Did you like our business model? Don’t use it.


Ryan Rigney (author of Buttonless, which featured our first game Tilt to Live) came to us a few weeks ago with praise for Outwitters’ bold Free to Play model. No gold or extra lives being sold, just good wholesome content like I used to buy when I was a boy. “So how’s that working out for you?” he asked.

Not great.

We figured we’d share our numbers so other small studios might make a better decision than we did. With 2% of 500,000 users buying something in your app, you need them to spend an average of $30 dollars each to break even on a $300,000 game (salaries for 2 people for 1.75 years, plus company overhead, custom sound, and half a year’s server costs). We should have done that math, and not overestimated the number of downloads “free” would attract. Consumables also weren’t a good fit for a competitive multiplayer game, which should’ve been a red flag that free to play was not a great choice.

So free to play + prominent Apple feature does not equal an automatic slam dunk. Lesson learned. We’re still proud of the game.

Categories: News, Outwitters

77 Responses to “Did you like our business model? Don’t use it.”

  1. Alex Price says:

    Your telling me they are not making money from posting this article?

  2. Chris says:

    I’m totally addicted to this game, and regularly run up against the 35-game limit, and have purchased everything there is to be purchased in this game.

    I have more money I’d be happy to drop on my favorite iOS game, which you won’t let me play as often as I’d like to. You guys don’t have enough money.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

  3. Chris says:

    As long as we’re on the topic of constructive criticism… why not change your robots.txt which currently prevents you from being found on Google?

  4. Adam says:

    @Chris: Thanks for bringing that up, actually. Didn’t realize that thign was still active.

  5. Sean says:

    I honestly believe that the single packs are too expensive. THe Uber pack is a great price however…especially if you get everything that has and will be released.

  6. Jeff says:

    @sean -single packs too expensive? Give me a break. The teams would easily be worth $10-$15 each. The time spend and the fun I experience on this game, way exceeds the $60 I spent on several console games. The App Store has spoiled people rotten

  7. Elsie says:

    It’s a great game! Everyone should buy something! It’s fantastic to have a game that doesnt always need money to continue as most other games.

  8. Anonymous says:

    @Jeff- definitely not worth $10 for one skin and one special unit when the majority of gameplay is the same no matter which team you use and you can play it for free. I would suggest making any special unit available with any team skin for a price- this would mean a cuddly version of bombshell and a tech version of Mobi etc- and then making the special units available for purchase for 1.99 and the skins available for .99. (you would of course only be able to pick one special unit per fight)

    This way those who haven’t bought anything don’t have a special unit and have more incentive to buy. Also, those of us like me who like a particular skin but would prefer to stick with the bombshell unit can still enjoy our purchase. (you might even consider a .99 upgrade from 5 to 10 games and, as has been suggested, use advertising for anyone who has not bought anything)

  9. Hliljegren says:

    I agree with @anonymous that you should add a little bit more “extras” to the units you can buy. E.g if the adorables medic could move two steps instead of one, you get a small advantage in the gameplay and I believe more would buy the new teams.

    That would of course make it nearly impossible to get to the higher leagues without buying but I still think it would be fair.

    Currently there is IMHO to less to gain by buying…

    I give my cudos to your attempt to get an equal gameplay but in the hard world of economics nothing is equal…

  10. Johehan says:

    Buying advantages in the game would ruin the game in my opinion, I know I would quit playing if that happened. Its like allowing a chessplayer two qeens if they pay extra. That said, there definitely needs to be more stuff to spend money on! I am superexcited about the new team, but I already baught the überpack so… Skins for bases/armies would be fine! And I also like the idea of unlockng the special units for all teams! Would be very cool to combine my favorite team with my favorite special into a feedback mobi!

  11. Alex Price says:

    Totally not the quality or number of man hours of $60 console games. If the App Store was so spoiled it wouldn’t exist… Or slow down.

  12. Zach says:

    You know what would make you guys a lot of money? Releasing your game on Android. Especially Tilt to Live; I’ve tried the clones on Android but they can’t compare. The dev kit gets better every year, and piracy can be prevented using APIs that Google provides developers.


    Nothing, not even your excellent games, can bring me back to Apple’s walled garden, so my only hope is to hope you to eventually break out of it yourself.

    Please, I hope you’ll consider it.

  13. Adam says:

    @Zach: We do have ambitions to branch out at some point. When and on what platforms, we won’t know until it’s in production.

    If you like our stuff, you can sign up for our mailing list at the link below. We don’t use it a lot, just when we have a new game or a major update out. Maybe you’ll get one that says Android next year.


  14. Andrea says:

    It’s a shame you are not making as much money as you expected. You have a great game here. To me the skins add very little, I thought about buying simply because I liked the game and wanted you to get something out of it as I think you deserve it. Some other user mentioned the single skins are too expensive and I agree with him. What I mean is that the price of the single upgrades is too close to the uber update. You either need to differentiate or just sell the uber update. We won’t go broke for 5 dollars. You know the breakdowns of sales, so you prob already know better than me :)

    Another thing is what you are selling. I LOVE that all the gameplay is free, what I would pay for is extra maps, rather than character skins.
    Run a survey maybe among users, see what users are asking the most and make that commercial :)
    PLEASE no help for money, that ruins the purpose of a strategy game, IMHO.

