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Devin Becker
Lives in Sacramento, CA
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Devin Becker

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Thinking about what's next after the f2p whale model dies down. Always struck as kind of odd that you have 20% or less of you players paying for a game yet still have to bug the other 80% like some kind of homeless vet fishing for change outside the grocery store.

In looking at the motivations of many "whales" often reveals a sort of old school arts patronage mentality of wanting to support the game. If you could simply get the patron whales to pay then you could leave everyone else who won't ever pay alone and not have to force pay walls or annoyances into the actual game design. If the small minority of players that are paying the majority of money are doing so not because of designed frustration then why do it?

Kickstarter is a decent example of pay what you want patronage, but it is generally designed for starting production and free to play is based on pay as you go.

Only some players realize in app purchases are essentially funding continued development of the game. When players don't realize this they will see IAP and paywalls as greed even when its essentially a shareware or nagware model.

One possible solution I see is to use honesty in your favor, put IAP in that is directly and visibly tied to potential feature development. Vanity items would probably be best. You would retain control of the feature design, but players would vote on which features are worth the money with their actual wallet. Kickstarter reward tiers and stretch goals provide a decent model for this. Want that cool new PvP mode? Then buy this special piece of PvP gear that represents it!

There are some downsides of course. It's complicated to raise money in a way that you can refund (Kickstarter style) vs keeping the money either way (Indie Go Go style). This model can also lead to the whales directing the feature development of the game, but if the demand is high enough from small payers for a feature it can still make its funding goal. In a way this makes everyone playing the game a potential shareholder in the feature design without relinquishing creative control. You as the game developer also get to decide which features are up "for sale" so this doesn't ever have to become "design by committee".

Part of this thought was inspired by an interview with the developers of Dwarf Fortress talking about possibly working on the game for another 20 or 30 years as long as there's enough people helping support the costs for what is a free game. Sounds like patronage to me.

Why is this better than just asking for donations? Donations are all well and good, but it feels a lot more compelling when you know how your money will be spent and who doesn't like to feel a certain level of influence and power over a game you like in exchange for some visible status? See humble indie bundle (or indie royale bundle) leaderboards for an example.

One final downside is that with traditional IAP players don't know how many others have made that purchase and the amount of profit to be made from it has no inherent ceiling. Selling IAP for feature funding would need to be clear how extra money would be spent (assuming the amount raised so far is displayed). This means you'd need to factor in "hidden costs" like support, bug fixing, marketing, etc.

Hope to see some more diversity in business models for games outside of copying whoever is getting rich at the moment.
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AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
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Great advice for kickstarting. The important points were really good planning and research of what you can do and your reward structure and planning for your community early, including building one BEFORE your campaign.
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I'm running a local Sacramento class on how to go from game idea to prototype quickly w/o coding.

If you have any interest in making video games regardless of whether you can program, design, do art or just have some ideas, TAKE THIS CLASS! If you are somehow none of those things, then share this so people who do can see it!

I made it cheap this time around to get some honest reviews up so get in before the 15 seats fill up.
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m3 hung out with 1 person. #hangoutsonairColten Becker
Live game jam from sacramento!
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m3 hung out with 1 person. #hangoutsonairAndy Moore
GameDevRadio: Exploring Design episode 20 LIVE
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My current circle of game developers, hope it helps other people find some!
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Neurosky Game Jam
Sat, May 11, 2013, 12:00 PM PDT
Hacker Lab

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I'd love to do this, but I live in Chicago!
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If you have any interest at all in making games, whether a designer, an artist, writer, programmer or hobbyist, you should pre-enroll for this! It'll be fun, I promise!
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m3 hung out with 1 person. #hangoutsonairAndy Moore
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http://youtu.be/6csvO9HjcRo live streaming of the exploring design podcast, tune in or catch the recording after at the same link! Feel free to chat me questions and comments!
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