We enjoyed this great article on the merits of F2P by Lee Perry over at Gamasutra. The freemium world comes in for a fair amount of criticism, but this puts a lot of that in context. Is it really so wrong to identify what players don't like a game and act on it? Is it a crime to care about issues like retention and UI design. Surely not!
Of course we would say that, wouldn't we. It all chimes in nicely with the Swrve view of the world after all. But it also makes complete sense. The alternative to carefully analyzing and acting upon user feedback (which takes the form of what they do, rather than what they say), is to simply ignore it. And the alternative to testing and refining every aspect of the user experience is to assume that your designers know best. That doesn't sound like a sensible strategy to me.
In fact many of these supposed issues with the model are not really related to F2P itself. No matter what model we end up with, and how long freemium remains flavour of the month, games on mobile and tablet are going to give their designers access to player data, and the ability to test different scenarios, tune their games, and talk to players. Any company that chooses not to make the most of that opportunity isn't going to be around for too long - even if they ARE using a paid install model.
All those techniques aren't going to turn a bad game into a blockbuster. Nothing in this approach replaces the skills and 'art' we would associate with great game design. But what they will do is maximize the ROI you enjoy on that design and development effort. You could argue - and we would - that NOT adopting the 'test everything' data-driven philosophy is short changing your creative efforts. So keep a firm hold of those babies, because they surely aren't going anywhere!