Imagine that when you wanted to go see a new film, you could head to the cinema, walk right in, and sit through the first hour or so. You could take the time to relax and enjoy yourself and get a feel for the type of film you’re watching. And then, after that first hour, you’d be offered the option to pay for the ticket and keep watching or leave without having spent anything other than your time.
Sounds a little absurd, right?
Well, perhaps it would be in film, but at the same time, this is pretty much exactly how the gaming industry has started to operate. Once upon a time, there were only a few resources available to help consumers decide if they wanted to purchase a game or not. Much like with film, these resources consisted of trailers, descriptions, press releases, critic reviews, and the hearsay of other consumers. Generally, this amounts to a pretty thorough gauge of the product’s quality. And yet in gaming, developers and industry leaders have taken things a step further, offering consumers the chance to enjoy free trials across a number of platforms.
The most prominent example is in the smartphone gaming market, where it’s often the games that advertise themselves as free that end up making the most money for developers! That’s because these games offer a simple perk that doubles as an extremely effective hook: the download itself is free, but additional features within the game cost money along the way. Basically, this means you get a taste of the experience and if you’re enjoying it, you can pay to make it even better. A game developing strategist quoted by iMore explained the trend perfectly: “When freemium games are operated well—with the player’s long-term loyalty in mind—it’s a great experience for the players. It’s also great business.”
The online casino gaming industry is another area in which consumers will find a lot of short-term free-to-play models that offer a chance to try before you buy. Betfair leads the way in this regard as one of the most high-volume online casino sites in Europe. Among its offerings for casino play, poker tournaments, and even sports betting, the site allows users the chance to download a demo before putting actual money into the site. This provides the opportunity for the user to experience the site in its entirety before risking any actual cash. Although, like the freemium mobile gaming model, it also benefits the casino site, in that those users who find the demo to be a positive experience will spend money to keep playing.
Additional examples abound in other realms of gaming. When it comes to consoles, people who have used the Gamefly service for years—it’s basically Netflix for video games, allowing users to enjoy titles as they please based on a subscription model—can now electronically try out games before deciding whether or not they want to purchase them. And even in the online MMORPG market, it’s quite common to see free trial options for those games that do cost money. Star Wars: The Old Republic, which is one of the most well known and popular MMORPGs online, is a primary example of this model in use.
Put it all together, and it’s fair to say that the slow but sure rise of free trials has brought about a reform of the video game industry. It no longer works like the film industry, where at some point, you just have to go with your gut and pay for a ticket to see if you like a film. Instead, more often than not, you have the chance to get a genuine feel for a product before you purchase it. And that’s good for both you and the industry.
This post was written by Alan Henry.