Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
April 17, 2014
arrowPress Releases
April 17, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


The 5 trends that defined the game industry in 2012 Exclusive
The 5 trends that defined the game industry in 2012
December 6, 2012 | By Kris Graft




Editor-in-chief Kris Graft kicks off Gamasutra's annual year-end roundups with five trends that defined 2012.

Once December hits, pretty much every year I marvel at just how fast time flies. That feeling of the swift passing of time was inflated as I scoured the stories of the past 12 months: Was it really just this year that I saw Tim Schafer at the February DICE Summit in Las Vegas, constantly checking his phone to keep track of his crazy Kickstarter campaign? Was it really just this year that Zynga dropped hundreds of millions of dollars to buy its way into the mobile market?

There were a lot of individual pieces of news, but with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the news with the most impact culminated in the five following trends: the trends that defined 2012.

Crowdfunding's new opportunities

There had been plenty of Kickstarter campaigns for games the past few years, but it was Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure in February that blew the doors open on crowdfunding for games, waking the industry up to new possibilities and setting a strong theme for the rest of the year.

Double Fine Adventure drew in more than $3.3 million (a fair bit above the $400,000 target) and shattered previous records for Kickstarter. But then along came Obsidian Entertainment's Project Eternity, which brought in nearly $4 million. And Kickstarter in 2012 wasn't just about game software, but also about hardware. The Android-based Ouya console raised $8.6 million. The Oculus Rift VR headset, which major game studios vouched for, raked in over $2.4 million.



Creators didn't always use Kickstarter for crowdfunding. Chris Roberts, best known for his work on Wing Commander, launched a crowdfunding campaign on his own website, then added a Kickstarter campaign, reaching a combined total of over $6.2 million in funds for his spacefaring game Star Citizen. Introversion's independently-run crowdfunding campaign is now at $625,000.

Not everyone who took to Kickstarter was successful -- there were a number of notable campaigns that came up short. Success or failure, Kickstarter offered not only the means for developers to independently fund their games, but also oft-compelling stories for onlookers and contributors -- sometimes about oh-so-close misses, sometimes about a late-campaign rally to success.

The mobile transition

This year, social game developers allocated even more time and resources to mobile platforms, as Facebook's most dedicated players embraced games on their smartphones and tablets.

Facebook has been helping facilitate mobile adoption for game developers who previously were focused on browser-based social games. The social network opened up new viral channels to allow games to organically spread among Facebook friends, and now developers can more fully hook their native mobile games into Facebook's Open Graph.

One report in September showed how Zynga, Electronic Arts and Disney/Playdom's social browser games were seeing double-digit declines of daily active users, month to month. Meanwhile, the top-grossing mobile games continue to gain traction.

Businesses are changing their strategies in order to follow where the players are going. Social game stalwart Wooga told Gamasutra that its main focus is no longer on Facebook games, but on mobile, with over half of its 250-person staff working on smartphones and tablets. Crowdstar has halted development of social network games to focus on mobile. King.com is concentrating on cross-platform browser-to-mobile experiences. And there's Zynga, whose $210 million purchase of Draw Something developer OMGPOP this year showed just how much the leading Facebook developer thought mobile games were worth.

As mid-tier developers are squeezed out it's obviously not just social game developers who are flocking to mobile phones. With millions of new phone activations happening each year, mobile hardware becoming more powerful and Facebook itself focusing its efforts on mobile, 2013 will continue to see the maturation of this transition, in all parts of the industry.

So long, MMO subscriptions

If there was any hope left for "premium" MMOs and the monthly subscription model, those hopes were dashed in 2012 when BioWare Austin's Star Wars: The Old Republic swiftly declined in players, and eventually transitioned to the free-to-play business model.



There was Funcom's The Secret World -- an interesting MMO that charged players a monthly fee. When the players didn't show up, the company had to restructure, lay off workers and soldier forward. The game still is subscription-based, but isn't exactly an example of how to make the subscription model work in a modern day MMO.

It's not just the shortfalls of the subscription MMO model that are notable, but also the success of new MMOs and online-focused games released this year, that launched as free-to-play games. Player expectations shifted dramatically in 2012 -- and aside from the lumbering giant World of Warcraft (released eight years ago) and the rather brilliant EVE Online, the subscription model for MMOs is all but finished.

Mid-tier fallout

At about the mid-point of the current console generation, prognosticators warned the game industry: Going toe-to-toe with studios in the top-tier, high-budget "triple-A" video game sector is going to become an increasingly harrowing task.

