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The Thirteenth Annual Game Design Think Tank
Project Horseshoe 2018
horseshoe Group Report:
The Harmony of Fun and Profit
   
Participants: A.K.A. "The Harmoney$"
Nate Heiss, EA PopCap Osama Dorias, WB Games Montreal
David Abzug, Bradley University Dave Bennett, Schell Games
Facilitator: Linda Law, Project Horseshoe  
  download the PDF

Problem Statement

Once upon a time, we could sell a game for $50 in a box. Within that box, we could strive to craft the most fun experience possible that $50 could buy. Those days are largely gone now. As the entertainment landscape gets more crowded, larger budget games stand out the best, and they demand a bigger bottom line.

As the revenue demands have increased, we have invented all sorts of new ways to make more money from games over the years. Subscriptions, loot boxes, boosts, energy, DLC, and timer-rushing are the most prominent. All of these methods are effective, but may negatively impact the player experience. Alas, this is more than just an ethical issue. It is a game design issue.

They aren’t the best possible player experiences. Each of the mentioned tactics does the same basic thing: it creates a need in the player, and offers to fill that need if only they will pay some money.

Players now come to games with skepticism. “How are they trying to part me from my money?” the player must ask. Games used to be a trusted friend; a wholesome and revitalizing activity. There must be a better way.

Overview

This report seeks the most player-positive monetization methods. These methods improve the game experience and adding them to the game changes the underlying design strategy for the better.

There are three main areas this report covers.

  1. What Makes a Monetization Method Player-Positive
  2. Taxonomy of Monetization Methods
    1. These include ratings for player-positivity
  3. Strategies for Creating New Player-Positive Monetization Methods

What is Player-Positive Monetization?

All forms of monetization effect a game’s design. This has been seen most dramatically with the rise of free to play games, where the microtransaction economies change fundamental design decisions. Here are some examples of how choice of free to play monetization strategy has negatively affected game design in the past, thus being player-negative:

  • Consumable boosts: Add levels where you almost win, but lose unless you consume a boost.
  • Loot boxes: Add highly chase-able rarities of content, the most desirable of which require lots of purchase to acquire.
  • Timer-rush: Add lots of timers gates which can be rushed.
  • Pay to Win: The choices in the game don’t matter as much as spending.

The idea behind player-positive monetization is that is either does not affect the game design decisions that would be made, or it somehow enhances them. Examples of player-positive monetization are:

  • Vanity: Put more social interaction in the game where players can show off their vanity purchases.
  • Gifting: Create a space where players want to buy gifts for each other, and a depth of content where there are many options for choosing a gift, giving it meaning.
  • Marketplace Transaction Fees: Create a market where players can provide value to each other through user-generated content or a sophisticated game economy.

Traits of Player-Positive Monetization Strategies

A player-positive monetization strategy doesn’t need to satisfy all of these traits (it probably can’t), but it likely satisfies at least one of these traits. In no particular order:

  1. The player can set a meaningful goal: By spending money, the player now has more meaningful gameplay to play. The design must be rich enough to support those goals.
    1. Examples: Get a quest line, or access to a new faction to gain favor with.
  2. The player has new options to explore: The player can now spend more time experiencing the game in new and different ways because they spent money. The design must be expansive enough to support new exploration.
    1. Examples: New gameplay strategies or combat styles unlocked.
  3. The player feels altruistic: The player can now feel better as a person when they spend money in the game. The design must be social enough to support giving and reciprocity.
    1. Examples: Gifting, sharing, or player paid sponsorship of pro-players or charities
  4. The player feels status: The player can achieve the status they desire through spending. The design must be public enough for peacocking status to matter. NOTE: this doesn’t mean pay to win.
    1. Examples: Vanity items, or badges available through achievement.
  5. The player doesn’t pay: Just the mere presence of the player supports the existence of the game. The game must be able to capitalize on the existence of its players ethically.
    1. Examples: Product placement, sponsorship takeovers, ads.
  6. The player feels a sense of excitement: Paying brings on a sense of anticipation and happiness. The game must provide enough highs, lows, and mystery that paying can be a high point for the player.

