· 9 min read

Best Five F2P Games Launched in January

Kicking off the year, I've reviewed what were the best F2P games of January 2020, and how exactly these developers make money.

A tad late on this one, I know. But kicking off the year on a high note, I have a handful of high-quality free-to-play games to share with you. This time, I wanted to not only look at what makes these titles great, but also touch on how these free games make money and keep themselves afloat.

From deck building to platformers to minimalist puzzle games, the following five titles all bring something unique to the game dev community. So, without further ado, let’s dig in.

1. Mineblast!!

  • Developer: Neutronized
  • Launch date: January 15th, 2020
  • Price: Free, with in-app purchases
  • Available on: iOS & Android

The combination of physics, platformers and puzzles is something I have seen pop up recently in a few games (take Projection: First Light as an example), and is something Neutronized has done really well. Their newest title, Mineblast!! (which executes this hybrid-genre brilliantly, in my opinion), had me playing for hours. And the cherry on top? Well, as you can guess from the title of this post, this game is entirely free to play.

Clean and easy onboarding

In Mineblast, you’re a cat miner that collects dynamite to blast away various rocks that are in your path. So to begin with, you’re mainly just throwing dynamite. But as you play on, you’re able to push, throw, and even bounce items, making the gameplay all the more complex. And once you’ve made it through the first few levels, the real physics-based aspect of the game kicks in.

I loved this. Neutronized allowed me time to get used to the controls, and not once did I feel overwhelmed. They revealed new controls and abilities just at the right time to keep me playing for longer.

They didn’t overuse ads

I know I said this game is entirely free, but everyone reading this knows that this isn’t 100% true. Got to pay the bills somehow. So Neutronized went down a couple of routes that I could see for monetizing this game.

1. They have ads. 

This is always to be expected in F2P games. And thankfully for this title, I wasn’t bombarded with ad after ad. I saw one every now and again, and it never felt intrusive.

2. You can pay to remove ads.

I really like this option. For me, if I really love the game, then I don’t mind forking out a couple of pounds to remove the ads. When a game is that good, you’ll find your players will actually want to support you. So my advice? Focus on making an excellent game. The money will come.

2. Abyssrium Pole

  • Developer: Flero Games
  • Launch date: January 14th, 2020
  • Price: Free, with in-app purchases
  • Available on: iOS & Android

After the success of one of my favorite games, Tap Tap Aquarium, Flero Games just released a new tapping title, Abyssrium Pole. I couldn’t resist picking up this stunning game in January. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to play either of these, they are tapping-based games that let you control and build animal-based environments – all while captivating the player in its beauty.

They rewarded players for pre-registering

This was a great tactic I would suggest any developer adopt when releasing a similar or sequel title (or any game, actually); give a gift to anyone who pre-ordered their title. What I received was a cute, slightly spiffy penguin that I got when I logged in after pre-registering (which was highlighted as a bonus reward for having a bit of an interest in the game before it was out).

Not only is this a great way to reward loyal players and entice new players, but it can also raise awareness on other items you may have in your store. This is especially important if your game primarily monetizes from IAP and less on ads.

3. Klee: Spacetime Cleaners

Klee: Spacetime Cleaners is a single-screen action game where you need to jump around, collect coins, and avoid enemies and their bullets. What I love the most about this game is the balance. Your little guy auto-fires, so all you need to focus on is aiming, and more importantly, not getting shot.

Premium Currency is optional

Premium currency is always a great shout when making a F2P game, as long as it doesn’t disrupt the player’s gameplay (and essentially make it pay-to-play scenario). As Klee: Spacetime Cleaners is all about having another (even longer) run, purchasing items that help lengthen your session and increase your chance of getting a better score is obviously going to draw in players.

Here’s a breakdown of how Noice2D used currency in their game:

  • Earn: Players can earn coins in each level, which they can spend on upgrades for future runs.
  • Buy: Players can also buy gems (with actual $$$) in the title menu.
  • Watch: Or they can watch rewarded ads to get currency.

