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Fun thought experiment: If KSP was a free-to-play game...


Algiark
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How would you monetize it? Which stuff are free and which stuff players have to spend money on? What would the game do to incentivize players to get other people to play it (apart from good reviews)? How would spending money make the game easier? Is there a grinding mechanic that players can bypass by spending money? How can the game get players to compete with each other? Is there some sort of leaderboard? What does it track? Etc.

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First: A very, very big THANK YOU towards Squad for not forming a pact with the Canadian devil. They have done everything right from a player's point of view, they've even given us the chance to try the free demo before spending money on the game.

Now to the luckily just hypothetical question: A completely heartless person could make KSP free to pay. To do that, this hypothetical being of pure evilness could choose to allow players to buy funds with real money (and have the in-game fund earnings at or lower than what one has in early game hard-mode). Or to pay real money for "someone else" to do rescue missions, to bring back otherwise lost craft. Timewarp might be limited, so that one can only timewarp for a certain amount of time per day, except if one pays. Parts might be unlocked against money instead of doing research, or part unlocks per day could also be limited. There might be super efficient premium-only parts, that one could unlock for a few hours by paying real money.

For all of this to work, the game would have to be far more grindy though. The main ingredient of Paymoreium games is the fine balance between frustration and addiction. The game has to be addicting enough to keep players hooked, but also frustrating enough to force them to pay...

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Freemium games have to have really easy learning curves because you have to get people hooked enough to spend more money. KSP is NOT a low learning curve. I had to invest several hours in play/reading before I was able to orbit my first rocket. That learning curve wouldn't draw in the freemium crowd.

I wouldn't play a freemium version anyway...not in a million years. Squad made their $40 from me through good game design and I'd happily have paid $60 (maybe more) for a version with less bugs and more detailed planets/spots to explore. I'd even consider buying a DLC that added interstellar/warp drive and several more systems to explore.

They have lots of ways to make more money off of me. One of which is NOT pay to play.

Edited by tjt
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You will have to clarify what as a publisher, your intentions would be. There's a wild difference between a short term milking-it-for-what-it's-worth (Farmville, Zynga) where the game is made incredibly frustrating if you don't spend cash, or long a long term approach where playing the game without spending a dime is just fine, but dropping cash will make you progress faster (Clash of Clans, Supercell).

of course the second approach is worthwhile if all those non-paying players offer value to the game (which it does with CoC) which, in its current state, is hard to see how that would help KSP.

so money grabbing ut is, and that makes it easy:

  • Navball gizmo's. You'll get prograde/retro, but unlocking the rest will cost you. Heck, maybe you even have to pay for prograde/retro
  • Planets. The base game comes with Kerbin, Mun and Minmus. The rest... For a small amount per planet
  • Mods. Obviously Squad cannot charge for the mods themselves, but the ability to use them can be unlocked
  • Running out of fuel? For a small service fee we'll send Jeb along in his Cosmic Tow Truck, claw your craft and top every single tank off!
  • Better science gear: upgrade your instruments and get TWICE the science!

 

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There's nothing wrong with the Canadian devil, eh?. He's polite, got a source for really good maple syrup, in February, and the dude invented poutine,, eh? Just don't get between him and the puck, eh?

KSP doesn't lend itself to a freemium game very well, as it currently stands. The pay content would be very obviously bolted on to the core game. The simple is cash for funds, rep, science, and full tanks, optimum heat, full charge on a/all ships.  If a serious resource component was added than there would be more to spend the money on.

You'd have to change the core game play... and then it wouldn't be KSP.

eh?

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If KSP were a free to play game...  it would likely be just another crap game that had little-to-no impact on anyone.

There's really no way to predict what it would actually be, as the development path it followed would no doubt have been dramatically different. Mods would be out of the question. Community input would be irrelevant. This experiment is about as much fun as peeing on an electric fence.

Also not on topic:

1 hour ago, soulsource said:

the Canadian devil

What? Is he very polite? I think the term "Canadian" and "devil" are mutually exclusive.

