Former Empire: Total War designer Jan van der Crabben offered a dire prediction for companies thinking of swimming in the free-to-play pond: expect a 70 percent drop in initial registered users.
Speaking at Gamescom this week, Crabben said that player retention is key to a free-to-play title's success and that most free-to-play games lose a freshly registered play in the first three minutes of play. If that player sticks around for more than four days, chances are he or she will be playing for a long time, Crabben says. Crabben added that a 30 percent retention rate for users should be considered very successful for any free-to-play game.
He goes on to say that the reward system in games like World of Warcraft is the best method for retaining players. In Wow he says users "kill stuff to get better to get more abilities to kill more stuff."
Crabben is a senior game designer at Travian Games. The company develops browser-based free-to-play games such as Imperion and Travian.