A little over a year ago, there was quite a bit of discussion about the ethics of free-to-play, or freemium as it was more aptly & commonly referred to, before mobile game developers sought a friendlier moniker for the practice. ‘We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs,’ said the British Office of Fair Trade’s Cavendish Elithorn. (As reported by Metro UK.)
In response to these concerns, Google recently made some changes to the way it does business. As of September, Google will not use the word “free” at all when games contain in-app purchases. We applaud Google’s decision to do so, especially in light of the reality that most mobile games are designed to be quite unplayable without in-app purchases.
The market reaction to freemium and free-to-play has influenced our decisions here at Shakr around our implementation of freemium. At Shakr.com, it’s always free to choose a video style and personalize it with your own words, photos, and video clips. It’s also free to watch the personalized video with a Shakr watermark on it, and share it publicly by distributing the unique link we provide. Customers only pay if they want to remove the Shakr watermark and make the video downloadable.
As a freemium service, we have a few principles we’ve arrived at regarding the ethical implementation of our business model.
- The free offering must have significant value in and of itself
- Clearly define what is free and what is paid.
- Transparently communicate why we are offering a free version of the product.
- No automatic payments using a default payment. Users must consciously decide to purchase a Premium Upgrade.
We’ve also put together Shakr’s Freemium Transparency Statement that is available on our website, accessible through a clearly visible button on every video style’s description page. We want our users to very clearly understand what is free and what is paid.