5 Problems Users Experience in Free-to-Play Games

Anastasia Sukhanova @devtodev
3 min readApr 6, 2020


Free-to-play games are very interesting in many ways. If you look at their economy you will see a bit of contradiction: on the one hand, the player doesn’t need to spend money in the game and can receive pleasure for free. On the other hand, free-to-play games are designed in a way that stimulates the player to buy various items in its in-game store.

To make the game profitable, developers try hard to acquire the so-called “whales” — lavish spenders who love buying boosters, decorations, and other useful and expensive staff. But working with whales raises two problems:

  • Long-term retention of whales (any players in fact) in the game. The longer they are active, the higher the probability of making a payment on each subsequent day, and the size of this payment.
  • Whales’ loyalty to the game. In some games, whales provide from 30% to 90% of the total income, and the loss of one such player means the loss of a substantial amount of income at once.

You can approach these problems from different points of view, but one of the most important is customer support. Really, if a whale experiences a problem and doesn’t get any help then they will definitely leave the game and never come back.

What are the main problems players may face?

1. Shopping problems

Maybe the player got the wrong item, or they couldn’t receive the purchase or they were unable to complete the purchase. In all these cases players decide that it was some kind of fraud and start writing angry messages to the support. They often ask for a full refund and compensation.

In this case, the support agent needs to work fast because it directly influences the whale’s satisfaction with the answer.

2. Technical problems

Maybe the game freezes, or it shows an error message or for some technical reasons, the player can not get access to the whole game.

In this case, normally the player is ready to wait because they know that everything takes time. They are also often motivated to help the developer identify the problem: they describe the bug, and provide all the requested information (logs, a path to the bug, etc.). However, if the problem is still not resolved over time, your whale will swim away.

3. Problems with game mechanics

The player simply cannot understand how to play the game or how to pass a certain level and asks the customer support for help with the issue. In this case, they feel dumb and helpless and will write very angry messages. They may just want to complain and be heard or to get an explanation of how everything works. On the developer’s side, you need to make sure your game doesn’t make your players feel dumb and helpless.

4. Loss of equipment or progress

If the player loses equipment they paid for or progress they worked hard on then they also get very annoyed. Customer support agents need to solve this problem asap because as time passes by the player (the whale) simply loses interest in the game, loses that special “mood” to play it, to make progress to achieve something.

5. A conflict between non-paying and paying players

Money in games very often gives an enormous advantage to the players who buy ammunition or equipment and that creates many unpleasant and unfair situations. In this case, the whale can smash the non-paying player to pieces even though the latter spent much more time in the game and was proud of the progress they reached. But the reverse situation where a non-paying player can defeat a whale is even worse for you as a developer. In any case, you will need to create better-balanced gameplay and train your support agents on how to defuse these conflicts.

Users experience many problems in free-to-play games, and you need to focus on solving them in order to make the game more profitable and popular.



Anastasia Sukhanova @devtodev

Customer Success Manager at www.devtodev.com. Everything you need to know about analyzing and improving games and apps.