Traits of Player-Negative Monetization Strategies

If at least one of the following traits are found in your monetization strategy, it is likely  player-negative. In no particular order:

  1. Pay to win: Paying makes the rest of the game meaningless. The person who pays the most wins. Why not just go compare bank accounts instead? This is especially bad in PvP.
    1. Examples: Pay to use equipment or units of much higher power than non payers.
  2. Disruption of game flow: If you don’t pay, your game flow will be disrupted. Another manifestation is that paying makes the game shorter or not fun anymore.
    1. Examples: Ad spamming, pay to level up.
  3. Convenience: This game would be so much less annoying if you only payed a bit. Why are you still playing this annoying game?
    1. Examples: Pay for more inventory space, pay for access to fast travel.
  4. Anything unethical: Ok, this is pretty broad. If you are approaching a morally gray area, feel free to refer to this Project Horseshoe report from 2017: Ethical Video Game Monetization. Unethical tactics include but are not limited to:
    1. Obscurement of value.
    2. Betrayal of trust or expectations
    3. Unpermitted use of personal information

Taxonomy of Monetization Methods
With Player-Positivity Ratings

Each method is rated on a Player-Positivity scale of 2 to -2:

  • 2: These have a great impact to the player experience. They should be included if possible. The designers may want to guide the overall game design to take advantage of them.
  • 1: These are a positive impact, and should be utilized. The game is better because it.
  • 0: These are viewed as not negatively impactful, therefore a reasonable method for monetization, but it doesn’t add much to the experience.
  • -1: These should be avoided. Your players will probably put up with it, but they may resent the game for it.
  • -2: These should be avoided at all costs. Your players may even revolt against you and boycott your future games due to mistrust.

Each method is also rated based on the typical use-case in the marketplace today, as well as the potential rating it could achieve when done well.

Please note that this taxonomy doesn’t speak to the effectiveness of each monetization method, as that would likely change based on the game design. For instance, a game creator may want to include a method with a 0 rating because it will provide the best monetization at no negative impact to the player.

The taxonomy is also split into two main categories:

  1. Core Monetization
  2. Supplemental Monetization

 

Core Monetization

Monetization Strategy

Typical PPR

Potential PPR

Ad Skip

1

1

Consumable Items

-1

-1

Content

1

2

Content Skips

-2

-2

DLC

0

1

Entry Fee Events

0

2

Expansions

1

2

Gambling

1

1

Gifting

1

2

Initial Purchase Price

0

0

Sharing

1

2

Loot Boxes

-1

+1

Opt-in Ads

0

2

Pay to Compete

0

0

Pay to Win

-1

-1

Player Sponsorship

1

2

Rake

0

0

Subscription

0

1

Timer Rushing

-1

-1

Transaction Fees

1

2

Unlock Worlds

0

1

Vanity Items - Multiplayer

1

2

Supplemental Monetization

Monetization Strategy

Typical PPR

Potential PPR

Account Modifications

-1

-1

Boosts with Duration

0

1

Buying Convenience

-1

0

Charitable Purchase

1

1

Cross Promotion

0

1

Pay per Play

-1

0

Physical Goods, Gameplay Related

-1

1

Physical Goods, Vanity

1

2

Product Placement

0

1

Referrals

1

2

Renting Content

0

1

Social Spaces

0

0

Store Refresh

-1

-1

Tip Jar

0

0

Vanity Items - Single Player

1

1

VIP Levels

0

0

 

Core Monetization

Ad Skip

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 1

Description

The game shows ads to the player on a regular basis. Through paying, the game stops showing ads to the player. The player doesn’t have to pay, and if the game flow is not compromised, this is a solid monetization method. This is a pretty mature method with few potential improvements.

Best Practices

  • Don’t disrupt game flow
  • Make the ads return if no purchase is made for a long time
    • Be transparent about length of ad removal

 

Consumable Items

Typical PPR: -1
Potential PPR: -1

Description

Use one-shot consumable powers to gain in-game advantage to help you win. Including these forces the design to be difficult in order to get players to buy the consumables, otherwise it is an ineffective method. At best, they feel like cheating, at worst they are pay to win. Lots have tried to make this better, but no one has succeeded.

