After months of requests from fans, we’ve finally decided to add in app purchases for coin bundles into Fieldrunners 2 for iPhone and iPod Touch. It will roll out when the next update, v1.2, goes live (hopefully sometime this week), so we felt it was important to give our fans notice before the change happens. We touched on this in a recent article in The Verge where Andrew Webster interviewed us, along with a few other iOS developers that weren’t using IAP, but we wanted to elaborate a bit more here.

Feedback on our lack of IAP (in app purchases) has been very interesting right from the start, with one camp of fans applauding our lack of IAP, while another continually requested the feature. To make both groups of players happy, we’ve decided to give gamers the ability to purchase coins while leaving all the design intact. This means that the game will continue to play and feel exactly as it always has (no added need to purchase coins), except that gamers inclined to purchase coins can now do this. We feel like this solution let’s us and our fans have the best of both worlds!

Behind the Scenes!

To give you more insight into our decision, here is a behind the scenes peak at our original transcript from the article in The Verge:

Andrew Webster (The Verge): Why did you decide to stay away from IAPs with Fieldrunners 2?

Alec Shobin (Subatomic Studios): A lot of discussion went into our decision to avoid IAP, and we came to a consensus based on a few different factors.  First and foremost, we’re all gamers at heart.  We take a lot of pride in the fact that we designed Fieldrunners 2 to be the type of game that we would want to play.  Now, maybe we’re old school, but we don’t really play a ton of games with IAP, so it made sense to leave that out of Fieldrunners 2.  However, being old school doesn’t make us dinosaurs. Obviously, IAP is a crucial feature in a lot of successful iOS games and it’s something that we need to experiment with in order to stay competitive.  In Fieldrunners 2, we did this by adding a virtual currency that the player earns based on their score at the end of each level.  A feature like this was common in games way before modern IAP appeared, so this appealed to our sense of classic game design. At the start of a level, players visit an armory menu where they choose which weapons and consumable items they want to equip – this menu doubles as an in-game marketplace where players can spend their hard earned currency on special, extra powerful weapons as well as consumables.  

Overall, this approach was great because it allowed us to experiment with virtual currency and an in-game marketplace without actually adding IAP and potentially souring the user experience. Players ended up loving this feature because it added a sort of meta game with another layer of progression, giving them extra incentive to go back and play levels that they already beat.  Of course, this divided our fans into two camps: one group applauded our lack of IAP because it broke the norm and incentivized them to really develop their skills in the game. Meanwhile, another group of fans resorted to repeatedly emailing us, requesting that we add a way for them to buy virtual currency – they appreciate and almost expect that feature, especially in an iOS game.  

In order to creatively meet the needs of both groups, we passed on IAP and instead decided to add a feature where players were given virtual currency for Tweeting their scores and “liking us” on Facebook.  This added a neat, social layer that dramatically increased word of mouth style marketing for Fieldrunners 2 – we added this feature over a month ago, but we’re still seeing people Tweeting their scores almost every minute of every day.  I’d argue that this feature potentially adds just as much value as we would have gained from IAP since it essentially pays players in-game currency in exchange for spreading the word about our game in a way that encourages them to compete with their friends.  Still, this didn’t really stop the amount of fan requests for IAP…

Andrew: Did you ever consider adding them at any point during development?

Alec: Adding IAP is definitely something that we considered throughout development. At this point, after experimenting with all the steps above, it seems reasonable for us to go ahead and pull the trigger with IAP.  A major facet of this decision is that we allowed players to demonstrate that they can earn more than enough virtual currency to experience all we have to offer simply by playing the game normally.  There are no pay walls, nothing set up to slow or stop their progress, and we aren’t changing the value of items that could be purchased with virtual currency.  Everything is just as fair as it has always been, except now we can meet the needs of that group that really just wants to pay for virtual currency.  I anticipate seeing IAP in our game within the next month.

Andrew: Do you think that the game could have earned more revenue had you gone that route?

Alec: It’s hard to say, but we’re about to find out. The basic assumption with IAP is that you need that feature when you have your largest active playerbase.  With most games, the playerbase is largest right around launch.  In Fieldrunners 2, we’ve got about 25 hours of gameplay just to get through the campaign for the first time.  Since it’s on iOS, players will space this out over months instead of having marathon sessions, so we see people engaging with our game for a pretty lengthy amount of time. As a result, it’s reasonable to think that our playerbase is at the capacity where IAP will generate extra revenue. Keep in mind, though, that this is all just an experiment – our game isn’t really focused on IAP like most F2P games, and we’ve already shown people that they can achieve everything just through the normal course of playing the game.  Additionally, there’s bound to be some kind of backlash when a console quality game like ours introduces a feature that the players could interpret as greedy.  What if Bastion had IAP in the iPad version?  How would players feel about that?  Would it have hurt their sales?  I feel like we’re in a perfect position to test the waters and demonstrate the results in front of the developers of other high quality games on iOS.  Hopefully devs will learn from our experiments.

Andrew: How did the game’s initial success line up with your expectations?

Alec: We recently announced that Fieldrunners 2 for iPhone and iPod Touch broke $1M in revenue (after Apple’s percentage) within the first month and a half.  This is huge for a content rich game like ours that’s selling for $2.99.  From what I’ve read, Jetpack Joyride, another fantastic iOS game, reached $750K after about three months while it was selling for $0.99 (it has since gone F2P and become even more wildly successful), so I’ve been using that as an external metric for comparisons.  I feel like we’ve demonstrated that pricing your games appropriately, and not undervaluing them to stay competitive, is now a viable strategy in the mobile marketplace. Players are ready and willing to pay a bit more for games that are stuffed with content, which leads to a much healthier marketplace for developers.  Still, hearing about the 14 million downloads Jetpack Joyride received after going F2P, and CSR Racing making almost $12M in its first month makes you wonder…

Andrew: What do you see as the future of paid releases (with no IAPs) in the App Store?

Alec: This is a tricky question for a developer that’s about to add IAP to their game!  It’s hard to say exactly what the future will hold, but I hope to see developers experimenting as much as possible. I’m particularly interested in Square-Enix’s pricing strategy. Clearly, they make awesome games, but I think I paid $16 for Secrets of Mana for iPhone.  It’s a pretty bold move to price an old game like that so high on iOS, but when you have a dedicated fan base like they do, it seems to work out.  I’d like to see more studios experiment with this sort of pricing model if for no other reason than it will adjust consumer expectations in the marketplace. The acceptance of diverse pricing in the App Store will lead to more super high quality games choosing to come to mobile in addition to console and PC, and this is a pretty exciting prospect for me.  Anytime the market expands to include new types of games, it’s a positive sign.

We hope that explains our decision! If you have any questions, feel free to let us know in the comments.

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