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Core gamers uncomfortable with industry growth - Moore

Core gamers uncomfortable with industry growth - Moore

Tue 01 Jul 2014 1:48pm GMT / 9:48am EDT / 6:48am PDT
Publishing

EA COO says gaming must embrace disruption or risk the same fate as the pre-Napster music industry

Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore is fairly optimistic about the gaming industry. Speaking with GamesIndustry International this month, Moore painted an upbeat, optimistic picture of the industry's health.

"I think we're going into almost a golden age of gaming, where it doesn't matter where you are, at any time, any place, any price point, any amount of time, there's a game available to you," Moore said. "And our job as a company is to provide those game experiences. And then on our big franchises, tie them all together."

It's a natural extension of EA's games-as-a-service approach, and one Moore has been pushing for years. He wants to offer players unified experiences, like an Ultimate Team mode in EA Sports games with a console component and phone and tablet apps that all tie into the same persistent game ecosystem. However, as the industry broadens beyond the traditional retail gaming model with free-to-play business models, downloadable content, and constantly connected experiences, not everyone can agree on which innovations are ultimately beneficial.

"I think the challenge sometimes is that the growth of gaming... there's a core that doesn't quite feel comfortable with that."

"I think the challenge sometimes is that the growth of gaming... there's a core that doesn't quite feel comfortable with that," Moore said. "Your readers, the industry in particular. I don't get frustrated, but I scratch my head at times and say, 'Look. These are different times.' And different times usually evoke different business models. Different consumers come in. They've got different expectations. And we can either ignore them or embrace them, and at EA, we've chosen to embrace them."

That has resulted in a "primordial soup" of distinct options and business models for people interested in playing games, Moore said. He sees it as a net positive, but ackwnowledges not everyone agrees.

"There is a core--controversial statement coming from me, sadly--that just doesn't like that, because it's different. It's disruptive. It's not the way it used to be. I used to put my disc in the tray or my cartridge in the top, and I'd sit there and play. And all of these young people coming in, or God forbid, these old people coming into gaming!"

The changing makeup of the gaming audience has convinced EA to rethink its development philosophy a bit. When Moore first joined EA, he said the company had 67 core games on consoles and PC that were either in full development, about to be launched, or had just been released. Since then, the company has changed strategy away from the "launch and leave" or "fire and forget" model that used to dominate the industry. With games-as-a-service, Moore said 35 percent of the company's staff is involved in live ops, providing support services or developing extra content for games that have already launched. Now he said the company averages about 11 or 12 games a year.

"It's a completely different approach in the way we're listening to gamers and the way they want to consume games," Moore said.

Since the advent of social media, the entire industry has changed the way it listens to consumers, and that, in turn, has changed the way it responds to them. As an example, Moore said he spent the first night of E3 pouring over Twitter reactions to the EA media briefing, where it showed off very early looks at its new Star Wars, Mirror's Edge, and Mass Effect games, as well as glimpses of untitled Bioware and Criterion projects.

"You have to embrace social media as a plus rather than a negative. Everybody has a megaphone now. Everybody has an opinion, and you learn to filter the rant from the constructive feedback."

"Half the people loved the fact that we were showing well into the future," Moore said. "And then the other 50 percent were basically calling BS because it was conceptual prototypes (which is how we build games, by the way). So you're kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't. Our view was we wanted to get early feedback on where we were. And when we say early, we mean years in advance. Publishers typically, and we were no different in the old days, just don't like to do that. You just don't like to expose yourself and open the kimono to gamers to get that amount of feedback."

As uncomfortable as that might be for some, Moore said EA is determined to have the community involved in the company's business going forward.

"You have to embrace social media as a plus rather than a negative," Moore said. "Everybody has a megaphone now. Everybody has an opinion, and you learn to filter the rant from the constructive feedback."

For example, Moore credited fan feedback with the decision to give the Need for Speed franchise a break in 2014 after more than a dozen years as an annualized franchise.

"We were hearing a lot from the Need for Speed community saying, 'Wouldn't it be cool if? Couldn't we do that?' And you just know that you can't get that done [on a 12-month release schedule]. When we say 12 months, it's really 10 months of actual work. So you just make the decision that is better for gamers."

The hope is that decision will also be the better choice for developer Ghost Games, which took over the series with last year's Need for Speed Rivals.

"We as an industry have to embrace change. We can't be music. We cannot be music."

"They have adopted a franchise that was inextricably intertwined with Criterion for years," Moore said. "And they need the time to make it their own, and they deserve the time to do that. My job is to make sure we figure out something else that would go fill that revenue gap."