We saw this happening last year as well, but the trend continued in 2012 -- mid-level developers and their games are falling out of the picture. Slow sales of Square Enix's Sleeping Dogs hurt the publisher's earnings this year -- a disappointing shortfall, as the publisher made a special effort to scoop the game up from Activision, where it was called True Crime: Hong Kong.

Lightbox Interactive's Starhawk released to some solid reviews in May, but by October the studio was hit with layoffs, and transitioned to mobile games. Activision-owned Prototype 2 developer Radical Entertainment also suffered layoffs; 007 Legends developer Eurocom cut staff and began focusing on mobile.

THQ's Vigil Games didn't see restructuring, and released a well-reviewed game in Darksiders II over the summer. That game sold 1.4 million units, but THQ said it still didn't meet expectations. THQ president Jason Rubin conceded in November: "In the current marketplace only the absolute top tier of releases is making an impact on game consumers."

If you want to survive and thrive in triple-A, and fight against the Call of Dutys, the Gears of Wars, the Assassin's Creeds and the Halos, you're going to need a whole lot of money and a whole lot of talent. And even if you have those ingredients, nothing is certain.

Resounding calls for diversity and inclusiveness


The video game industry seemed to reach a turning point this year, as frank, open discussions about diversity and gender inclusiveness frequently took place on video game websites and social media.

In late November, gender-related issues that were being expressed throughout the year appeared to culminate in the #1reasonwhy Twitter campaign. The hashtag, brought about by the question of why there are relatively few women in the game industry, exposed many examples of sexist behavior in the work environment, and put that ugliness up for the world to see.

But that was only one of the many pointed instances that brought diversity issues to the surface. There was a certain trailer for Hitman: Absolution that caused an uproar and sparked discussion about misogyny in games -- developer IO Interactive eventually apologized for the teaser, which showed protagonist Agent 47 violently beating down gun-toting dominatrix nuns. Game journalists took Crystal Dynamics to task when one developer suggested players will want to "protect" main character Lara Croft from sexual assault.

Blogger Anita Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter for a web series investigating female tropes in video games. Along with support for her efforts came disgusting, juvenile, sexist reaction from internet posters with limited brain capacity. But in the end, the Kickstarter was funded well over its goal, and the people had spoken, not only with their words, but with their wallets.

We could go on with examples of calls for inclusiveness and gender equality: Halo 4 developer 343 Industries talked openly about fighting gender stereotypes in the game; Electronic Arts officially took a stand against the Defense of Marriage Act; author and game designer Anna Anthropy spoke out against "token characters" in games at Indiecade; Boston's No Show Conference for games aimed to have women make up at least 50 percent of the speaker lineup. Of course, Gamasutra contributing writers were an active part of the discussion as well.

The movement is concentrated, but it's spreading, picking up traction every day. As people who care about video games grow up -- both players and developers -- they're becoming more vocal and insistent that video games grow up with them.

More Gamasutra 2012 roundups:

The 5 events that shook the video game industry in 2012
The 5 most significant video game controversies in 2012


Related Jobs

Crytek
Crytek — Shanghai, China
[04.17.14]

Mobile Programmer
Turbine Inc.
Turbine Inc. — Needham, Massachusetts, United States
[04.16.14]

Director, Analytics Platform Development
Nix Hydra Games
Nix Hydra Games — Hollywood, California, United States
[04.16.14]

Programmer
Muti Labs
Muti Labs — Santa Monica, California, United States
[04.16.14]

Senior Game Engineer










Comments


Dave Ingram
profile image
It was indeed an interesting year, with many promises of exciting things to come. It's a good time to be in this industry.

Christopher Totten
profile image
I should send this out to my Game Design History class. I gave a lecture that highlighted a lot of this stuff just yesterday. I agree that its an exciting time for the industry, especially for those hoping to break in.

Arthur Souza
profile image
I still rather play subscription based MMOs. See you guys in 4 years when you're talking about the next trend when 95% of f2p based games fail. Making games solely based on what's going to make money. That HAS to work.

Simon Ludgate
profile image
I also disagree that subscription is dead. You can't go from "most companies attempting to make a subscription-based MMO have failed to meet the quality standards required to justify a subscription" to "the subscription model for MMOs is all but finished."

Just because developers are currently incapable of making a good game doesn't mean that it is impossible to make a good game that is highly profitable with a subscription model.

