Author: Will Luton
I just finished reading Will Luton's new book, Free-to-Play: Making Money From Games You Give Away. It's a $12.99 purchase in the iBooks store, making it a better deal than, say, the current paperback version, at $21.38 over on Amazon.
The book is a healthy roundup of what makes free-to-play (F2P) games tick, with sections on the economics, gameplay, monetization, marketing, and analytics--the underpinnings of any successful free-to-play game on any app store.
The examples he uses within the book are Farmville, naturally, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and Bejeweled Blitz. In this way, Luton is able to illustrate his points with concrete examples from real world games that use the principles within.
The author believes that free-to-play games are a win/win proposition, letting developers quickly and inexpensively release games that have a chance of making some money, and letting players who wouldn't typically touch a $60 console "gamers' game" experience fun for no money down. It's a delightful ideal, and I hope most, if not all, developers take it to heart: free-to-play games should be good games first, and monetization engines second. Luton continues to make this point throughout the book, though the message tends to get lost in the discussion of variable reward schedules (the same type of reinforcement schedule slot-machines are built on) and how to analyze key performance indicators.
As a non-developer, I did get lost within the many industry acronyms and other such jargon, but Luton does a good job of helping the novice reader get through it all. The title is clear: this is a book on making games that make money, and the information between the front cover and end flap is focused on that part of game making.
The level of depth and detail that Luton brings to the explanation of how free-to-play games work is astonishing. While the gameplay section, for example, tends to focus on player retention, play sessions, and triggers to keep your players coming back rather than actual game mechanics, it's an interesting read nonetheless. I've definitely increased my understanding of what a complex achievement successful free-to-play games have attained.
I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who develops games for iOS or other mobile platforms, as well as readers and writers who want to get a better grasp on the breakout phenomenon of the free-to-play genre. Luton has created a fantastic resource, here.
The book Free-toPlay: Making Money From Games You Give Away, by Will Luton, can currently be found on the iBooks store for $12.99.