Backbreaker studio smashes revenue records with its first freemium app

NaturalMotion: Free-to-play is mathematically better

Games and technology group NaturalMotion has become a free-to-play evangelist overnight after its first stab at the freemium business model.

The company had previously released five relatively successful paid-for iOS games, such as Jenga and Backbreaker, but its debut free-to-play project, called My Horse, is said to have broken revenue records in its first week.

"My Horse has blown everything out of the water for us in terms of downloads but also revenues: Its first weekend was much bigger than anything we’ve done before," chief executive Torsten Reil told The Guardian.

"We’re switching almost entirely to free-to-play games now. We realised a while back that even though the paid model is attractive and you can build a business out of it, it’s even more attractive to go for free-to-play. You can get to a much larger number of users, and more flexibly monetise those users."

Reil said NaturalMotion would not abandon paid games completely, but claims the free-to-play model is "mathematically better".

He added that the soft-sell approach is a better fit for free-to-play games. If you don’t punish customers for not paying, he claimed, then customers would be more eager to pay for items.

"We don’t monetise very aggressively, because we want a community of people playing the game and enjoying it, without feeling that we’re doing a hard sell," Reil said.

"Of course, a large number of people won’t spend money, but some who really value the experience become less price-sensitive in a good way. You can offer content and charge for it, and if they like it, they’ll buy it."

Almost half of App Store revenue is driven by virtual content in free-to-play games, a recent study suggested.

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