Monetizing Your Game
One of the cooler aspects of building a browsergame is that there’s a potential to make money off of it. While you won’t make millions overnight, you can still make a little bit – at least enough to offset your costs and then some. And if your game does take off, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
There are two primary methods used to monetize browsergames: Advertising, and Purchasable Bonuses.
Advertising is one of the monetization methods that most browsergames reach for first – it’s trivial to set up, doesn’t require any extra development time, and you can essentially set it up and then just watch the money roll in. However, there is a bit of a problem with the Advertising model – it annoys users. Some users find any sort of advertising intrusive, and will do specific things to enjoy your game without the ads – like installing Adblock. When a user has Adblock installed, you won’t be making any money off of advertisements for that user.
One way that some games attempt to work around the way users feel about advertising is by offering a way to make it less intrusive – something like “For just $4/month, you won’t see any more advertisements!”. While this can work, it’s still not going to protect your income from users who just decide to use Adblock.
Some players are competitive, and some are not. This monetization method takes advantage of the more competitive players, by providing them with a way to increase their character’s power unnaturally – for a price. You as the game developer essentially sell power-ups for players who are looking for that edge.
This method is a lot more reliable than advertising once you can get the ball rolling, because it won’t annoy users. However, it has a much larger potential failure rate, because you need to be very careful to keep the game balanced for users who don’t want to spend any money. If the Sword of Destiny costs $10 and makes your character invincible, players without the Sword won’t want to buy one – they’ll just resent the overpowered players they encounter who already have one. This gradually builds resentment in your playerbase, and slowly the players who aren’t willing to spend money for bonuses will leave. You need to be very careful to ensure that the bonuses a player can purchase won’t overpower them in comparison to users without those bonuses.
At the end of the day, these are just two of many different ways to monetize your game – and each game will have a different approach that works best for it. Black Sword RPG and Dragon Tavern both use the Purchasable Bonuses model, and seem to have done a fair job of balancing it out – and other browsergames like Utopia have managed to make the advertising model work well enough for them. Which monetization model you choose is up to you – you can even choose not to monetize at all, if you want to. Why not experiment a little?