26th March 2012 by Thomas
We all managed to avoid the GDC flu but are still pretty quiet for now, waiting for a time when the workload eases up and we can blog more frequently again. TO hold you over a bit until then, here are the presentations from the lectures Diane and I delivered during the week of the GDC.
In chronological order, here are the slides from my presentation during the Social and Online Game summit of the GDC:
I ran out of time and couldn’t cover the case studies in the end, so even if you attended you should find a few extra details in here.
Diane lectured on Business Models: current trends and perspective for the future. She didn’t run out of time, and some of the slides don’t speak for themselves very well, but you may still find the presentation useful:
24th June 2011 by julien
A couple of weeks ago, following the E3 trade show in Los Angeles, Kogi Tagushi, Senior Executive Officer at Square-Enix, declared he was “humiliated by the decline of Japanese titles”. Now, Mr Tagushi was mainly talking about the poor representation of Japan at the show in terms of new games and IPs, however the decline of the Japanese games industry has been a popular topic of discussion recently, and a second interpretation can be seen of this, relative to two large Japanese game companies that seen to be willingly putting on a blindfold and driving as fast as they can against a wall, namely Sony and Nintendo.
22nd March 2011 by Diane
The recently launched RIFT, a big-budget subscription MMO, has been offering a very deep discount for 3- and 6-months subscriptions set up early (the Founder pricing, normally valid for the first 2 weeks after release, which has been extended to the end of March). Discounts for longer subscriptions are the norm in the industry, and such an offer has been proposed before by other games. These limited offer at a very low price are really interesting. Read the rest of this entry »
11th March 2011 by julien
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to get a closer look at EA’s upcoming free-to-play shooter Battlefield Play4Free, a game based on the same concept and engine as Battlefield Heroes, but targeted at a core-gaming audience. The strategy behind Battlefield Heroes is clear: they want to broaden the Battlefield playerbase with cartoon graphics and third person view. With its “gamer” orientation, one could think that Battlefield Play4Free is mainly competing with other titles from DICE, but that would be forgetting that it positions Electronic Arts one step ahead of its western competitors in the war of online shooters, a war that won’t ultimately be won by AAA console titles, but rather by free-to-play games on open platforms.
12th August 2010 by Diane
The attentive observer of the online games market has noticed that more and more AAA MMOs have announced their switch to the Free-to-play model. This is not a new development, it’s just a sudden acceleration of a long-term trend that reached the tipping point.
The biggest F2P MMO in Europe, Metin2, was originally launched in 2006 as a subscrition game, and quickly repositioned as Free-to-play when it failed to gain traction. Since then, switching a struggling game to free-to-play has been a popular tactic, but for some games it did little to renew interest and bring a new audience, most of the time when it was too late already to adapt the whole game design and the way to run operations to the new model. That’s what happened to games like The Chronicles of Spellborn, which unsuccessfully switched to a not-quite-F2P model after an unsuccessful launch. The game just announced its definitive closure.
For some other games, like Turbine’s Dungeon and Dragons Online, it did bring a second youth and new players. Encouraged by the success of the tactic (or discouraged by its subscribers numbers), Turbine has since announced that its flagship MMO, Lord of the Rings Online, will switch to a Free to Play model at the end of the year. SOE has also announced recently that EverQuest2 was going free to play too. EverQuest 2 has been around since 2004 and isn’t getting any younger, so it’s probably an attempt from SOE to keep its existing base and attract ex-players.
Because, if everybody agrees that subscription is a barrier to entry, it’s also often overlooked as a barrier to re-entry, which is the main problem that declining games are facing.
We are curious to see how many more announcements there will be in the coming months, as the less pay-to-play MMOs remain, the more difficult it is for each one to keep the model. Games like Lineage 2 and City of Heroes at NCsoft could certainly be considering it, but even more recent games who did not meet the expected level of success like Warhammer Online or Age of Conan could be tempted.
The difficulty resides in finding the investment and expertise to develop the game around a new business model, while forgoing the existing revenue streams, which can be a huge gamble. This is also a difficult community management exercise, as first most people express discontent at having paid for something that is now free (a problem every company has when lowering the price of a product), and then if it is successful in growing the game’s audience, the reaction from the initial community can be very negative at the afflux of freeriders coming in. Not only are they n00bs, but non-paying ones at that!
It’s interesting to note that some recent or not even in Beta yet indie subscription games have also announced their switch to free to play. The thing is, given the state of the AAA (understand “subscription-based”) MMO market in the West (which is flattening according to a brand new report by Strategy Analytics), it’s going to be very difficult for new games to be in a position to demand a subscription from players. The only games in position to keep the pay-to-play model will probably be the very niche games, where subscription is not the biggest barrier to entry and whose players are price inelastic (I doubt EVE Online would get much more players if it was free), and uber blockbusters which can command this premium (Star Wars Old Republic will probably still launch pay-to-play). Even the biggest blockbusters might have trouble staying P2P, and those of the future might not be . The free to play offering is now so diverse and qualitative that it’s difficult to see what other type of game can now successfully launch pay to play. Attention is precious and the online model is games paying to acquire users, not the other way round.
