In the decades since video games first started their incessant progress to become one of the world’s most favourite pastimes a great deal has changed. It would be fair to say that the business model for most developers is unrecognisable from the early days. Back then games may have been simpler but they still took a great deal of development time and this was paid for by the purchase price of the game in question.
Players paid the price, bought the game in the relevant format and played it on their choice of console. This was a system that worked well for everyone: for the games developers, the console makers and the players themselves.
But the internet revolution of a couple of decades ago changed all that. Online games appeared which no longer needed to be sold in their physical form on disk but could be downloaded directly. This obviously was good news for the gaming industry in one respect – no longer did they have to produce so many CD-ROMs or invest in costly packaging designs. But alongside this, there came another issue.
The more sophisticated games became, the more expensive they became to produce. One only has to look at the time that it took to develop Red Dead Redemption to appreciate the massive investment in cash and effort that goes into creating a game.
However, there is a ceiling amount that most people are prepared to pay for even the most exciting game, so other revenue streams had to be explored. One of the most effective of these has been to encourage in-game bonuses that need to be paid for.
Then, one has to consider the other kinds of online games that are free to download and play and exactly how they’re going to recoup the large development costs that they have involved. These, not surprisingly, rely even more heavily on offering players bonus features that they can pay for to enhance their enjoyment of the game. The fact that many games are extremely immersive in nature and create virtual worlds for players to inhabit has a strong influence on their willingness to purchase.
The Fortnite phenomenon
A classic example of this is the game Fortnite. Although free to download and play, within its first year it netted its developers, Epic Games, an incredible $1.2 billion in revenue. It achieved this largely by allowing players to exchange real currency for V-bucks that can be used to buy extra in game features including skins for the characters and release dances and game modes. Let’s not forget, it’s the game that introduced “flossing” to a waiting world.
By making the purchase prices for these bonus features between around $2 and $20 – that’s about 200 to 2000 V-bucks – the amounts involved aren’t huge. Nevertheless, when research was carried out, it was found that nearly 70% of Fortnite fans had made in-game purchases, averaging $84.67 each – more than many would consider paying for the game itself.
The other huge success story of recent times has, of course, been Pokemon GO. Its addictive mix of augmented reality and a fun and social aspect that it shares with Fortnite helped it make $2 billion in the space of two years for its creators Niantic. Again, this was through in-app purchases releasing bonus features and new characters to search for.
Online casino bonuses
There have been several comparisons made between the way that online games use bonuses to attract and sustain loyalty and techniques used by online casinos and bingo sites. Both online games and gaming sites may be quite different in many ways, but they do have one thing in common and that’s that there’s a great deal of competition in their sectors. So, there’s always another game or another operator vying for their players’ attentions.
Online gambling sites approach this issue with a range of both joining bonuses and loyalty rewards designed to hook players in and then keep on rewarding them for their loyalty.
These can take several forms but one of the most common is to offer a straight welcome bonus in the form of money that can be used to play, either as a fixed amount or a 100% match for the player’s first deposit, generally up to a fixed limit.
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch and this is equally true when it comes to many of these bonuses. Often, they come with so-called “wagering requirements”. These mean that players have to play with up to 20 times the amount of the bonus before it can be released into their account. There are also restrictions on the amount that qualifies that are dictated by the “game contributing percentage”. So, on games like roulette and blackjack where the casino can expect to make losses as well as wins, this can mean only 50% of the player’s stake money will count towards the “wagering requirements”.
Of course, this isn’t true of all online operators but, with so many to choose from, finding ones with the best bonus terms can be difficult. That’s why it can be a good idea to check out so-called “affiliate sites” which are essentially directories of the online casinos that give information about the sites themselves and the bonuses that they offer. These make their money by getting a reward for each player they successfully introduce.
When it comes to slots sites, it can be far more straightforward with the welcome bonus being a set number of free spins, often on one of the more popular games. As for bonuses for loyal players, these can take the form of anything from more free-stake money and free spins to invitations to take part in special games or tournaments.
It certainly seems like bonuses are here to stay both for online video gaming and online gambling too – after all they’ve been proven to work very successfully. But the really good news for the players is that competition is increasing so perhaps we can look forward to even better rewards in the future. We certainly hope this will be the case!