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What is the download pattern of a freemium (or paymium) game?

By on October 12, 2012

A friend of mine has asked me how I would expect the downloads of a freemium game to be spread over the first year after launch. As you can probably tell from the question, he is trying to build a forecast of when revenue will arrive for the title, using an adapted version of the GAMESbrief spreadsheet.

I gave two answers:

  1. The new user acquisition is in your control. It is about how much you are prepared to spend on customer acquisition. Turn on the CPA tap, you get customers. Add a multiplier for "virality" (I mean that in the loosest sense of word-of-mouth, reviews, Apple love) and that’s your downloads or users.
  2. Downloads don’t matter. MAUs do. You can get MAUs by finding new users (expensive, difficult) or by keeping existing users (Difficult, based on game design, cheap-ish). If your model depends on new downloads, you are doing F2P wrong.

That said, it seems to me that there might a rule of thumb out there. A very senior person at Ubisoft once told me they could forecast the sales of a console title to within 1,000 units based on the first weekend’s sales numbers. Is there something similar that exists for F2P? If so, I haven’t seen or heard it yet. Could you help me, and my friend, by helping answer the question of whether there is a download pattern for F2P games.

Links to other stories, anecdotes, comments from your experience or hard numbers are all welcome.

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
  • stf

    Predictive models are on the rise and NCsoft is currently having such a system built in AION. From player behavior in the first days you can now tell if they are whale or just passerby.