Glu Mobile Opts for Social Game-Style Monetization in iOS’ Contract Killer

Having brought popular its iPhone game Gun Bros to Facebook, Glu Mobile is pretty familiar with monetization tactics in the social gaming world. And it’s bringing that acumen to Contract Killer, a recently released casual-mobile game that has already made its way high up the top grossing Apple app charts for both the iPad and iPhone.

Shown from the perspective of a sniper, this free-to-play assassination game has a slower pace, but it’s an excellent time killer. It only offers a few minutes of play for free with each sitting. With a focus on precision and planning instead of quick reactions, it’s a nice change of pace for a shooter.

With Contract Killer, users take on the role the title suggests. They work for a group as a sniper-for-hire and must now perform side-jobs for random clients in order to make a living.

In each mission players receive a target that wanders about a small level. Each level will have a variety of obstacles in them like body guards, civilians or traffic. The idea is to find the target from one’s vantage point and take them out as quickly, and quietly, as possible with a variety of different sniper rifles. One has to wait for the ideal shot, however, as a missed one will send them running. Should they escape, the mission will be a failure.

This hurts on a few levels. The first, is that the player has wasted ammunition, which must be continually purchased like in games such as Overkill or Last Defender. Secondly, in a tactic borrowed from social gaming, each mission requires energy to even start. Players do recharge, but it is extremely slow. It can take several minutes to generate one point of energy. Finally, players can get themselves killed by the noted guards if they aren’t careful, which will cost med kits to remedy. Of course, most players will want to spend their hard earned in-game cash on new guns and ammunition.

In another gating mechanism from social games, players can only accept contracts every so often. As the user progresses through the game, they will be able to buy the trust of new contacts and do more missions, but each one will have a set amount of time before a new job from them becomes available.

Interestingly enough, buying the “trust” of new potential clients may actually cost a small amount of virtual currency called Credits. As one might expect, this is the primary form of monetization in the game. Players can buy it in quantities of 30 to 950, which costs between $1.99 and $49.99. Additionally, users can purchase extra amounts of in-game currency within a similar price range.

All this said, the primary way that Glu makes its revenue is through the energy gating mechanism. The game is actually pretty fun to play, but a single sitting only allows for a few minutes before the character’s energy is exhausted. Players have to purchase energy-replenishing items with Credits (unless they want to wait an extended period of time to play some more). To further augment this revenue stream, players that do not want to make an in-app purchase can earn free Credits by downloading other applications through a pay-per-install network like Tapjoy.

On the negative side of things, the variety in the missions feels a bit limited. Players will often find themselves replaying the exact same layouts multiple times before they level up and unlock new ones, with the same type of game play (find, aim, shoot). While it can be fun to create new challenges for one’s self and earn fiscal bonuses for headshots or quick shots (killing the target in the first 10 seconds of the level start), it does get boring having to look at the same environment over and over again. Other than this, the game has an annoying habit of sending too many push notifications, which are hard to turn off.

In the end, Contract Killer may seem like it charges users at every turn, but it’s just a monetization method that is not yet as common in the mobile space as it is in the social gaming world. Mobile gamers are still used to being able to play a game all the way through without having to pay up for more. Regardless, the game is fun to play and makes for a nice change of pace from the typical run-and-gun shooters of today.

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