Moore said all of these innovations are working to broaden the audience of gamers, and that's seen as unappealingly disruptive to a core audience who liked the industry just the way it was. But as threatened as that crowd might feel, Moore sees a greater threat in not changing at all.

"We just have to embrace it," Moore said. "We as an industry have to embrace change. We can't be music. We cannot be music. Because music said, 'Screw you. You're going to buy a CD for $16.99, and we're going to put 14 songs on there, two of which you care about, but you're going to buy our CD.' Then Shawn Fanning writes a line of code or two, Napster happens, and the consumers take control."

After that, the industry floundered until Apple introduced iTunes and a more consumer-friendly way of acquiring music than recording companies had historically allowed. But even then, Moore said, the damage was already done.

"Creating music to sell is no longer a profitable concern. The business model has changed to concerts, corporate concerts, merchandise, things of that nature," Moore said. "Actually selling music is not a way of making money any more, except for a core group."

"I get grumpy about some things, but if the river of progress is flowing and I'm trying to paddle my canoe in the opposite direction, then eventually I'm just going to lose out."

Moore said he understands a lot of the misgivings people express about new business models in gaming. As a self-described traditionalist when it comes to sports, he said he tends to be a grumpy old man whenever new rule changes are introduced. However, he also said he was open-minded enough to understand that things will change, and just as American football fans have come to embrace once-controversial innovations like video replay, so too does he think gamers will come to look back at the disruptive changes the game industry is going through and conclude they were for the better.

"I think the core audience that dislikes the fact that there are play-for-free games and microtransactions built into those... fine, I get that," Moore said. "As you know, I read all the stuff, and it is the most intelligent commentary on the web as regards games. There's no doubt about that. But every now and again, and you've seen me do it, somebody will come in there and say something stupid that I think is beneath the site itself and beneath the industry."

While Moore can be compelled to join the comments section on occasion, he sees the trends at work as being beyond one person's ability to impact.

"I don't think anybody has to like it," Moore said. "I think that's where it goes. It's like me; I get grumpy about some things, but if the river of progress is flowing and I'm trying to paddle my canoe in the opposite direction, then eventually I'm just going to lose out. From the perspective of what needs to happen in this industry, we need to embrace the fact that billions of people are playing games now."

For more of Moore, check out the first part of the interview, which ran yesterday.

29 Comments

Morville O'Driscoll
Blogger & Critic

1,536 1,339 0.9
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And different times usually evoke different business models. Different consumers come in. They've got different expectations. And we can either ignore them or embrace them, and at EA, we've chosen to embrace them."
Which is entirely fair enough. The issue "the core" has is seeing the entire industry shift from one extreme to the other. The core was happy with the pay-up-front model, so to see major publishers shift to F2P makes them feel antsy and aggrieved. No longer is the core's money good enough, they think, since they see everyone and their uncle shift to enticing the casual/mobile/F2P demographic. Factor in that some games are developed with a more casual player in mind, and it feels like pubs are sacrificing real money now for the mythical gold at the end of the rainbow.

Obviously, the trick is not to make your current demographic feel worthless, and to not shift to extremes. But, hey - videogames! Patience and common-sense seem to be thrown to the wayside all too often in favour of chasing WoW/LoL/Candy Crush numbers.
"And then the other 50 percent were basically calling BS because it was conceptual prototypes (which is how we build games, by the way).
To put this reaction into perspective, there's a definite shift in some quarters against the use of conceptual art/bullshots. Watch_Dogs and Dark Souls 2 "downgrades" alone have irked people, and then you have Aliens: Colonial Marines ('nuff said). It's rude to the devs, no doubt - and that's not fair - but people are fed-up of seeing promo-work that has little to do with the end result, and EA aren't the only ones who are attacked for it. Conceptual prototypes - especially when they're released at somewhere like E3 - are the start of the PR machine in this industry, rather than interesting little curios and DVD filler, like, say, the movie industry.

Still, an interesting read. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 1st July 2014 3:32pm

Posted:3 months ago

#1

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
@Morville

I believe you are confusing marketing speak with facts.

Consumers dont choose business models, those trying to make the sales do. That is why they are called business models, and not purchasing models.

Business have moved to F2P because of the abuse/overuse of P2P, and consumer backlash against the problems that it has caused. "The Core" has been moving away from pay upfront model for years, and business is now catching up. Business chases the consumer spending, not drives it.

Technically, Moore is correct. They are giving the consumer what they want. However, as a business they always do it on terms that are beneficial to them. They have not changed their spots, they are simply presenting the same package, in a different way. Calling water Dihydrogen Monoxide doesnt change what it is, but may help to sell more bottles.

Posted:3 months ago

#2

James Ingrams
Writer

215 85 0.4
8 out of 10 AAA titles still lose money,and the growth of indie and retro gaming is an indictment on the mainstream industry. with gamers saying "you're just not cutting it any more!"

