How not to sell a two-player game on Windows Phone 7

Last week I launched Faceted Reversi, a two-player strategy game for Windows Phone 7. In this game, you play Reversi against other people who have also downloaded the application. It uses Correspondence to coordinate moves between the two phones. So far the adoption has been … slow.

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Faceted Reversi has two ways to play:

  • pass the phone
  • remote

In pass-the-phone, you play against another person, but the two of you sit together and share a device. It just acts like a game board. In remote mode, you play against somebody else with their own device. Think “Words with Friends”. To begin a remote game, you either pick someone that you know or let the server choose a random player.

Faceted Reversi is priced at $1.99, and has a trial mode. In trial mode, you can play as many pass-the-phone games as you like. But you can only play one remote game. To unlock the ability to play more games, you have to pay.

There are a couple of problems with this revenue model. First, trial apps don’t appear in the Free section of the Marketplace. And second, the network is a catch-22.

Free vs Trial

Neither iOS nor Android has trial mode built into their applications. You have to buy it before you can try it. As a result, many developers published two versions of their apps: the free one and the paid one. Windows Phone implemented the trial feature to solve this problem. A developer can publish one application, yet still give the end user both experiences.

But Windows Phone also has a Free section in the Marketplace. This section includes applications that have a $0.00 price tag. It does not include applications with a trial mode. Many developers have found that people download apps from the Free section much more frequently than they do from the paid sections. As a result, developers have been abandoning the trial model and publishing two versions of the app.

Catch-22

The only reason to pay for Faceted Reversi is to play games against the network of people who have also paid for Faceted Reversi. The value of the application is proportional to the size of this network. When nobody has bought the app, nobody is in the network. And when nobody is in the network, nobody will buy the app. The only way to get people to buy the app is to seed the network.

Faceted Reversi Free

To solve these two problems, I am working on Faceted Reversi Free. This will be a completely separate app. It will be priced at $0.00, so it will appear in the Free section of the Marketplace. This should drive higher download numbers. I don’t think that a full order of magnitude increase (i.e. 40) is unreasonable to expect.

This version of the game will have only one feature: random player. You will be able to play against another player, but you won’t be able to say who. This will have the effect of seeding the network with a sea of random players … at least 40 of them!

This version will also serve ads. Before each game, it will display an ad while it waits for the server to select a random player. This should provided some revenue to keep the Correspondence server running, and incentivize people to buy the paid version.

In upcoming posts, I’ll describe how to build a two-player game with Correspondence. I’ll also keep you posted regarding the uptake of Faceted Reversi Free and whether my clever scheme succeeds.

2 Responses to “How not to sell a two-player game on Windows Phone 7”

  1. Will Says:

    I would suggest also adding ads that periodically appear after a move. I have some games on my Android phone that do that and as long as it is not too often it is not too bad to deal with.

  2. Michael Says:

    Make use of you A.I. ability and make a 'player v computer' mode in the paid app. You should already have the logic for legal moves, draw your beta tree and go. :)

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