should take a look at - it's open source project simplifying virtual economy and in-app purchases – Scott Fisher Oct 12 '12 at 0:00
We just finished a very interesting research about this subject. If you look at the top 100 games that use in-app purchases there is a very strong patter - – Scott Fisher Nov 15 '12 at 13:30
up vote 15 down vote accepted

There are quite a few resources to refer to. First thing to note is that 93% of the top 100 grossing games use in-app purchasing so that by itself means something. Here is a research by flurry showing the dominance of in-app purchase dominance as a monetization model for mobile games. This is from about a year ago and the trend became stronger since:

Part of the reasons why free 2 play works well:

  • It allows you to generate virality and traction with the free players
  • It allows users to get addicted to the game before deciding how much to pay. In turn this increases the chance they will pay more - $14 on average according to flurry.

On the flip side - you should keep in mind that Virtual goods requires more effort to develop and optimize and you should probably invest some time reading game design resources that deal with building virtual economies. Here are some resources on that:

Still working on getting you more resources and will edit that in shortly.

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Check out – you786 Oct 11 '12 at 23:19
@you786 - you beat me to the punch - I saw that a while back and was looking for that. It's a really great post. – Scott Fisher Oct 11 '12 at 23:36
One downside of a free game with in app purchases: If you have a central backend for the game which needs to be hosted somewhere etc. this will cost u. If you have a lot of players this could mean you might not get the income required keep the backend etc. online. If your game is not free to play you can calculate your total cost per player and set the price accordingly. This makes sure you can keep the game running and provide updates / support. – Thomas Oct 12 '12 at 7:48
We are actually planning to solve that piece with free hosting. We are calling it Game economics engine. Follow us on Facebook ( or signup for updates at – Scott Fisher Oct 20 '12 at 22:37

It depends on the game you are trying to make, the decision is made before the game is made not after. F2P that involves micro transaction and monetization is integrated into the game design, does your game use boost to speed up game progression? does it offer something new and rewarding to the players after purchasing parts of the game, if you design the game using F2P model then the revenue model is naturally F2P.

On the other hand if you design your game with tradition content, levels or expansion it is naturally fit for one purchase. Some time this can work well for small projects especially if your game doesn't concern player persistence in the world.

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