When EA and the like have a system in place to release $1,000,000 productions like Mars: War Logs,or and E.Y.E.Divine Cybermancy, that both made huge profits for the indie (AA?) publishers concerned,then I will have hope for the mainstream AAA market. But right now, I think it is at a crossroads, and if history is anything to go by, the industry will make a wrong turning.

Posted:3 months ago

#3

Morville O'Driscoll
Blogger & Critic

1,536 1,339 0.9
"The Core" has been moving away from pay upfront model for years, and business is now catching up.
I think those who Kickstarter games would disagree with you. There's no truer P2P scheme than backing a product with solid cash, and knowing the game isn't going to go F2P because of it. But, again, we're dealing in extremes. You'll point to TF2/DoTA/LoL. I'll point to Kickstarter/Rust/DayZ. It's something that's not good for the industry, this dealing in extremes. There's room for both, but some publishers choose not to see this, for whatever their own reasons.
Business chases the consumer spending, not drives it.
Not quite true. All businesses chase consumer spending, but some businesses drive it. Look at how many games are released either solely on digital distribution, or at least initially on DD. Are publishers giving consumers what they want, or are they in fact driving the industry towards a DD-only model on PC because it benefits them more? The same goes with F2P. (imo :p )

Or, put another way: Dungeon Keeper mobile had IAP because a) the consumer (including "core") asked for it, or b) because EA wanted to use it to drive the F2P model into the "core" demographic?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 1st July 2014 5:15pm

Posted:3 months ago

#4

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
@Moreville
I think those who Kickstarter games would disagree with you. There's no truer P2P scheme than backing a product with solid cash, and knowing the game isn't going to go F2P because of it. But, again, we're dealing in extremes. You'll point to TF2/DoTA/LoL. I'll point to Kickstarter/Rust/DayZ
Kickstarter is yet another example of people moving away from established P2P models. The only reason that it has worked, is because people were unhappy with the P2P experience from the large companies (like EA). Kickstarter works for the developers using it as a way to get the money to fund thier products without having to go through the larger publishers (and losing the product in the process). It also works for the consumers, as a way to try to have some influence on the content being made availalbe.This has only taken off now, because of the clear failure of previous models (both for the developer and the consumer).
Business chases the consumer spending, not drives it.
Not quite true. All businesses chase consumer spending, but some businesses drive it. Look at how many games are released either solely on digital distribution, or at least initially on DD. Are publishers giving consumers what they want, or are they in fact driving the industry towards a DD-only model on PC because it benefits them more? The same goes with F2P. (imo :p )
Games released in digital format today are at least a decade behind the curve. They are only doing this because the money is already there, and they want a part of the market. Sure, there were some companies that offered digital only versions of games decades ago... but it didnt affect their bottom line. Which is why everyone didnt follow immediately. There are always exceptions, but the rule gets determined by majority, not the minority.

EA isnt driving F2P. F2P is bad for them... However, they are adapting to F2P because if they dont, they wont survive. EA would much rather have the whole market use P2P with AAA products. They were the king of that hill. However, that market has dried up, and they now have to compete in other markets where they are no longer as dominant.

F2P is 'everywhere' because the market is spending money on it. Anyone that wants some of that money will have to compete in that arena. If they are not good at it, they will go under. This is the consumer forcing change on the developer/publisher by spending (voting with their money). This is not the developer/publisher forcing something new on the consumer... that aurgument culd have been made in 2000, but it is long since past now.

Posted:3 months ago

#5

Morville O'Driscoll
Blogger & Critic

1,536 1,339 0.9
I'll say something, and it's both genuine, and genuinely not meant as sarcasm.

That's very interesting... And exactly illustrates the point I was making about the industry shifting to extremes.
F2P is 'everywhere' because the market is spending money on it.
Yes... But the market is multiple demographics, and not all those demographics spend money on it. It no doubt makes good business sense to move to F2P. But it makes as much business sense to not discount the P2P market; and, at the very least, to not give the impression you are, to your consumers.
This is the consumer forcing change on the developer/publisher by spending (voting with their money).
#notallconsumers :)

Posted:3 months ago

#6

William Usher
Assistant Editor

41 29 0.7
Popular Comment
Morville has it right.

Core gamers HATE day-one DLC, but they'll cough up the cash because they want the complete experience. If I see a game with a bunch of different pre-order models I'll instantly pass, wait a year or two and then buy the GOTY Edition. I just don't have time and money to waste buying all sorts of small trinkets of content that should have been included from the start.