All of which can be used to better the player’s gameplay experience. But remember, this should all be optional, so players don’t feel cheated or deceived when downloading what they think is a F2P title.

All in all, Noice2D has a really admirable monetization model, which I would recommend researching if you’re setting up something similar.

4. Deck & Dungeon

deck and dungeon example

  • Developer: Ju Hern Kim
  • Launch date: January 15th, 2020
  • Price: Free, with in-app purchases
  • Available on: iOS

Deck & Dungeon is a card-based game where you need to use your cards to complete various battles and dungeons in each run. There are a few things I love about this game, one of them being how the core-loop is set up. Ju Hern Kim divided Deck & Dungeon into short dives and small side quests, letting players have breathers and pauses between each run.

The game is also really forgiving. It doesn’t matter if you mess up too much, which is super important for a F2P mobile game. And lastly, there is a lot of depth to this title. Players can use weapons to solve puzzles, whereas puzzle items can also be used as weapons. It sounds confusing, but honestly, it’s really amusing once you’re in the zone.

Understanding cards through colours

The best thing that Ju Hern Kim did in Deck & Dungeons is color-coding the cards. The majority of the cards are in black and white, while the rest are separated into four different colors: Red (which are for skills), Blue (for tools), Brown (regular attacks), and green (potions).  This is super important when you’re in a fast-paced game, as you can quickly identify which card you need to play (I can’t stress how essential this is, especially for games on smaller devices).

From starter packs to purchasing different types of currency, this game caters to a wide audience range for their in-app purchasables.  The starter pack, for example, is a really tempting offer which gives the player a bunch of gold, gems and two different card packs. You can purchase Diamonds separately, either with gold or real $$$. These bigger packs are pretty good bundles, which feel like a great deal for players who have invested time and energy into the game – they are well worth including!

5. Pico Tanks

  • Developer: Panda Arcade
  • Launch date: January 31st, 2020
  • Price: Free, with in-app purchases
  • Available on: iOS & Android

I don’t actually play a lot of online mobile games, but I have to say that Pico Tanks is probably one of my favorites. It’s a cute yet intense 3v3 tank battle game with various arenas, game modes, and upgrade options. Going into each level, you are placed onto one of two teams, and given a goal similar to ‘capture the flag’ or ‘keep a spot’. Your objective is simple: be the last team alive. If you win, you get rewarded with a higher division score and a bunch of crates that help you upgrade your tank.

Easy to understand UI

There are two things that Panda Arcade did beautifully in Pico Tanks. The first is the UI (user-interface design). UI can often be messy or off-putting, especially for new players, but in Pico Tank, everything is sleek and uncluttered. There’s a bonus bar at the bottom of the tank, which is easy to notice and understand. There are also two joystick icons – one for movement, and the other lets you fire on either side of the screen. Aiming is actually quite intuitive; players can choose to aim the weapons joystick or tap it to auto-fire. I found this super useful, as it’s just another level of personalization that makes the game great.

Bonus content unlocks gameplay for their players

Interestingly, there are no ads in this game (which makes sense, being a fast-paced online game). Panda Arcade actually monetizes this title through several purchasable items in their store. What’s more interesting, though, is how they entice you in.

  • First of all, they have daily deals. But these actually refresh every 6 hours – meaning players get something new at least 3 or 4 times a day – which is great for retention.
  • Secondly, you can purchase additional crates through gems (a premium/rare currency). How you get gems is through the usual way, either earning or buying with $$$.

I absolutely love their daily rewards. It just means that players who can’t afford to play have a great experience, and it also entices players who can spare some $$$ to spend more. If it wasn’t for those free boxes, it would be almost impossible to upgrade your tank – meaning players who can fork out some money would have a ridiculously high advantage.

Thanks for reading. If you have a new title that you would like me to review, message me on Twitter here. Also make sure to check out my last blog, rounding up the best games of 2019.

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