Launching is something like 10% of the overall effort. Keep your team small to start, grow when you prove your success. Don't keep on working on a second product until your first is growing and successful with its own team. Constantly check the vitals of the project, datamining and understanding what your players like and don't like.
This is a Social Experience
Develop great gameplay focused on social interaction. Encourage establishing identities and tying players to each other.
Free to play gaming isn't complicated math:
Total Revenue = Subscribers * Subscription Cost
Paying Users = Subscribers (100% of Users)
Free to Play
Total Revenue = # of Active users * Paying Rate * average revenue per user (ARPU)
Paying Users = # of Active users * Paying Rate
Financial Upside to FTP MMOs
A minority of players pay, but you're likely reaching something like 10x more players generally. Average revenue per user (ARPU) is variable, with players paying above and below. That's inclusive, meaning players can pay what the game is actually worth to them. Players who don't pay can be monetized in other ways, without item sales. ARPU and paying rate can be greatly varied. Don't go for a crazy ARPU, go for something that's sustainable.
"Sexy product placements get a lot of press, but that sort of thing isn't scalable. Video banners and scalable banners might be a better, more reliable way to monetize the game. People are used to ads, as long as they're not punished."
Nexon made close to $30 Million in 2007 in North America. Assuming a subscription price of $15, Nexon had about 160,000 paying subscribers. Assuming a small minority paid, Nexon has huge potential for monetizing its non-paying users. Nexon has enabled users who can pay to pay for other players who can't. IE: Players can trade in-game items for for-pay cash, allowing non-payers to go to the shops.
Free players are a Good Thing
Free players are content for other people. Even with a small amount of in-game content, other gamers are new experiences. Free players are viral marketing, even if they don't spend a cent. Free players can create a desire to become a paying player, sometimes. Every paying player was once a free player.
Advertising as a Replacement for PC Cafes
FTP MMOs generate revenue aside from item sales in Korea. Developers and publishers should be looking to advertising. Sexy product placements get a lot of press, but that sort of thing isn't scalable. Video banners and scalable banners might be a better, more reliable way to monetize the game. People are used to ads, as long as they're not punished.
Maintain Two Currencies
Players will not buy item with Cash if they can work for it. If they can turn time into money, they will. Cash exclusive items are a requirement, then. Single currency will affect your ability to set prices, which will lead to inflation from gold farmers. Each game they have uses Nexon cash plus their own in-game currency
Each item sold increased the ARPU. Aim to create a range of items, make sure players have lots of choice. Repeated monthly purchases. Item pricing can be drawn generally by backing from target ARPU. If you want to simulate a monthly subscription of $15, create a scenario with items that hits that amount.
Think Rental or Consumption vs. Sales
"There's a direct correlation between time and money spent. The more time a player spends in game, the more money they'll spend, and the more valuable the game will be for the player. Increased play time should be behind almost every decision you make."
Challenges the concept of collectibility, something many players enjoy. If items expire, it makes it easier for a player to walk away.
Think Outside the Closet
Cosmetics are just a small part of the possibility space. Focus on identity, competition, socialization, convenience and inspiration as ways to 'get' item creation. Time is money. If you can save the player time, you can charge them for that. Viability will change based on gender, market, focus.
Playtime and Engagement
Subscription games add content / PvP to extend the life of the game. There's a direct correlation between time and money spent. The more time a player spends in game, the more money they'll spend, and the more valuable the game will be for the player. Increased play time should be behind almost every decision you make.
Lessons on Publishing
The best developers still look for publishers simply because it's easier to capture money. The biggest challenge in free to play games is actually getting players who want to pay into your store. If you self-publish, there will be a long ramp-up time in revenue going. Trusted publishers sidestep this problem. If you are self-publishing, don't try to go global at once. There are numerous language, time zone, latency, and pricepoint issues to deal with. Look for a local operator to help you in a given market. If you can prove that you're successful at home, it will be much easier to get established abroad.
General terms for publishing a free to play game is 2-3 years with renewal options. Successful developers can demand an initial fee, and the minimum guarantee to the developer is highly variable. The royalty payout to the developer, again, depends on the quality of the product and the individual developers. Developers deliver builds and content updates, while the publisher does just about everything else. Ensure that your team is dedicated to a game and a market. This insures the title is really successful in a given area of the world. Publishers need a proven track record as well, on the flip side.