Luis Guimaraes
profile image
"have failed to meet the quality standards required to justify a subscription"

Agreed, Simon. Not Only MMOs and subscription but everything upfront is mostly a case of having actual value.

---
Why do I read "it's all but finished" as "it's everything except finished"?

Craig Timpany
profile image
The problem is that the playerbase now sees F2P as an inevitable part of an MMO's lifecycle. Anecdotally, I keep hearing people say "I'll check it out once it goes free to play." How do you convince those people to pay a subscription in the mean time?

Frank Cifaldi
profile image
You launch with a F2P option to begin with instead of assuming that your awesome game is going to fundamentally change player behavior.

Simon Ludgate
profile image
For every person I hear saying "I'll check it out when it goes free" I hear people saying "I'd rather be playing a subscription game than a F2P game". For every person I hear saying "F2P is the only way" I hear people saying "all F2P games suck". There is an obvious conclusion here: there is no absolute homogeneous mass of people.

If you're asking how to convince players that favour F2P to pay a subscription, you're asking the wrong question. That's akin to asking how to convince gay men to marry women. The question is based on a flawed presupposition: that everyone thinks the way you do.

The most relevant issue is finding a target audience and catering to it. You're going to have a hard time selling a subscription game to F2P gamers. You're also going to have a hard time selling a WoW-clone to people playing WoW. Why? Simple: they're still playing WoW. They don't need or want another game. This has been the most fundamental problem in MMORPG design and the apparent death of subscription. People making games for which no market exists, thinking they can compete with or replace ("de-throne") the market leader.

Convsersely, this is EXACTLY why games like EVE Online and Rift continue to thrive on the subscription model: they found different audiences that were not being served by existing games, not the current WoW players and not the F2P players. EVE targetted a very different niche audience, Rift targetted the hard-core WoW fans disenfranchised by WoW's dumbing-down process. This is also why Secret World is something of a sad failure: on the one hand it did target an audience, but on the other hand it failed to actually be a good game. Which simply justifies my original statement that standards of quality, rather than subscription model, is the real issue at hand.

SWTOR failed spectacularly for the opposite reason that Secret World did: it failed to identify and design for that subscription-paying audience. In many ways SWTOR is actually quite a good game, it's just woefully mispackaged as an MMORPG, no nevermind the payment model.

I have seen no evidence that the subscription model is dead, only evidence that it is extremely hard to both capture an unserved or underserved audience and also produce a high quality title worth the investment of their time and money.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green
profile image
You're conflating two issues here: the fact that some people still prefer subscriptions, and the fact that game companies don't see a future in subscriptions. You're arguing the former, whereas I take the point from the article as being the latter.

And, yes, companies are scared of subscriptions. Let's take a look at the SW:tOR MMO in particular. You say "quality" but that can't be objectively measured, so let's look at what we can measure: estimated $300M budget, experienced game (and some MMO) developers, respected AAA developer, and a popular franchise in a super-popular setting. If all that can't maintain interest, then what hope does someone without all those advantages have?

The reality is that the free-to-play business model when done right, and it can be done horribly wrong, has the advantage that it can get more people to try the thing in the first place. Compared to a box sale and a subscription decision point, which was a huge obstacle a decade and a half ago when MMOs were first starting. People can try out a game, get interested in it, and eventually start to pay money when they feel like it is worthwhile.

I know that as an MMO developer who started my career around the time when MMOs started using subscriptions, I've seen quite a bit change over the years. And, I certainly would not propose a subscription-based business model to anyone who would be able to fund a proposed game.

Alan Boody
profile image
@Brian Green: "And, yes, companies are scared of subscriptions. Let's take a look at the SW:tOR MMO in particular. You say "quality" but that can't be objectively measured, so let's look at what we can measure: estimated $300M budget, experienced game (and some MMO) developers, respected AAA developer, and a popular franchise in a super-popular setting. If all that can't maintain interest, then what hope does someone without all those advantages have?" - Brian

I agree with you that companies are scared of subscriptions. Unfortunately, this is because companies like EA Bioware, Funcom, and Mythic (EA again) all thought that incorporating certain elements of WoW meant a sure thing. However, they failed to realize a few things about WoW. Although, it wasn't entirely original, overall it was a 'new experience'. It didn't try to come out with the latest and greatest technical features, it came out with appealing graphics that could run on nearly any computer with a graphics card.

