Recently, this question popped up on here, and it made me wonder if there was a better way to earn money from one's game without using microtransactions.

So, What are good alternatives to microtransactions?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How about googling "ways to monetize a game"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 6:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could add ads to your game for example \$\endgroup\$
    – user100681
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 6:26
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ What issue are you trying to solve? Reading the other question's answers higlights that the issue is not with the microtransactions but how they're used. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 11:01

2 Answers 2


First of all, the microtransaction model of monetization is based around a few premises. It lends itself to games that are long, or continuous in nature, where players will come back for multiple sessions over a period of time. Arena games where you enter and exit a match several times in one sitting, or games with many stages that unlock in succession. A short, linear, story-based game would be less suitable if the players are going to play through it once and then put it on their (virtual) shelf. Also, in practice, it often relies on a curved demographic, where a few players are the source of most of the revenue, and most of the players are the source of very little revenue.*

Secondly, from the opposite perspective, microtransactions represent a certain type of revenue. With microtransactions, you are aiming for a smaller, more even stream of revenue over time, which lends itself to a continuous process of releasing small content updates over a longer period. You won't have a big pay-off from many players purchasing your game on launch after a long, draining development cycle like you could with a fixed price. And once you stop making new content to sell, the revenue may taper off.

With that context in mind, the alternative is going to depend on the type of experience you are monetizing.

Assuming that we want to consider only the type of game for which microtransactions are a good match to begin with, here are some different models:

Advertising: Instead of small amounts of money, the player exchanges small amounts of time spent interacting with a third-party ad, and you get your small amounts of money from that third party. This is often combined with the option for the player to swap their roles around by paying a fee to bypass all future ads. This model aims for a similar goal of steady revenue over time, so it lends itself to game types where players continue to play over a period. You also get a similar effect to microtransactions where some players will opt to pay the fee to remove ads, which should be a fee that exceeds the expected revenue from the ads that player would have interacted with.

Subscription: Less popular in today's mobile world, but works on the same premise of playing over a period of time in exchange for a fee over a period of time. The advantage and / or disadvantage of a subscription model is that revenue is more or less proportional to number of registered players. You won't earn any less if a player only plays occasionally while their subscription is running, but you also won't earn any more from enthusiastic big spenders (or whales*) who log in every day.

* I wouldn't necessarily trust the specific numbers quoted, but here are some articles about the phenomenon:

Social game “whales” are big spenders

The new report shows that about 10 percent of social game players actually spend money in Facebook games, according to a study of 2,000 people who were surveyed by Inside Network.

Only 0.15 percent of mobile gamers account for 50 percent of all in-game revenue

The group of gamers responsible for half of all in-game revenue in mobile titles is frightening because it is so narrow, according to a survey by Swrve, an established analytics and app marketing firm. About 0.15 percent of mobile gamers contribute 50 percent of all of the in-app purchases generated in free-to-play games.


You can put ads in game or make the players pay full price out front. I have to say, though, that microtransactions are not a bad thing, if done correctly. I advise you to look at this video how to do so:


Basically, if you can finish the game without having to use cash, you can access all parts of gameplay and money buys the player cosmetic upgrades without giving them undue advantage over other players then you're good. Here's some more videos from the same authors on how it could be done badly:


Another two:




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