Develop Conference: Free-to-play is the best way to spread your brand, says Snappy Touch

Word of mouth ‘the only marketing that matters’

Recommendations from people you know has become the most lucrative form of marketing in the digital age, a free-to-play evangelist has said during a Develop Conference speaker session..

Noel Llopis, whose business Snappy Touch has thrived from the free-to-play model, said opening a game to thousands for free can spread your brand like wildfire.

“Word of mouth is the only marketing that matters,” he said.

“It’s remarkable how true this is, especially on the App Store where people can buy things super fast.

Llopis told the crowd that a good free game will have people advertise for you.

“This might not be obvious, but if you have a lot of people enjoying your game, pretty fast the word will spread to an even wider audience.”

And, particularly in the age of social networks, a free game can thrive from its reputation, Llopis said.

“If your game is good enough, people will encourage each other to pay for it too,” he said.


Llopis, clearly a believer in a new economy for games, urged developers to break away from old models of selling content.

DLC add-ons will only amount to about 8-10% of a full game’s revenues, Llopis believed.

“Studios spend so much time investing in building the end of the game, but only a fraction of people complete full triple-A games. I’m surprised studios build all this content just for a few people,” he said.

“If you allow people to play your game at different price points, then the possibilities will grow.

“Free-to-play gaming taps into the player’s natural social need to stand out among your neighbours. Assuming you have a reasonable game, a percentage of players will be willing to pay to stand out or break ahead,” he said.

“Eighty-90 % of profits from freemium games comes from 0.5 per cent of users. One per cent of users are responsible for 25-50 per cent of Zynga’s total revenues. Six per cent of Skype customers account for almost all of the company’s revenues.”

He concluded: “A lot of developers are threatened by free-to-play, in fact I’ve never seen a group more threatened by this model than game studios. They need to abandon fixed-price games now. We’re in the digital age. Soon free-to-play will become a dominant pricing model.”

Taking questions from the floor, Llopis was asked whether the prevalence of free-to-play would narrow possible design choices for developers.

“In a way the situation is the same when the touch interface was introduced. Some games are excluded because they’re not a natural fit, but I believe there is a way around everything,” he said.

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