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EA mobile boss: Freemium haters a "vocal minority"

EA mobile boss: Freemium haters a "vocal minority"

Tue 02 Apr 2013 7:35pm GMT / 3:35pm EDT / 12:35pm PDT
MobilePeopleGDC 2013

Nick Earl says market has spoken in favor of free-to-play, no premium mobile games on his 2013 schedule

There's a vocal contingent of gamers online who don't appreciate free-to-play business models, but their complaints are being drowned out by customers speaking with their wallets, as far as EA is concerned. Speaking with GamesIndustry International at last week's Game Developers Conference, EA All Play senior vice president and general manager Nick Earl gave that feedback as one of the reasons he's pivoting sharply toward free-to-play models instead of the pay-once "premium" business model.

"The market has spoken very loudly that that's the model they like," Earl said. "Even though there's some vocal minority that don't like it, ultimately the numbers would show that they and others all support the freemium model better."

"Even though there's some vocal minority that don't like it, ultimately the numbers would show that they and others all support the freemium model better."

Nick Earl

Earl pointed to the company's Real Racing 3, which upset some gamers for the way it incorporated in-app purchases. While there was vocal criticism online, Earl noted the free-to-play game's four-and-a-half star average customer review on iTunes with nearly 40,000 people having rated the title.

"I think initially they were a little bit annoyed because the all-you-can-eat model makes sense for them," Earl said. "That's the kind of people they are. But at the end of the day, they're going to pay to eat, if that's their choice. And they're happy doing it."

While the company tries to balance business results with customer satisfaction, Earl said, "At the end of the day you kind of have to look at real numbers. The old proverb, 'You can't please all the people all the time' is just so true."

As a result, EA is focusing heavily on the free-to-play market. Earl said his label accounts for up to 80 percent of the mobile titles EA releases, and that he has no plans to release anything premium this year. While he doesn't expect the all-you-can-eat approach to go away completely, he did say it would continue to lose ground to free-to-play efforts.

Beyond that, Earl's current mandate for the mobile side of game development is "fewer, bigger, better." That's the same approach EA took four years ago with the packaged goods side of its business, devoting resources to projects to try and improve not just the quality of games, but also their ability to meet scheduled release dates. When asked if that's the right approach to take in light of the company's struggles and the recent resignation of CEO John Riccitiello, Earl described it as an investment that's about to pay off.

"The stock price over the last four years is probably less about the quality of games and more about a changing industry that we were arguably a little late to adapt to."

Nick Earl

"The stock price over the last four years is probably less about the quality of games and more about a changing industry that we were arguably a little late to adapt to," Earl said. "Over these four years, we have rebuilt our infrastructure and changed our culture. We have very much become a company that is truly in transition to be a fully digital one. And the numbers show that as the overall mix was changing across the industry and our numbers were not in aggregate showing growth, the stock price reflected that. I would argue that this strategy will pay off over the next four years. And it was kind of a painful four years to get ready. Sort of like getting ready for winter, we found the nuts and squirreled them away. And now we will see the dividends of that work."

However, there is still work to be done, and Earl doesn't pretend EA has the mobile world completely figured out just yet. For instance, the company doesn't have enough data on historical conversion rates to judge whether audiences are embracing it more. Anecdotally, he said there has absolutely been an increase in the percentage of the audience who makes purchases in freemium games, but it still appears to be dependent on genre, and even platform. For example, core games have higher conversion rates than casual games, and casino games tend to do better on Android. Earl said it's tough to pinpoint why one type of game does better on one platform, but he did say the markets are trending toward one another. As a result, he expects performance to homogenize across Android and iOS in the next year or so.

45 Comments

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
Popular Comment
And then EA wonder why they have PR issues. This "vocal minority" are otherwise known as "hardcore gamers" and are the reason EA ever had a business in the first place.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

808 1,004 1.2
Popular Comment
Or maybe they've found a new market. Love to know why they're taking flak for that, it's a primary job description for most execs.

Mobile is the same, possibly even more extreme. A core group of whiners giving it the "we want a million dollar game for a buck", whilst the rest of the world just keeps quietly forking money into the FTP games.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Jeremie Sinic

43 18 0.4
Might be that Real Racing 3 has good user rating. After all, it's the best-looking "game featuring cars" out there, made with a AAA budget. Still, I believe what they earn on one end they lose on the other end.
I for one would gladly spend 20 bucks or more for a one-time full unlock IAP that would let me race car and do tweaks that actually feel meaningful to the gameplay, as opposed to refilling the gas tank or changing the oil (seriously?!?). Instead, I just gave up on the game without spending anything after figuring out that the game is a sort of Car Repair Shop Manager 2013 with the racing elements as an add-on to the main game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeremie Sinic on 3rd April 2013 3:16am

Posted:A year ago

#3

Christopher Bowen
Editor in Chief

405 539 1.3
Does it *really* matter, though? Despite all the complaining that we do about EA, when you really think about it, our options have never been larger.

