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Forza Horizons, IAP and VG247

By on November 12, 2012
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VG247 posted a long piece on the IAP on Forza Horizons to ask whether this was a fundamental shift in how single player games are considering microtransactions. I believe so, and said so extensively in the piece. My summary:

“It has taken this long for publishers and developers to realise that people don’t value content: they value how that content makes them feel. The floodgates are now open.”

For more context, go and read the full post.


I also answered some other questions that weren’t included, so I post them here.

Are single-player IAPs the future?

We’ve mainly seen this limited to multiplayer modes, but in Forza Horizon it’s possible to buy any car (I think) using real money in the single-player campaign. Do you think single-player IAPS are going to become a standard feature across all modes in major games as we move forward?

It is harder to build the emotional resonance with players to spend money on IAP without a social context. If you are sitting at home on your own with no one looking, you are more likely to be slobbing out in T-shirt and a tracksuit than your best Ted Baker shirt or bling accessories. Similarly, it is harder (but not impossible) to persuade players to spend on IAP without someone looking.

That doesn’t have to mean multiplayer though. It can be leaderboards or a social connection with your friends’ garages or football teams or profiles via Xbox Live or Steam. It can simply be bragging rights in the playground, the workplace, or on social networks. It can be driven by achievements or trophies.

I don’t think it will appear in every single multiplayer game. I think it will appear in many, if not most. If the metrics show that players willingly spend money on IAP, potentially doubling or tripling your ARPU and helping you make money from second/third/fourth owners and pirates, you would be foolish not to explore this area.

Should companies heed the core?

Monetisation in this form isn’t popular among the core, but it’s proving successful in features such as Ultimate Team in FIFA. Do you think companies like EA should be mindful of the dangers of over-exploiting savvy, vocal gamers, even if they’re successful with the majority?

The core is, to my mind, missing the point. We are in the very early days of F2P. We have had the Wild West of over-aggressive monetisation, of psychological tricks that manipulate the susceptible, of experiments that that played with the very notion of ethics in games design. We have a long way to go.

Your question was “should companies be mindful of the dangers of over-exploiting gamers”. Of course they should. That’s what “over” means. But do I think that they should shy away from allowing people to spend lots of money on things they truly value in the context of the game, while also giving a good and meaningful experience to people who never pay anything (in freemium titles) or only the ticket price (in the case of paid-for games)? No, I absolutely don’t.

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:
  • Oops, it’s an MGS game, not an EA game. I knew that but spent so much time thinking about FIFA Ultimate recently I got the publisher wrong

  • It’s a valid point, ish. The important bit is that they were expressly called “a vocal minority” in the question. And while of course it is important to listen to your players, it is very rarely important to listen to your loudest, most vocal impassioned fans when designing a mass-market product.

  • I think that’s a valid response (well, obviously, your feelings are always valid)

    But more than that, the difference between F2P and paymium is important. You have different emotional contract and relationship with players if you charged them upfront rather than giving them the game for free. This affects how you can monetise.

    It seems to me, based purely on comments from you and others, that EA may not have got the balance right.

    Of course, the metrics may tell a different story

  • I think the thing that really struck me with Forza Horizon, as compared to previous racing games on console that offered DLC, was the way the upsell was pitched. It shifted the tone from adding content to short-cutting the amount of time needed to play (DLC to IAP, I guess). It was also far more ‘in yer face’ about it, from quite early on in the experience.

    I haven’t played Forza 4, but I played Forza 3 a lot and any purchased DLC still needed to be paid for using earned in-game currency. Thus far with Horizon I’ve been left feeling slightly unsettled by – and honestly slightly unhappy at – being hit with what I feel are F2P-style mechanics and messaging in a game that cost me £38.

    Speaking purely as a gamer, if Horizon had been £15 or £20, I’d have been okay with the sales pitch in the game. But this is a full-priced game, and the simplest way I can put my reaction to it is that for me, personally, it doesn’t feel ‘fair’.

  • Sik

    “The core is, to my mind, missing the point.”

    That’s a very dangerous thing to say, it’s equivalent to saying the players are missing the point, and you know what that means. It’s like when 3DS sales weren’t taking off and Nintendo said players didn’t get the magic behind the 3DS.

    Yes, I had to nitpick =P