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Gazillion's Fiden: Gaming's Shift From Products To Services 'Cannot Be Overstated'
Gazillion's Fiden: Gaming's Shift From Products To Services 'Cannot Be Overstated'
July 28, 2011 | By Staff

July 28, 2011 | By Staff
More: Social/Online, Design, Business/Marketing

Gazillion Entertainment's VP of publishing Dan Fiden recently shared his thoughts on the industry's transition into the digital market, noting that the trend toward operating games as a service marks "a tremendous shift" for publishers and developers alike.

"The industry is in the middle of a shift from one oriented around product development into one oriented around service operations. In my opinion, the significance of this simply cannot be overstated," he said in a group interview in anticipation of GDC 2012, for which he serves as an advisory board member.

Fiden noted that for games to operate successfully as an ongoing service, the entire pipeline for production will have to change, even down to a title's creative vision and design.

"In my opinion, the companies that will be most successful in the coming years will not be the ones who can figure out how to sell the same games they packaged up for Walmart in 2005 on Steam in 2011."

"They will be the ones who can learn how to integrate distribution and monetization deeply into the design of their games, meaning that they figure out how to get 'business' and 'creative' people to sit next to each other and collaborate from day one."

"The successful companies will understand how to ship early, they know what data to collect and how to act on it, and they'll be able to move fast. Game studios and publishers traditionally work very similarly to movie or TV studios. Now they need work like web service companies. It's a tremendous shift," he added.

For more from Fiden and the other GDC 2012 advisory board members, check out the full interview, which is now live on Gamasutra.

In addition, Fiden recently spoke with Gamasutra about Gazillion's own plans for adapting to the evolving digital market, particularly noting its free to play titles such as Super Hero Squad Online and Fortune Online.

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Hakim Boukellif
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Services will cease, but products are forever. This is especially relevant to games, since unlike many other kinds of software, most games don't become obsolete over time. That being the case, I think there will always be a place for games as products.

Glenn Storm
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This sentiment is in line with what's happening now in the broader design disciplines, like branding, product design and experience design. Service design is currently en vogue, and supplanting experience design. Whether you're talking about transmedia, cross-channel experience design, etc; it's all coming down to how companies design their services to customers. (an interesting sort of circle-back to mid-century, when companies found a competitive edge by focusing on offering a better service than simply taking money and handing over a product)

Dave Long
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I can see the appeal of this approach, but I also think it could (well, is already) leading to game design focussed more on monetization than entertainment. If the entertainment can be leveraged to assist with monetization, well and good, but if the monetization is what takes priority (and if you get business and creatives together at the same table, there's good money that's where it'll trend) we'll end up with less effective entertainment, which could end up shrinking the industry overall. Monetization isn't a bad thing, per se, and games as a service absolutely isn't (although the idea that this is new, is a little 'fresh' - the new integration of DLC and the like is simply the old sequelisation or even shareware from many, many moons ago - the main 'new' element is the ability of broadband and always-on connections, combined with Zynga-style social games to provide permanently updated, permanently connected experiences - but in many ways these are really just MMOs gone lite, and MMOs themselves aren't terribly new these days). LOTRO as a free-to-play experience with a greater emphasis on monetization is a good thing, but it was always a game first and monetization experience second (which, in turn, enhanced its ability to monetize).

That said, as long as there are people who will be entertained enough to pay money for Farmville (which is less a game and more an experience in gathering combined with status anxiety - it's not unlike the achievements/trophy systems now in vogue, but without the games you play to get 'em), there'll be a market for monetization vehicles with precious little gameplay.

Another element is that there are still many, many gamers that move from game-to-game - shipping early (which almost always means shipping buggy and/or missing key features) only alienates these gamers from the franchise and pushes them to other products, and by the time the 'service' has kicked in, there's not enough people left playing the game for it to matter.

Going forward, I think there's room for both business models, and think there always will be, given the multitude of ways to deliver effective interactive entertainment. The 'Games as a service' side of things is definitely the vibe of the moment, but most big, successful games released at the moment 'Witcher 2, Shogun: Total War 2, Angry Birds, the vast majority of the console games being released' are games first and services second, and I'm not sure the audience is really looking for anything different.