ArcticPlay commercial director Totti Nyberg explains why the studio adopted a completely new approach to free-to-play for the mobile skateboarding title
What makes Hoodrip’s free-to-play business model unique?
When we talk about free-to-play, we really mean it. Hoodrip is not just free of all in-app purchases, it’s also free of distracting pop-up advertising. You are forever free to enjoy the game without hidden costs or annoying interruptions. The paid-for marketing content is woven into the fabric of the game in a way that adds to the overall experience, rather than taking away from it.
Why did you decide to adopt this business model, rather than a conventional free-to-play strategy?
We recognised that skateboarding, just like many other action sports, is as much a lifestyle as it is a hobby or a sport. That generally means that the companies and brands selling and producing the equipment and apparel are an integral part of the culture surrounding the sport. This simply means that they belong in the game.
Players are more than accepting of the subtle yet noticeable advertising/marketing taking place and, in most cases, it seems that visible co-operation with the right brands actually gives us more credibility and makes the game more interesting and desirable.
How did the new model affect your development and release of the game?
As we wanted to build the game as a platform where brands are not just visible to the players, but where we could facilitate interaction between the two, we needed to find ways of doing this in a positive and rewarding way for everyone involved.
The branded contests with free giveaway prizes were the first element. Partner companies can highlight their brand or raise awareness for individual products in their catalogue by putting them up as prizes in a contest. The brands and products are also highlighted in the advertising present in the gaming environment itself. The branded contests have been by far the most addictive and appreciated feature of the game so far. Competition for the prizes is fierce and players keep on returning to the game to defend their position. Products won as prizes in a competition that is completely free to enter create good will towards both the game and the partner brand sponsoring the competition.
The integrated shopping feature was a second important element that we wanted to include. We not only wanted to allow our partners to showcase their latest products in the game, by allowing you to hook up your game character/avatar with the latest gear, but we wanted to allow our players to order the very same products for themselves straight via the game platform. This was a way for us to not only provide partners with brand visibility and a promotional platform. At the same time, we were able to open a brand new side stream for new revenue through online sales.
"Consumers are getting savvy to how free 'free' actually is."
Totti Nyberg, ArcticPlay
What has it been like working with partners in the skateboarding world?
It's been great, as we are the first mobile game/app to offer an integrated shopping feature. Also, it's a great way for online retailers and brands out there to promote products within the game (in-app contests or billboard advertising) that then boost their actual sales online. ArcticPlay and the Hoodrip game have generally gotten a positive response from the skateboarding-related brands we have been in contact with.
How did you attract the companies to work with ArcticPlay? What made them the right choice for the studio?
We have a sick game, like nothing else out there, and a well working platform. When we signed with Active and Skatedeluxe (and Transworld Skate) it was a no-brainer for éS Skateboarding to also jump on board, as they already work with all three main partners.
Why did you decide on skateboarding as a suitable fit for the business model – or did the business model come afterwards? Would other categories work?
Skateboarding and the free-to-play model we adopted go together perfectly. We knew we wanted to build a game that was a working platform for commercial partnerships from the very beginning. We see it as model that could work well with many different sports. We just happen to love skateboarding and we all understood the role that brands play in the whole lifestyle and attitude surrounding the sport. It seemed like the natural place for us to get started.
We see the future for this type of model in many different gaming applications. And we don’t just mean extreme sports, but all kinds of sports that place focus and importance on the equipment and apparel. There are plenty of those around. But then again, who says that we should limit ourselves to just sports. The fierce loyalty and tribal behavior around brands seems to be a part of everyday life these days and that would suggest that our business model has virtually infinite possibilities. People today want to be surrounded by brands.
What are the biggest challenges facing ArcticPlay with regards to the new business model?
Our revenue is not generated through downloads and purchases. This means that we have to have a game that is so good that people are actually willing to spend time playing it. It has been of vital importance to us that those people who download the game actually play the game repeatedly and on a regular basis. In that aspect, the numbers are encouraging, and it seems that the branded contests, of which there are always more than one going on, have proven to be the incentive we hoped they would be.
What advice would you give to other developers considering adopting a free-to-play model?
As the old saying goes – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Someone somewhere has to pay something. Know what you’re getting into and find the right people to work with.
What are the biggest trends currently affecting the free-to-play space?
We think consumers are getting savvy to how free 'free' actually is. That’s exactly why we have wanted to make sure that we have a model that allows us to build a sustainable business while ensuring that the players get the best possible mobile gaming experience out there without ever putting a dime into it.
What’s next for ArcticPlay and Hoodrip?
We want to continue on building and strengthening the Hoodrip community. For now, that means more branded competitions, more free prizes to win and maybe some more skateable terrain in the foreseeable future. Beyond that we are keeping are future plans to ourselves for now.