Feudums Monetization Strategy

One of the most critical questions of a game’s development is how it will be funded and how it will continue to operate for years to come; and that’s before considering how the system will be fair and respectful to it’s player base. Let’s put our cards on the table.

Roads NOT Taken

We all know the “Pay to Win” concept. A player starts to play something easily, but as the game moves forward, there are obstacles on the path to victory that cannot be overcome without a few special elements or features that you can only obtain for real money.

Providing game-changing elements for money in multi-player is pretty much the same concept: you pay, or you lose. It's not an honest approach from a publisher, as they offer a free game, which is anything but free. This behavior is so widespread it has already infested the phrase “Free to Play” with negative connotations.

The other nasty thing is an uncertainty on victory conditions. An open world with no end date or clear winning conditions, wrapped around with a highly competitive design (such as a strategy game) is a bottomless demand for just one more turn: the deeper you are in the game, the harder is to give your achievements up. In a competitive game, leaving a game before it’s done is typically interpreted as capitulation - and people don’t like running away. Longer games may earn more profits because nobody wants to leave the field humiliated, but it is so lengthy it’s likely you'll never leave with dignity. So, you keep playing - and paying.

Cards on the table

So, we wanted to make FEUDUMS a Free to Win (or Fair to Play) game which avoids the aforementioned problems; a game that actually is really free to play. To achieve this, we decided to follow two basic rules:

  1. First, there are simply no game objects defined by the design that could be turned off for free gamers or offered for money. That means you won’t find any units, improvements or balance-breaking feature that costs real money. In every game world, all players will have access to the same units, improvements and options. Money can’t make you a winner. Strategy can. This also means that even in the end-game, a free gamer won’t have disadvantages nor will he be buried in constant micromanagement. He’ll have the same features to keep things as clean as everyone else.
  2. Second, all games have well-defined conditions right from the start. The game will always end in X turns (Score Victory) or sooner, if one of the various Winning Conditions are met. Winning Conditions will be similar to what a typical single-player strategy game offers, so there will be multiple ways to win a world - battling your way over everyone is just one of the options. Also, there are accomplishments that will give you persistent rewards - so you can slowly develop your dynasty through the games. Winning Conditions is another topic to cover; for now, let’s just say that the conditions and game length are made clear for each game.

Sources of Income

We obviously have costs that we have to cover - the game is free but is not being developed and maintained for free -, but we don’t want to hide the source of our income.

We are evaluating a couple options:

Duck Tales: FEUDUMS

  1. Customization through Cosmetics
    Players can customize their Coat of Arms or specific interiors like their Knights Hall using special items. We are also thinking about introducing customization improvements, like unique castles, towns or units in the game (their uniqueness is restricted to cosmetic details). That way, you can get an exclusive look and feel for your dynasty that is persistent to all worlds.
  2. Private worlds
    Players can start private worlds where they can form the geography, set up the game settings, invite their friends and maybe (it is not a goal for the 1.0 but we can add as a free add-on) start AI opponents and create or play single player scenarios. Private worlds will allow you to play FEUDUMS like a single-player sandbox game, to bring classic multiplayer experience for yourself and a couple of friends, or to create sandbox worlds to check strategies that you wouldn’t want to use on a ranked world without some testing.
  3. Strategic Automation
    As discussed in the What Makes Feudums Tick - Anatomy of a Turn-Based MMO Game article, players can marshal their commands for every game unit (feudums, improvements, units, and so on) in the game. The length of the command queue is limited but it’s enough for a couple of days (in real time) to cover the activities. There might be a possibility to buy extra space for the commands, but it does not mean that without this purchase the player has to be present around the clock. It will be rather a useful extra for the players to plan ahead for a week or so.
  4. In-game advertisement
    Even in the team we have different ideas about how we should implement this, so we thought we are going to ask our future players. In-game ads could be switched off completely, or come as a video at the beginning, or through a few in-game banners. We don’t want to break the flow of gaming, though, so it would be integrated on a non-intrusive way. Also, showing ads would happen on a consensual basis, without hurting player engagement – i.e. as a rewarded action, and not a forced toll. But please, we’d love to know your preferences too!
  5. Subscriptions (Season Passes)
    We could offer a monthly subscription model - running on a subscription, you get everything above (with reasonable limits, like you can’t have a hundred private games at once) and get rid of all advertisements. On demand, limited “lifetime” suscriptions may also be released.

Coins with LogoFor these options, we are going to introduce an in-game virtual currency, Golden Forint, that a player can use to purchase the extras above - including the subscription to get unlimited access to all these choices for the subscription period. The magic isn’t in this part; there is an exchange rate and for bigger packages, we offer a discount. Pretty much the typical protocol. Of course, Golden Forints are transferable between players... so you could pay off someone to support your claim for the throne! aid your fellow brothers, friends and family.