Best Practices

  • Avoid using due to low PPR

 

Content

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

Durable characters or equipment. This is the de-facto way most free to play games monetize. This is because players enjoy getting the additional content, and companies enjoy being paid to make it. Occasionally this can go off the rails if the new content obsoletes old content, but it is largely upside.

Best Practices

  • Add gameplay
  • Change the metagame
  • Minimize power creep

 

Content Skips

Typical PPR: -2
Potential PPR: -2

Description

Pay to skip over content that the player wants to avoid. This means that the design must introduce content that is too hard or too unfun such that the player wants to skip it.

Best Practices

  • Avoid using due to low PPR

 

DLC

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 1

Description

These are smaller than expansion packs. Possibly a character, skin, or weapon. Could be a game remixer - randomize elements of the game to create a new experience. Replay the game as a different character.

Best Practices

  • Don’t change core gameplay
  • Provide new experiences
  • Add replayability

 

Entry Fee Events

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 2

Description

These are events that the player must pay a fee to enter. They will receive a reward based on performance. These are opt in, and often provide new novel ways to play, like draft or 2v2. Many free to play games don’t have explicit entry fees, but instead rely on selling event energy. That method has a less clear contract with the player than something like a TCG draft, so is discouraged. Done well, these events can create a strong sense of community and a renewed interest in metagame.

Best Practices

  • Add novelty trough new type of play
  • Exclusivity of prizes
  • Limited time availability
  • Regularly scheduled
  • When the rewards floor exceeds entry fee
  • Provides a worthwhile amount of play time
  • Allows for flexibility in play time

 

Expansions

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

This is another time-honored monetization method. Add new new content/mechanics/story with new areas to explore. Should be larger than DLC. These are great, but have become progressively hard to justify monetarily since they can be very expensive.

Best Practices

  • Clear value
  • Expanded gameplay
  • Rolled out along with fixes
  • Retains beloved elements of the core game

 

Gambling

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 1

Description

One player’s loss is another player's gain, real money value on the line. Many classic gambling games have done very well by their players, delivering a high degree of excitement for years. This is a pretty mature strategy, so there aren’t obvious potential improvements. Gambling has both ethical and legal implications, so be aware of that before trying to use it.

Best Practices

  • Clearly transparent odds
  • Best when against the house instead of other players
  • Tournaments

 

Gifting

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

Give something in game to another person. It doesn’t have to be at the expense of the giver. Often paired with social recognition. This is great if it can leave the gifter feeling altruistic, even if the gift is selfishly motivated. This is probably one of the best under-used monetization strategy.

Best Practices

  • Paired with personalization
  • Option to be anonymous
  • Thanking system
  • Announcement system
  • Gifter also gets something
  • Used as a pretense for spending money
  • Not able to be used for harassment
  • Doesn’t break the economy or core loop

 

Initial Purchase Price

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 0

Description

This is the benchmark to compare all other monetization against.

Best Practices

  • $60 price point
  • Premium editions for extra with more value

 

Sharing

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

You give a temporary benefit to one or more people nearby. Typically this is cosmetic in nature and is extended to an immediate ad hoc play group, but could also be shared with a guild. The person sharing should be left with an altruistic feeling.

Best Practices

  • Announce the giver, but allow for anonymity
  • Create a spontaneous giving environment, a celebratory atmosphere
  • Let the benefits be usable by any player strategy
  • Provides temporary vanity improvements
  • Players should partake equally from benefits
  • Let recipients partake even if they aren’t around at the moment of the share

 

Loot Boxes

Typical PPR: -1
Potential PPR: 1

Description

A way to distribute content via randomized blind boxes or card packs. Content typically has various levels of rarity and certain content is highly valuable and chase-able, giving each box a ‘lottery ticket’ feel. Recently, loot boxes have fallen out of favor somewhat, due to abuses around pay to win, and confusing odds which obfuscates how expensive the content is. Some countries have started to regulate loot boxes as a form of gambling.

Best Practices

  • Ability to earn boxes via gameplay at a reasonable rate
  • Clear understanding of minimum value
  • Clear understanding of maximum value
  • Granular economy, using currencies
  • Provides a different way to play and not a better way to play
  • A wide variety of types of loot
  • Enhances the learning experience by metering content
  • Handle finding too many duplicates
  • Avoid pay to win
  • Don’t short circuit gameplay loop through power gains

 

Opt-in Ads

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 2

Description

View ads in exchange for in-game currency or other consumable benefits.

Best Practices

  • Give sufficient reward for the time investment
  • Have a rest period where ads are unavailable for some time
  • Apply to different systems in the game
  • Show a variety of player-relevant ads
  • Ability to toggle off
  • Good ratio of play to ads time
  • Don’t disrupt flow of play
  • Don’t over-saturate with ads

 

Pay to Compete

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 0

Description

In order to have a set of game components that are competitive at higher level play, players must invest a significant amount of money. This is a popular model in trading card games and physical sports where equipment must be purchased. This is a minimum required content that needs to be acquired in order to participate in the endgame.

Best Practices

  • Player can play for little or no cost at low tiers
  • Cost to compete is variable based on strategy and skill level of the players
  • PvP competition

 

Pay to Win

Typical PPR: -1
Potential PPR: 0

Description

This is another time honored monetization strategy. Players buy content that makes them more powerful than other players. This method is looked at unfavorably in the western markets. Players don’t like to feel like the person with the biggest wallet gets to win. 

Best Practices

  • Eastern markets are more accepting of this
  • Works best in PvP
  • Non-payers  or low payers need a reason to stick around
  • Let players gang up on each other, use bounty systems
  • Overall, best if this method is mostly avoided

 

Player Sponsorship

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

A portion of your purchase goes to support other players in their efforts, such as an e-sports team or streamer. This can help to build a sense of community. This should leave the buyer feeling altruistic. The current structures around this are very promising, but this is still an evolving monetization method.

Best Practices

  • When you want to support third party that you identify with
  • Show the impacts of contributions
  • Player also gets value in game
  • Grants a visible badge of honor
  • Avoid non-real recipients of benefit, such as NPCs or factions
  • Avoids helping the already rich, well-off, or unlikable recipient

 

Rake

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 0

Description

Typically used in player vs player gambling games, the house takes a percentage of the winning pot. This is effective because the game feels free to play since the losing player would lose all their resources anyways, and the winning player still wins a large amount, and are happy about that. This is a very effective method, and also very highly regulated by law. Taking a rake is one of the telltale signs that your game is a form of gambling, which has ethical and legal implications, so be aware of that.

Best Practices

  • Clear communication of the rake rates and maximums
  • Separating the rake from the pot as the pot grows, so players can clearly understand the size of the pot they are playing for

 

Subscription

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 1

Description

Players pay for access to the game at a regular interval, automatically renewed. Some subscriptions are about a premium experience instead of paying for access. 

Best Practices

  • Do not add lots of grinding to the game to prolong play
  • Provide new content regularly
  • Continual improvement to the platform
  • Highly responsive community management
  • Keep things interesting by adding novelty over time

 

Timer Rushing

Typical PPR: -1
Potential PPR: -1

Description

Timers that gate content or play, but can be skipped by paying. Typically used to create habitual play. Often paired with time pressured events that require rushing timers to be successful. Energy mechanics are a common form of timer rushing. Overall, this usually puts barriers in the way of the player playing in the play patterns they would prefer.

Best Practices

  • Don’t force stoppage of play, instead just make extended play less rewarding
  • Avoid using this method as a main monetization strategy, and instead focus on the habit forming aspects of using timers
  • This is a typically accepted method of game monetization, but it dramatically impacts the game design, hence the negative ratings

 

Transaction Fees

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

Player to player marketplace, where the buyer pays a transaction fee. Items sold are either created by other players (such as skins, mods, or gameplay elements) or an in-game commodity. This could be enacted with a real money fee or an in game currency fee that drains currency from the system.

Best Practices

  • User created content should create value
  • Replaces out of game markets
  • When it's perceived as profiting the creator of the items
  • Avoid items that are pay to win
  • Avoid pay to list
  • Don’t allow the sale of items that can break the core loop

 

Unlock Worlds

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 1

Description

Pay to gain access to new areas of the game.