The thing that really offends me is Moore's allusion to some mythical standard that gaming has to become a service. This here kills me....
...the company has changed strategy away from the "launch and leave" or "fire and forget" model that used to dominate the industry. With games-as-a-service, Moore said 35 percent of the company's staff is involved in live ops, providing support services or developing extra content for games that have already launched.
This is the main reason why I DON'T buy EA games anymore.

If they made a quality title and "fired and forgot" it, I wouldn't mind. Does it work out the box? Is it complete? Is it fun? Yes? Yes? Yes? Good.

The company is still repairing Battlefield 4 and yet Moore wants to convince us that "games as a service" is still the right away about it? Constantly patching and updating games on the fly after taking the money of consumers and hoping you eventually get it right? Seriously? That's the future of gaming according to EA? They mas well change their tagline to: "We'll fix it later because we can."

I just wish the EA that made 007: Everything or Nothing would come back. That's still my favorite game from the company because it was a complete experience. You're lucky to find a game from the company these days that doesn't require a day-one patch and doesn't come packed with enough premium DLC that you'll still be paying on it by the time you retire.

Posted:3 months ago

#7
Popular Comment
Core gamers like myself, just hate the fact that the game industry has been turned into a business first, art second industry. The game industry has turned into an extraction device, as has many industries these days. Its all about ways to extract wealth from the consumer. We are moving away from the upfront, here is something of value, please purchase it for the amount. Instead we get into all these sneaky head games that business now seem to play. Its all about wealth extraction.

When games have to worry about how to create clever little ways to extract money from its users, it loses something.. and that often is, fun game play design. The industry has too many suits, not enough artist.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 1st July 2014 6:03pm

Posted:3 months ago

#8

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
F2P is very noticable, because it is 'hot' right now. However, P2P has not gone anywhere.

I could easily use the analogy of Records (Vinyl) vs the CD. We all know how that worked out. Digital Music is predominant, but Vinyl has not gone anywhere, and is still very popular.

A closer approximation in this case would be paid email vs free email. Free email is everywhere, but paid email is still there as well. Heck, I have had the same paid email account for decades, even though I use free email every day.

Companies are only 'moving' to F2P in the sense that they had limited/no offerings in that market in the very recent past. They will continue to offer P2P options, because there is still money to be made there (Did you know that the #1 monetization method in western F2P Online MMO's is montly subs/ aka P2P).

There isnt anyone fighting to support the P2P market, because that is what is dropping off. They are all fighting to get part of the F2P market, becaus that is where the growth is. How much time/money do automobile manufactures spend promoting their parts inventory for older models? They make tons of money on this, but instead, they always focus on the new models. Does this mean that they are suddenly going to stop selling parts for older cars, because a new model came out? No. They only really stop selling the old parts when there is not enough demand to keep them stocked.

Earlier I mentioned that the rule is established by the majority. This is more true in business, than it is in politics. However, not all opinions are made equal. They are measured by the the money that they spend. So, if you spend $100 a year on P2P games, and someone else spends $1000. They get 10x the amount of influence. It also means that witholding spending, only means that you get less of a say. Bottom line is that the consumer spending pool determines the market, not any ideology, or individual opinion.

P.S.
Core gamers like myself, just hate the fact that the game industry has been turned into a business first, art second industry
I remember when I discovered this in 1986... Now I am over it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brian Lewis on 1st July 2014 6:06pm

Posted:3 months ago

#9
But Brian what happened when too much crap invaded the P2P model back in the 80's? the industry collapsed. I fear the same thing is going to happen with this F2P model, its going to collapse under it own greed as well, taking much of the industry with it. The amount of crap out there is staggering.

Posted:3 months ago

#10

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

661 271 0.4
I fear the same thing is going to happen with this F2P model
Dont think it will collapse, but it will create a sort of disconnected apathy, like supermarket brands do : customers will stop caring about who made it unless it has ingredient that causes a scandal. Which is what the mainstream is. And where AAA is heading.

Unless they did notice the trend that customers started caring about things like sustainability, fair trade and such. In that case they are heading to a place where the conscious customers are getting away from. The whales. But its OK, Hollywood works the exact same way. That industry is built to profit from making a loss.

Posted:3 months ago

#11

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
But Brian what happened when too much crap invaded the P2P model back in the 80's? the industry collapsed. I fear the same thing is going to happen with this F2P model, its going to collapse under it own greed as well, taking much of the industry with it. The amount of crap out there is staggering.
No business model turns crap into gold (maybe fertilizer?). The quality of the games has not changed with business models, and we still have the same unsatisfactory games that made consumers unhappy with P2P. They are not any happier with F2P.

