back to school for monetization

Ethical Monetization?

Last week I took a day trip to Helsinki for a “Monetization in Games” seminar at the Aalto Design Factory. The focus was on how to do monetization “effectively and ethically”, and I’m a fan of at least one of those.

There wasn’t actually a lot of talk about ethics during the seminar. I wish I could say it’s because monetization experts are naturally ethical and make good choices, but we all remember Zynga. That said, I was impressed by a couple of the lecturers: Oscar Clark of Fundamentally Games and Jakub Marek at Cellense.

Marek had the more technical presentation. Cellense does sophisticated business intelligence for mobile game makers (including some of my clients), with a focus on customer behavior. Marek’s case study focused on a Finnish racing game that doubled its response to special offers.

The Cellense team created a model that divided customers according to which vehicles they used most in the game. The customers responded best to offers that improved their most-used vehicles.

That finding may sound a little obvious. But I rarely see product managers focusing on how the customers play. Most monetization starts with “I want to sell this” and not “What does the customer really want?”. It’s exciting to see an approach that starts with a genuine question.

Boning Up on Monetization

Oscar Clark’s “Barebones Monetization” lecture hit upon a similar theme. He covered a variety of approaches, centered on a long list of questions that I’m going to be using as a checklist for some time to come. What I really liked, however, is his take on getting repeat purchases.

Clark presented a key question: how do you build delight and anticipation for the next stage of a player’s purchasing? It’s not just the fun of unboxing — that bit of razzmatazz has been part of the design toolbox for a while.

Instead, Clark turns the focus back on how the player uses the purchase. He specifically called out Infinity Blade’s swords full of XP, which kept rewarding the player for using all of their toys. Like Marek, he looks at what players are actually doing and uses that behavior to encourage further purchases.

That’s a powerful tool, one that needs to come out of the toolbox more often. And hey — selling players things they want and will actually use over and over again? That seems like pretty ethical monetization to me.