Edited by Randazzo
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Not sure 'fun' would be the word I'd use in this context, but heck, let's muse on doomsday scenarios.

 

My contribution, and hypothetically relevant considering a recent dev article: crowdfunding the bug tracker cleanup. In return, the base game becomes free. The way I envision this:

  • Replace the vote button on the tracker reports with a 'Crowdfund Me!' button, estimate the cost of investigating and solving individual bugs and show it as the target, and when 'donations' for a specific bug report surpass the target, place it into the work queue and start working on it.
  • Enhance with multiple milestones. Eg. if the target is exceeded to 150% 'no vacation before bug is truly squashed', at 200% 'there is no bathroom!', at 500% 'add another dev to work on this bug', at 1000% 'buy out Unity to fix the wheels engine'.
  • To add more of an incentive for the existing player base: do the same for feature requests, with appropriately estimated targets. Delete the 'features not to ask' list, but make the player base put their money where their keyboard is. Entirely replace the 'Suggestions' forum by a permanent link to create a new crowdfunded feature request on the tracker.
  • Also, add a few new categories of reports: 'mod to make stock', 'mod author to hire', 'former dev to re-hire'. Same mechanic. In fact, add 'current dev to fire', because why not go all the way.
  • For 'mod to make stock' to work well, start a 'Stock Mod Manager' report with an appropriate target and make it a mandatory prerequisite. (*)
  • Keep the process transparent, ensure a significant portion of the target funds are directed towards their intended target. It may take years before the player base realizes they've been hooked.
  • ???
  • Profit Power to the people player base. The community gets to directly influence KSP development... at a very direct price. And if you call NOW, we'll throw in some free porkifying of rocket parts! Now sign here, here and here, initials there and there, in virgin blood please.

(*: if you're feeling truly evil, add the following report categories: 'mod to NOT make stock', 'non-stock mod to exclude from the Stock Mod Manager', and 'mod to temporarily remove to pester specific people'. Add micro-transactions to buy pitch forks, tar and feathers, and torches. Limit the supply artificially and add an auction house for players to trade them, and charge a commission per auction sale. Then go and.. <froth> erhm... ok I'll stop now.)

...

I know, some days I awake in a decidedly evil mood. Put me down now before I start spewing my thoughts on governmental election processes.

 

P.S.: All Rights Reserved. If Squad ever implements any of these ideas, I reserve the right to run for president. I have a wall and an e-mail server and I know how to use them.

Edited by swjr-swis
PS
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1 hour ago, tjt said:

I had to invest several hours in play/reading before I was able to orbit my first rocket

Same... But for me it literally took 3 FULL YEARS to get into orbit my first time no assistance. I might be bad but it was still fun with the adrenaline and hoping I would get it right... I went to the south pool in-game before I went into orbit.

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2 hours ago, Randazzo said:
3 hours ago, soulsource said:

the Canadian devil.

What? Is he very polite? I think the term "Canadian" and "devil" are mutually exclusive.

 

 

They warned me the Canadian Devil would be attractive. 

 

 

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Eh?  As of now, there are two levels: f2p (demo) and paid [and last I checked there are two different demos: .18 from steam and 1.0 from Squad].  One option would be to start with the demo and buy DLC alacarte until you had paid $240 dollars for what we have now (I think there is a tweet showing train simulator w/ complete DLC for $30k during the steam sale).

Not to say that freemium games can't be good, but sooner or later they will start becoming "pay to win" (I suspect management has figured a projected "end of life" of the game and scheduled a way to wring every last penny out before that happens).  As an example: Dungeons and Dragons Online was probably the first MMO to "get f2p right".  After a few years it seemed that every [financial] quarter they had to increase the number of ways to buy a win [the anti-beholder potions were hilariously over the top].

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38 minutes ago, Rocket In My Pocket said:

Free to play is dying, it doesn't work from a monetary stand point unless you are League of Legends.

