IAP Roundtrip

Territory Wars has during its short life had a varying business model. Mostly because we're new when it comes to monetization models for games, specifically mobile games.

Our first intent was having two versions of the client, one free, supported by ads, the other paid, with no ads. That was the only difference between the two. On top of that, we had some in-app-purchases (IAP) to enable game modes and buy extra game slots. These were linked to a player's account, so unlocking on one device would keep it unlocked everywhere for that player.

The three unlockable game modes are Capital mode, where each player has a capital tile which they must not lose, Boosted tiles, where tiles can be upgraded to give boosts in attack success rate, defense success rate or growth rate, and Fog of War, where each player only can see their own tiles and their adjacent tiles. 

Each player also only had three game slots by default, and could purchase extra game slots to play more games simultaneously.

We thought this was a fair way of implementing IAP, as we wanted to give something of value for the players' money, and not only creating artificial "slowness" in the game progress as many other Freemium games do.

The reactions weren't quite as we had envisioned. Some thought it was silly to unlock game modes one by one, with three IAP transactions needed to get access to the full game. Some thought we were greedy limiting the number of game slots, and selling one or three game slots as a purchase. Others were confused that the paid version didn't include the "entire game", even if we had done our best to make it clear in the app description that the paid version only removed the ads.

But there was also quite some positive feedback regarding the game itself.

We also got some very nice constructive feedback via mail from a few of our users, which is an encouraging event, as it shows that someone cares about what we're trying to make.

All in all, we decided to take the feedback into account and removed the concept of purchasing game slots, now giving all players 20 game slots (which should suffice for most people, and still prevent spamming our servers), and refactoring the IAP model to only have a single purchase: Premium content.

This single purchase unlocked all extra game modes, but was still a necessary purchase regardless of which client (paid or free) was used.

However, we still continued to get some negative feedback regarding IAP, and there still was the confusion regarding the two app versions.

We discussed this in the team, and agreed that we didn't want to risk the success of the game spreading to more users due to bad feedback regarding a monetization model that wasn't really bringing us a lot cash anyway. The negative feedback is very visible during the launch of a new app. In the end we removed the IAP completely, giving the extra game modes to all using the paid version of the app, while removing the option to unlock this content in the free app (after all, if you want to spend money on the game, you probably would like the ads to go away when doing so).

So that's where we're at today. Two versions, free with ads, or the paid premium version with all content unlocked.

A positive side effect of the round trip is that all mechanisms for playing with premium features are present in both client versions. We are using this right now to give all players using the free client free access to all game modes during the Holidays. We just needed to make some updates on our server to make that happen. We hope this will let more players see the interesting aspects of the game and its additional game modes, keeping them playing for longer, and hopefully encouraging them to buy the premium version.

As of now, our primary goal is to get a firm user base established that will keep the game alive, and keep the waiting times short so new players aren't discouraged from playing.