GDC Next


As the free to play (F2P) model continues to massively shift the way that the game industry works, designers are grappling with the creative implications of a world in which gameplay and monetization is intimately intertwined. But what's next in F2P? How can companies build models that retain engaged players for months and years, instead of just days? As the complexity of the business increases, we'll be featuring practical postmortems and inspiring talks on ways you can master F2P and even go a different way (crowdfunding? a return to subscriptions?) to fund or monetize your game title - whether it be traditional paid digital or something different.

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The Evolution of Sonic: Dashing into a Freemium World
Ethan Einhorn (SEGA)
SEGA provides an inside look at how Sonic has grown and developed on mobile, from the initial, one-time download launch of Sonic & SEGA All-Star Racing, to reevaluating business models with titles like Sonic Dash and Sonic Jump. SEGA explores the transition between monetization models, as well as changes made to gameplay, presenting the learnings that have been applied to make a legacy brand successful in a freemium world.
Where the Whales Live: The Pyramid Model of F2P Design
Nicholas Lovell (Gamesbrief)
Is monetization ruining F2P games? Funnel-driven design that aims to filter out freeloaders and squeeze the whales is not an inevitable result of the free-to-play business model. We need to build new models for visualizing how we can incorporate the full breadth of the customer demand curve. The pyramid is a way of putting into practice the goal of free-to-play game design: let anybody access your game, and allow people who love what you do to spend lots of money on things they truly value.
Game of Thrones Ascent: Creating an Engaging Social Game Through Story
Jon Radoff (Disruptor Beam)
Tim Crosby (Disruptor Beam)
Jon Radoff and Tim Crosby of Disruptor Beam discuss what it takes to create a successful free-to-play social and mobile game based on a popular IP. The talk specifically focuses on the content creation process for their story-driven social game, Game of Thrones Ascent. Through diagrams, Jon and Tim explain the studio's narrative development process and what went into creating IP-based storylines vs. original content, leading to a highly engaging game experience with low player acquisition costs. The talk emphasizes the importance of a strong IP holder relationship, along with frequent content updates in IP-based games.
Monetization Lessons from Asian Free-To-Play Games
Tom Nichols (Aeria Games & Entertainment)
Free-to-play MMO game monetization differs significantly between games from Western and Asian developers. Western developers have focused primarily on limited monetization systems, striving to achieve a harmonious game balance for free players and spenders. Asian developers have focused on selling power through gear and weapons enhancements, resulting in much higher ARPU, but sometimes creating a perception that the games are pay-to-win. This presentation explains how Asian free-to-play MMOs drive such high monetization, and discusses the issue of selling power vs. achieving proper game balance.
The Odd Couple: Marrying Microtransactions and Subscriptions in Gardens of Time
Arnab Basu (Playdom, Disney Interactive)
Why should your company or game consider marrying online microtransactions and subscriptions? This session will dig into feature design considerations and details behind the 'Inner Circle' subscription offering in Gardens of Time - the first hit hidden object game on Facebook. As a game designer, producer or product manager interested in delivering a robust and long-term retention strategy for your players, come learn about how to potentially retain a long-term payer base for a live free-to-play game.
Inside the eSports Ecosystem: A Business Overview
David Hiltscher (Turtle Entertainment)
Competitive gaming has taken off in the last few years. Publishers like Riot Games with League of Legends or Wargaming with World of Tanks have built their business around the idea that they are indeed a sport. As with any sport, electronic sports have evolved into their own complex ecosystem, with a myriad of business opportunities for multiplayer game developers. This lecture shows how this concept works, who the major players are, how big it has become, and sheds light on deal and investment sizes.
App Developers Conference


UBM Tech