Infernum: investors in free-to-play have unrealistic expectations

Zynga's "abnormal market valuation" has put pressure on market, says founder

Shareholders and investors in the free-to-play market are expecting too much growth too quickly, according to Infernum founder Andreas Weidenhaupt.

Weidenhaupt partly blames the abnormally high valuation of Zynga earlier in the year for putting pressure on free-to-play companies to hit unrealistic targets.

"Since Zynga reached an almost abnormal market valuation investors and shareholders tend to expect much too high growth rates in much too short a time," he told GamesIndustry International.

"By now, one-digit growth rates are not even regarded as good enough. If you plan double-digit growth rates you run the risk of threatening your whole business model, if the presumed growth rate is simply not happening.

"This affects the company manpower planning as well as product schedules and licensing. The market is dominated by the propensity to copy each other in order to be able to communicate these expected growth rates. We have to grow sustainable, healthy and not at any cost."

Yesterday Koch Media confirmed it had acquired a stake in developer Infernum as it looks to increase its footprint in free-to-play. Infernum's first release, Brick Force, has over 1.5 million players.

The company employs 32 people but expects to grow to over 50 during the new year. Weidenhaupt said that his company is ignoring the stats bandied around the free-to-play market, and is instead focusing on the product.

"I have to ask myself, for whom essentially are numbers of 300 million registered users communicated in the end? If you see this from a logical standpoint, you could stop any marketing activities immediately because you have already reached the available audience many times over already.

"An online marketing manager has to be able to market a game on a quality level instead of only buying traffic."

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Latest comments (3)

Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief5 years ago
Every serious business person knows that "registered users" is a totally useless vanity metric. It tells you how long you have been around and possibly how much marketing money you have spent, but not much more.

Active users is a vastly more useful metric, but long gone are the days when user numbers are a proxy for revenue. When everyone pays roughly the same amount, it works; now that we have enabled players to spend whatever they want along the demand curve, it isn't useful.

There are businesses with barely 1m registered and 200k MAUs making over $10m a year and there a businesses with 30m MAUs struggling to do the same. I totally agree with Andreas that focusing on user growth is a mistake, if you could be making a great game that keeps players and encourages them to spend money.
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago

Didn't you just question me, when I pointed out that there are a number of companies wrongly over-valued for their number of registered users over in the Bad CEO thread?

Now I'm pretty much seeing you parrot my very point!
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
Runescape is FTP and is coming up to its 12th birthday.
Just now the rest of us are learning. And it is constantly changing as we learn.
Some, like NaturalMotion, seem to understand better than others.
It is all about the player experience. Give them a great game with emotional engagement and they will want to pay to enhance the experience. Retain that player and they will pay more. Mechanics that only allow finite payment, like upgrade packs, are self limiting.

People should be allowed to spend what they want on their entertainment. Taking a Pilbeam or a Gould up Shelsey Walsh blows thousands of ponds in 22 seconds, yet people are very happy to do this.
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