I would agree that there are some changes coming, and that they are going to be harsh for some. However, this is where the changes in the market (Kickstarter, F2P, Digital Downloads, etc) will all help with the recovery. These all help to bring more accountability to the consumer, so that good games CAN succeed, where in the past they would be buried by the establishment.

Expect to see problems with established gaming companies. Expect to see indies be able to strike out on thier own, and make good products. Expect to see lower prodution quality, but higher entertainment value products suceed. However, dont expect this to last too long, as these companies will eventually be bought out by the more established firms.

None of this is new, and many of you who have been in the industrty for a while, will recognize what I just described... as it happened ~20 years ago as well. I just expect it to happen a bit faster and smoother, because of the improvements in the direct to consumer markets.

Posted:3 months ago

#12
Popular Comment
The quality of the games has not changed with business models, and we still have the same unsatisfactory games that made consumers unhappy with P2P. They are not any happier with F2P.

the problem is that the amount of games being released has changed. several thousand a month, and most using various f2p monetization. The problem is when this markets breaks, how can it reset it self when the price point has been moved to zero? When the 80s industry collapse, the price point was over $30, and the profit margin on that 30 was ENORMOUS, so the reset was possible, because the margins were still enormous. How will the industry rebound and reset when you have a pissed off/disengaged consumer with a price point of zero?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 1st July 2014 6:38pm

Posted:3 months ago

#13

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
the problem is that the amount of games being released has changed. several thousand a month, and most using various f2p monetization. The problem is when this markets breaks, how can it reset it self when the price point has been moved to zero? When the 80s industry collapse, the price point was over $30, and the profit margin on that 30 was ENORMOUS, so the reset was possible, because the margins were still enormous. How will the industry rebound and reset when you have a pissed off/disengaged consumer with a price point of zero?
I agree that the market (in general) is saturated. Some parts (mobile for example) are much more satureated than others (MMORPG's). This is mostly due to the higher overhead requirements of some parts of the market vs others.

The good news is that with F2P, the market can reset itself in almost 0 time. F2P is about selling a service, not a product. That means that in can instantly reset itself, whereas a product has to wait for another product cycle. Simply improve your service, and you are instantly on the road to recovery.

The bad news is that the challenge isnt in fixing the problems (all it takes is one good example). The challenge is in discoverability. With all of the products out there, and all the bad examples, how can consumers find the good stuff. Luckily we have seen vast strides in social networking.... and the best solution, is the oldest.... referals. Organic/viral growth is how good games will succeed. We have already seen it to a limited extent, expect to see it even more... while large entertainment companies try to figure out how to 'catch' this.

Posted:3 months ago

#14

Bonnie Patterson
Freelance Narrative Designer

159 431 2.7
I'm still waiting for a future business model. Myself, I'd like this for single player games

1) A high-quality game
2) Minimum of a month's-worth of content included at release
3) Scope and tools for player-created content
4) Ongoing developer support for at least 5 years (in the form of not making it impossible to play the game any more)
5) The opportunity to receive some sort of payment for anything awesome I create (a la Valve), either in cash or some kind of in-game currency spendable on other content
6) My internet is terrible, please don't force me to have it always on.

In the case of MMOs and similar, I'd additionally like
1) Some kind of mandatory financial investment from players to play, so they have incentive not to get banned
2) Actual enforcement of terms of play, EULA etc. The developer/publisher can pick if they want me playing their game or not. Other players should not get to make that choice for them through bad behaviour.
3) ENOUGH ****** CONTENT TO PLAY. You shouldn't "finish" an MMO and spend a whole year being expected to repeat the same junk over and over again. Some content reuse is OK, doing the same thing hundreds of times with nothing new to do between it is not.
4) Yes, content, quality and cuctomer service are part of your business model, not just pricing etc

6) There should also be a legitimate way to exchange in-game currency for cash shop tokens AND VICE VERSA - Eve's GTC and Pilot Licence Extension sales are pretty much ideal. Which also means there should actually be a desirable use for standard in-game earnings.

And most importantly:

7 for both categories) CHARGE ME WHAT IT'S WORTH, NOT THE SAME AS EVERYONE'S LESSER CRUD.

Player-created content, longevity and the chance for player to create their own business opportunities alongside your game are, to my mind, the future.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 1st July 2014 6:55pm

Posted:3 months ago

#15

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
@Bonnie

You should look at SOE's Player Studio:

https://player-studio.soe.com/

It is now available for EQ, EQ2, PlanetSide 2, and Landmark. It is also going to be used for H1Z1 and EQ Next. Combining this with their one monthly sub for all games program is pretty close to a lot of what you asked for:

https://www.soe.com/allaccess

SOE is making a strong push to be a very customer oriented service provider.

