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Bigpoint sells 2,000 spaceship drones. For 1000 euros each. In just four days.

By on November 23, 2011
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UPDATE: Bigpoint has clarified the revenue figures. It has sold some 10th Drones for €1,000, but since they can also be bought with in-game currency that can be earned by playing the game, many players may have spent less or even no real cash on the 10th Drone. That means that the €2 million figure is overstated. See my blog post for clarification.

If you needed evidence that whales exist in online gaming look no further than Bigpoint.

The company is on course to deliver €200 million in revenue from virtual goods in 2011 from over 215 million registered users.It’s secret is not to make about a year from each customer, but to allow many people to play for free while allowing those who love their games to spend a lot of money.

Show me the money

Bigpoint operates three major games of which DarkOrbit, an MMO set in space, is one of its most popular. DarkOrbit has 65 million registered accounts (when I told one journalist this they said “are you really saying that one in every hundred people on the planet is registered to play Dark Orbit?”)

I haven’t played the game, but I understand that your spaceship can be supported in combat by drones. There are different levels of drone ranking up to the 10th Drone. The 10th Drone – also called the Zeus Drone – is very rare – you need to have all 9 previous drones and collect blueprints to make it in the game.

Earlier this month, on a total of four separate days, Bigpoint made it possible to buy a 10th Drone for 1,000.

They have sold over 2,000 10th Drones. At €1000. In just four days. That’s 2 million from a single virtual good.

Offer value to your whales

Bigpoint offers Dark Orbit for free. Perhaps as many as 97% of its audience don’t pay on a month by month basis. But for those people who love the game, for whom it is their primary source of enjoyment over months and years, spending €1,000 on a 10th Drone may seem like good value.

If you are making a free to play game your objectiveis not to get everybody to spend a dollar. It is to get the people who love your game to spend a lot.

Bigpoint seems to have cracked this business model.

 

UPDATE

I’ve been asked about the source for these stats. Originally, CEO Heiko Hubertz told me that the company had sold 1,000 10th drones. He then introduced me to the producer of the game, Simon Davis, to explain how DarkOrbit worked. Simon told me that he had been authorised to say that the company has now sold 2,000, as at 16th November 2011.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com