Introduction to PBBG Monetization

Welcome back to Make It Big In Games. Today we're talking about monetizing Persistent Browser-Based Games (PBBGs). So, grab your favorite caffeine beverage (or just some water if that's more your thing), and let's get into it!

As PBBG is an extensive category encompassing almost any game that is played in the browser and tracks your state, there is significant overlap between PBBGs and other games in terms of monetization methods available to them, but today our explanations and examples will be focused entirely within the PBBG space.

Subscription Models

In subscription models, players pay a recurring fee (monthly, quarterly, or annually) to access premium content, features, and/or account-specific benefits.

How It Works

Subscriptions have been one of the most reliable monetization methods since the early days of MMORPGs. They provide a predictable revenue stream, as players commit to a recurring payment to maintain their access to premium content. This model works best in games that can consistently deliver new and engaging content for their subscribers.

With subscriptions, developers can fairly confidently forecast a steady cash flow allowing them to invest further into the game with reduced risk. For players, having the subscription often means they enjoy a richer, ad-free experience with access to regular content, creating a more immersive and rewarding game world.

Examples

Microtransactions / In-Game Purchases

Microtransactions, or in-game purchases, are what caused the proverbial gold rush in the PBBG space and saw the growth of industry giants such as Zynga, Bigpoint, and InnoGames. Microtransactions let players buy virtual goods, currencies, and/or services within the game.

How It Works

Microtransactions work by offering small, incremental purchases that enhance the player's experience without being necessary to enjoy the game. These purchases can range from purely aesthetic items (commonly skins/outfits) to functional enhancements such as boosts, premium items, and additional content.

The idea is to keep the price low enough that the cost feels small, lowering the cognitive barrier to making a purchase within your game. However small these may be, the amounts can add up to significant revenue when you have engaged players. In the early days of mobile games and PBBGs, these would truly be "microtransactions," however it is becoming more commonplace to offer large in-game purchases that can run into the hundreds (or thousands) for players that are more open to spending in games.

Examples

Premium Accounts

Premium accounts are a staple in the world of freemium games. There can be significant overlap between the Premium Account and Subscription models, enough so that they are often one-in-the-same depending on the implementation.

How It Works

Premium accounts are a step above regular gameplay (either free or subscription), offering enhancements that usually include better customization options, exclusive features, and/or discounts to in-game fees.

The key difference from Subscriptions is that premium accounts may be a one-time purchase that can be bought on demand and, in some cases, can be purchased in a tradable form that allows players to use them as a sort-of currency or value-store with in-game markets.

Examples

Advertisements

Advertisements are usually not pretty, they're often ignored by players, but they get the job done and can provide a source of income for your game.

How It Works

Advertisements are a fairly common monetization method throughout many free-to-play games, with PBBGs often using banner ads as opposed video ads that you may see in mobile games. The principle behind this method is dead simple: the game is free for players, but revenue is generated by displaying ads to everyone (often a premium account can be purchased to disable ads).

This model relies on having a larger user base within your free game as individual ad impressions generate only a small amount of revenue, whereas the cumulative amount can be substantial when you have tens of thousands of players or more.

Examples

Wrapping It Up

Monetizing your PBBG doesn't need to be a stressful or overly complex task and you can progressively roll things out or test them on smaller groups of players before implementing them.

Game development is all about providing value to your players and making their experience as enjoyable as possible, but for most of us, it's not even in the realm of reasonable to provide and support a game for free, so don't feel guilty about monetizing your game in a non-predatory way.

Stay tuned to Make It Big In Games for all your game development needs! Happy developing, and may your coffers always be full!


First published July 4, 2024