A Hard Paywall Can Be A Huge Barrier Between A Customer And Paying You

from the how-not-to-succeed dept

Paywalls are one of those things that have had us scratching our heads for a while. We had questioned the New York Times for its paywall and have shown that it might not be quite as successful as it claims. The main problem with such paywalls is that people don't like to have their use of a product interrupted and further use blocked unless they pay. Such reactions are not limited to online news either. Other forms of media have much the same issue. 

Over at Games Brief, a number of game developers were asked about paywalls in games and whether they should be used at all.

Harry Holmwood writes: “A colleague and I downloaded New Star Soccer at the airport and were playing it on a flight back from Germany last week, got hooked, but then hit the ‘hard payment’ point where we had to pay to continue the career. As we were on a plane at that point we couldn’t do the IAP and had to stop playing. Over the weekend I was tempted to pay and play but didn’t bother – the moment was lost, and I suspect now I won’t do it at all.”

Are hard paywalls a good idea, or should you always make it possible for players to keep playing?

While most developers were pretty varied in their opinions on this question, the general theme is that putting up walls in front of the consumer and preventing them from playing more is something that should be avoided. Take this comment from Philip Reisberger from Bigpoint.

In general, we’ve seen that it’s most important to have the users playing. Monetization is always to be regarded as consequence of gameplay. There are some really core-style titles where a hard paywall is possible, but I’d regard this rather as an exception than the norm.

While it is possible for such hard paywalls to make some money, it would be better to have as many people playing as possible. As soon as a person is no longer able to play, they are less likely to pay into the game. The question then goes to how do you get those people to pay if they can play for free? This is where opinions vary widely. 

By allowing a consumer to continuously play, you can provide multiple opportunities for the consumer to evaluate how much they actually value the game they are playing. This is where proper selling of freemium options comes into play. If you have already sold the person on the game itself as something fun to play, then the next step is to sell them on the extras. This can be done by showing them how the core experience can be enhanced by such extras. As Tadhg Kelly of What Games Are explains.

In some cases (Temple Run, Bejewelled Blitz) it’s the same. They basically sell boosters and cheats to make better score runs, and since the core action of the game is so compelling it’s more likely over time that you will buy. Bringing a money-now question into that dynamic is inappropriate for the same reasons as the grind game.

The core issue to remember with paywalls is that it is very difficult to convince someone that paying for the ability to keep playing something they have been playing for free is a very tough sell if all they are getting is just more of the same experience. You need to sell them on an expanded experience, one that they wouldn't otherwise get if they were playing for free. Of course, there is no one way to do it. There are a variety of market factors that can determine how and when you go about charging your customer.

Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO of nDreams, sums up this overall market reality. 

I’d be very wary about ever saying that a particular model/route is ‘the correct one’ or that you should ‘never’ do something. Every game is different and every platform is different. In PlayStation Home, where we publish most of our games, it’s beginning to appear that ‘paymium’ may be the most commercial route given the size of the audience, their propensity to pay and the ease of generating awareness. But on iOS, being new to the platform, freemium is the only model that makes sense to us currently.

FYI, I don’t believe the gaming world will end up existing purely of games that you can play forever with continuous loops, return mechanics and daily bonuses. I believe there will always be games that have a beginning and an end and a strong linear storyline. For these kind of games, I’m not convinced that freemium is necessarily the correct approach.

This variation in the marketplace would then allow for many different ideas of monetization both good and bad, both successful and unsuccessful. However, putting barriers between the consumer and your goods makes it more difficult for that consumer to buy. Look back at the original question. Because of external circumstances at the time of hitting the paywall, that potential customer was not able to process a transaction. That delay then led him to rethink the idea of purchase and, as far as we know, he has not made a purchase, even though he enjoyed the part of the game he played. Why would you want to limit your potential to make money in such a way?

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Comments on “A Hard Paywall Can Be A Huge Barrier Between A Customer And Paying You”

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20 Comments
Ninjasays:

I like the Humble Bundle approach personally. But as wisely pointed I’d be very wary about ever saying that a particular model/route is ?the correct one? or that you should ?never? do something simply because there’s no universal model.

As a good file sharer I will always try to find the complete game regardless but there are instances where you simply feel a whole world of value in the game even before reaching the end and simply buy it. To date I’ve never bought a game that made me regret later but I surely avoided buying games that disappointed me after progressing in it.