If you want to charge a subscription for your MMORPG then don't make it a single-player game disguised as an MMORPG simply because it has a few multiplayer features tacked on. I've played WoW, just like over 10 million other people. I don't want more WoW.

I also want to point out there is a big difference between dumbing down a game and having limited features. I guess it's far easier to simply dumb down the design of a game instead of designing an interface that presents advanced features in a easier to understand way.

Now this is my opinion, but I think part of the reason why SWTOR failed to sustain subscriptions is that they failed to focus on the most important 'pillars' of an MMORPG, and threw all their money at the so-called 'fourth pillar'. Personally, I always saw the future of MMORPG's having the players drive their own stories. Obviously, it's impossible/unfeasible to build this into an MMORPG, but you can facilitate this in other ways.

Bram Stolk
profile image
Trend #6: The Rise of the Indie, the decline of the publisher.

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

John Zucarelli
profile image
That's game-related, so it can't possibly be as important and ground-shaking as the wholly made up 'calls for more diversity' #1 point.

Josh Rough
profile image
Publishers will never go away, nor should they.

Paul Marzagalli
profile image
I wouldn't say "decline of the publisher" but rather evolution of the casual gamer and the splintering of the gaming audience - Indies and crowdfunding providing gaming opportunities to niche consumers who focus their attentions and money there. There will still be points of commonality between gamers - those AAA publisher brands - but video games seem to be undergoing their own form of what the networks did once cable TV achieved deep enough market penetration.

John Gordon
profile image
The general downward sales trend....

Paul Marzagalli
profile image
I read the report about November sakes figures and was surprised/depressed that even a new console launch and Halo game weren't enough to arrest the decline, even if just for a month.

Adam Bishop
profile image
Steam ran a pretty big sale in November, as did most of the other digital retailers. Anecdotal, I know, but almost everyone I know who's a gamer spent money during those sales. I think it's impossible to know what the real revenue situation is like without looking at digital, especially PC digital.

Dave Smith
profile image
next year: the death of kickstarter, mobile, and ftp and more of the same generic white guys and hot chicks! we're doomed!

Frank Cifaldi
profile image
File Transfer Protocol had a great run, but it had to die sometime.

Bisse Mayrakoira
profile image
RIP FTP. Long live SFTP. :)

Guerric Hache
profile image
I'm confused as to what "mid-tier" means. I always thought mid-tier games were things like Orcs Must Die!, Torchlight, Deathspank or Quantum Conundrum - sold around the 15-30 price range, by teams a too large to be comfortably called indie, sharing many fundamental gameplay aspects with triple-A titles (such as 3D gameplay or RPG features) but with a narrower scope (or a lot more bugs) and less intense marketing. Admittedly an amorphous category, but then again, so are most such categories of videogames.

Kristen C Stewart
profile image
Sometimes I hear Binary Domain used as an example of "mid-tier" as well, based on its budget, but it sells for $40. So yea, definitely an amorphous category.

Paul Marzagalli
profile image
Yeah, Kristen hit on my interpretation - expensive games developed by AAA publishers that aren't major titles (with commensurate marketing budgets).

People increasingly seem to be in "Steam Summer Sale" mode - they may buy that huge blockbuster release, but anything else can wait til it is dirt cheap.

Florian Garcia
profile image
Personally, I thought it was a depressing year. I'm still happy about creating new things but I somehow felt the weight of the "cow milking" models a lot more this year.
On top of that, we've seen many good people leaving the industry as well. Some get tired, some dislike where everything is going and some just feel like taking a break. All in all, it doesn't scream excitement about the future to me.
Is it the end of an era? I do not know but one thing is sure, it is the first time since I started my career that I questioned whether I should do something else.

Brandon Van Every
profile image
Why not just do it differently?

John Zucarelli
profile image
So to backup your claim for #1, you cite a 'movement' that was entirely of your own creation and which otherwise went entirely unnoticed ... along with a bunch of 'outrage' issues that Gamasutra made up from whole cloth or amplified. Classy AND principled!

The funny thing is that even before I read the article I knew there would be at least one entry about race, gender, diversity, or so forth. Anybody remember when Game Developer and Gamasutra were about ... game development? Not the 4-years-of-liberal-arts pipe dreams and driving agendas of their non-game-developer editors?

We get it. You're in all the right clubs. Now, how about actually helping people make games? See, if you help people make games, eventually all these social issues you claim to care about resolve themselves as more and more people enter the field.

