Planet Basher 2 was my first foray into the world of micro-transactions. For the uninitiated micro-transactions means selling in game content to the players, usually for a low price. This is a concept that is becoming more and more commonplace in the world of video games with even major titles jumping on the bandwagon. It’s the same idea as buying a downloadable map pack for Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, just on a slightly smaller scale (in general).
In Flash games the one problem for developers such as myself who are trying to make a living from it is that the content is free for anyone to play. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that we have all these great games that we can play for free and we take it for granted that we can. I wouldn’t ever want to change that (besides, I couldn’t even if I wanted to) but I do think that there is something in this micro-transaction idea.
In theory what it means is that as developers we can spend longer and put more effort into adding features to our games that we think our fans would like to see. Under normal circumstances this content wouldn’t exist but by charging a small amount to players it makes it more worth our while to spend the extra time developing.
So the end user gets bonus content (if they want it) and we get a bit of profit. A win win situation. Of course not everyone sees it that way and there is plenty of opposition to the concept. A lot of people are very against paying for content in Flash games and I can certainly sympathise with that view, but what they don’t seem to realise is that we are not trying to charge them to play the game, we’re offering additional content for those that are willing to pay for it. The game is still free and it’s not just a demo.
Of course, in Planet Basher 2 I made just about every mistake I could have in trying to implement micro-transactions. I tried to add them into a game that hadn’t been designed for them from the start (not a good idea) and I also made the decision to publish the game before I had been given clearance to go ahead with micro-transactions (as I recall it was just before going on holiday and I was in a hurry to publish). As a result the micro-transactions only got added to the game once it had been released by which time the non-micro-transaction version was already widely distributed.
In spite of these errors, it enabled me to see the potential for success using the micro-transactions model and I took away some valuable lessons from the experience. I look forward to trialling micro-transactions properly in the future.