Fresh from attending this year’s 2nd annual Game Monetization USA, I wanted to share some of the highlights that caught my attention.
First, for those in need of a quick reminder, the worldwide video gaming market is BIG. According to Gartner, the worldwide video game marketplace, including video game console hardware and software, online, mobile and PC games, will reach $93 billion in 2013, up from $79 billion in 2012. This bit of news correlates with some of the industry overview shared by speaker, Michael Pachter, Managing Director, Wedbush Securities. Digital product sales have grown to 13 billion, more than 300 percent for total sales of 26.8 billion in 2013. What has kept sales so high? More people are playing games than ever before on a greater number of devices. Free-to-play will continue its meteoric rise, but how are developers supposed to make money from this business model? It’s a hydra-headed challenge with some great examples to learn from.
Game failure lessons
If you want to succeed with your game in 2014 and beyond, make your game as ubiquitous as possible and duplicate the same experience on as many platforms as possible. Learn from those who are failing. For example, World of Warcraft. Its free-to-play subscription model is currently on the decline, having dropped to 7.7 million subscriptions earlier this year, representing a loss of more than 600,000 players. Zynga’s struggle to profitability and its past failures at trying to monetize social gaming is a case study worth reviewing. Banking on social alone will not make your game a success. Low barriers to entry keep some players away, including poor performing consoles as evidenced by Activision’s weak sales of Call of Duty: Ghosts.
What about the positives?
Gamers today want games in bite-size chunks. That’s why free-to-play has the right price. Candy Crush has been played more than 151 billion times since November 2012, according to Kings game guru, Tommy Palm. It’s been the #1 game on Android, Facebook, and estimates are that King takes in 875K per day. For Tommy, it’s not complicated to understand why Candy Crush has done so well. The game taps into your inner child, it’s social, provides an easy escape, and doesn’t irritate users with paid ads. Candy Crush is a true cross platform game being able to play from any device, including mobile and tablets. Most levels are not timed and it doesn’t consume all of your mental bandwidth. Candy Crush is a game where you can take your time. It uses direct app purchases to generate profit. It’s available offline and you don’t need to be connected to Facebook in order to play it. Brilliant!
Game Monetization 3.0
One of the more compelling presentations came from Chris Early, VP of Digital Distribution, Ubisoft. Early’s focus was on how to create games that will actually get the gamer to complete the story of the game itself. Microsoft conducted a gaming study back in 2009 showing only about a third of people who play a game actually finish the story. For Early, the two thirds of game players who abandon the story of any game and never bother to get to the finish line is the untapped goldmine game developers must target.
Can developers produce a game that lets people use whatever resource they have in abundance to facilitate their completion of the game itself?
Early proposes a player resource investment mix where developers create games designed to let people use whatever resource they have at their disposal, be it their attention, money, time, or creativity. Getting everyone to play the entire game instead of having two thirds leave is worth a great deal more. Early cited World of Tanks and their VIP program. Players get the opportunity to become premium subscribers, enabling them to gain more experience, increase their money earnings, and get access to special gear. Publishers need to replicate this model of game enticement making available such add-ons that feed a user’s appetite for a higher quality gaming experience. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is an example where developers offer users $1.99 technology packs that can add further upgrades to a user’s ship, for example.
Game developers must consistently show the value that their game offers to their players. Telling users what extras they can acquire taps into their additional resource.
Getting on Apple’s app store radar
Getting your game featured in Apple’s app store is a holy grail of sorts. Easier said than done. The total number of apps currently available in the App Store surpasses one million. Apple’s App store receives 26,000+ submissions every week. Faced with such daunting numbers, it pays to get a few helpful reminders on how you can increase your chances of success. Cory Lewis, an IOS product and strategic consultant along with Michael Ehrenberg, formerly of Gameloft, Apple, and Nintendo fame, both shared some invaluable tips.
Begin your relationship with Apple at the start, not at the end of your game’s development. Keep Apple apprised of your game’s development, anywhere from 6 months up to a year from launch. Get your assets approved early.
Spend time in two of the most important online game development forums, Toucharcade and Neogaf.
Contact the app store directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just because you might make a lot of money from your app doesn’t mean you will rank well on Apple’s list of games.
2014 Gaming predictions
According to Pachter:
Consoles will be irrelevant in ten years time.
Microsoft will lose the next generation of gamers (if they don’t cut the prices on their Xbox).
Sony will leapfrog ahead of Microsoft as it continues to cater to a larger percentage of next generation gamers.
PC as a gaming device will make a comeback.
Gamer demographics will broaden; smarter devices now allow the same experience on multiple devices.
Subscription packages will become ubiquitous.
Clash of Clans and Hay Day have generated more than $500,000 per day for Supercell.
What did they figure out that you haven’t?
TinyCo and 20th Century Fox spawn mobile Family Guy
Finally, in case you didn’t need more reason to go spend more time on your mobile phone, Twentieth Century Fox and TinyCo announced that the hit show Family Guy is going mobile. Funny mobile games are in as shown by the success of Electronic Arts mobile game hit, The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Family Guy’s free-to-play game will be available on iOS and Android devices in 2014. The free-to-play game will feature an all-new original story influenced by the show’s 212 episode catalogue as well as current events. “It’s really fun!” said Peter Griffin, Family Guy character since 1999. “Plus, if you play it for more than three hours it counts as going outside!”
Now go out and design your kick-ass game for 2014!