Best Practices

  • Must provide enough playtime and novelty for the price
  • Regular cadence of releasing new worlds
  • Don’t fragment the audience by who owns which world

 

Vanity Items - Multiplayer

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

Players purchase cosmetic items that they can show off to each other in multiplayer play. Often used to display individuality or disposition. Typically costumes, but could also be voice, special effects, emotes, and more.

Best Practices

  • Promote self expression
  • Easily noticeable changes
  • It announces itself
  • Make them delightful
  • They should incite envy
  • Status symbol via exclusivity
  • Keep to the game’s general tone
  • Don’t interfere with gameplay
  • Shouldn’t be annoying
  • Be wary of cultural insensitivity

 

Supplemental Monetization

Account Modifications

Typical PPR: -1
Potential PPR: -1

Description

Pay for the ability to change things such as account name, server, security, etc.

Best Practices

  • Don’t do this, these are services that should be provided for free as part of the gameplay experience
  • Sometimes this is touted as a way to stop trolling and switching names, but the change frequency on these can be limited through other means

 

Boosts with Duration

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 1

Description

Provide some kind of bonus (usually a currency or experience) over the course of a time period. Pay to re-activate the boost after they expire.

Best Practices

  • Use to speed up the introductory period in games
  • Use in combination with other methods, like op-in ads
  • Do not add lots of grind in order to sell these
  • Allow the player to bank leftover time when they log off
  • Apply to cosmetics as well as currencies

 

Buying Convenience

Typical PPR: -1
Potential PPR: 0

Description

Selling fast travel, inventory space, or other methods of circumventing annoying limitations that we put in the game.

Best Practices

  • Avoid doing this.
  • Simulation games that have these limitations as part of the realism can more easily do this

 

Charitable Purchase

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 1

Description

Part of your purchase goes to charity. This is a pretty mature practice so there isn’t much room for improvement. Ideally buying feels altruistic and the charity can help be a pretense for allowing the player to feel less guilty about buying what they want.

Best Practices

  • Be clear about which charity
  • Better yet, let the player choose from a list
  • Be clear about how much goes to the charity
  • Give updates about how much has been raised
  • Rotate the charity and give players some agency in that
  • Have content tied to the charity

 

Cross Promotion

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 1

Description

Use one game to promote another by having exclusive content or advantages that a players gets out of playing both.

Best Practices

  • Don’t make play in the other game ‘forced’ by having the rewards being so critical they cannot be ignored.
  • Pair with non-utility based gameplay advantages, such as currency or cosmetics.
  • Try to keep the player in both games by having a continuing reward, so players don’t just install and leave the other game.
  • Require that the player play a certain non-trivial amount of time in both games to get the reward.

 

Pay per Play

Potential PPR: 0
Typical PPR: -1

Description

Also known as the arcade model. Each attempt or continue requires payment. This often leads to gameplay difficulty that ramps up such that players are always losing within a certain short timeframe.

Best Practices

  • Generally not recommended, since this does bad things to your game design
  • Avoid making expected play times very short
  • Make the game highly replayable
  • Let the player save/make progress from play to play (think rogue-like)
  • Losses should feel fair based on the price

 

Physical Goods, Gameplay Related

Typical PPR: -1
Potential PPR: 1

Description

Physical toys / objects that can be scanned in some way to give gameplay value. This tends to be a nice gimmick, but usually only small children are into it, and usually more for the toys rather than the games.

Best Practices

  • The game should feel good even without the toys
  • Include reasons why the player should own many toys, including mix and match, or set collection bonuses and interactions that can be unlocked.
  • Make the toys something you might want to own and display as an expression of pride in the game
  • Make trading or borrowing toys viable

 

Physical Goods, Vanity

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

Wearables, statues, toys, stickers, or anything physical not attached to gameplay value.

Best Practices

  • These should let players show loyalty to the game
  • Players should be able to express certain feelings about the game or allegiances in the game through their goods
  • Should be convenient to show off, nothing too fragile
  • Game should evoke strong emotions to attach to
  • Goods should be available for purchase within game
  • Certain good should only be obtainable via achieving certain milestones within the game
  • Allow players to identify and bond with each other out in the real world. In-jokes are great

 

Product Placement

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 1

Description

When an advertiser pays to have their product woven into your game’s world.

Best Practices

  • Should feel like it belongs in the world, don’t break immersion
  • Could be a sponsor on a jersey or vehicle
  • Probably should avoid making the product looking like a part of an evil plot (unless they are into that sort of thing)
  • Best if it can be used to enhance the realism and immersion of the world
  • Ideally can be rotated out on a regular basis, so that you can leverage more than a one time fee for the entire lifecycle of the game

 

Referrals

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 2

Description

By referring a player to the game, both players get in-game value.

Best Practices

  • Give a substantial award to both players
  • Award referral bonuses after the player has played for a little while, so that the referring player is incentivized to help them stick to the game.
  • Don’t make the awards of new game mechanic utility - keep it to something like currency or cosmetics
  • Tiers of awards can work well, and pyramid schemes can be useful in non-real economies
  • Great if it can enhance the experience of play for both players

 

Renting Content

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 1

Description

Pay to get access to content for a limited time.

Best Practices

  • Acts as a try before you buy
  • Do not auto-renew
  • Have lots of interesting different things to try

 

Social Spaces

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 0

Description

Buying server space or guild gathering spaces, such as a guild hall.

Best Practices

  • Allow for a small number of players to pay for the benefit of the other players
  • Existence of the space should be publicly displayed
  • Upkeep costs are ok, but not required
  • Provide recognition for biggest contributors to funding the space

 

Store Refresh

Typical PPR: -1
Potential PPR: -1

Description

Pay to refresh a randomly populating store, that would naturally refresh over time. This is a form of timer rushing but has unique properties in that it actually gates the ability to buy things.

Best Practices

  • Avoid using - let people buy things, not pay for the ability to buy things!
  • Having a scaling increasing cost to discourage overuse.

 

Tip Jar

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 0

Description

Players can donate directly to the makers of the game. This is a largely unsuccessful method.

Best Practices

  • Don’t be pushy
  • Have a suggested donation

 

Vanity Items - Single Player

Typical PPR: 1
Potential PPR: 1

Description

Visual improvements to a single player experience. Overall, this strategy works much better in games where the vanity can be displayed to other players.

Best Practices

  • Show allegiance to factions in game
  • Allow for personal expression
  • Give the game a more premium feel

 

VIP Levels

Typical PPR: 0
Potential PPR: 0

Description

Provide bonuses to players who spend at a certain level over time.

Best Practices

  • Have multiple tiers for different levels of spend
  • Have the benefits last for a limited amount of time, but refresh the amount of time the benefits last if the player spends again
  • Make it clear as to the benefits the player will get for spending

New Monetization Methods

Asymmetric Game Modes

Alternatively could be called, “Pay to be the boss.” The idea here is that there are several tiers of overlapping gameplay that can be purchased. For instance, free players play an FPS game as foot soldiers trying to defeat a giant monster that is destroying the city. A paying player gets to control the giant monster. Given that typically only a few percent of players pay in a free to play game, this could be supported by having many game servers.

The motivating factor here is that paying gets you access to a new and interesting type of gameplay that makes you large and in the center of attention. For PvP, this also gives the free players a theoretically more interesting experience since they are battling another human, rather than some kind of AI.

Additionally, this encourages designs to include pivotal elite roles that can only be piloted by a few players who have paid for the privilege. The trick here is to avoid the pay for power traps by making the roles of the pay tiers very separate from the free tiers, they should not be just a better version of what the free players are doing, lest this may feel like pay to win. 

In-Game Crowdfunding

Inspired by normal crowdfunding, why not bring the concept into the game. Instead of just releasing new content, why not crowdfund it within the game? Crowdfunding is awesome because you only make the stuff that players are interested in buying. Gave devs can also put riskier ideas out there and see if the player base will bite.

