Part one in our guide to keeping the lights on and the plate full

Starting a new game is an exciting time. But in today’s app marketplace building a game with a solid business model behind it is paramount to your success. Over the course of this series, we’ll be teaching you the basics of Free to Play (f2p) monetization so that you can stay independent, improve the budget for your future games, and keep food on the table.

Free 2 Learn

The first step is to sync up our vocabulary. We’ll be using the following words quite a bit, so it’s important to have a quick introduction in order to understand the deeper relationships later in the series. Therefore, we’re going to start at the high level, defining some terms and illustrating their places in the f2p puzzle.

The basics you need to get started are Acquisition, Retention, and Conversion. Monetization Infographic


Acquisition is the process of turning potential players into actual players. Depending on how niche your game is, its potential audience could be huge or tiny. Yet without a solid acquisition plan, there will be a bunch of potential fans that never discover the joy of playing your game.

The bulk of acquisition comes from solid marketing, but it can also be assisted by designing viral components into the game itself or performing paid user acquisition.


Retention is the art of keeping the players that you already have playing for as long as possible. This is easily the largest diversion from a traditional packaged game. A packaged, ‘complete’ game needs an end, a point of satisfaction where the player has ‘finished’ the game. In f2p, the game must be instead designed as a service. A series of mechanics that reward the player for sticking around as long as possible.

Opposite of Retention is Churn. Churn measures the percentage of your playerbase which quits playing from month to month. Although players quitting the game is inevitable, it’s our goal to minimize the points of frustration that might lead to a player quitting prematurely. Popular places to look for reducing these stress points are UI/UX clarity and flow, FTUE (First Time User Experience), streamlining Controls, and balance/difficulty tuning.


Saving the best for last, we have conversion. Conversion is the art of transforming a player into a paying player. The key to conversion is providing the player something they want to purchase at a price too amazing to ignore. To do this, it’s important to understand your audience and their basic motivations in order to provide something they deem valuable enough to dip into their wallet. Once a player has made an initial purchase, you can sell them future, in-game goods at a more sustainable price.

Delving Deeper

This was just a high level flyover of the basics of f2p game monetization. As you can see, it’s pretty complicated, but hopefully this overview can get you started down the path to sustainability. Stay tuned for the next post where we start breaking down acquisition!

UI Artist by Day, Tech Artist by Night

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