Dev Diary #7 : Booster packs and monetizationSubscribe to RSS

May 07, 2015

As soon as our Kickstarter went live, we had players messaging us and saying that they love the idea behind the game, but that free to play makes them uncomfortable. 

We couldn't agree more. 

The free to play model, as most of us have come to know it, has traditionally been associated with a less than stellar experience, uninspired game mechanics and an overpowering influence of a cash-shop. 

But that was over 10 years ago and things change over time.

Today, we get to enjoy a variety of awesome experiences that don’t require an upfront payment. Games like Hearthstone, Warframe, Heroes of the Storm and many others have shown that free to play games can be fun and rewarding, without compromising on quality. 

Gone is the over-powering cash-shop. It has now been replaced with reasonable convenience items and cool flair. Gone are the more shallow systems and uninspired game mechanics. All of this has led to an increase in what we expect as players from free to play games. 

That is the kind of approach we plan to follow with Starfall Tactics.

Our team has taken a page from digital card games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering for a reason – they provide an experience that we feel is enjoyable and fair. 

A couple of times, we’ve been asked by fellow developers – “Why are you relying on booster packs as your main source of income? You have a niche title, so you can charge a premium box price and monetize future updates!” 

At Snowforged, we believe that being generous to players is essential for the long-term success of Starfall Tactics.

Rather than holding back on booster packs, we plan to give them out to players on a regular basis, over the course of the game. It is our hope that this will encourage players to use and purchase booster packs more frequently and enjoying doing so, rather than treating them as some sort of commodity. 

We also believe that if you, our players, enjoy the game, then you are much more likely to tell your friends about it. In this case, trying to immediately force monetization would be detrimental to our long-term goals. 

After all, it’s a game, so we want you to have fun =)

Another important thing that modern free to play games do well is staying free throughout the course of the experience. 

In games like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm, there is always a pool of free heroes available. You don’t have to pay for any hero/champion, unless you like playing with that particular character. 

We plan to adhere to the same principle in Starfall Tactics. How exactly does this translate into our game mechanics?

For example, you see a tactical pack for sale that contains a pack of pre-built spaceships with some new modules. 

Quick reminder – modules are like skills that you can equip in your spaceship. 

It might help to think of these modules as different cards in a game like Hearthstone. Cards of the same level/tier are not inherently ‘better’ than each other, just different. Each of them can be viable in a certain deck or fit a certain playstyle.

Our goal is for modules to increase the availability of different tools at your disposal - new ways of moving around the map, different effects on ships, etc., rather than giving you direct power (+10 damage). 

In addition, we believe that the fleet cost system is a great tool for balancing these interactions and preventing scenarios where one player can easily win simply because they have more modules. 

In Starfall Tactics, every spaceship costs Tech Points. Bigger ships cost more TP, as well as ships with more equipment and rare modules.

There is a limit on the total cost of your fleet at any particular tier. So it will be up to you, the player to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a particular ship build or fleet composition. 

Why is this approach better than simply selling you an overpowered module with over 9000 damage and allowing you to use it in any match? 

The answer is quite simple. Even if you don’t pay us a dime, it is in our best interest for you to continue playing, without feeling like you have to pay in order to win a game. 

Eventually, you might see something that you like in the cash shop, be it a cool skin or the latest team pack with an unusual module that you’d like to try. As a result, we hope you will enjoy the purchase, rather than feel it was forced upon you. 

Hopefully, this sheds some light on our philosophy with regards to doing free to play right. 

We like booster packs and hope you will as well ;) 


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May 2015