I don’t think hardpay walls in them self’s are inherently a bad idea so long as they are flagged and optional. Take for example if I’m not interested in the mulitplayer aspect of a game why is it not an option just to buy the single player at a reduced price with the option to add in the mulitplayer as paid DLC later on?

To go a step fuhrer lets look at single player games. Why can’t I opt to buy in discrete chunks? Pick up the first 1/4 of the game and pay for the rest when and if I want it? Could be you buy the full lot and get a discount or pay extra but for the control of when you pick up that content. Not sure about a game? buy the first part and see what you make of it.

Hard pay walls are only going to be an issue where a game is trying to hook people in with a free to play lead in.

Re: Re:

I don’t think hardpay walls in them self’s are inherently a bad idea so long as they are flagged and optional. Take for example if I’m not interested in the mulitplayer aspect of a game why is it not an option just to buy the single player at a reduced price with the option to add in the mulitplayer as paid DLC later on?

EA beat you to it. Most EA (console) games nowadays require a unique code, which comes packaged with the game, in order to access multiplayer or other “bonus” content. If you have a used copy, or rent through gamefly as I often do, they kindly offer the ability to purchase said content for $10.

There were games that I would have considering purchasing from gamefly (with code intact), and possibly even further dlc, but because I had restricted or no access to multiplayer, they lost out on sales. Hard pay walls rarely work after I’ve (perhaps indirectly, but still) already forked over cash for the game in question. I still, despite an entire industry trying to convince me otherwise, believe that if I’ve paid for a game upfront, I own said game, and charging me to use my own property is simply absurd.

Overcastsays:

Does it really matter if one was to agree or not? There are literally thousands of free to play games out there.

Why bother with one that requires cash up front to play? Unless it’s a title you’ve maybe played elsewhere, for free, first, and know you like it.

At the very least, a free demo is almost required in gaming now, there are too many out there to assume any one of them are really any good. Plus, if I have 50 choices, why start with the ones that cost up front? May as well start with the free ones, then maybe, if none of the free ones are any good, I might… take a chance and pay for a game then find out if I like it.

But those days, for me as a consumer, are mostly over. Don’t think I’ve bought a game in two years that I didn’t try first somehow.

Tim Ksays:

Re: Re:

At the very least, a free demo is almost required in gaming now, there are too many out there to assume any one of them are really any good.

This is one of the reasons why I think the OOYA will be interesting, as they said that every game available for it will be required to have some free to play aspect, whether it’s a demo, or it as a freemium style game.

Lowestofthekeyssays:

Re: Re:

It’s weird how the internet has not only made it easier to create and market your own music, but also your own games. Unfortunately, when it comes to market saturation you end up with the problem you outlined of there thousands of free to play games. It’s hard to navigate between what’s worthwhile and what’s not.

The one pattern I’ve found is that if a branded company makes a game I like, I usually enjoy the other games the company creates whether they’re free or pay to play. Unfortunately, too many companies don;t feel like they need to build a trust between themselves and the consumer.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re:

Yes, this is me. The issue isn’t even whether or not I am OK with paying, it’s that I’m lazy.

If I’m playing a game/reading an article/whatever, and my flow is disrupted such that to continue I need to engage is some kind of hassle (pull out my wallet, type in numbers etc.), it isn’t going to happen. I’m also not going to be using any micropayments processor or have an account that stores my credit card info, so I don’t see any way of greasing that skid.

If I find value in the experience, I will pay for it, either by buying a premium version or by donating to a tip jar, or whatever. But that won’t happen while I’m in the middle of enjoying it.

hobosays:

Re: Re:

The point you wanted to make but were unable to, I think, was that paywalls can work. Which point was made in the article.

“While it is possible for such hard paywalls to make some money, it would be better to have as many people playing as possible. As soon as a person is no longer able to play, they are less likely to pay into the game.”

However, to be fair, it’s not a hard paywall. So your example, while poetic and uplifting, does not apply.

Thank you for playing, conical pyramid housing unit.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, but what you point out is that the article is creating a bit of a strawman. There are few HARD blocks these days, almost every piece of software out there has a demo mode or a “try before you buy” model, or what have you. A HARD paywall wouldn’t have let them play the soccer game at all.

Since reality of pay for access / pay for download / pay for rights is literal shades or grey (and not specifically 50), it’s hard to take this article seriously because they seem intent on looking at something that almost never exists, and then claiming it’s bad.

Can you cite an example of an actual hard paywall thing that entirely, completely, and totally blocks people off from something? There aren’t all that many.

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