Also, unlike typical crowdfunding, the odds of delivery in game would be extremely high, and the money would all go right to the developer. This doesn’t have to be limited to content either, DLC or whole expansions could be sold this way. Potentially, a studio could even fund a whole new game by asking their current audience if they want to buy in. Crowdfunding has been a game changer for how creative endeavors get made, including games...why not leverage the advantages of this new form of commerce?

Buy Your Memoirs

It is hard to monetize a single player experience, yet they give us some of the most memorable stories and creative outlets. This method captures those moments throughout the game, and lets the player buy physical (or digital) memoirs that depict their experiences through the game, especially the ones that they customized. These should be purchasable even if the game is not defeated yet. This also is likely to be extra effective in games where you make a strong bond with an NPC or pet.

Character-specific Physical Goods

This is further down the rabbit whole of buy your memoirs. This is buying physical good that are customized to your game experience. Buy 3D printed minis of your character, pet, or crafted weapons. Buy a t-shirt with those things on them, along with a fun phrase. This works best with games that have highly customizable content, so that players really feel like they aren’t just buying something that is mass produced.

That being said, this really falls into the space of licensed products, and that world may have some more to borrow from for this strategy.

Location-based Cross-promotion

This is already starting to crop up a bit in augmented reality games. The idea here is that a real world location pays for some kind of bonus for players. Lured Pokestops in Pokemon Go is one of the first examples of this that we have seen, but it could be taken to a grander scale. Imagine deals with theme parks, or tourism hot spots, where logging in while attending would get the players advantages or bonuses in game. At the grandest scale, you could sell exclusive content that is only purchasable at specific locations.

ESports Team Franchising

If you build your game for esports, you could sell the naming rights or franchise rights to the pro teams in your game. Of course, it is hard to build a game that can achieve e-sport status without serious investment, but if you can pull it off, there is a lot of value here. Look no further than the major sports franchises of the world, and how much they are able to monetize by selling franchise rights to teams, selling jerseys, and TV advertising...not to mention ticket sales.

So yeah, just make the next esports sensation...easy right? At least it encourages the design to be as player positive as possible!

Combine Sharing and Events

Paying for events is already a powerful monetization strategy, and so is sharing...so why not combine them for extra benefit? The idea here is that one or more players can pay for a whole group of players to participate in an event. Presumably the group would be a guild or friends, but could just be the next several people to show up. Or, players could bid to pay for high skill players to join them and help carry them to victory in a team event.

This takes the appeal of events and gives players the ability to monetize extra for a larger benefit while feeling altruistic.

Pay for Naming Rights

Ever want to name the tavern in your MMO? What if you could pay to name it for a limited time, for all to see? Extended this to many major landmarks or even towns in the world. This only really makes sense for multiplayer games with lots of locations - think MMOs, MOBAs, and FPS games. It is sort of an evolution on paying for vanity, but lets the player impact the world itself, which has a different sort of appeal.

This can also scale based on having lots of servers or game instances, for instance, imagine that in the next 25 FPS matches you play, all the control points will have a name of your choosing that everyone can see. If multiple people have this perk active, then one wins the rights at random, but it doesn’t decrement everyone else's number of games left to see the benefit.

Of course, avoid renaming critical parts of the game that would make playing more confusing if it had a new name every week.

Conclusions

Game developers should strive to make their monetization as player positive as possible. In doing so, they will unshackle their game designs to be as fun and engaging as possible for the players. We all need to fund our games and turn a profit, but we should try to stop doing it at the expense of the player experience, in the end it is a self destructive practice that leaves players less trusting of games and forces them to be on guard against monetization strategies instead of being able to just enjoy their games.

In this paper, several monetization strategies have been outlined that do not harm the player experience, and in fact, many of them can enhance it. The next time you are creating a game, please think of the strategies when building the game from the ground up, so it can avoid the pitfalls of the player negative strategies.

There is no silver bullet, or everyone would be using it. It was so much easier when you could just sell a game for $50, but until someone cracks a new awesome way to monetize games that everyone likes, we are stuck trying to craft the best monetization for the experiences we want to create. At the very least, when trying something new, ask yourself if it exemplifies the player positive traits of monetization described above. Hopefully, your players will thank you for it, both with money and smiles.