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Beware the convenience wall: it is every bit as dangerous as the paywall

By on October 29, 2012

Everyone knows the dangers of the paywall.

They can be good for making money, but in a market where it costs between $1 and $4 to acquire a customer, it is critical to keep those customers. Paywalls kick customers out of your service so you had better be sure that you know what you are doing if you implement one.

The traditional paywall is a 30 day trial. To my mind, a 30 day trial is insanity: you spend lots of money acquiring a customer and showcasing them how to use your product. Then with no nuance, no analysis, no customer understanding, you slam down a hard paywall exactly 720 hours after the user first downloaded the product.

  • You are not using salesmanship to convert a user when they are ready to buy;
  • You are not using marketing to convince them of the benefits of subscribing now;
  • You are not using customer insight to identify the aspects of your service that your prospect is willing to pay for.
  • You are taking an arbitrary moment in time and saying “That’s it: pay up or piss off.”

Your customer might be broke until payday, or in a bad mood, or busy, or just not receptive to a sale. Why anyone thinks this is good marketing is beyond me. It’s why I say “make your game free to play forever”. Get your customers, keep them, work out how to make money from them over time.

Paywalls are not the only walls

In this week’s GAMESbriefer’s post, my friend Harry Holmwood referred to “convenience walls”. Convenience walls can be just as off-putting for customers or players as paywalls, but they can be harder to notice. The same logic applies to convenience walls as applies to paywalls: if it costs you that much to acquire a customer, why would you put a convenience wall in the way of the customer becoming a paying user? Here are some of the common convenience walls:

  • The download wall: There may be no way round this. If you have a client, you are likely to lose customers in two places: before they download the game or after they download it, but then forget to go back and play it. You may feel that the marketing / monetisation payoff of having a high-quality client-based game offsets the disadvantage. You may be right. I would always rather have a browser-based game than a big download if I possibly could.
  • The registration wall: I still see companies asking for 8 pieces of information before they let me even register for a game. One client recently presented me with a form where I had to fill in my username, password, email address, date of birth (!), two marketing opt-ins and agree to four (!) different terms and conditions before I could click the “Register” button. Every single line item is another opportunity for me to think “I can’t be bothered”. If this had not been a client game, there is no way I would have got to the end. Top tip for marketers: ask for an email address and nothing else. Everything else can be earned over time.
  • The difficulty wall: Harry refers to games like League of Legends and World of Tanks has having steep learning curves. You don’t want a tutorial, but you don’t want players to feel they are making rapid progress through the early elements of the game.
  • The complexity wall: I was recently playing Legends of Grimlock, an old school RPG I downloaded from Steam. I came down from putting my kids to bed and thought to myself “I haven’t got time to get into Grimlock right now.” I sat down on my bed and pulled Pocket Planes out of my pocket. Two and a half hours later, I was still playing it. I was alienated by the fear of the perceived complexity of Grimlock, and how long it would take me to start having fun. I was drawn in by the accessibility of Pocket Planes.

These are four “convenience walls” that leap out to me. Can you think of others? I’d like to make an exhaustive list of the walls that get between you and playing a game. Then we can help designers eliminate them from their games.


Thanks to mahidoodi for the image

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: