The illustration below represents a classic marketing funnel report starting with the initial visit of a potential player to a Pay for Play site driven by various marketing programs.
The illustration represents the consistent drop off of acquired traffic as the potential player begins to be confronted with credit card ultimatums.
Fear and apprehension of depositing money via a credit card transaction over the web is high. Even for traditional E-commerce businesses establishing trust is necessary before a person will relinquish funds from their credit card and commit to a transaction. In the case of a gaming operation this apprehension is even greater because there are no physical goods associated with a transaction and there is no guarantee that the money deposited and the experience provided will result in an equal amount of value being returned. This psychological chasm requires a business strategy that builds player confidence in the operator’s property to the extent that the player will become convinced that a deposit will be reimbursed in the the event that no play is executed or the game experience is fun and fair leading to the prospect that the player can win cash.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I launched a subscription gaming model in the UK, without a Free Play option. The fall off due to a credit card requirement was on average 50%. That means that 50% of all people that made it through the initial introduction steps got to the credit card page and then dropped off. This part of the funnel drop off was the most dramatic of any other drop off through the funnel. To avoid this part of funnel drop off an operator should create an intermediary state that lets a player experience the gaming proposition before they must commit to a credit card transaction.
A Free Play offering is a great way to improve the funnel drop off and to introduce the player to the game property. It provides a non-committal step that gives a potential Pay for Play player play time without pressure to transact immediately. It gives the player a low risk opportunity to enjoy game play and to build trust in the operator’s ability to handle transactions properly.
The Free Play pool is much larger than the credit card pool without free play. This is very important because it provides a Pay for Play operator more opportunity to convert a higher number of players into Pay for Play players. A well integrated Free Play and for Pay for Play environment is critical for a “high” conversion rate. Players should be able to see the benefits of playing for money while playing for free. The Free Play and Pay for Play should be tightly integrated giving players the opportunity to move back and forth from Free Play to Pay For Play. The ability to move freely between the two models should be easily understood. The marketing department should leverage the Free Play option by promoting it in marketing programs.
Free Play also becomes a great retention tool allowing Pay For Play Players to stay on an operator’s property when they do not have the money to transact, they get fatigued or they are unavailable to play regularly. When they do have money and time to transact they can move back into Pay For Play Status. This way the operator does not lose the player when they are not able to Pay For Play.
Free Play is a great way for new players to learn the game and for all players to play more casually and with less stress. It can become fun and give the player an opportunity to try out strategies that they would not attempt in a Pay for Play environment.
The Free Play option should be engaging, have lots of players participating and be fun. Retaining Free Players in important. It is difficult to determine a general rule for when someone might become a Pay for Play player. This means that a Pay for Play operator should not trivialize the Free Play experience. It should be taken as seriously as the Pay for Play option. You never know when a Free Play is going to convert.
You can generate revenue from Free Players through Advertizing and potentially by selling Free Play leads that are not likely to convert to the operators Pay for Play business models. This revenue source can be used to embellish the Free Play experience to make it good enough to play frequently but not so good that is competes with the Pay for Play experience.
In conclusion, Free Play allows a Pay for Play operator to acquire more customers that a pure Pay For Play property. Free Play can also be used to retain players extending the lifetime value a player.