We’re still noticing a lot of contempt in the generalist video games media for free-to-play games, when they are just not realizing that they are becoming the norm, and that the trend is accelerating. These media will go the same way of the pay-to-play games if they don’t get educated about free to play soon.
Tags: Age of Conan, Alganon, Black Prophecy, Business Model, City of Heroes, DDO, Eve Online, EverQuest 2, free to play, Game Industry, Lineage 2, LOTRO, Metin2, Star Wars : Old Republic, Warhammer Online
16th December 2009 by Diane
As the European online games market is becoming increasingly competitive, we are starting to see some casualties, games and companies not meeting the success they planned and closing operations or shutting some games down. In the recent weeks, the following closures have been announced, all in the Free to Play category:
- Italy-based Gametribe portal, operated by Game Media Networks, subsidiary of Digital Bros, a retail videogame distribution company, will be closing down on December 31st. The portal had already lost or not renewed the license for Dekaron from developer GameHi since September. It also operated action online game Infinity, cel-shading MMO Dreams of Mirror Online (DOMO) and football session game Kicks Online.
- UK and Spain-based company Rourke Online has seen its portal Key2Play and game servers disconnected after failing to pay for the hosting at the end of November. They were operating F2P MMOs Priston Tale 2 and Ys Online. Ys Online’s service termination had already been announced.
26th November 2009 by Diane
Last week, Diane was at an Online Games summit in Ankara, keynoting the event and meeting actors of the Turkish online games industry. It was a honour to be invited there, and she was very happy to learn more about the Turkish market, which is one of the big ones in Europe already, and is still in a phase of rapid growth.
As more Asian and American eyes are turning to the European market (since market is less mature and the Chinese market is increasingly closed), Turkey is emerging as a rising star of the European region for online games. The country has the second biggest population of the region, and a majority of them are young (60% are under 35) and educated. According to a recent Comscore report, Turkey is the 3rd most engaged Internet audience in the world. The games websites category there has a 68% penetration, higher than in the UK. According to government statistics, 24% of Turks aged 16+ played network games with other people in 2008.
15th July 2009 by Diane
The lecture went really well, even if Thomas didn’t have time to insert a few Bastille Day jokes ! The slides can be downloaded here and seen below:
To renew the disclaimer in the presentation, a lot of the numbers are estimates based on various sources. If you have official numbers for any of those games, please contact us and we’ll update it!
13th July 2009 by Jen
Brighton’s Develop conference kicks off this week, and tomorrow, Tuesday 14th, ICO’s own Thomas Bidaux will be hosting a session on free-to-play games in Europe as part of its new Evolve track. In The European Free to Play Market, he’ll be giving an overview of Europe’s most successful F2P titles, the companies behind them, and the features that make them work. The session runs from 11.45 to 12.30.
Thomas will also be part of a panel discussion about how NESTA’s mentoring programme has helped developers to survive and succeed: it’s called Why Grey Matters – How to Grow Your Business, and it’s on Wednesday 15th at 11 am.
Diane and Jen will be in Brighton on Wednesday too, so if you’d like to meet up with one or more of us, please get in touch!
2nd June 2009 by Thomas
EA Phenomic announced last week that their collectible online RTS Battleforge now had a free version, available to anyone intrigued by the game’s concept. The core revenue model of the game will remain the same, centered around a virtual currency you can purchase online (or by redeeming codes in the game boxes, transorfming all those Battleforge dvd case into prepaid cards) and then use to buy booster packs à la Magic the Gathering containing new units for you to choose from for your battles.
A really nice move, but why wait so late? Read the rest of this entry »
22nd April 2009 by Diane
A common attitude of traditional video games developers starting in the free to play model is to assume that because the game is free, players will be grateful and, if given the right marketing exposure to raise awareness, will come in numbers to enjoy this “gift” that the developer is giving them. It is understandable for newcomers to the F2P model to think like that at first, because they are used to charge for the fruit of their work, but it’s definitely delusional. It is actually a selling process (even though it’s free). Would you be expecting to do a lot of sales by just putting a product out there there and letting customers come to you? Then don’t do it with free to play games either. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: free to play
26th January 2009 by Diane
Like every new year, it’s time for looking back at the past one and trying predictions for the next one. We are quite late in the exercise as we post this, so we’ll concentrate on the predictions part for the future. These are based on our observations and deductions and various chats with clever people from the industry. We might be right or wrong, but what is sure is that this industry is moving very fast, and is fascinating to watch. Anyway, it will be fun to check at the end of the year to see where we guessed right and where we missed – most of the points seem to us to be quite logically tied together at the moment.
Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: Acclaim, Age of Conan, AQWorlds, Bigpoint, browser-based, digital distribution, Fallen Empire, Fiesta, Flyff, free to play, Fusionfall, Gameforge, Habbo, HoMM Kingdoms, InstantAction, MApleStory, Neopets, Ohai, Pixie Hollow, Power RAcing, QuakeLive, Runescape, Stardoll, Trion, Webcarzz, Webkinz, zOMG