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How to create a free to play game?

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I like the concept, but I'm not sure how it is implemented. I get that I release the game for free, with a limited feature set, and then offer the play the ability to buy, with real money, "upgrades".

I'm more interested in what goes on behind the scenes. Would I be restricted to a web-based format? Do I need the game to connect to a server?

I have no ideas for such a game, but I am curious how to go about it.

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If I understand correctly, you're talking about having a free demo version of your game in the hopes that people might buy a full or premium version, is that right?


There are a lot of ways to go about doing this, and it depends on your target platforms amongst other considerations.

It's common for iOS or Android games to have a free (sometimes ad supported) version of the game. In this case, the game is created using the same technology as the full version and you just leave out any features you don't want included.

Some games provide a downloadable demo -- again, this would usually just be built with the same technology as the full version but might not include all the features. In some cases purchasing a key might activate those missing features in the same piece of software, whilst other developers choose to have people purchase and download a different executable for the full version.

Some games provide an online demo, playable in the web-browser. This could be implemented in a web-based format such as Flash, Silverlight or HTML5, or it might use an engine plugin such as that provided by Unity3d. There are also packages available that can wrap your normal executable code into a format that can be played in the browser.


Online demos that are playable in the browser would need to be hosted on a web-server.


Does that help at all?

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You can also include games like MMOs that are 'free to play' but make all of their money from microtransactions. In this case, I imagine you need people to be connected all the time (and playing for a long time) to make it worthwhile. They need to be able to experience what the game is like without a certain benefit, create a desire for that benefit, and give them an immediate way to act on that desire.

The best way to learn about something like this is just to dl a free to play mmo and just play it and look at all of the different 'services' they offer: more quests, more character slots, more equipment, more powers, etc. Sometimes these things are purchased through upgrade membership subscriptions, sometimes through one-time microtransactions.

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since a lot of micro transaction are done by Ideal, paypall, moneybookers, etc yes that is web based. I imagine you could have a webshop online (or a link to it in your lobby) and on purchase send the confirmation code to the server/lobby of your game and give the player the item he bought.

-edit-
If you want to venture into something like this you should have extensive knowledge of securing these transactions.

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I've bought several games where the demo version was a free download, limited by either an hour of play time or a certain number of levels, then the full game was purchased by paypal or credit card transaction for an unlocking code. The game itself does not need to have any online aspects, but the store providing the free downloads and sellng the unlocking codes does. You do not have to set up such a store yourself if you are willing to let a third party set the prices and take a cut of the profits.

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I think we've all given a pretty good explanation of some of the options available and what methods other games use, but I get the impression the OP would probably also like some more technical information on how these sort of things are actually implemented...


On a basic level, a demo version and separate paid version are simply two different executables, one of which includes more features; there's nothing particularly tricky here, you just produce two versions of the game using whatever method you would normally use to create your games. You might consider including advertisements in the demo version of the game; for mobile games this might involve working with an API such as that provided by AdMob. I'm not sure what options are available for including ads in a downloadable desktop game, but if you do some research there should certainly be some out there.

If your game is downloadable and you want a demo version that works in the user's web-browser you would usually either re-write the game in a suitable technology (Flash for example), or might use one of a few packages (I believe Spoon Studio is one such option, although I have no personal experience) that will allow your normal executable file to run in a browser. Depending on your choice of technology you may even have the option of simply using a provided browser plugin -- Unity3d games can run both on the desktop, or in the browser via an installed plugin for example. If your online demo version is built using Flash you might consider including some ads via an API such as MochiAds.


...and I have to run for now, but hopefully I'll remember to come back to this and post about a couple of other options, or perhaps someone else has some input to offer on how these things can be implemented -- hope that's helpful! smile.png

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Thats some nice insight jbadams but i think most of the replies miss the intention of the OP. I do not believe he is looking to make a demo of the game but a free to play game with microtransactions. It's like a full game where you can do anything you can but for instance have the option to pay to level up faster. A lot of games especially mmorpg's have this now and you can pay for things like a pet or an outfit so people see you bought something for real money and support the developers. Same goes for Teamfortress with the different hats or Leagues of legend with character skins. It's a very handy method to make your game popular and for those who stick to the game longer buying items feels/gets almost necessary.

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