Although we may not like it, we have to pay for video games in some way, shape, or form. Developing video games takes a lot of time, so there’s usually a whole team of people working on them for months or years at a time.
These people need to put a roof over their heads, food on their tables and clothes on their backs, so they need a salary. And where does that salary come from? Gamers paying for the titles that they play.
For most of the video gaming history, we’ve paid upfront for each new release and received either a physical disc, cartridge, or a digital download in return. There have always been some exceptions, for example, online casinos have always made their money by having players make real money bets on games, with the exception of the free bets and bonuses they offer to new customers.
Targeting Casual Gamers
That changed recently though as publishers began targeting casual gamers who were less willing to pay to download a game. Around 85% of all gamers are happy to download titles to their smartphone or computer, but only 55% are willing to hand over money for the privilege.
With around 2.5 billion gamers around the world, that leaves 750 million people who wouldn’t play games if they had to pay upfront. This is where the free-to-play games come in.
Gamers can download a new title and play it without spending a penny. The publishers instead make money from selling additional items in the game, such as lives, tools, weapons, and character outfits.
The Future or a Fad?
These free-to-play games have been around for over a decade now and have matured a lot in that time. They are incredibly profitable, with Fortnite generating most of its almost $3 billion of revenue through microtransactions.
According to Sensor Tower, Fortnite generated the second-highest earnings on the iPhone in the US in the first half of April 2020, behind Netflix and ahead of Tinder, Pandora, and YouTube.
Call of Duty: Mobile, another free-to-play game reached 250 million downloads in less than nine months, and generated over $300 million in revenue during that time too. In 2018 alone, the Candy Crush series of games generated more than $1.5 billion in sales. That equates to players spending more than $4.1 million every single day of the year.
Given the popularity of these games among players and the huge revenues they generate for their developers, it seems likely that free-to-play titles will be around for the foreseeable future.