10 Leading Strategies to Monetise Freemium Social Games

Mark Stephens

With so many social games being free to play, how can the poor game developers (like us) earn a crust? In-game advertising has made some progress but is still not yet well-accepted by players, so the main way a game can pay for itself is for players to spend money. That’s easy to say and much harder to do, but below are ten ways that are worth considering…


1. ‘Standard’ monetisation approaches

There is a group of ‘standard’ monetisation strategies that freemium games have been using since their early days. This includes paying to unlock game levels and buying virtual goods that help you perform better in a game. The likes of Candy Crush Saga have made huge amounts of money from this ‘numbers game’, where the more players there are the more spenders there are.

2. Encourage generosity

A more creative way of convincing people to part with a dollar or two in your game is to appeal to their sense of generosity. Why not allow buying of virtual goods or ‘secondary currencies’ to be sent to friends to help their game-playing experience?

3. Create VIP status

Allow players to become VIPs in your game – if they are prepared to pay a small premium for the privilege. Show players how they can become ‘special’ and how they benefit by gaining status within your game network. This appeals to their sense of self-esteem and is a popular feature of Asian games – ‘badges of recognition’ for instance.

4. Offer subscriptions

Another standard retail practice that works in the real world is subscriptions. While it is more problematical to include this in a freemium game, try to get creative and develop a way to set up a subscription service for in-game benefits. This could be linked to the VIP status mentioned previously and discounted for longer subscription terms.

5. In-game boosts

Nothing feels quite so good to struggling players than the opportunity to boost performance and get round a blockage to their progress in a game. Players don’t want to quit. The key is to offer the boost at just the right time to appeal to a player’s frustration and be able to turn them into a temporary superhero…


6. Daily rewards

One of the keys to a social game’s success is making it part of a daily routine for players. If you make it a necessity to log in every day and reward it, you may be able to offer players who miss days (and therefore miss chances of a prize) a paid way back to claim their prize?

7. Encourage Player Vs. Player

Player versus player games create more emotion-charged environments and sense of competition. In this context players are more likely to do anything to win – include paying for it! The more that players are encouraged to invite their friends and acquaintances, the greater the sense of competition AND the greater potential for generosity (buying gifts for friends – see Point 2).

8. Be generous yourself

When we are generous ourselves it is more likely to be reciprocated. By extension, when players feel like they are getting something valuable for free – a free product, or just advice or praise – then positive feelings are generated. Giving away or ‘lending’ items or boosts costs us nothing, tutors the player in how this in-game currency enriches their experience, and engenders an environment that is more conducive to players making purchases.

9. A second chance

When players have come to a premature end before they have completed a stage or level of a game, giving them a second chance can be a powerful incentive to make a purchase of a new life. If this is used selectively it can be very effective.

10. Buy now or the price goes up

If you can show players that buying now will be cheaper than waiting, it creates time pressure and a call to action. Inflation is a concept that people are familiar with in the real world, and so there is potential to use it within a game.
How many of these have you come across in the games you play or develop? Are there any major strategies I have missed? Let us know in the comments section below.