Posted:3 months ago

#16

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

213 529 2.5
Popular Comment
I think the Free to Play argument gets shot all to hell when you look at the percentage of players that actually spend money. It's such a low percentage game that you have to have somewhere in the neighborhood of a million installs in order to reap regular profit. And NO GAME should be required to have a million installs in order to make profit.

As much as cash extraction methodology is a nightmare for players, smart resource management (both money and personnel) is a driving factor in keeping it on the market. If more companies concentrated on smaller scope, higher quality projects, not only would the art-first camp be satisfied, but the producers would be happy with the faster turnaround from release to release. Yet we have seen the opposite - massive scale games with collectibles only a small percentage will ever fully collect and areas only the hardcore will ever see , where failure to hit 5 mil plus sales equals studio shutdown. It's madness, and with so much on the line (and I can't believe I'm going to say this) I can understand why companies like EA will attempt to wring the most money they can out of a title.

Scale down, people. No game studio should be dead if just one of their titles flops. That's like having stock in only one company. It's poor business sense - but rampant in the games industry, for some reason.

Posted:3 months ago

#17

John Thomason
Studying Computer Science

5 7 1.4
Mr. Moore,

I'm not uncomfortable with change. In fact the changes within the past 10 years for games (Steam, digital distribution, new game genres, better graphics capabilities, eSports, etc) have been great and wonderful.

However here is what I am uncomfortable with:

-Publishers creating their own distribution clients that don't come close to their competition (Origin).
-Day-1 DLC: Selling Content that could have been included in their base game for a separate price at launch (Mass Effect 3: From Ashes DLC).
- "Fee-To-Pay"* games: Full price games with micro-transactions (Dead Space 3)
-Full priced games with an Always Online requirement (CnC 4: Tiberium Twilight and when it launched Sim City)
-DLC Authentication, even after purchase (Mass Effect 3)
-F2P games that badger customers to pay money to speed up timers to do anything in the game (Dungeon Keeper mobile)
-Pushing out games to launch that aren't ready (Battlefield 4, Sim City, etc)
-AAA publishers using the Early Access Model for future games (Battlefield)
-Playing the Battlefield Hardline Beta and thinking to myself how microtransactions could be inserted into the final product (the Battlepacks possibly)

With all that said, I appreciate EA removing the Always Online requirement from Sim City. Also with the addition of the Great Game Guarantee, Game Time, and On the House capabilities, Origin has made significant strides to provide better value to the customer. I grew up with EA games and continue to enjoy them (both old and new games) to this day.

In summary Mr. Moore, to paraphrase BioShock Infinite:

Am I afraid of Change?
No.
But I'm afraid of you.


*Coined by Jim Sterling

Posted:3 months ago

#18

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
I think the Free to Play argument gets shot all to hell when you look at the percentage of players that actually spend money. It's such a low percentage game that you have to have somewhere in the neighborhood of a million installs in order to reap regular profit. And NO GAME should be required to have a million installs in order to make profit.
Why does volume = bad. Broadcast television works based on advertising. This is a business model that requires millions of concurrent views. The same could be said for most advertising... yet these models seem to work. If you want something closer, try free email.

You also have to remember that even in F2P there is a HUGE range of difference. Some games focus on high volume/low cost, some focus on low volume/high cost. As for premium games, I am sure that every developer would like to think that their game justifies a premium... but few can justify this to customers.

The reality is that most studios need to make lower cost games (or even cheap/fast prototypes), and then use F2P to determine if they are viable. If so, they can scale up. If not, they can cut their losses, and try again. It is the all or nothing situation that has caused so many companies to make mistakes, and eventually fail.

Posted:3 months ago

#19

Morville O'Driscoll
Blogger & Critic

1,536 1,339 0.9
Why does volume = bad. Broadcast television works based on advertising. This is a business model that requires millions of concurrent views. The same could be said for most advertising... yet these models seem to work.
Apples and oranges, I fear. Most advertising is a passive (for the viewer) experience, which can be consumed whilst they do other things - make a cup of tea, read the paper, chat to other people, drive to work. But playing games, regardless of their F2P/P2P status, is an active experience - it takes time, forethought and energy to check a game out, and there's only so much time in the day people set-aside for gaming.

Hence, volume = bad. Rift is fighting for attention with Path of Exile, which fights for attention with Warface, which fights for attention with Planetside 2. Which plays into something you said earlier:
The good news is that with F2P, the market can reset itself in almost 0 time. F2P is about selling a service, not a product.[...] Simply improve your service, and you are instantly on the road to recovery.
Generally speaking, by the time you've improved your service, your customer has moved on to something else. It may be better, it may be worse, but they've moved on, and trying to convince that customer you've improved can be very difficult. It can be done - CS:GO was pretty bad at launch, but Valve have improved it massively, and it continues to gain classic CS players it lost in the first few months - but, again, you're fighting against volume. And, in a way, also fighting against yourself - CS:GO has gained players as TF2 has lost them; partially a conicidence, but also partially not.