It was nothing but a trend, and a short sighted one at that. At this point, it's typically only employed as a last ditch effort by failing MMO's.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

I fear this is optimistic, it may never be successful in the long run but that doesn't mean FTP's won't be used in shady get-rich-quick schemes, much like spam and telemarketing still linger despite being awful marketing strategies.

27 minutes ago, LVL 9001 said:

monetization strategies may include having to watch a 30 second advert before the game starts and after it ends.

All the people in this thread calling themselves pure evil while you do it silently and almost unnoticed.

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6 hours ago, swjr-swis said:

Replace the vote button on the tracker reports with a 'Crowdfund Me!' button, estimate the cost of investigating and solving individual bugs and show it as the target, and when 'donations' for a specific bug report surpass the target, place it into the work queue and start working on it.

This is by far the scariest suggestion I've seen in the thread

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4 hours ago, Rocket In My Pocket said:

Free to play is dying, it doesn't work from a monetary stand point unless you are League of Legends.

It was nothing but a trend, and a short sighted one at that. At this point, it's typically only employed as a last ditch effort by failing MMO's.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

I don't think F2P is going anywhere anytime soon.  Even though a given F2P game may be at best a mediocre success that fizzles out after several months, it still likely turned a profit for the developer... profits that are possibly funding the next F2P title they release that builds on tech the current product already paid for.  As a bonus, their fans have to buy all the perks for the new game again.

In the era of subscription based MMOs, everyone tended to debate over whether a particular title would be the WoW-killer, or laugh at titles that managed only a few hundred thousand subscribers vs WoW's millions -- forgetting that a mere hundred thousand subscribers are $15/month is quite a respectable amount of revenue.  Those MMOs were not always the wild success that WoW was, but still successes.

 

 

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I think any potential sleazy monetizing you could put into the game would be quite quickly undermined by hacking, I mean the configuration and save files containing data for part efficiency, funds and science are all easily accessible and can be modified to the players benefit with notepad, so some amount of encryption or Online Mode Only would be necessary to force the cashbrabbing scumbaggery :U

 

and not to mention mods, they would have to have some serious restrictions or power limits to ensure you cant install an add-on that doesn't also undermine the games difficulty and eliminate the need for micropayments XP

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Man, I can already envision horrible, terrible, absolutely EVIL DLC stuff involving monetization...

- You must pay a 'small' fee for each time you load up a craft that came in game (i.e. loading up the Kerbal X will cost $0.99 USD).

- Using Time Warp will be limited to the amount of 'years' you can warp (i.e. you have to use 100 years time, but you only have 50 years, add more for a sum of money)

- Getting Updates requires you to pay a small fee of (possibly) $0.99 USD, or something like that.

- Every time you hire a (some) Kerbal(s) ($0.99 USD for five random ones)

- Repairing Destroyed buildings...

-Paying for kerbal Deaths

-Funds will be significantly lowered in contracts to the point where it is required to purchase funds for a sum of money...

 

A heck of a lot more horrible stuff...

(God, I didn't know I could think like that... time to go read some book on manners to teach me morals again :P)

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Depends which route of freeplay...

 

You could go the cosmetic-only route some do.  Premium users get alternate paint schemes and recoloring etc.

 

Or the freemium route eg "pay to unlock things early"

 

Or the "pay to win" route and stuff like nuclear engines, ion thrusters, and planets beyond jool are pay only.

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12 hours ago, Randazzo said:

If KSP were a free to play game...  it would likely be just another crap game that had little-to-no impact on anyone.

There's really no way to predict what it would actually be, as the development path it followed would no doubt have been dramatically different. Mods would be out of the question. Community input would be irrelevant. This experiment is about as much fun as peeing on an electric fence.

Also not on topic:

What? Is he very polite? I think the term "Canadian" and "devil" are mutually exclusive.

That was a reference to the South Park episode "Freemium isn't Free". If you don't know it yet, watch it. It has a nice (and informative) summary how Freemium games work.

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