The Changing Strategies of Gaming Monetization
Over the decades, video games have gone from being small-scale and mostly for children to growing into an industry that is bigger than Hollywood. The increasing sophistication of technology, particularly widespread access to the internet, has also fundamentally altered the potential for monetization.
It is an ironic truth that while e-gaming has been shifting to try and increase monetization by various means, which are explored in-depth below, online casinos have been moving in the opposite direction (to a certain extent). This is through no deposit bonuses, which are available at online betting sites around the world, including the top casino sites for the New Zealand region. By offering free cash or free spins, or even free entry to poker tournaments, sites seek to outdo their competition and provide players with a way to try and win real cash without having to risk a penny.
Just the Game
The oldest of old school methods and the most straightforward, it’s still the case that some game developers simply get their money by creating a finished game, and selling it. This can also occur down the line with remasters or ports from one system to another that include all previously released DLC (as happened when Skyrim’s three DLCs were included with a later version of the game). However, an awful lot of games now have some variety of DLC or involve other types of monetization.
Some forms of monetization are generally approved of by players (major expansions being an obvious example) and some are seen as so-so (cosmetic DLC) but some generate mostly negative feelings. Games that offer experience boosts for higher levels, perk points, and the like can be seen in a negative light for that reason. There are a couple of reasons for this. Among some players there’s a suspicion certain games, such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, have a deliberately slow and tedious grind for experience in order to make DLC that boosts it seem more valuable. By definition, this would make a game less fun to play for everyone who does not fork out extra cash and instead of adding something through monetization it’s more akin to a hostage situation, where something is withheld unless the ransom is paid. On top of that, people buy games to play them. Buying experience diminishes the experience in both senses of the word, and can even turn into pay to win, which most players find utterly unsatisfying.
That is not to say that every game that sells experience boosts is necessarily bad, although the approach itself is usually not one that gamers welcome. Tales of Arise is a well-received JRPG that has a frenetic and challenging (but fair) combat system. This game also comes with buyable packs for more experience, as well as extra in-game currency. However, the game’s experience and leveling without any DLC still works perfectly well (and may actually be better balanced that way).
For the most part a harmless optional extra (although schoolkids may, sadly, get mocked as ‘default’ if they stick with the free skins), cosmetic DLC is usually cheap and does not affect gameplay in any meaningful way. This can be mixed with outfits unlocked in-game, such as in Dead or Alive 5 and Tales of Arise. However, if there’s plenty of DLC this can lead to ridiculously overblown potential costs (there are 62 items listed on Dead or Alive 5 Last Round’s Steam DLC page at the time of writing).
Sometimes, cosmetics can be the mainstay of a game’s financial strategy. Fortnite is a great example of a free game that is nevertheless a stunning success, even to the extent of hosting a World Cup event with a top prize to rival mainstream sporting tournaments. But through a combination of subscriptions and cosmetic DLC it’s been a huge hit.
Games as a service has acquired something of a bad reputation recently thanks to efforts to milk players and some very badly botched games (think Anthem, Bioware’s ill-fated attempt to move from single-player RPGs to online multiplayer). However, the concept of subscribing has some advantages for both players and developers, and has been used by no less than World of Warcraft, the long-time dominant force in MMORPGs.
Subscriptions can be good for players because the cost of a game becomes inherently linked to how much you play it, rather than dropping a standard fee for a game you might not even finish. While the overall cost can be higher, this only occurs if there’s a lot of playing over a long period of time. For developers, a subscription model can mean a longer, and reliable, revenue stream, rather than a large lump when a game releases and a couple of spikes for associated major DLCs. Speaking of which, one reason World of Warcraft has done so well for so long has been the multiple major expansions that have been released, helping to retain player interest for (in many cases) years on end.
Among the most popular ways of monetizing games for players and developers alike are major expansion packs. These are also the oldest form of additional monetization, beyond the initial purchase price, and there are still many recent examples of these working very well. There are two basic approaches to a major expansion: something that adds to the existing gameplay experience by adding new mechanics (such as Gathering Storm or Rise And Fall in Civilization VI) or that adds a new area to visit/explore, such as Oblivion’s renowned Shivering Isles expansion pack that whisks the player off to the psychedelic realm of Sheogorath, god of madness. Players spend a relatively larger amount for such big expansions but also tend to get a lot of bang for their buck this way.
The Witcher series of books have spawned the fantastic Witcher 3 game, as well as a TV series. The game’s Blood and Wine expansion is large enough that some argue it could have legitimately been released as its own game, but by making it an extra for The Witcher 3 players get a lot more fun with an amazing RPG for much less than the cost of buying a full game. On top of that, DLC is often heavily discounted, so if you’re late to the party and catch a sale you can save a pretty penny.
However, games can also come with more minor expansions as cheaper items of DLC. Sticking with Civ VI, these have come in the forms of leader and civilization packs, while Stellaris offers species packs for plantoids, lithoids, and so on. In both examples, these combine a degree of cosmetic variety with differing gameplay possibilities (lithoids are rock people who consume minerals rather than food, and the differing civilizations and leaders of Civ VI each have their own set of bonuses which can alter gameplay styles significantly). Likewise, Skyrim has massive expansions with Dragonborn and Dawnguard, while the Hearthfire DLC opened up extra housing opportunities, including a level of customization that was not present in the base game.
Video game monetization has evolved from simply paying and playing through to making games ongoing experiences via subscriptions and major expansions. Not all of it’s been good (booster packs and microtransactions by the ton being downsides) but for the most part it has helped to make gaming better.