Last update: May 2021

4 mins to read - 2020/03/09

F2P Free to Play Game Monetization Strategies

Fortnite, Pokemon GO, Polytopia. These are all examples of F2P (free to play) games that went viral and became pop culture phenomena. Games developers hold them up as the shining example of success to aspire to. What do they have in common? They’re colorful, gameplay easily lends itself to social gaming with friends, and they appeal across different age groups. They are also free to download and play, which seems to be the go-to business model for mobile games nowadays. So what’s the secret to designing a top-grossing gaming app? What monetization strategies can you put to use to ensure your F2P game stands out from the crowd?

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Monetization Strategies and the F2P Business Model

There are 3 stages to the F2P business model as most apps use it:

  • Acquisition
  • Engagement
  • Monetization

Acquisition depends at first depends on how good your marketing and social media team are at getting the word out. Then, if your game is up to snuff, word of mouth should also contribute to UA. As your new users work their way down the marketing funnel, it’s crucial to provide them with enough engaging content that they get genuine enjoyment out of your game. Let them form a habit out of playing your game. The monetization step occurs when they realize that they could be getting more out of your game – whether more time playing or higher quality gameplay – through micropayments.

Monetization can then be categorized in 3 branches:

  • In-app purchases
  • Advertising
  • Rewarded monetization


In-App Purchases and Advertising

Anyone who’s played Fortnite is familiar with how quickly “V-bucks” payments can add up. In fact, Fortnite raked in $1.2 billion of revenue in July 2017, the year after it launched. Fortnite excelled in providing opportunities for microtransactions. By purchasing costumes and “skins” for their avatar, players could have a more customized gaming experience. Players can also spend V-Bucks to access loot chests, which reward them with special features or assets. There is also the Battle Pass, which unlocks extra tiers of the game, exclusive to those who pay for them.

The trick here is to keep the costs of these extra features small – the key word of microtransactions is “micro.” If costs are too high, players will start to question the point of downloading a “free” mobile game if they’re getting gouged for bonus features at every turn.

Another trick is to convey through these premium skins and gaming tiers a sense of exclusivity. While the game can be enjoyed without spending money for it, the benefits of spending a few dollars here and there are – literally – on a whole different level. 73% of mobile gamers polled by TapResearch said that they had purchased virtual currency or upgrades in games. (A changing trend, as initially F2P monetization models relied on a small number of whales who spent enormous amounts of money in-game.)

Advertising can consist of fairly straightforward banner ads and display ads. However, as revenue is generally collected on a per-click or per-impression basis, this mode of advertising generally needs mass numbers to be worthwhile.

Rewarded Monetization Strategies for F2P Games

4 categories of monetization
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Rewarded monetization is a new strategy for F2P games that combines both in-app purchases and advertising. This tactic has users engage in advertising the game, and it pays them with the in-app currency. This can consist of market research, such as taking surveys, watching videos, or installing upgrades of the game to hunt for bugs and glitches. Essentially, any minor task involving spreading the word or providing feedback can be outsourced to an app’s user base. It takes zero money from the budget, and it results in increased gameplay. The perfect solution!

How Can Push Notifications Play Into Your Monetization Strategy?

Push notifications and mobile games go practically arm in arm. As always, the #1 goal to boost user engagement should be to provide stellar content. If your game isn’t fun, nobody will play it.

That being said, a personalized push notification campaign can be the icing on top of the cake that is your mobile game. When it comes to LiveOps, the real-time enhancements to gameplay, push notifications are one of the best tactics for striking up an engaging conversation with players. They can manifest themselves as reminders to draw lax users back into the game. They can reward users with access to bonus levels, or direct them towards sales on in-app purchases.

Push notifications leverage user data and deliver personalized messages to a diversely segmented user base. By identifying data metrics, developers can categorize users according to age, education, and other identifiable traits, and thus predict their behavior. For example, users younger than 25 may respond positively to notifications directing them towards purchasing cosmetic upgrades to avatars or weapons. Students and younger demographics may have less money to spend on microtransactions, but more time to spend on taking market research surveys or watching videos in exchange for in-app currency. Alternatively, adults who work full-time may be more willing to pay money towards cheat codes or upgrades in strength that will propel them through a level faster.

Either way, push notifications are a must-have when it comes to engaging your community. Whether your aim is to draw back lapsed users, sell digital wares, or advertise new dimensions of your game, OpenBack has you covered. With our 40+ data triggers, and highly personalized delivery of notifications in real-time, we are confident we will provide the personal touch your mobile game needs to go from an entertainment to a cultural phenomenon.

Talk to one of our experts to learn more about how push notifications can maximize player engagement with your app.

To read more about how to use OpenBack to boost player retention and maximize revenues, download our Case Study: Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon App, School of Dragons

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