    Thanks for a great game.

  15. Joebobjoe says:

    I know this will sound a bit cliched bit perhaps you guys could do a kickstarter. Present it as a we need this much to keep servers running and development ongoing. I would say start at around 250k goal. Rewards could be stuff like beta acess, an exclusive fort, votes on upcoming teams, current teams and packs at discounts and enshrinement in a secondary part of the credits. I would happily pitch in 10 dollars if it meant that outwitters could stay alive with updates. Stretch goals would where it would get interesting with possible new maps. Also part of the problem with the current IAPs is that the teams are skins and one new unit and the max games boost mostly affects people who play many games at once(I have the former having picked up the über pack during launch sale but not the latter being the sort of person who plays only a few games at once. The other things that really gets my approval is that this is a pure strategy game and the face to face multiplayer that is missing in other games quite frequently of late. I apologize if this winds up being an incoherent wall of text it is currently 1:45 where I am and I have been having trouble sleeping of late.

  16. Nazo Sislian says:

    Hey there,

    I know that my point of view will not appeal to most people here, but personally, I feel like Outwitters lacks the additive appeal that your 1st game had.

    I downloaded and purchased all packs, but I just don’t see myself getting hooked on it like I did with Hero Academy.

    Maybe it’s the fact that it’s not the most intuitive game to grasp and play that’s behind the slow sales….

    There, I said it!

  17. Mike G. says:

    I for one absolutely love the game and would pay for the countless hours I’ve enjoyed playing it.

    Would apple allow you to add a donate option among the in-app purchases? I hate to hear that you’re loosing money on an excellent and popular product like this. I’d gladly pay $20 for this game.

  18. Adam says:

    @Mike: Our game soundtracks (link below) are pay what you want. You really don’t owe us any more than our game’s asking price, but that’s basically the OML donate button.


  19. BigZ says:

    I for one found this thread when trying to figure out how to purchase maps in game. The store needs to be reworked. Dump the individual teams, only sell the uberpack of teams, then either clarify that maps come with the uberpack or sell them separately.

    Consider locking the unpaid players out of new maps.

    FWIW, I have been enjoying the game but do not see value in paying for new teams/maps when the teams do not seem different than the free one other than graphics/animations and i get the maps in multi anyway. After reading about the business model failure I just went and bought everything.

    Keep up the good work on the games and keep learning the biz side.

  20. Even though you dont have alot of captial from this release,what you do have is a loyal fanbase and the consumer capital that comes with it.I bought the uber pack and even at 4 bucks your game holds a lot of replay value. I for one will be watching for your releases for a while. Glu and other freemium companies may have made a lot of money off there bussiness model but long term it want last. I actually thought some of those games were pretty good but anytime I see something new from them I avoid it because I know I am going to get ripped off. Forcing consumers to buy or players to wait an hour before they can play just turns players into players of another game. I actually would play outwitters in between rounds of let’s golf 3 until I just got tired of waiting and deleted their app.

  21. Zak says:

    No business advice here, just a little heart-gushing from an über-pack owner: I’m not a typical gamer, but Outwitters has me checking my phone way more often than I should, waiting for my next move. I had a really shitty autumn (bad things happen in threes, right?), and spent a month backpacking solo through Ecuador to try and recover from it all. Outwitters kept me willfully grounded, pleasantly distracted, and connected to my friends back home through 2v2 game chat boxes. You’ve done more than make a simple video game. Just wanted to say thanks :)

    That being said, if you guys ever launch a Kickstarter, put me on the list of supporters. I’d be happy to pitch in.

  22. jacs says:

    Outwitters is a good game. It completely trashes any turn based chess related type of games. Free loaders out there, just put in a few bucks and support this game. Keep this game free. Keeping it free is a good first step. Now you can think of how to rake in the $ to support the development of this game.

  23. Gavin says:

    Ever thought of “pay to play” tournaments with cash prizes to the winner? House takes a cut of the pot. Allows you to keep the game free for the masses yet gets serious players involved in serious games. Not too sure the legality, probably need a lawyer. It’s not a game of chance though so I wouldn’t consider it gambling. More like a small group of golfers getting together for a winner take all match. Could probably even sell sponsors for the tournaments if you did them on the regular.

    Hope you’re able to work things out. The game is fantastic. Even if you’re not succeeding financially, you really did create a masterpiece.

  24. Craig says:

    You have a great game with a large user base. If you capped non-paying users to a single game at a time, I am confident they would purchase the über pack just to play more…

  25. Anonymous says:

    Just put ads on the free one

  26. Jliu714 says:

    Read the article and it sounds pretty bad. I figured out that if you charge $1, you’ll make an extra $50,000 per 500,000 customers. Your game is THE BEST. I don’t understand how this could’ve happened, best wishes though.

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