By Sam Rosenthal

Punch Quest's Monetization Problem

 Frederico Viticci wrote an interesting article today on Punch Quest's monetization problem, but I don't entirely agree with his angle.

His argument that customers value new content and features higher than consumables does not line up with customer behavior. While working on "Where's My Water?" we released two one-time purchase IAPs: Cranky's Story and Mystery Duck. One of the two was a resounding success, yet while "Where's My Water?" has a comfortable spot in the paid app charts, it doesn't generate nearly as much revenue as the top freemium games.

Take one look at the App Store's top grossing section. Every single top grossing game is supported by consumable IAPs.

So what went wrong with Punch Quest? In my opinion, the problem is not with its business model, but with its design.

First, there's the menus. They are really, really ugly, and quite hard to read. Pixel art is fine for your main game assets, but when trying to convey information to a player, dial it back a bit. Halfbrick found the right balance with Jetpack Joyride, displaying clean GUI elements on top of the pixel art game world. Additionally, I take issue with the language they chose to direct players to their up sell screen. What does "loot" mean to a casual iOS gamer? Once the player navigates to the loot screen, a button titled "get" directs them to the IAP screen. Get what?


Second, average Punch Quest play sessions seem longer to me than other auto runners. The game uses an old school heart system rather than instant death, which decreases the player's perceived value of consumable power ups. I made it pretty far during my very first play session, and with five hearts, I felt that my chances of success were fairly high even without purchasing any power ups. Both Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run ramp up more quickly, thus the player feels more pressure to spend money on a helping hand.

Viticci cites Letterpress as an example of successful use of IAP. I love Letterpress, but do you see it in the top grossing? Letterpress is a classic example of confusing freemium with shareware, as Tadhg Kelly so wonderfully described. You can spend a maximum of $1 on Letterpress. Even with a high conversion rate of free to paid users, that is not a recipe for a hit.

Punch Quest did not confuse freemium with shareware, but it failed to clearly articulate to customers how or why to part with their money.