For many years F2P has been viewed as the go-to model for commercial success on mobile, incorporating game backend services and live ops capability. However, with Nintendo about to launch Super Mario Run and Square Enix’s recently repeated commitment to favouring high quality premium games over F2P, are we about to witness a comeback for premium?

Although the long-term earning potential of top F2P games still surpasses that of even the most successful paid titles, the premium model may still have it’s place. For games based on established core IPs, the premium model is often more appealing to a target audience wary of F2P, while premium games also tend to gain more coverage within the mainstream gaming press. The reduced focus on monetisation can also lead to more favourable reviews, as evidenced by Hitman Go and Lara Craft Go.

As a developer considering the premium model for your next title, you may think that a game backend service like ChilliConnect is not all that relevant, but it can still play an important role in helping you add vital online features and get your game to market faster. Here’s why…

Long term engagement still matters

Premium Mobile Game "Lara Croft Go" Game Backend Services and Live Ops

Premium Mobile Game “Lara Croft Go”

With F2P, retention is king. You’re earning potential is directly determined by the length of time that players spend in your game and if they are not playing, there is no chance of them paying. Retention-boosting social and online features are now commonplace in almost all F2P games (you can read our article on exactly why here) and while that need is not always as critical in a premium title, building loyalty and community around your game still has major benefits. A long-term community will help drive organic downloads through word-of-mouth, as well as establishing a core player base for future content and add-ons.

This viewpoint was reflected  by Square Enix Montreal’s Patrick Naud in a recent interview with Gamesindustry.biz, where he discussed the studio’s plan to better build long term engagement in Deus Ex Go, based on their experience with the Hitman and Lara Croft titles:

“Deus Ex Go is a premium game, at a premium price, but we focused a lot on long-term retention,” he says. “We’ve been learning. Deus Ex Go takes all of our learning from Hitman and Lara Croft to offer a product that people will talk about, that will get full press coverage, that will get front page of the App Store when it comes out and hopefully pick up some awards. But we’ll also engage players on a longer time scale. We believe that having a game that is always active will help drastically with organic downloads down the road.”

Patrick’s viewpoint re-affirms the idea that while there is less of a direct commercial incentive to keep a player engaged long term within a premium game, this can be outweighed by the benefits of building a devoted community. A game backend service can help with building long term retention by making it simpler to add social features, multiplayer and content sharing.

In app purchases still have a place

While most revenue from a premium game will come from the initial purchase on install, there are still plenty of opportunities to offer optional In App Purchases, a feature of game backend services. Within a premium mobile game these can include anything from basic cosmetic purchases to progression unlocks, allowing players to advance past difficult sections for a cost.

When dealing with In App Purchases, a service like ChilliConnect can be used to efficiently manage purchase meta data, securely verify In App Purchases to prevent cheating and also run time-limited sales and events.

Premium games can still be run as services

Premium Mobile Game "Monument Valley" Game Backend Services and Live Ops

Premium Mobile Game “Monument Valley”

The most successful F2P games will spend years in their “live phase”, being constantly updated with new content and events in order to maximise revenue. With premium, this approach is much less common but but there are still benefits to taking a service style approach once your game has launched.

Premium mobile games can capitalize on initial success with follow up content and add ons, in much the same way that console and PC games have done for years. The hugely successful Monument Valley was complimented with a new level pack  6 months after it’s initial release. Hitman Sniper, a small spin off title from the main Hitman series, was well received but criticized for lack of follow up content when players were looking for more.

More recently, Deus ex Go set an interesting precedent where completion of a weekly puzzle allowed players to earn rewards in console title Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, providing a well integrated example of cross promotion that was non intrusive to players. This type of recurring event is seen often in F2P but less so in premium despite the obvious advantages. Such features that become much easier to implement if you have a backend service, which will allow you to add service-style elements to premium titles, including time limited events and competitions as well as content updates through DLC Management.

The games industry will watch with interest at the launch of Super Mario Run later this year. Whether this will mark the beginning of a premium renaissance on mobile remains to be seen, but for developers working on premium titles, ChilliConnect still offers a wide range of server side features that significantly shorten development time and save developers money.

Whether it’s F2P or premium you’re creating, you can sign up to ChilliConnect today for free.