In that sense, I definitely see the benefit of F2P - if publishers can attract more and different demographics, then there's more players. As long as the industry doesn't put off those new players - bad games/sexism/whatever - then they feed into the industry and it grows. The problem I see is that people seem to be assuming that anyone who plays F2P will continue to play only F2P. Possibly true - how do you monetise someone who's used to paying little-to-no money? - but this shouldn't be an assumption, and neither should F2P be the sole trumpet charge of the industry.

:)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 2nd July 2014 10:23am

Posted:3 months ago

#20

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,106 1,088 1.0
For a good long time, games were "optimized" to cater to western tastes of ownership. People love to own things and games were part of that. f2p challenges that absolute feeling of ownership. In the end, you own nothing, you own the f2p game as much as you own Disneyland. You are just there for your visit and persistence between visits is a feature, not result of your ownership of anything.

Maybe that is the reason why f2p works well in Russia and Asia. In the west we might see some f2p transactions as "pay to win" or cheating, but considering the realities of those societies, publishers might be onto something "selling" to consumers the powerfantasy of being the one who "bribes" the system. For that to work at peak efficiency, ownership may not occur, the result of a successful bribe must vanish to make room for more demand in bribes.

To top it off, f2p often ignores the demand for fair competition between players on a plain playing field. We were all raised on sports and fair play, the notion of bribing your teacher to start the game with a one goal advantage is an insult to most people. Because of that, many f2p transactions are hard to explain to the very same base of players.

From there on out, the publisher is just purely reactive. What is the largest group of people promising the most money. Suddenly, all RPU optimizations aside, games based on full ownership models don't look so good financially. The people who grew up on games between 1995 and 2010 see, is how resources shift away from making more of the games featuring the business model they prefer.

But fear not, Skylanders is raising a new generation of kids, for whom games are one part physical object you own. In a few years, Activision will probably sell a "portal device" in which you plug "collectible plastic modules", which then instantly toss up games onto your TV.

Posted:3 months ago

#21
When EA and the like have a system in place to release $1,000,000 productions like Mars: War Logs,or and E.Y.E.Divine Cybermancy, that both made huge profits for the indie (AA?) publishers concerned,then I will have hope for the mainstream AAA market. But right now, I think it is at a crossroads, and if history is anything to go by, the industry will make a wrong turning.

So EYE and War Logs were really profitable? that pleases me a great deal. Two games I really wanted to get round to but never did - and feared they fell into obscurity. As a result I sometimes fear that a lot of these good games, still sell such paltry numbers that even on $200K budgets they barely make any money at all.
Do you know the figures at all?

Posted:2 months ago

#22

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
Apples and oranges, I fear. Most advertising is a passive (for the viewer) experience, which can be consumed whilst they do other things - make a cup of tea, read the paper, chat to other people, drive to work. But playing games, regardless of their F2P/P2P status, is an active experience - it takes time, forethought and energy to check a game out, and there's only so much time in the day people set-aside for gaming.
I agree that F2P is a BUSINESS model that was created to meet the need of the business, not the consumer. As you dont like advertising as an example (even though some F2P games use this as their revenue method), lets try some others. Steam/iTunes are F2P type products. There is also the email industry, which is uses the F2P model. There is also a lot of Open Source software that uses the same model (free product, sell services).
In that sense, I definitely see the benefit of F2P - if publishers can attract more and different demographics, then there's more players. As long as the industry doesn't put off those new players - bad games/sexism/whatever - then they feed into the industry and it grows. The problem I see is that people seem to be assuming that anyone who plays F2P will continue to play only F2P. Possibly true - how do you monetise someone who's used to paying little-to-no money? - but this shouldn't be an assumption, and neither should F2P be the sole trumpet charge of the industry.
I am not sure about your assumption that F2P is to bring in different demographics. I do agree that it has a broader marketing appeal (the big FREE sign catches attention), but I do not think that it fundementally changes the demographics of the market. I believe that market demographic changes have been caused by the changes in content (more mainstream, less hardcore). I also do not believe that there is any bias that new customers are less likely to try P2P, than existing customers. Both new/old customers are more likely to try F2P due to the low barier to entry, than P2P, where they have to commit upfront.
Maybe that is the reason why f2p works well in Russia and Asia. In the west we might see some f2p transactions as "pay to win" or cheating, but considering the realities of those societies, publishers might be onto something "selling" to consumers the powerfantasy of being the one who "bribes" the system. For that to work at peak efficiency, ownership may not occur, the result of a successful bribe must vanish to make room for more demand in bribes.
In the west F2P is seen as an evolution of the established P2P market. In the east F2P took off, because the P2P market could not get started. The common issue in the east was that you can steal/pirate P2P. The culture there did not value intellectual property, and as such P2P didnt work. This made the value of the product $0, and instead they sold services, which both had a percieved value in the culture, and were not easily piratable.

