I pre-ordered Free-to-Play: Making Money From Games You Give Away
several weeks in advance of it's launch. Whilst I already work in the freemium social/mobile games space I am always hungry for great resources that pull all the various elements and issues together in a cohesive way. Until this book came out, there was precious little available in that respect. Now there is and I would heartily recommend Will Luton's work to anyone looking to be part of the games industry over the next decade and beyond.
To thrive in the free to play games business, one needs to gain a decent appreciation of multiple topics, some of which have hitherto been completely alien to many otherwise capable games designers, producers or product managers. These topics include the role of game data and the analysis of this to drive engagement, retention, revenue generation and other, business-critical success criteria. Luton goes beyond simply defining the illustrating the key characteristics of Free To Play design; notably he provides commentary, insight and clear guidance on the issues that will help shape (or otherwise, break) a digital games business. This isn't a book tailored for new Goliaths such as Zynga et al; this is a well-structured, concise and practical - and often very witty - field manual for people performing multiple diverse roles in the games industry.
Luton addresses issues that are currently the source of frequent, heated debate at almost every game conference and in most studios globally. Issues such as the role of 'data-driven design' and the targeting of children with virtual IAPs, and does so with a refreshing and mature tone, neither advocating some of the sharp practices that have sometimes been applied yet never also apologizing for what Free To Play is....a BUSINESS model; one designed to earn revenue. His message is consistent. It is one of ensuring that you provide a level of service and quality of offering that people will naturally desire and thus be positively willing to pay for. This is not a dark guide to churning some evil box of black monetisation magic to exploit the ignorant masses. Rather, this book is about how we, as a mature industry, can find new ways to serve and delight our audiences on a scale never before believed possible.
If you are already receptive to and/or embracing of Free To Play games design and monetisation then you will very likely get value from this book. If you are currently firmly-footed in the 'camp of Free To Play naysayers', but hope to play a productive and positive role in the modern computer games industry, then do yourself a favour and invest the time and money to read this book. I predict that you will gain a new perspective; one that will stand you in good stead. And if not...you can always resell it on Amazon.
What's to lose?