Imagine going to a movie theater and after the film there is an anonymous box that reads "pay what you think is fair." What would you do? Drop a some cash in the slot or scoot by hoping nobody notices. That is Philipp Stollenmayer's approach to monetization in his popular minimal rhythm puzzler, "Okay?" The app is completely free and it uses a combination of reward ads and a unique "pay-what-you-want" In-App Purchase approach for monetization.
The reward ads are pretty straight forward. If you get stuck on a puzzle, an onscreen prompt offers a hint in exchange for you watching a video ad. It is easy to do reward ads poorly. There is a delicate balance in giving the user an advantage while having them feel like they are not cheating. Okay achieves this by limiting the reward to only showing you the optimal start point. You still have the challenge of choosing the right trajectory and timing.
The interesting part is the pay-what-you-want model. This is a common practice on other platforms like itch.io an bandcamp.com but is relatively unheard of on the mobile platform. It is also unique for a puzzle game with very little narrative to be able to convey the emotional connection required to convert free users to paid ones. Still the tone of the app gives you the impression that your purchase is supporting an indie.
Here is what I think: This monetization model is novel and creates a buzz but I think it would earn less per user than a traditional freemium game (pay to unlock more levels). The caveat is that part of Okay's success must be attributed to this one-of-a-kind approach (at least on mobile). I think we will see more titles doing this in the future, and I admire Okay for blazing a new trail.
What do you think? Let me know on Twitter @MobyPixel Okay?
Extra Credit: Most of Philipp's other games are free with no IAP or ads like Flip the Pancake. I absolutely love the description.