To Mr. M*****, Re: “Free-to-Play” Revenue Streams:
The Synergistic Revenue Enhancement Task Force you had me assemble brainstormed these over the weekend. Some are tried and true free-to-play formulas, but some are truly innovative in the field of “stickin’ ‘em forwards and back,” as you put it in the memo.
I cannot stress this enough: we have not run all of these by legal yet. Some of them are potentially problematic. Whatever we can get away with, though, is bound to rake in a steady flow of income for D****** LLC and its partners.
The Premium Currency
Establish two currencies usable for items in-game: one that is acquired, preferably in amounts nobody could ever spend, from regular game activity (“bulk”) and one that can only be purchased with real money (“scrip”). Maybe throw them some free samples every so often, but never enough to do anything with. If players begin hoarding these, start creating items in the in-game store that are necessary to advance and cost seemingly-minute amounts of scrip. Or just jack up the prices on everything else, they won’t notice.
The Golden Goose
Create a system (which is perpetually advertised as a limited time offer but never revoked) where a ludicrous amount of experience points or the equivalent is given out for each dollar converted into premium currency. This will ensure that paying customers (“whales”) advance at a rate much quicker than casual players (“barnacles”). To ensure repeat business, make sure that all in-game items that are unlocked for purchase at higher levels are highly desirable and only available for scrip.
Every so often, if a player collects more items and currency than they can possibly do anything with, find an infraction to ban their account for or make one up if you can’t.
Launch an update that changes the game so radically that players’ inventories are wiped or existing items are rendered useless or less powerful. Don’t do this too often, because it requires us to actually add meaningful content to the game, which is not cost-effective.
Create seasonal items that are promoted as one-time deals but come back every year. These should only be available for scrip, except for a handful of less desirable items that can be bought for bulk but are designed in some way to encourage purchasing the complete set. Successive years should introduce new items and then roll out previous years’ items afterward, thus ensuring that players buy the new items before realizing there are more things to spend their money on that they missed last time. If this doesn’t work, create situations where previously cosmetic items suddenly have important gameplay value.
Advertise an item that costs more scrip than a single account is allowed to possess. Let rumors circulate for a while about how it can be acquired, then offer a bigger “wallet” a few weeks later for an exorbitant price. Around this time, a bafflingly large scrip package should be introduced that represents a large savings on paper but costs a huge amount of money. The availability of pricier packages makes the mid-price ones seem cheaper.
Introduce a ludicrously expensive item that basically solves the game entirely. Once they start selling, alleviate customer boredom by introducing high-end content that the item doesn’t help with (we call this stuff “Hell Mode”). Do this every time an appreciable number of players reach the “end” of the game.
At a certain interval, hold “special events” that offer fabulous prizes but crank up the difficulty of even the lower levels of the game into heights the likes of which even seasoned players find unfathomable. When barnacles complain, create false players on the game’s forums and mock the lower-level players for not being good enough at the game. Once their will is broken, tell them that “real players” spend money on the game.
The Money Sword
Once enough players are engaged in impossibly intense levels of difficulty via a Sisyphean stream of endgame content, new players will become intimidated by the advanced state of other players and feel a pointless, seemingly unattainable need to “catch up.” This should be responded to by introducing items geared toward allowing players to advance from square one to the stratosphere very quickly. The items available for bulk should appear to be sufficient for this but should only be good enough to lure players into buying exorbitantly expensive scrip items.
The Highway to Hell
Create the hardest challenge you can possibly imagine for the top tier of players and charge to get in, luring players in with the promise of exclusive prizes that may or may not exist.
Release “experimental” endgame content that flat out doesn’t work. If we can erase loot drops or bug items payers already have out of existence, that’s ideal, but legal says that might constitute fraud.