A new trend that has started to appear in gaming recently is a new spin on the free to play model being touted as ‘view to play’. The model works be ensuring people watch adverts within games by offering rewards such as currency or boosts in exchange for watching.
This was brought to my attention through the iOS App, AdVenture Capitalist in which you build a business empire and receive boosts in profit in exchange for watching a short, targeted ad. This works incredibly well in this game as you trade a small amount of time (usually 20-30 seconds) for a 4 hour boost in profits for your companies. For this game it works very well but is it a business model that is here to stay?
The traditional methods of free to play either include ad banners, in game transactions, the selling of personal data or a mix of these options to fund their game. Aside from a few notable exceptions the vast majority of these games struggle to turn enough profit to sustain a full time team. So to work out whether view to play is going to stick around we have to look at the benefits of view to play as a revenue streams.
Ads in games pay the developer based on interaction and engagement with the adverts that they provide. This means that the developer earns money based on how many people click on or view the advert and the amount that they earn per click is very small. This makes it beneficial to developers to give you a good reason to view the ad and provide you with something in return. So how is view to play beneficial?
First of all, the view to play model costs the player nothing financially and only a small amount of time. This is huge when it comes to gaming as everybody likes getting something for nothing and it also creates a feeling of value in a game. Microtransactions on the other hand live or die on whether the player has excess money to spend on the game and in a lot of cases, especially where children are the target demographic, this can be a huge issue.
The second thing that view to play has going for it is that it guarantees engagement with the advert which is beneficial for the advertiser. Traditional banner ads usually earn the developer no money until the user clicks on the advert. This causes two problems. The first issue is that having the adverts in the game has no guarantee of any profit. This causes the second issue which is that some devs will design their game in a way that makes it hard to avoid tapping the ads which can be frustrating to deal with. By rewarding you for your engagement with the ads it both encourages you to click them and encourages the developer to make a good game instead of a game that will force you to click ads that you don’t want to.
So this all looks good so far, but what are the downsides? As with everything else in the gaming world, it is open to exploitation or poor implementation by developers. From paywalls to be competitive in multiplayer to games that require payment to pass week long build times, the games industry will always have developers that will exploit payment streams or not implement them in a fair or engaging way. This will happen with view to play and it will happen with whatever the next revenue stream is, and gamers will have to watch out for these badly designed games as they do already.
So is view to play here to stay? Yes, I believe it is. Will there be bad use of view to play along the way? You can put money on it. But will great view to play games be made and enjoyed by millions of people around the world? Absolutely, and the developers that create these well designed and well made experiences will earn the money that they deserve for their good work.