However, it is worth noting that F2P was used as a business model for online gaming in both markets at approximately the same time. It was just more quickly assimilated in the east than the west. P2P is actually the better model for large companies, but only when it works.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brian Lewis on 2nd July 2014 2:35pm

Posted:2 months ago

#23

Jim Burns
Research Asisstant

44 85 1.9
Music got worse. Bad analogy.

Posted:2 months ago

#24

Bonnie Patterson
Freelance Narrative Designer

159 431 2.7
@Brian Lewis

Yeah, I am all over that icecream like sprankles, very excited by Landmark in particular and hoping more producers will follow suit :)

Posted:2 months ago

#25

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

132 84 0.6
@Bonnie

They have made a couple of smart business moves that may pay off big for them:

1. They are empowing the users to create content for their games. This is the most cost effective method to create content long term, and helps to foster strong communities for the games. SOE doesnt get all the credit here, as Valve/Steam was ahead of them on this.

2. They are grouping all of thier products under one (affordable) monthly sub. It is very common that most people are only willing to pay a single monthly sub, which create game lockout. By putting multiple games under one sub, it makes it that much easier to choose any one of thier games vs a competiors (single) game.

SOE made several (costly) mistakes for their online games in the past two years, but they have recently made some good (but hard) decisions that are putting them back on track, and in a position to stand out in a market that is hard to differentiate products.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brian Lewis on 2nd July 2014 10:29pm

Posted:2 months ago

#26

Andreia Quinta
Creative & People Photographer

221 581 2.6
Different consumers come in. They've got different expectations. And we can either ignore them or embrace them, and at EA, we've chosen to embrace them.
The core gaming communities are seeing a lot of hit and misses with that "embrace", and that's what keeps those same communities on edge and finally starting to think twice before ditching money of pre-order/in development material.

From what talks I had with customers when supervising a Game shop in the UK some years ago, it seemed very 50/50. The same seems to be the case now when talking to ex colleagues, some consumers seems very excited by this or that IP (mostly because they are franchise fans it seems) while others plainly refused pre-ordering or were conservative about what games to buy asking a lot of questions looking for honest replies without the marketing BS.

The industry needs to be careful about what they produce, because even those people that don't try demos or see reviews are wising up from the fact of getting burned too often, so they ask questions on the spot (even on digital, people ask "is this worth it" on a games steam community all the time when it's on sale) and the staff will hammer your game down on the spot without any kind of sugar coating.
I've seen staff asking costumers with Aliens:CM on their hands if they really wanted to take that, "are you sure?" I've had times myself I had to tell them "I can't let you take this, are you sure, 'cause this is really bad" While the customer next to him was nodding with approving eyes.
Costumers were confused when I made recomendations for dead space but told them to avoid DS3 for example, then they bought DS3 anyway and came back to apologise for not taking my advice, it's sad and ironic how the approach on that franchise to involve a bigger market share ended up making it loose it's original core group.

The business model keeps getting in the way of game making regardless, mix the two and it's very unlikely you'll get a good and/or stable game. Be dishonest and the same will happen.

Posted:2 months ago

#27

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
"The Core" has been moving away from pay upfront model for years, and business is now catching up.
Ironcially enough, as it turns out, EA had a lot to do with that for this core gamer.

Back in 2010 I finally moved back to PC from PS3 my primary platform. My strongest memory of this was EA telling me 1) since I'd spent $150 or so on Balttlefield 3 and expansions for PS3, that was about what I'd need to spend again to play the same game on PC, 2) that, despite being a native English speaker, I wasn't allowed to to purchase on-line in English due to my IP address, and 3) if I wanted to buy BF3 at all, I couldn't do it through my current Steam account but had to sign up for Origin, download the client, etc. etc.

I'm sure it's just my lack of marketing expertise that makes me fail to see how this is so different from the music industry's, "you will buy it our way, on a $16 CD with 14 tracks" model.

Anyway, at the time I was quite suspicious of this free-to-play idea, but I thought I'd try out one of the F2P alternatives, and a few years later Wargaming (developers of World of Tanks) is about $1200 richer, and EA has hardly seen a cent from me.

It wasn't the changing models or anything like that that drove this core gamer away from EA: it was just EA itself.

Posted:2 months ago

#28

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