 

Possible FEUDUMS Monetization Methods

Free Microstransactions Subscriptions,
Season Passes
Backer VIP*
Nothing

Small Purchases

Monthly / Periodic

One time

all game elements without restrictions
premium features unlockable (ads) premium features unlockable (ads or purchases) all premium features included
optional non-intrusive ads for rewards no ads no. ads. ever.
  backer exclusive rights & cosmetics 

*Backer VIP status is exclusive to Backers. It can't be obtained after the game is released.

Price Tags? 

Now this is a very tricky question, because all estimates are just numbers until you start playing - your playing behaviour may invalidate our plans right from the start and the exact pricing may vary until our actual release. Still, we want to provide the most certainty we can, so we decided to share a few key principles.

Our main idea is that while we offer all game elements for free - contrary to every single MMO strategy title we are aware of - we won’t target to take the price of multiple AAA games for playing FEUDUMS. We want to offer things for a bargain price that you never question whether it’s a fair deal. So, expect price tags for Golden Forints well below that of rival titles. It’s also worth noting that dozens of in-game achievements, the Winning Conditions and a couple other things also yield Golden Forints as well as exclusive customizations that aren’t available any other way.

We want to do what's right for everyone involved. The key take away from all of this is our solemn promise:  Feudums will be winnable without spending any of your hard-earned money.  No one will be able to spend a single cent on anything that will lead to an in-game advantage.  This is our most basic promise to our players, and we hope that you will respect that and give us the support we need to finish the game.

Make your opinions known by posting on our forums.  We want to hear from you!

Comments

StellarAngel

Jul 4 2015 says:

Great guys, it looks all so cool ! You really should implement single player for Private Worlds (or, at least, a functionnal AI so you can play with 1 or 2 friends plus tons of Bots :p ) What I see here is a bright future for the studio :) Prepare to receive my contribution to this ;)

emilycarmody

 Jul 4 2015 says:

Thanks! That's a great idea, and it certainly blends well into our single player strategy :) We'll be implenting bots for single player sooner or later, but whether in the 1.0 or in a free expansion - we're not sure yet - it'll be decided as we progress and when we have a good idea of what the community wants to see first.  Looking forward to your future contributions!

Namakwalan 

Jul 11 2015 says:

Hi, I agree with Stellar, it would be awesome if in a private world, you could either play against your mate(s), or maybe some form of AI, which you and the friends can take on the bots. Good luck, this looks so good!

Thraxas44

Jul 20 2015 says:

Customisation & Cosmetics is a great way forward and has worked well in other games, but I've only see work in first person games; those where you own and invest in a character that you spend time running around being. Then you want to make yourself 'look good' by playing 'dress up barbie' to make yourself feel comfortable/impressive/scary/powerful. I'm not sure how this will translate into turn based strategy - will I care that my castle/soldiers, that are functionally the same as everyone elses will look the same as everyone elses in the same way that I do care whether the sword that I am carrying is glowing with flaming runes and the size of a cricket bat?

.MM.

Aug 10 2015 replied:

We were hoping that others would address or discuss these concerns as we're of course biased - we think customization will work, otherwise it wouldn't be a cornerstone of our monetization strategy. In FEUDUMS, you'll have an in-game persona: your lord or lady, and a dynasty that they represent, the latter is persistent across your game sessions. So in theory, it could work to have dynasty-specific customized armies, Coat of Arms and castles; and a unique look and feel for dynasties will also blend well into the medieval setting. That's the kind of personal (in-game) branding you're also doing in MOBAs. Customizations give you style, help you deliver your message, project your character identity and make it easier to build your in-game legend. (A red flayed man, hanging upside-down on a white X-shaped cross, on a black background. Is there anyone who watches TV and still doesn’t know where that sigil belongs to? That’s personal branding in medieval style. You know what to expect the very minute you see that on a flag or shield...)

Oct 27 2015 says:

From our Twitter feed:

I just read your monetization manifesto. From my basic understanding of what you guys intend to do it sounds better than most titles I have seen. To be honest due to the pay structure for most games in your genre I avoid them like the plague. I also like what you said about lowering your prices. I cant speak for everyone but I would be way more apt to buy something in game if it did not cost $10 per purchase. I realize for several reasons you may want to have a minimum purchase amount of your in game currency, but make the actual purchases fairly cheap so that $10 lasts.

Another twitter comment:

I agree to all monetization ideas but please no ads unless not invasive.