Outwitters' Über Pack is DLC that makes sense
A new update of Outwitters, the asynchronous strategy game from One Man Left is now live. This includes a new whacky team called the Veggienauts, new maps and some tweak to the rules to keep people engaged when having several games going. As a free to play game, the developer originally offered extra content for real money. Along with the option to get the Adorables and the Feedback teams, there was an in-app purchase pack that promised to include every team ever released in the future. Today that 'Über pack' pays off.
In a time when the always difficult App Store customers are complaining about anything that smells of freemium, in-app purchases keep being a big challenge. See the drama with the release of Rocketcat's Punch Quest for instance. A game that convinces the critics but doesn't make the players pay for add-ons. After some tweaking and little conversion, the title went to the traditional paid model some days ago.
When I first tried Outwitters this summer, I was extremely happy to see this "buy everything" Über pack. For me it's like merging old and new. Basically downloading a perfectly playable free demo (one you can use as it is), or pay for it if you like it. I think there's a bunch of people that like to own things when they pay for them — no nonsense with virtual currencies. It's something like "I pay for this now so don't annoy me later asking for more".
In this case, One Man Left has shown respect to the gamer, keeping its word adding more content free of charge. This creates some imaginary bond beneficial for both parts. It generates some good vibe, good feelings and new potential customers will see this happening naturally. Getting users engaged, specially in a multiplayer game like Outwitters, is key to succeed.
I have no idea how well or bad this is doing financially for the developer. I don't even want to say this is the best and only way of doing in-app purchases. As far as there are no timer and no messages to squeeze my wallet, I'm alright with it. Games like Jetpack Joyride or any from Nimblebit (Pocket Frogs, Tiny Tower or Pocket Planes) use different techniques that work.
For me the common point is that months after spending money in them you don't regret it. You don't feel like you've spent your money in something that doesn't last. So next time you feel disgusted about obnoxious in-app purchase, don't blame the model. Blame the developer that isn't doing right.
After writing this post I exchanged some emails with Adam Steward, artist (and cofounder) of the studio. He tells me how the free-to-play approach didn't work out for them as the monetisation model was flawed. Doing in-app purchases the right way didn't work.
An article on Wired last month titled 'Apple’s Favorite Strategy Game Is a Financial Disaster', speaks for itself. Journalist Ryan Rigney explains that the lack of a medium and high tier IAP options didn't bring enough money for the developer to break even. Despite being promoted by Apple and gaining over half a million downloads, the small percentage of players buying the Über pack wasn't enough. Outwitters needs at least six times the amount of players to be a profitable title.