I know you're doing your level best to convince everyone that the games industry is racist and sexist and homophobic and so forth. When you get past all the glorification, that's all journalism really is: creating and selling a self-serving narrative. But in reality, out here where people actually make games, it's nothing like that. Anyone can make and sell a game regardless of their gender, race, et al. The vast majority of games content is anodyne - you really have to work hard to drum up the outrage now (what was the last one? Sexy nuns? Seriously?). It is probably the most open, accessible, egalitarian, and free market in the entire world.

Why don't you get back to being productive instead of destructive. Look at altdevblogaday (which you frequently reprint). Do you know why people write for them rather than you? Because nobody considers you a gaming publication anymore. Maybe that doesn't bother all of you. But it must bother some of you.

Have some dignity.

Kris Graft
profile image
Well you say a lot of things here, but I really only have time for a quick reply, "John Zucarelli." Our journalism isn't about "creating and selling a self-serving narrative." It's about telling the truth. And the truth might be lovely, or it might be repulsive. Telling the truth is going to piss people off--people like you, who would rather sweep certain issues under the rug, and say things like "how about actually helping people make games?" (which is the default argument for people who disagree with a socio-cultural piece that we may run).

In short, by someone like you being so pissed off, you've basically patted me on the back, said "atta-boy!", and given me a heap of dignity this morning. Thanks!

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
If you don't see how humanist concerns are related to making games, you're a bad human and bad at making games.

Adam Bishop
profile image
"So to backup your claim for #1, you cite a 'movement' that was entirely of your own creation and which otherwise went entirely unnoticed ... along with a bunch of 'outrage' issues that Gamasutra made up from whole cloth or amplified."

Gamsutra created the #1reasonwhy Twitter handle? Gamasutra convinced a huge amount of mainstream press outlets to cover the Anita Sarkeesian story? Gamasutra was the only one covering the Hitman: Absolution stories? Come on.

Obviously there are plenty of people who aren't interested in these issues, and it's their right not to care. But the repeated assertions every time these things come up that anyone who does claim to care is just making things up is, to be frank, self-centred bullshit. No one is "manufacturing outrage". Lots of different people have lots of different opinions and many of them are things that you won't agree with. Feel free not to agree with them! But stop pretending that it's not physically possible for people to honestly hold a different opinion or care about different things than you do.

Alan Boody
profile image
I would love to see more 'actual game development' stories, postmortems, etc. Articles like this one seem to be more along the lines of 'soap', like the Zynga articles, and so forth. I often find that the best information comes from the comments, and not the actual articles that dramatize everything.

@John: Thanks for pointing me to altdev. It seems to feature far less sensationalized articles.

Muir Freeland
profile image
Even if you strongly disagree with the one point, there are, what, four other completely different ones in the same article?

Stock Watcher66
profile image
As both a player and a HNW Investor who has been studying this space for years, I will add this - the main thing about 2012 is the rise of showing how out of touch many of the MMO businesses are with both the industry and their customers. There, I said it.

I have invested in many different industries and I have never witnessed such as disconnect as this industry currently has from it's customers. Let's start with the current move to the F2P business model - the industry is just putting a noose around it's neck and it is going to tighten, and tighten quickly, as has been shown in other offshoots in other areas. What players want, is access to a title to prove it is a quality product before committing their money. What companies are delivering is a nickel-and-dime (i.e., we create the problem and then sell the solution) or gambling (RNG chests) business model, which is infuriating quite a bit of the customer base. Let's just work as an industry to sour customers on the whole MMO genre, shall we? Everyone in this industry should pause a moment to reflect on something. There are a lot worse companies, morally and ethically, than EA, yet EA won the coveted title of worst company in America. Why? Because of how many customers they have angered with their business practices. Now the majority of the industry is following in the same footsteps and it will end up garnering the whole industry that reputation.

First, it isn't the death of the sub fee, it is the death of the charge for the box and expansions IN ADDITION TO a sub fee that is dead. Think of your internet provider for a moment. Most do not charge for installation anymore, but charge for the monthly use of the service. As long as you use and get value from the service, you pay for it. Perhaps this is where the industry should start in it's wake up call - that the MMO industry provides a service to it's customers, not a product like a desktop game.

