How Free Games Like Pokémon Go Actually Make Money
Many of the world’s most popular games are free, but they still manage to make tons of money. Here’s a simple explanation of how they work and why they can get people to spend their money on something that is technically 100% free.
This video from the Vox YouTube channel explains the complex world of free games and their business model. These games use the basics of behavioral psychology to get you hooked and spent on basic gameplay. Here are some of the most important techniques they use:
- They have a virtual currency with a complex exchange rate like gems, gold or coins, so you don’t feel like spending real money. This is similar to how much easier it is to spend money with a card than with cash.
- Buying virtual currency is instant and painless. With one touch or click, your money will be spent without you even realizing it. But other parts of the game are tedious and painful, which makes the urge to “pay to win” much stronger. Basically, the developers take the convenience away but offer it to the players for a fee.
- Only a small percentage of players end up paying for free games, but this group is spending a lot of money. These so-called “whales” keep these games afloat.
Of course, some free games are worse than others. For example, the real money store in Pokémon Go is pretty unobtrusive. While the items in the store provide some convenience for you, they are more about improving your playstyle rather than removing painful obstacles. However, that hasn’t stopped the game from making more money than any other app on the Apple and Google app stores.