The Zombie Tunnel O’ Money: Seedy Biz #2

(Part two a series looking at the seedier side of game business. Part one looks at evil user acquisition tactics.)

For those game-crafters of a certain bent (i.e. burdened with the desire to provide fun user experiences), it’s tough to use the term “monetization” with a straight face. The very word conjures up the image of a forlorn soul stumbling through a slimy, dark, corridor while ganglia of detached zombie arms pluck as many shekels as possible from the poor sucker’s pockets.

But of course, the best designed free to play games make the transaction a core part of the experience. The tapping in of the “verify purchase” password becomes the launch code of a super-weapon, and the minor pain of the spend only amplifies the joy of victory when the investment pays off.

But some apps aren’t quite as sophisticated. Take a “quiz game” like Vampire or Not by the ironically named Free.Kompany.

The experience starts with a modicum of actual artistry and intrigue:


Answer some stock multiple choice questions, pulled from a circa 1990 web quiz.

“Do YOU like the morning or the night?”

Then… wait for it… the “player” must pony up $2.99 to get the answer. A green arrow guides you to the proper choice in case you are in doubt:

Surely a small price to pay to learn the dreaded truth about your Transylvanian bloodline.

The grossing ranks aren’t up there with Clash of Clans, but indicate that a good percentage of people are unwary, drunk, or little-kid-pestering-harried-mom enough to tap BUY.

Looking at the ratio of grossing over chart rank, Vampire or Not‘s conversion rate kicks the ass of most other games, giving a lifetime customer value high enough to support the cheap flow of ad bids. Buy off a few fake reviews to balance the torrent of pissed off consumers, and… Instant profit!

This tactic must have really cleaned up back in the day, before re-entering your iTunes password was required to unlock the In-App Purchase.

So the game bites. I’m not suggesting, however, that apps like this shouldn’t be approved by Apple or should be banned. It seems to fall within the boundaries of the rules, and all’s fair in free market warfare.

On one hand, this shows how easy it is to monetize — just friggin’ ask!

On the other, though, it highlights the precariousness of the whole venture. We need to tread carefully. Even if it doesn’t take much cleverness to pluck shekels from players, we’d be well-served to craft our monetization systems and the experiences they unlock as the gently outstretched hand of a pal offering his buddy a good deal… Because once a player gets bitten by too many zombies or vampires, he’ll stop opening up his door at all to strangers lost in the night.

Continue on to Part 3: Clone Home 


3 thoughts on “The Zombie Tunnel O’ Money: Seedy Biz #2

  1. Pingback: Clone Home: Seedy Biz #3 | Shakespearean Cybermonkey

  2. Pingback: A Walk on the Wild Side | Shakespearean Cybermonkey

  3. Pingback: Drill, Baby, Drill! – Seedy Biz #1 | Shakespearean Cybermonkey

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