So the Simpsons game sucks. Oh well. Last I checked, I just downloaded six amazing Android games for $8.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Sam Spain
Studying computer Science (Games Development)

17 3 0.2
Most consumers vote with their wallets and most people seem to agree with freemium so far. I just think EA will learn less about what content they can put in a freemium game and more about what they can take away.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Christophe Danguien
games developer

67 82 1.2
I think this guy got it wrong or is stupid. People playing on FTP aren't people who will always stick to games or will definitely buy the whatever FTP game sequel...when the "vocal minority" are the hardcore gamers who will buy sequels and will make them money if they make a good game...If he was to survey every people playing on EA games, I don't think he will see a majority of yes we want to play on FTP and pay for extra petrol for the tank or the new whatever sword...

But he says whatever he wants and get you whatever numbers whether true or not to justify his decisions

Posted:A year ago

#6

Jeff Wayne
Technical Architect

83 37 0.4
Always get a good chuckle out of mindless plebs using the "vocal minority" as their throw-away defense.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
Popular Comment
As I said on other topics, why do we care so much about what EA does ? If it works for them, good for them. If it works for their silent majority that vote with their wallets, then everything's fine.

The vocal minority, though, shall move on just like we should. Why ? Because if EA ignores this vocal minority by not offering them any alternatives, other studios and publishers will provide for them.

And at the end, all the claims about the repercussions on the industry are null and void, because EA does not dictate any non-related studio on how to do things and whatever emptiness is left by EA can be filled by the later. We probably just have to accept the fact the "classical" business model is becoming/has become a niche market.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 3rd April 2013 11:24am

Posted:A year ago

#8

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

555 607 1.1
Excellently put Eric. But try telling that the vocal minority (some of which can be seen on this site), who feel that every company should only make games they like, or games like in the good old days, or games they would want to play :)

Love or hate EA, that's totally fine and everyone is free to chose. The end result for them will speak for itself. They do not control the industry, nor should anyone who does not like their games or models, be worried about that it will spell the end for other things. Other things might well become niche, but then so is the vocal minority :)

Posted:A year ago

#9
"...only make games they like, or games like in the good old days, or games they would want to play :)"
If you don't like your game your players won't either. Unwise to say this is not a route to success.

Posted:A year ago

#10
There's a vocal contingent of gamers online who don't appreciate free-to-play business models,
EA will have to understand that trying to bully the market - and even try and censure the voice of those that disagree - is not very intelligent. We know they are hurting, and are scrabbling to find a dependable business model, but trying to control the publicity is not the answer. I would also question GI.biz if this advertorial is an accurate reflection of the overall situation - or just more free EA publicity?

Posted:A year ago

#11

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
Popular Comment
Give the first hit for free. Exploit human weaknesses to addict. Make them pay for more.

This sounds familiar to me somehow. Isn't there something else that follows this pattern? Something equally erm... entrepreneurial.

That is to say that, personally, I am not a fan of this model. I find it underhanded and quietly deceptive.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Dan Howdle on 3rd April 2013 3:09pm

Posted:A year ago

#12

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

555 607 1.1
@Barry i was not necessarily referring to people working in the industry, but rather consumers.

I would hate to think that the entire vocal minority complaining on the internet about freemium works in the games industry. As i said, some of them are in the industry (or at least on their way into the industry), but mainly my comment was referring to a few vocal customers.

Actually it's not just freemium who attracts those, almost every game (if not every game actually) has some vocal minority complaining about something or other (and yes: sometimes i am just as guilty).

People in the industry should of course always make games they enjoy (making). However there is a different danger associated with that. Being involved in something so deeply, often over a long period of time, can create a certain blindness to actual level of quality and content. If certain economic targets have to be met, a little bit of common sense and understandind of consumer values and desires has to influence what type of game is being made.

Posted:A year ago

#13

Andrew Ihegbu
Studying Bsc Commercial Music

439 146 0.3
EA release multiplatform so much these days. I would much rather they release a game that actually gives me something of value to leverage that, or pushes an envelope (like a mobile game that also unlocks DLC on a console game) than playing a game that costs me a buck to refuel, bases itself around comparing stats with my friends (and nobody else I know plays it), and for all intents and purposes may as well be singleplayer for me.

I'm not playing freeemium on a singleplayer game, sorry. I like storylines and progress without pay too much, and FTP lacks those in droves.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
Give the first hit for free. Exploit human weaknesses to addict. Make them pay for more.
I fail to see what is different from a business model or another, because that is simply called business.

Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite.
John Kenneth Galbraith
US (Canadian-born) administrator & economist (1908 - 2006)


Same goes for F2P and whatever is opposed to F2P (and microtransaction)

Everyone in history who militated against the exploitation of man by man did it by being a man exploiting men to achieve his new model which was, guess what... exploiting man by being a man. At the end of the day, that is how we work no matter how we call the "system". A true artist then should do his stuff for himself and die of starvation while his work is being ignored by the rest of mankind because it has never been shown to it. A true good game then would be the same, only his creator should enjoy it.

As soon as we want it to sell, we need to promote it, as soon as we promote it it become a product and not a piece of art anymore. While they are different degrees of compromise possible between business and art, at the end of the day it is still a compromise meaning one of the other side has to sacrifice its true value and meaning.

This applies to everything "economic" should it be related to more or less artistic domains or strictly practical domains (and even there, why car constructor bother hiring designers to make their cars look good, etc.?). At the end of the day, stargazers are usually not better than the ones they harshly criticize because in fact they are just willing to take their thrones.

Now to replace a "ready-to-think" by another "ready-to-think" formula is actually not the solution. What would be the solution could be theoretically that we "teach-to-think (by themselves)" to people instead. But as the Greek philosopher Platon exposed in his "Allegory of Plato's cave" maybe a major part of mankind don't want to see the light or the items' true nature, but they are fine with seeing only their shadows on the wall of the cave. At the end, it is no one's call but the individual to decide what is good for him. And if the individual get sold a rabbit and thinks he happily buy a rabbit while their is no rabbit but only the seller's producing a shadow of a rabbit on the wall with his hands and claiming he would sell it, the only one to blame is the buyer (especially if he gets tricked multiple times).

In addition, who are we to pretend what is good for others or not ? It is good to know what is good for yourself, it is even better if what is good for yourself may also be good for others. But a truth is, no one will ever be able to please the entirety of the universe (or even just the 7 billion people on this earth), no one will ever find the formula for that (at least not at this stage of the human race evolution, I can't speak for the far future). So why are they still people pretending they know ? And why are they still people to pretend they want to universally protect the individuals of this "so week and easily tricked" species that we are at the end all part of, while this species can only learn becoming strong and less naive by itself (that's a bit like Darwinism I know, but hey... Survival of the fittest involves adaptation to a changing environment, in that case mostly individually) ?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 3rd April 2013 3:29pm

Posted:A year ago

#15

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
@Kevin Williams - That's exactly what I was getting at, though you said it better. Going after a lucrative market makes total sense, no one can deny that, but to sneer at the people who aren't buying into it when they buy your other products is just unnecessary from a publicity point of view.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Nick Parker
Consultant

280 143 0.5
I hope the new CEO at EA will ensure that the press can't interview anybody. I know it's really annoying as an analyst to interview industry heavy weights with a PR chaperone sitting in, but recently we have seen EA execs giving interviews that companies of similar stature would not permit.

This is a global industry so we should stop singling out differences between just the various western cultures and consider the vast interest, in equal measure, in all gaming business model experiences from every culture.

Posted:A year ago

#17

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
@ Dan Howdle - Totally agree with what you wrote.

"Give the first hit for free. Exploit human weaknesses to addict. Make them pay for more.

This sounds familiar to me somehow. Isn't there something else that follows this pattern? Something equally erm... entrepreneurial.

That is to say that, personally, I am not a fan of this model. I find it underhanded and quietly deceptive."

Posted:A year ago

#18

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
This sounds familiar to me somehow. Isn't there something else that follows this pattern? Something equally erm... entrepreneurial.
While we all understand what dodgy business is being referred to, I still fail to understand what is different from any kind of business, except the high margin product (physical and/or psychological addictions are out of the equation, since their are probably of equivalent value - I will also ignore moral/legal considerations here for the purpose of my argumentation and staying focused on the topic, which is about business and business models).

We're getting the same in supermarkets or malls, free samples of food or whatever stuff... And we were getting the same before in video games. If a comparison had to be made, it should be honest and show the big picture, not only whatever demagogic part of it that will suit the emotional response that is intended to get.

Exploiting human psychological weaknesses (which basically means the emotional side of people rather than their purely rational side - although hybrid methods have been and are still used) has always been and probably will be part of any B2C interactions. Does that mean it is evil ? If your answer is yes, then I am sorry to mention that no matter how hard you try to convince yourself your are much more noble than this, you are still part of the equation if you get a salary for what you doing in this industry and their is no way you can opt out this fact just by saying so, or do some PR spin... facts remain facts.

F2P, whatever business model EA or others embraces... it remains business like before, and while the means may have been diversified the intent behind remains the same. When you know, and most of you who are part of the industry know it, that some F2P players can throw in a year into one single game more than what your brutto salary is, you cannot really blame the publishers from thinking that maybe selling a hundred thousand copies less may be worth it since a single user can make up for the difference and the reality being that they are not only reaching the breakeven but they are going far far far above. Now is that a problem ? Is it really a problem ? If yes, what is it actually, is it that no matter how much more money MT/F2P models brings in you won't get a raise yourself ? Or is it really some kind of idealistic concept that we have to do greater "good" (manichean concept) for the gamers ? I am wondering what the issue is about, at the end of the day, because on my side while I am far from loving to be part of any system I still have to comply and adapt on how the society we've made over the centuries work. And fact is that when I hear or read about manifestations of a phenomenon I am always disappointed to see that only consequences are mentioned because they suit an emotional impact intent (demagogy) and not the causes. If F2P is so evil, if MT is so evil, please tell me about the causes and tell me in what they differ from any business method used in any other industry, including charity business (yes you did read well, charity is a business too).

So the comparison of F2P to the narcotic business is totally out of line here. And if you tell me games (of any model) can also ruin people's lives (making them forget to wash, eat badly, forget to take care of their kids because their guild raid is much more important, virtually cheat on their partners and so on... which is basically what happens to addicts of any kind), and guess what especially good ones can do that, then you would be slightly more honest with the topic, with yourself and with the rest of the universe and not stigmatize a single "minor" part of the issue (should it be called an issue, which is not yet demonstrated).

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 3rd April 2013 4:30pm

Posted:A year ago

#19
Vocal minority? says who? some EA exec who blames EA terrible stock performance on "a changing industry" as if industries in the global market place are suppose to stay what? static?
In 5 years as the company tanks more they will probably say stuff like, "its kickstarters fault, and the backlash against the F2P pricing model, who could of foreseen such things".

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 3rd April 2013 5:15pm

Posted:A year ago

#20

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
@Eric.. I think your defence of "F2P" as a whole as part of business
@Tom
What makes you think I am defending F2P ? Because I am currently working for a F2P company ? Well, for the record I've been laid off and I'll be out of work in a few weeks. So am I defending F2P, do I have any reason to do that ? No, what I am defending is what is my own belief about what is true which goes far beyond F2P and if you read me well and carefully, I keep saying that there is at the end very little difference from F2P to the "classical model" when it comes to business intents. F2P is just optimized due to some technological advancement we made in online business (in all industries) and it's massive growth world-wide (and all this provides more selling transaction opportunities - which seems to have worked pretty well for the pioneers in this field, at least profit-wise).

Now they are a huge variety of F2P ranging from casino-like games to whatever Fantasy MMORPG or Sci-Fi MMOFPS. And not every company works the same way either.

I don't get you wrong, no worries. I totally agree about the comment "some of it is downright criminal" because I've experienced it myself on many occasions unwillingly (and I still did not get over it, to be honest and I have to live with that moral concern) and I even more agree about "that it is effectively unregulated at present". This is the one and only important thing in my opinion, regulations and the fuss about "how bad F2P model is" is the wrong question. The right question should be "Ok, it's happening and maybe we have to jump on the train too, what can we do to make it fair/ethical/moral ? what can we do to get those regulations ?". That is the real & rational questions this industry (although the first part is a internal one, while the second is global), its actors should ask themselves, not trying to find out if F2P is bad and go for never ending opinion debates.

But at the end of the day, and as I mentioned it from an epistemological point of view, there are many examples out there in the history from other industries that shows there has been abuses for all and everything (and it is most probably still happening). While I can't blame companies for hiring experts to maximize their sales because that is what is happening everywhere anyway, just like we have booth babes on cons/fairs, or just like the marketing pays some stars to claim they play their so awesome game to the medias. That is the way it is working, for this industry and any other. While many gamers are clever enough to understand what is going on, obviously if it is still done (because it's quite costly) that means two things : 1. there is enough (a generous majority) of people who buy the crap. 2. the investment return is worth the tactic. This site we are commenting on, is a business one so I try to have a business approach here (and while I let a big part of my personality show, I leave many of my opinions, convictions and visions at the door) and focus on that.

Now I am sure EA, Ubisoft, Activision, Sony and other big occidental/worldwide companies like Blizzard (who is stepping more clearly in the F2P market as well) have also put a lot of legal resources to make their model legally acceptable. If a single mistake has been made and considering the scale of their user base repercussions will impact the rest of the industry much more than if it is a small unknown publisher. I am not wishing that this happens, but if it does, the consequences will attract attention much more (of the generalist public, eventually of regulating authorities) and change shall occur for everyone else as well. But again, it's not only the F2P/MT/DLC/DRM concepts that should be regulated, it is probably a much larger challenge for international online business. Typically, customer support and after-sale services should also be regulated for this new form of business. There is a long way to go, and all I've been saying so far was to not focus on the phenomenon being good or bad and get stuck there, but rather accept the phenomenon happening and deal with future consequences.
It's not making a game so absorbing people must play otherwise we'd all be playing and all be spending money, It's about abusing addictive paterns and flaws in human psyche. Releasing it free to millions and hoping to catch your few "whales" as they're affectionatly called when victim or addict might be more appropriate. They literally prey on the weak as a business model, and yes that does happen...
Whales... yeah very much from the casino/gambling culture. If a person spend in a F2P game yearly 4 or 5 times what I earn in the same time frame, he's probably better off than I and could afford some psychological assistance if he was really in need of it or to be called a victim. To be clear, I am, or soon I was, a community manager for a F2P company, and whatever money the company does I do not get my share of the profit. I am actually, in regards of my work, as much on the side of the users than I am with my contractual obligation towards my employers (which are obvious and logical, don't bite the hand that feeds you).

As I keep saying, F2P games are extremely varied and happens on multiple platforms (browser, mobile, facebook, client, etc.) and they rely on diverse technologies (html5, flash, unity, unreal engine, other engines, IOS, etc.). There is no such thing as one F2P model. And if those games that are the most successful where crap, then I would question the sanity of the million users playing them.

Now, in regards of exploiting the flaw of human psyche, why do you have in a supermarket like... let's say Tesco in the UK, a brand of Tesco Bread, and a Premium Bread Brand called Tesco Finest ? Basically, why ? Is it really better quality, or is it the standard brand that is of lower quality ? Isn't that exploiting the human psyche ? It is exactly the same principle and as I kept mentioning it, it is happening in every single industry (the premium concept as well as the samples "try for free" and the offers "buy one get 1 free"). Isn't that exploiting the human psyche ? Why aren't we constantly standing in front of the supermarkets with placards then if this is so unbearable ? Why aren't you ? Food concerns us all, doesn't it ?

Now, if they are poor and defenseless victims out there (with more money in their bank account that I will probably ever see in my whole life) - and the "whales" are not that many, most F2P paying users spent very reasonable amounts (usually spending their left-over free minutes of mobile phone flat rate by buying F2P premium) - is it of the responsibility of the F2P publisher ? Or is it something related to eduction (both parental or social) ? Now and again, I fail to see what would prevent a compulsive or psychologically troubled person (again with tons of money) to feed his addictive or compulsive needs with boxed titles or any kind of you name it product. When you sell something to a wide audience, you don't sell it knowing your customers at first. Now once you analyzed behaviors and know the regular ones (and most likely you'll focus on the highest payers) you will want to retain them (CR) of course, because of the pareto principle as well. But Customer Retention is much more about giving more than taking more (yes at the end you take more because you try to take it for a longer time) but it also cost a lot of efforts.

Considering the high population of F2P games, focusing on those few cases where there was a problem, an ethical problem, is just like saying planes are dangerous compared to cars. Yes when a plane crashes it usually take more people in the process and at a single time, but overall, car kills are much more frequent and deadly. And as I mentioned earlier, I am pretty sure we can find "victims" of the gaming industry just like the ones you mention even before the F2P acronym did exist.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 3rd April 2013 7:10pm

Posted:A year ago

#21

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
Popular Comment
It's not making a game so absorbing people must play otherwise we'd all be playing and all be spending money, It's about abusing addictive paterns and flaws in human psyche.
Exacly this.

Make good games and people will play them. Exploiting human weakness to generate revenue has little/nothing to do with making good games.

Posted:A year ago

#22
I see games as art, the really great games are timeless and the experience they give us stay with us for a lifetime. When creating a game thats is how I think games must be approached IMHO, let artist be creative, do their thing and when they get it right, monetary rewards will often follow.

This whole monetization and F2p approach to game making however just reeks of corporatization and cheap tricks in attempt to make some quick cash and truth be told, there is probably a market for this fast food approach to game making, but lets be honest with ourselves, this approach doesnt lend itself to making this industry better.

Posted:A year ago

#23

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
This whole monetization and F2p approach to game making however just reeks of corporatization and cheap tricks in attempt to make some quick cash and truth be told, there is probably a market for this fast food approach to game making, but lets be honest with ourselves, this approach doesnt lend itself to making this industry better.
@Todd
Why not ?
All the behemoth companies that are stepping into free to play are just diversifying. While EA announced a drastic approach (which they later backed off from) I do not see, to give an example, where Sony's PlanetSide 2 has prevented them from releasing games like "Journey" or "Puppetmaster" which are clearly high in artistic content both in gameplay and general concept, to name just a few. F2P is clearly an unstoppable "Bulldozer" as a model, but there are studios and publishers that have done it in a fair way for the purely non-paying users. Yes, they would probably like to get more of the later paying and they are working hard on it, but many non-paying users also see the thingy as a challenge and it will be playing cats and dogs with the marketing/monetization/psychoseller experts, and I am not sure the later will win (I personnaly measure the quality - partially at least - of a F2P game by being able to play it without paying, and consider that even as a non-premium/freemium user I still contribute to the economies - ingame and real money - of the game. Especially if I am skilled at the game and generate frustration over less-skilled players who will get the wallet to artificially help them, so they think. Additionally I contribute to the user-base providing my time to offer other player an opponent or a partner to work with.)

As I said earlier in this topic, there will still be space for other models than F2P, while F2P is getting mainstream it is also keeping busy a large portion of the gamers' audience. While this famous vocal minority EA is mentioning is unhappy with the move, flaming on the EA boards or game-related websites is good to express their disapproval, up to a certain point. At a time, this hating, trolling and burning is less than constructive and is only damaging for the discontent person. The ability to move on is required then, for the sake of that unhappy gamer and haunting the target company is not leading him anywhere. At some point he will have to find convenient alternatives for himself. That is where the studios and publishers (probably Indie ones mostly) will step in and give those "left-aside" another breath for mutual benefit. The major trend of F2P will not damage the industry, it will just reshape it. It is up to both the industry and the audience to make this "new-genesis" happen in the best conditions (which they will define).

We don't know how long the F2P model is going to last, but it is probably there to stay for a while as it seems so profitable for the publishers and somehow a majority of users show compliance (to say the least) to this. It is clearly unavoidable and trying to fight it is most certainly an already lost battle in an already lost war. But that doesn't mean you can't find your spot of peace and tranquility if you look for it. The industry, as a whole may highly benefit from the situation (and I am not talking about profits there) and there is no complete darkness in what is happening. Aren't we, in our corporate or recruitment statements always saying "we're a fast-paced industry"? Well, this evolution is a proof it is true and monolithic and slow moving companies (no matter how big their are) with narrow views and vision will perish like the dinosaurs, but for other, faster to adapt or raising from the ashes of others it will be a whole new field of opportunities, because the gamers (which are actually a very varied "species") will also follow them.

The industry actors can only get better if they want to and art will always have his place of choice in gaming, as much as gambling, grinding, role-playing, competing, building, destroying, managing, plan, etc. I have myself no fear about that.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 3rd April 2013 6:32pm

Posted:A year ago

#24
Eric, this industry crashed once because of companies abusing the consumer, via pushing out incomplete and trashy games. If this industry becomes synonymous with corporate F2P fast food crap with most games being little more than fine print like con jobs, this industry can be in trouble again. Its already priced itself into a corner, so if most games become little more than attempts to pick pocket people via some half ass cute looking game mechanic, people will be turned off by "gaming". That is just but one of just many ways this F2P crap can hurt the industry.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 3rd April 2013 6:53pm

Posted:A year ago

#25

Anthony Chan
Analyst

86 70 0.8
I think there are many who are working for small shops that need to get back to working - instead of focusing hate at EA for percieved destruction of the gaming industry, gamer confidence, and gaming in general. EA is a large publishing house, and they have done what works for them, and there is a following that loves them for what they have done. As in all internet hate, it is the work of the vocal minority. The "opressed". The "entitled". The egotistical and the the just.

As somebody astutely pointed out these are hardcore gamers, and EA has lost them. That represents opportunity for all of you. Instead of complaining about how EA is screwing you over, take what they have given up and work with it. Small shops thrive by finding niche markets where large corp always gun for the general public - or the majority. There is money to be made in both.

Let EA milk the cows, while you guys hunt the elusive rabbits.

Posted:A year ago

#26

Anthony Chan
Analyst

86 70 0.8
Eric, this industry crashed once because of companies abusing the consumer, via pushing out incomplete and trashy games. If this industry becomes synonymous with corporate F2P fast food crap with most games being little more than fine print like con jobs, this industry can be in trouble again. Its already priced itself into a corner, so if most games become little more than attempts to pick pocket people via some half ass cute looking game, people will be turned off by "gaming". That is just but one of just many ways this F2P crap can hurt the industry.
I would love to hear your definition of crash... because from an economics perspective the gaming industry has crashed just like every other consumer good market. The car market has crashed. The tech good market has also crashed. In an economy where money is finite, income growth is limited, and general wealth of the majority is stagnant; these markets are always hit first. Games are not goods that we need to survive, and as such, sales will drop in down economies.

The gaming industry fell because there were so many upstarts trying to capitalize on the mobile revolution and general success of the consoles while the markets were edging past the peak. Consumer demand fell - not because of the quality of games got "worse" as implied - but because money supply tightened. Unfortunately, simple supply and demand economics say the small upstarts that were created in the last 10 years got screwed. Too many makers of games, not enough buyers. This is where big companies versus small companies gets important. For the general public if you have limited wealth, why try the little guy's product, when the big guy's AAA project is more of a "sure win"?

Posted:A year ago

#27
anthony, does a drop of 97% constitute a crash?

The North American video game crash was a massive recession of the video game industry that occurred from 1984 to 1985. Revenues that had peaked at around $3.2 billion in 1983,[1] fell to around $100 million by 1985 (a drop of almost 97 percent).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_video_game_crash_of_1983

There were several reasons for the crash, but the main cause was supersaturation of the market with hundreds of mostly low-quality games which resulted in the loss of consumer confidence.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 3rd April 2013 7:11pm

Posted:A year ago

#28

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
Eric, this industry crashed once because of companies abusing the consumer, via pushing out incomplete and trashy games. If this industry becomes synonymous with corporate F2P fast food crap with most games being little more than fine print like con jobs, this industry can be in trouble again. Its already priced itself into a corner, so if most games become little more than attempts to pick pocket people via some half ass cute looking game mechanic, people will be turned off by "gaming". That is just but one of just many ways this F2P crap can hurt the industry.
What F2P crap are you talking about ? Some exceptions and making a general rule out of it ?

Beside the games published by my still current employer which I will not comment on anyways, there are many F2P publishers out there that have and keep producing quality games, the only difference being anyone can access them freely and then choose or not to drop money in it for whatever OPTIONAL paying feature they like or not. Yes, some games monetization design is more aggressive, but that doesn't mean it is the case for all. Yes some games monetization design deeply affect general gameplay, but that doesn't mean it is the case for all. And yes, some "so-called" developers produced fast and cheap games (shall they be F2P or not - I remember for example the Torchlight artwork being totally copied into a mobile game) but that doesn't again mean all developers of mobile or F2P games are doing the same. Maybe it would be nice to prevent this generalization by actually having a look around, I mean an objective research rather than focusing on the few (and unquestionable) abuses that happened and yes there is still a risk it could happen while this doesn't mean the risk equals an universal rule, because it's clearly not the case in practice.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 3rd April 2013 7:23pm

Posted:A year ago

#29

Barrie Tingle
Live Producer

368 144 0.4
@Christopher Bowen
Hey now, The Simpsons Tapped Out is a great game.

The thing this article doesn't really cover is that while the vocal minority which I find myself under raise their voice it doesn't mean that those playing the Freemium games approve of the model either. Give something away for free and people are likely to use it. The key in all this is how many of those people will then pay for it. Those are the true "supporters" of Freemium and the number of people that play vs those that pay to play is a vastly different number.

Posted:A year ago

#30

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
it doesn't mean that those playing the Freemium games approve of the model either.
They don't, not all of them. There will always be people to disagree and still hang around what they disagree about.
Give something away for free and people are likely to use it.
That is the idea, let them try before they buy or even if they don't buy, because increasing the user base/community is as much important as increasing the revenue.
The key in all this is how many of those people will then pay for it.
The statistical estimated average is around 10% of paying users (regardless of what they pay) although some games like World of Tanks (who boast 60 million registered users) are rumored to reach like 25% paying users (again regardless of what they pay - note this is nothing like verified or official information). It would mean that around 15 million users actually made a purchase in WoT, which is very understandable for this game as it actually offer very nice/usefull premium features for someone who's really into the game (while you can be really into the game without spending a penny of course).

Posted:A year ago

#31

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
People also buy day-one DLC, and just look at how much anger that sparks off. It's not a case of if they pay, they like it, it's a case of if they pay, they can tolerate it because they just really want the game and all its content. They may hand money over grudgingly, but don't confuse "tolerate" with "like".

Posted:A year ago

#32

Anthony Chan
Analyst

86 70 0.8
The North American video game crash was a massive recession of the video game industry that occurred from 1984 to 1985. Revenues that had peaked at around $3.2 billion in 1983,[1] fell to around $100 million by 1985 (a drop of almost 97 percent).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_video_game_crash_of_1983

There were several reasons for the crash, but the main cause was supersaturation of the market with hundreds of mostly low-quality games which resulted in the loss of consumer confidence.
[30]. Retrieved 2 February 2012) - hardly any merit regarding economics and finance.

I think you have a greater hate for big corp, and new business models that stretches beyond what is in this article. I understand this, as most small developers cannot afford to utilize the current business models for revenue generation being employed by the big boys. As such, you criticize them for ruining an industry. I will level with you and admit yes, there is a lot of freemium and F2P software that quite honestly sucks. However, that is not a problem of the business model, nor is it a problem of the mentality that money is God.

At the end, the point of being in the business is to make a good game, however the more important point is to sell it and make money. F2P works for big corp because they have capital to start, making games more an investment than an actual project. But this is the industry of the 21st century, and this is the way it will stay. (maybe somebody should write a Wiki article about the state of the industry in this century)

Posted:A year ago

#33

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

808 1,004 1.2
>> "Give the first hit for free. Exploit human weaknesses to addict. Make them pay for more. This sounds familiar to me somehow. Isn't there something else that follows this pattern?

Yep. The word you're stretching for is.... capitalism. Not a friendy word on this leftie website, but it is nonetheless the type of society we have to earn a living in. When everyone else wants to sit in a circle singing cumbaya, I'll join in last. In the meantime, I need to go exploit my fellow man.

You should probably go look up "exploit" in the dictionary too. It doesn't mean what you probably think it does.

Posted:A year ago

#34

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,017 1,463 1.4
What a coincidence. There are no EA mobile games on my 2013 purchase plans. :)

Edit: Come to think of it there are no EA games on my 2013 purchase plans.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 3rd April 2013 11:45pm

Posted:A year ago

#35
It easy to make a bad free to play game and those games generally don't sell well. It's another thing entirely to make a well-designed free to play game. Innovation does exist in the social/mobile space and it does exist in free-to-play. I don't understand the hate around it. One man's trash is another man's treasure and if someone's happy to spend $1 to unlock a level or spend $3 to speed up a game process, then why not let them? There's a reason games like Candy Crush Saga are loved despite being free to play. It's a pricing model that works for other markets, not just the "hardcore" one.

Posted:A year ago

#36

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
F2P works for big corp because they have capital to start, making games more an investment than an actual project. But this is the industry of the 21st century, and this is the way it will stay. (maybe somebody should write a Wiki article about the state of the industry in this century)
Well, it worked for a lot of startup/indies at first... I mean F2P model in occident (I am not sure about Asia, if it is even older there) is there for about ten years now, and it's been only like 3-4 years that the big corps are looking into it (probably after having made buying offers to the "pioneer" companies, which may have been rejected at the time no matter how generous they were). Social Gaming, Mobile Gaming, Browser or Client F2P were there before Ubisoft or EA started bothering with the model. But yes, as big corps with both technical resources, successful IP's, General know-how and of course capital they can step in quickly and heavily.
Innovation does exist in the social/mobile space and it does exist in free-to-play. I don't understand the hate around it. One man's trash is another man's treasure and if someone's happy to spend $1 to unlock a level or spend $3 to speed up a game process, then why not let them?
Yes, why ? As I mentioned it in another topic, it has been happening anyway and some players are gonna do it anyway if they get the chance. RPG's/MMORPG's saw it at first. Bots, Goldsellers, Itemselling, accountselling, powerleveling and various cheats (From Everquest to Diablo2... you don't need to look very far to find out about the reality). Now, this has not only been a plague for the users (both the one using such services and the ones who weren't), it also meant a financial loss for the publisher. Not only the players where ready to throw in extra real money to speed up the game process (and not giving it to the publisher, but to parallel and more or less criminal organizations) but the publisher also had to spend money to fight the phenomenon being flamed by "legit" users. Banning accounts, restoring characters or accounts, requesting closure of phishing websites, it all had a cost. So not only the publishers were not getting the money made around their product, but they had to invest quite heavily in customer support also to please the users who came to complain about their own mistakes... to the publisher and not to the goldselling/powerleveling service they previously used. The Microtransaction (or generally called F2P model) allows the publishers to get the money they fully deserve (while in fact it still does not fully prevent parallel economies to happen, and goldselling, powerleveling, phishing and all those plagues are still a reality even in a F2P) but at least it gives an opportunity for the player to get what he's ready to pay for in a much safer way (it is very common to see users who used such dodgy services get their account hacked and fully cleaned of a anything they previously bought and more - or worst being banned because one of their character had been seen around having a farming bot behavior). So in a way, F2P and MT offer this safer opportunity for players who are willing to throw in money to boost or quicken their game experience.

Edited 8 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 4th April 2013 2:26am

Posted:A year ago

#37

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
@Paul

First: Do not patronise me. We are having a discussion, and though our points of view may be at odds, your assertion that I somehow do not couch the true meaning of the words I use is as unhelpful as it is incorrect.



Those complicit in such a system stand around shrugging their shoulders to the tune of that's just the way it is. I choose not to shrug, not to comply. I tender that there are conscientious, altruistic and moral ways to take part in a capitalist system. And then there are not. Simplifying the term 'captialism' to rally popular misconception is just demagoguery. The subject is more complex than that.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Dan Howdle on 4th April 2013 10:48am

Posted:A year ago

#38

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

275 177 0.6
I tender that there are conscientious, altruistic and moral ways to take part in a capitalist system.
To be fully honest with you, I wish you were right on this and I wish it was true. Although through my own experience and observation I would tend to believe this is only one more marketing argument aimed at a specific audience who needs to believe it is the case. That is why capitalism is strong, it even manages to sell us our conscience back if we need it back (everything is a market).

But we are slightly going off-topic there.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 4th April 2013 10:54am

Posted:A year ago

#39

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
It's quite simple really, if you don't like F2P, then don't pay them any money. If all games go F2P I'll just read a book or something instead.

Posted:A year ago

#40

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,070 1,000 0.9
The comparison with a all you can eat buffet is flawed and short sighted.

Microtransactions are not competing with full priced games. The proposition is not about $5 for a day of fun in a freemium game vs. $60 for a game offering fun for a weekend or two. It is about the $5 freemium snippet vs. a $5 full experience on Steam.

1300 games below $5 and 2500 games below $10. That is the competition freemium models will face. Independent games, older games, heavily discounted games effectively advertising their sequel.

EA needs to stop optimizing its approach to conducting business and start optimizing its approach to what constitutes a healthy platform to sell games on.

Posted:A year ago

#41
Todd, didn't your school teach you to be careful when referencing internet sources? One, you are referencing the crash of 1983/1984 to the slowdown in the video games sector in our era.
In our era? who said our era? what does that even mean, isnt this still my era?
as far as your point 2 and 3? they are laughable as well. Nowhere did I state anything close to what you are referring to in your point 2, and your point 3 is weak. So you are saying that there wasnt an industry crash in 84? ridiculous

I stated This industry crashed once because of companies abusing the consumer, via pushing out incomplete and trashy games
and then back it up with FACTS.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 4th April 2013 7:14pm

Posted:A year ago

#42

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

808 1,004 1.2
>> First: Do not patronise me. We are having a discussion, and though our points of view may be at odds, your assertion that I somehow do not couch the true meaning of the words I use is as unhelpful as it is incorrect.

Oh come on Dan. You were impyling that the FTP model is the same thing as illegal narcotics trading. It just isn't though, is it. If you don't want someone taking apart your statement, don't make a daft statement. This has nothing to do with our difference of opinion.

Re: "Exploitation", I was referring to my use of the word. In the sense of "making use of a resource" and not the usual media ballbusting useage "taking advantage of and abusing" sense. We all make use of each other to further our existence - that's just how society works. Sorry if that is also patronising, but some things need to be restated from time to time.

Our first foray into the FTP model might be our last because it makes us no money, or it might be our last because we make so much money we can play pool all day instead. But in either case I won't be able to force customers to pay me against their will. And that point should be the end of the debate.

If you don't think paying the microtransaction money is worth what you get for it, then don't. Else do. End.

Posted:A year ago

#43

Gareth Eckley
Commercial Analyst

88 67 0.8


So let's recap - free or cheap rules (theoretically, you only need one copy per club and photocopies or kindles are rife).
No subscription.
Expensive monetised components required for gameplay.

Yup. I think Games Workshop have demonstrated running such a service is viable in the long term and that hard core gamers will accept it.

Posted:A year ago

#44

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