F2P Summit: Ionage developer Tim Wicksteed shares some mistakes he made when making his first free-to-play game

Five pitfalls to avoid if you’re an indie

Ionage indie developer Tim Wicksteed has shared five pitfalls for developers to avoid when creating a free-to-play game.

Speaking at the F2P Summit, Wicksteed delivered a postmortem of his space strategy title Ionage, and how he learnt how a game "isn’t about you, it’s about your users".

He said one of the first mistakes he made was to worry about the wrong audience. Focusing Ionage as a free-to-play title for core users, Wicksteed made all in-app purchases permanent, rather than consumable. Although this worked well for some players, he said this alienated the more casual free audience, who felt locked out of the game’s features.

"I was worried about the wrong audience, the core side," he admitted. "They are important don’t get me wrong, but I built my IAP structure around these guys, rather than the casual side, which is harder to please."

Wicksteed also spoke of the importance of social integration, which he originally saw as a liability, rather than an opportunity, through fear of spamming people’s social networks.

"I look at the way I think about social, that it will annoy them, and didn’t see the opportunities to add value for users," he said.

"Adding social mechanics and letting friends cooperate can be win-win, It can add value to your game. It adds viraliity as it encourages to share with your friends."

Offering a third piece of advice for developers, Wicksteed suggested writing articles for game publications to help indirectly publicise your game. He explained it was difficult to get coverage for a mobile game on the big gaming sites, particularly if you only have a few contacts, and writing content enabled him to also gain industry contacts.

"I super recommend this. Since the beginning of the year I started writing articles. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s great for free promotion and getting industry people to be aware of you. It’s actually the reason I’m here today," he said.

He added another mistake he made for Ionage was not to value his game highly enough. When the title had generated 12,000 organic users, he said he had only made £700 through in-app purchases. Wicksteed claimed had he offered to send some of his traffic to another title for a company acquiring users,the title could have potentially made much more money.

He noted that while permanent items are valid, a few consumable items will increase the lifetime value of a game.

Lastly, Wicksteed said he did not allow users to contribute to the success of the game, either via through clickable in-game ads, user-generated content or sharing the title socially, as he discussed earlier.

"If i’d made it easier for users to make those time-based contributions to the game – such as a screenshots, or sharing the loadout of upgrades – If i made it easier for my users to share that information, it makes it easier for everybody."

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