XCOM: Enemy Unknown was released to critical acclaim last month and reached a global all-formats chart position of 10th at its highest point. It has since dropped in price to £22.99 less than a month since release.
Perhaps XCOM should have been a free-to-play game from the beginning, and is a game that would lend itself to the free-to-play model without drastic changes to the game’s design. Here are some of the ways in which XCOM could be adapted to use a freemium model:
A key part of XCOM is the research and building of new items, which take time. The ability to speed up actions is one of the key monetisation methods in free to play games. Players have already used resources to pay for the item but must then wait before they can use them. This creates a kind of sunk cost and can tempt the player to spend money to access the item immediately.
Speeding up could also be used when healing any units that have been injured during a mission, making them available for the next mission immediately.
Early Unlock / Buy Resources
Items that need to be researched and built require resources first, if a player does not have these resources they can obtain them during missions. In a freemium model, players could also purchase these resources with real-world money. This is a model used widely amongst other freemium games, such as Galaxy Life and Cityville.
With a customisation option already in the game for your units, a number of those options could be bought for a small amount, while new designs could also be added.
There is a wide range of armour, weaponry, and equipment in XCOM. Premium items could be added to this range that provides a further advantage during missions. These items would be statistically better than other items to encourage players to buy them, though not so over-powered as to create a ‘pay to win’ scenario. Premium, ready-made units could also be bought to include in your squad.
Similar to Premium Items (above), individual items or units could be upgraded or have improvements applied to them in order to provide a further benefit. Upgrades could include additional ammo capacity, improved accuracy, greater field of vision and increased defence.
Your units will die in XCOM. A lot. When a unit is killed in the field they are gone for good so it makes a big impact on the game when a unit doesn’t make it back to base.
Players will likely form emotional attachments to particular units too, and so an option to revive them to make them available for the next mission could prove lucrative.
Up to the week ending 27th October, XCOM:Enemy Unknown has sold 180,000 units on PC. To put that into perspective, CityVille 2 was released last week and has 170,000 daily active users. Of course, not each of those players will have spent any money, maybe only 3-5% of them, but they have the potential to spend.
The advantage of free to play games is that they are exactly that, free to play. I’ve heard a number of people say that they haven’t played XCOM because they don’t know if they’ll like it, and £40 is a lot of money to take a chance on. CityVille 2 has no barrier to entry and so far has been played by 690,000 people in a week, and that number is on the rise.