No, F2P is not the future. There is little evidence to prove it is financially successful with more mature audiences, but only evidence to prove studios can survive better with it because they can suck more money out of a smaller player base (mostly through deceit and rather shady tactics), but leave a wake of corporate mistrust and brand destruction in their path. SWTOR was a bad example of the need for F2P. SWTOR did NOT fail because of the sub model, it failed because EA/BioWare is the most disconnected company from their player base in the entire business right now. They do NOT listen to their customers at all and it shows in the hubris exercised with the product since beta. They were told directly from their customer base what they were willing to pay for - all of it reasonable and within their efforts to deliver. Instead, they have taken the attitude that they know better, even though the evidence is overwhelming to the contrary.

I have yet to see this industry explore other business models. A practice common in most other industries is to explore various business models and use that as a point of differentiation. This industry instead just follows the trend. For example, here are three models yet to be explored:

1.) Charge a sub fee, but not for any product or expansions. Deliver them as part of that sub fee. Now, customers can try the product for free, and as long as quality is delivered and the content keeps them engaged, they will continue to pay. Problem with this model is that companies would actually HAVE TO listen to customers and deliver what they want for it to work. Something directly opposed to the modus operendi of most of the industry.

2.) Consider a freemium style model with escalating sub fees. Offer customers a complete product with value for free, but also give additional features available for increasing sub fee value ($5, $10, $15/month). Now, players can invite friends and help build a titles audience, of which the industry can hope to convert some of them to paying players. It would also give access to people who could afford, say $5/month but where $15 is a bit much. The problem with this model is seeing how the industry has implemented F2P, there is little hope this model can be structured properly.

3.) Charge for content only and provide account access, security, bot patrolling, etc. for free. Charge players for the box, and release regular quality expansions (i.e., think Diablo I/II model or like desktop publishers without DLC). Now players buy the content they want, and can play all the time.

So, there are three models I have yet to see anyone explore. The problem with all three of them, however, is many companies (not all, but the majority) would need an about face to actually treat their customers with some respect and produce a quality product - something I see little of in this industry today, mainly because this industry lacks a real understanding of it's customers. I know this when I have seen several pitches over the last several years and I, as an investor, have a better understanding of customers in this space than people who want to build products and a business for it.

Adam Bishop
profile image
#3 sounds like the Guild Wars model to me. You buy the game for a fixed price up front, then get unlimited access to most of the game as long as it's active. Then they release further content expansions for another fixed price.

Alan Boody
profile image
@Adam: The original Guild Wars wasn't an MMORPG. It's a multiplayer game with a 3D chat lobby.

Curtiss Murphy
profile image
Quote - "What companies are delivering is a nickel-and-dime (i.e., we create the problem and then sell the solution) or gambling (RNG chests) business model, which is infuriating quite a bit of the customer base. "

^ This. There are so many games that could be good, and I'd be willing to pay for content, but once I get 30 minutes in, I realize it's just glorified whale hunting. $4.99 for 250 virtual coins to gain access to 5% of the content in a mobile game. Insane.

I'm not a whale - I'm a customer!

Stock Watcher66
profile image
@Adam No, Guild Wars has a cash shop. Cash shops are the bane of this current F2P business model. Even ArenaNet has fallen to the temptations presented by a micro-transaction cash shop and look at the wake of customer dissatisfaction it has left.

The #3 model I presented is to say charge players $60 for the initial box, then $40 for each expansion. Make the expansions solid, and with lots of content, and forget adding content on a regular basis (other than special events or festivals).

The problem with #3, though, is it does create the initial barrier to entry of the box sale and runs the risk of a segregated player base as some may have some expansions and maybe not others.

I personally think No. 1 is the best (no upfront customer cost and no player segregation) but the tolerable price point for sub needs to be studied and MMO companies would need to shred a lot of the current hubris and actually deliver a quality experience for customers.

I personally contend that there will be another market leading MMO, one day, like WoW has been (market is pointing to it happening and trends are showing customers are increasingly exploring the market for such a title), but I also believe it is NOT going to come from the industry itself, but rather from a company initially outside the industry that sees the global F2P model for what it really is - an opportunity to disrupt the industry like the NetFlix model tore down the video rental industry model.

Stock Watcher66
profile image
@Curtiss: Exactly.

Perhaps because I have seen several MMO pitches, I might come of as rude to budding entrepreneurs when I go immediately for asking what the business model is. When I hear F2P cash shop micro-transactions or having someone with a title of "monetization manager", the pitch is over then and there. I save them and myself a lot of time this way.

Let me explain why.

