The imbalanced state of free-to-play game research: A literature review

Alha Kati
2019 DiGRA '19 - Proceedings of the 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo-Mix

As free-to-play games have increased their economic value, the research interest on them has increased as well. This article looks at free-to-play game research conducted so far through a systematic literature review and an explorative analysis of the documents included in the review. The results highlight an excessive focus especially on behavioral economic studies trying to maximize the player bases and profits, while other aspects, such as meaningful game experiences, cultural and societal implications, or critical review of the phenomena have been left in the marginal. Based on the review results, this article suggests four future agendas to reinforce the lacking areas of free-to-play game research.


Middle-aged Players’ Memorable Experiences with Pokémon GO

Koskinen Elina Alha Kati Leorke Dale Paavilainen Janne
2019 DiGRA '19 - Proceedings of the 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo-Mix

As the first location-based augmented reality game to gain mainstream popularity, Pokémon GO also reached an older demographic of players that have traditionally played less and whose play experiences are under-researched. In this article, we present the findings of a qualitative survey study (n=349) focusing on the middle-aged (40–65-year-old) Pokémon GO players’ memorable experiences from the time when the game’s popularity was at its peak and its player base likely most diverse. We analyzed the open-ended survey responses with thematic analysis, resulting in 7 categories and 88 thematic codes. The categories constructed were Game Play & Game Content, People & Sociability, Location, Circumstances & Context, Negative Events, Feelings and Other Codes. Through our analysis and findings, we provide insights to understand the play experiences of middle-aged players through Pokémon GO. These findings also capture the memorable moments of a massive, unique social phenomenon at its peak from the perspective of a traditionally overlooked demographic.


Critical Acclaim and Commercial Success in Mobile Free-to-Play Games

Alha Kati Koskinen Elina Paavilainen Janne Hamari Juho
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Critical acclaim is considered to be one of the main predictors of profitability of game products. Major game publishers face tremendous hurdles in order to fare well in different forums that review and rate their products. However, little evidence exists on the relationship between ratings and profitability beyond anecdotal assumptions. In this study we investigate the relationship between critical acclaim and commercial success in mobile free-to-play games via a mixed-method study. First we look at the correlation of reviews and profitability, and then present an exploratory qualitative inquiry, analyzing games with high Metascores and games with high grossing. The results reveal that the relationship between review ratings and profitability is even more problematic in mobile free-to-play games than in many other game categories. Games with high Metascores differ substantially from the top-grossing games, being closer to traditional single-player games than typical free-to-play games, with little emphasis on monetization mechanics.


The Diversity of Attitudes towards Play at the Workplace – A Case of an Academic Community

Nummenmaa Timo Kankainen Ville Savolainen Sampo Kultima Annakaisa Karvinen Juho Alha Kati Syvänen Antti Tyni Heikki
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

In this article, the results from an experiment of playful videos are presented. In the experiment, leaders of an academic community participated in workshops where they playfully envisioned the future of the workplace. These workshops were videotaped and edited into short videos, which were made public within the community and used as a probe for exposing attitudes towards play within an academic environment. The study revealed diverse views towards play and its role at the workplace.


Review of Social Features in Social Network Games

Paavilainen Janne Alha Kati Korhonen Hannu
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Although social network games on Facebook have become popular, their actual sociability has been questioned. In this paper we review the social features of 16 social games and as a result present a list of 30 social features in three categories: presence, communication, and interaction. A common set of features which were found from all examined games are mainly focused on presence and communication aspects, while neglecting player interaction. In addition, social features are primarily used for acquisition and retention purposes, rather than monetization. These findings are useful for the study and design of social features in social games and in other games with social network integration.


Exploring Playful Experiences in Social Network Games

Paavilainen Janne Koskinen Elina Korhonen Hannu Alha Kati
2015 DiGRA '15 - Proceedings of the 2015 DiGRA International Conference

Social network games are popular pastime for millions of players on Facebook. Despite their popularity, qualitative research on experiences in these games has been scarce. In our study, 110 informants played 23 games on Facebook and reported their experiences using the Playful Experiences (PLEX) framework. We analyzed 110 reports containing 330 PLEX descriptions and present findings from three perspectives. First, we provide an overall analysis on playful experiences in social network games. Then we focus on genre specific experiences in casual puzzle, casual simulation, and mid-core strategy games. Lastly, we provide examples of interesting outlier experiences. Based on our study, Competition, Completion and Challenge are the most common playful experiences in these games. The genre-specific analysis revealed both similarities and differences between the genres, while the outlier experiences provide new perspectives on social network games. Through the PLEX framework, this research helps to understand the playful experiences in social network games.


Free-to-Play Games: Professionals’ Perspectives

Alha Kati Koskinen Elina Paavilainen Janne Hamari Juho Kinnunen Jani
2014 DiGRA Nordic '14: Proceedings of the 2014 International DiGRA Nordic Conference

This paper investigates the free-to-play revenue model from the perspective of game professionals. To court larger player audiences and to address their wide willingness-to-pay spectrum, game developers have increasingly adopted the free-to-play revenue model. However, at the same, worrying concerns over the revenue model have been voiced. For example, free-to-play games have been deemed as exploitative and unethical. We investigated this contrast by conducting a thematic interview study. We employed grounded theory in the analysis of the data containing 14 game professionals’ interviews about their views on the free-to-play model. The results show, that the free-to-play model is something that the developers view favorably while the public writing about the games can even be hostile. The games have evolved, while the voiced opinions still talk about games of the beginning of the model. Relatively few ethical problems were seen that would address the whole model, and the future of the free-to-play games was seen bright.


Gambling in Social Networks: Gaming Experiences of Finnish Online Gamblers

Kinnunen Jani Rautio Erkka Alha Kati Paavilainen Janne
2012 DiGRA Nordic '12: Proceedings of 2012 International DiGRA Nordic Conference

Online gambling is often regarded as asocial activity. Previously players could not interact with each other in online environments. The situation has changed as internet, in general, has evolved towards a more social environment. First Finnish online gambling games, eBingo and online poker, which enabled in-game social interaction were opened in the year 2010. This article reports findings from the study which focused on the social interaction connected with these games. Based on the questionnaire data of 409 players 16 players were selected for the thematic interviews. The analysis of the interviews indicates that even if social interaction is not necessary in order to play, it is meaningful in players’ experience of the game. The different levels of sociality before, during and/or after the game have an influence on the construction of gaming experiences and connect gambling as meaningful part of players’ social networks.


Using the VNA Ideation Game at Global Game Jam

Kultima Annakaisa Alha Kati
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

In this article we present the findings of a game idea experiment run at the Global Game Jam (GGJ) 2010 and 2011 events in Tampere, Finland. We were examining how well the game-based ideation method Verbs, Nouns, and Adjectives (VNA) and similar approaches fit the constrained game design processes. GGJ 2010 and 2011 both had a theme for which ideas were produced. Our previous studies indicate that the VNA ideation method is well-suited to blue-sky ideation, but it is harder to use the ideas in ongoing design processes. In this study we compared four different approaches and the ideas resulted by using these methods. This study shows that the theme-tuned VNA variant performed best both in theme-related and interesting ideas, indicating that the method for coming up with new ideas matters.