In December I wrote a blog post about how we were experimenting with a freemium version of HoPiKo for Android. It was our first stab at the freemium model, and to be honest, it wasn’t really worth it. HoPiKo is a premium game, it doesn’t feel right to slap adverts on it, even if they were opt-in. It doesn’t fit the model. Ah well.
What I didn’t mention in that blog post was that we’ve been developing a real freemium game for the past 5 months now. We announced this game today - PKTBALL.
Spawned in a local coffee shop game jam about two years ago, we were really excited about the prototype of PKTBALL. The raw “toy” and control mechanic was really really fun, but we couldn’t find a way of making it feel like a Laser Dog game. We probably spent over a year in-between the development of PUK, ALONE and HOPIKO trying to make it right. I think I started the code base from scratch at least 6 times.
After HoPiKo was finished and out in the wild, we (well, actually just Simon) decided that we’d give PKTBALL another go. We were both (well, actually just Simon) really excited to start the project from scratch again and try get the fun back that we had in that initial prototype. The project was to take no more than 2 weeks and if we went over that, we’d start on something else (lol, that didn’t happen).
Right at the start of this development, we realised that the thing we were stuck on was the pricing model. The game doesn’t feel like a premium game. This was an issue for us, as we need to make money to continue making games. We had always said that we’d never make a freemium game, because most are basically evil ;)
After a lot of discussion and testing ideas, we decided that the fairest pricing model would be what we call “clean-freemium”. These are the games that you can play in their entirety without paying any money, but if you want to, you can support the developers in exchange for some purely aesthetic goodies/additional characters. Additionally we’ve got some opt-in adverts.
There are of course other freemium models that are honest and good for players, but we think this one is the best for our game and our players. It's also a proven technique on how to monetise a game without affecting gameplay.
We’re really pleased we went down this route as it’s completely opened up the game for us to develop and be creative with. It’s been a really, really fun game to make.
The game features over 20 characters - each character completely re-skins the game, has a unique music track and is voiced by either one of us or our friends and family.
Working on the music has also been a lot of fun, as I’ve been able to play around with a lot of different genres. I even got to write a song for my cat, Travis (and I voiced his character, too!).
PKTBALL features a endless-arcade single player and a local multiplayer mode… having four players crammed around an iPhone 5 is hilarious to play, and to watch! We’ve made it as fun as possible, so it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s really challenging at the top end, and (hopefully) really accessible for new/casual players.
We’ve really enjoyed developing the game, and while we’re taking a huge risk in going freemium, we’re optimistic that it will bring in enough revenue to keep us making games for at least another 6 months. We’re lucky in that sense as we’re only a two man team and while it would be nice, making millions isn’t necessary!
While we never thought we’d go freemium, we’re really glad we did in this case. It’s allowed us to have a lot of fun with this game. Hopefully that will come across to the people who download it and play it too!
What’s next for Laser Dog?
We’re currently porting HoPiKo (actually rebuilding from scratch) for release on PC/Consoles. We’re really excited for that! It’s playing nicely on the big screen with a controller.
Once PKTBALL is released we’ll probably take a short break from mobile and concentrate on a new PC/Console game that we’ve been eager to make.