Cash shop micro-transactions are good for getting current players to pay more than the normal $15 sub fee (I believe current stats are $18 on average). However, the method in which this is obtained leaves many customers with a bad taste in their mouth. Same can be said for this industries current obsession with RNG items especially (which I personally consider the pinnacle of exploitative business practice). In fact, I am one to believe that it is only a matter of time before gambling regulations will be expanded to cover this 'business practice' and thus companies that rely on it will be slammed in one fell swoop.

Likewise, a 'monetization manager" is a dangerous sign. This is a person who has the sole focus of getting players to spend more in the store. That is, their job is specifically how to figure out how to nickel-and-dime players and what problems to introduce in the game so they can offer a solution in their store. There is no stronger anti-customer position in the industry. There should NEVER be a need for a company position like this, and when I see any company hire such a person, I know within two years, at best, their brand and reputation will be in the toilet and future title prospects go with that as well.

There is a finite amount of customers to rely on, the industry should wake the heck up and realize this. Sacrificing brand reputation for any purpose is suicidal at best. But heck, most believe that gamers are like addicts and will lap up anything thrown at them. To bad the research I have done as an investor says how completely wrong they are, especially in relation to western markets. Otherwise, one of them would be able to give me one single example of an astounding success with this model.

P.s., As an investor, I don't give two diddlies about just getting by, or returning a steady income stream, I want to see YoY growth. And by YoY growth, I don't mean you have cleverly figured out how to extract more from your existing customer base (when I hear this I pretty much know you are within 3-4 years of collapse and not viable for a strong exit), but rather that you provided such customer satisfaction that word-of-mouth has spread and you also grew your customer base. This is why the F2P cash shop micro-transaction model stinks. It stinks for customer satisfaction as well as investor chances at a strong exit.

Bisse Mayrakoira
profile image
Some problems I see with the current subscription model games are that the subscription prices are constantly so high, and that the devs seem determined to put grinding in every subscription game to justify the high sub cost (even though the effect on many players is the polar opposite).

For instance, back when I finally got sick of the grind of WoW and quit, I would probably have kept paying the subscription to have access to a separate game that only contained the arena/PVP battlegrounds. Instead of the grind/PVE component, it could have had a character selection screen where you can pick a character class and set up their gear (or pick from several standard gear sets - doesn't matter as long as everybody has access to the same exact gear without grinding) before joining a match. I would certainly have stayed on board if the PVP-only sub was cheaper; I only wanted to play maybe 10 hours a month and paying something like $2 per hour was too much.

Nooh Ha
profile image
Mandatory subscriptions may be hard to pull off in the long-term but F2P subscriptions have long been proven to work well and are growing extremely rapidly thanks to all the mandatory sub games converting to F2P and incorporating both microtransactions and subscriptions...

Stock Watcher66
profile image
For Asian markets yes, for western markets no. Perhaps that is where companies should start, with an understanding that the two markets are different. F2P is a good thing (gets new players in) but cash shop microtransactions, especially as they are being implemented, are awful

Secondly, they are proving to work well for extracting more revenue from an individual customer, but are proving to be a disaster for customer satisfaction. One is good for short term, the other is very bad for long term. Unfortunately, the MMO market, by it's very nature, is a long term focused market.

I am watching Trion Worlds move with Rift (sub in western markets, going F2P in South Korea) with interest as I feel it is a smart one.

Judy Tyrer
profile image
I'm betting on integrating the F2P players as part of the world, then rather than pestering them non-stop to spend money on the game, providing a subscription model for those who want to play a slightly different, more feature rich game alongside the F2P players. We'll see how it works out, but putting the payment model into the gameplay rather than having it an orthogonal immersion reducing retail sales focused enterprise seems the right approach from where I am sitting.

Kyle Redd
profile image
I am interested to see how The Old Republic's hybrid monthly subscription/micro-transaction model works out, for exactly that reason. However I'm not very hopeful for it because of what Curtiss Murphy alluded to above - Offering a standard $15 monthly subscription interferes with the "whale hunting" on the F2P side. Meaning, as a consumer it wouldn't make a lot of sense for me to spend $5 on any one item (out of hundreds or thousands of items), if I can get *every* item for $15 a month.

Mike Motschy
profile image
Mid-tier games should have mid-tier prices. I would've purchased sleeping dogs for $35-40 day one, but if I am dropping $60 on a game, I have to know it will last me a while


none
 
Comment: