28th July 2011 by Thomas Bidaux

IGDA Summit sessions – Fraud and Kickstarter

Last week in Seattle, the IGDA put together its first Summits. The event was organised parallel to (and in partnership with) Casual Connect. I was drafted to help put together the content for the Monetisation summit, and sat in a few sessions that were particularly interesting to me (one perk of having a say on what the topics will be!).

If you missed some of my comments on twitter, or more likely if you just unfollowed me after the spam (you can follow me again, the event is over, I will behave in the coming weeks), I have put together here some of my notes on the Fighting Fraud panel and the Kickstarter panel.

These are my rough notes of what was discussed. If I got anything wrong, please let me know.

Fighting Fraud Panel

Moderator Sanjay SARATHI (Vindicia)

Panelists Robin WALKER (Valve), Arthur CHU (Nexon), Michael LIBERTY (Paypal)

The panel objective was to educate on what you can do to fight fraud, and it was aimed an audience with limited knowledge on the subject. Here are the key take aways for me:

Fraud is painful. Fraud is difficult to fight. Fraudsters will always be very creative in bypassing your system, and you will always have to play catch up. But you really can’t ignore it. Before anything else, the first thing to do is to make sure you can measure fraud and understand that it is happening. The moment you reach about 2% of chargebacks on your transactions (stolen credit cards were used and the money is taken back), Arthur CHU estimated you have about 2 months before it becomes a LOT more painful. However, before you reach that stage, investing heavily in fraud fighting might not be necessary.

One fight at a time. Michael LIBERTY made a very good point on the fact that if you are not a big company and you are starting to charge online, it is best to go through a payment management system like Paypal (Michael’s company, to be fair). Until you reach a certain scale, micro-managing the payment processors and the related fraud is too time consuming.

Game features influence fraud. Robin WALKER pointed out that a game with a trading system was more likely to attract fraudsters. While he has a fair point, this won’t remove all fraud and it does take a serious chunk of the social features (Arthur CHU made this point in the panel very eloquently). What it emphasized was the fact  that the game design can help control fraud to a certain level: limited trial accounts, high level items “soulbound”, Gold lock systems (as in Rift). Convincing the developers to develop them is the hardest part.

Measure, measure, measure. Beyond measuring the fraud itself, it is also important to measure the game features that fraudsters use and abuse. To be able to fight fraud requires understanding what they do and how they do it. Leading to:

A tool is only as useful as the person holding it. All panelists agreed that going out and buying fraud fighting tools is useless unless you already know how you want to use them. These tools can be very efficient (for Nexon, it led to a reduction of fraud by a factor of 10), but they need to be used properly in your context. There are two kind of  tools specifically that were mentioned: geo-location and device reputation tools.

Understand friendly fraud from criminal fraud. All games have a number of “friendly fraud”, the typical case being kids using their parents’ credit cards without their approval. The panel recommended to, again, check the users’ activity, in order to identify friendly fraud and also to have a clear policy in place to manage it. Valve is calling really big spenders, for instance, to make sure they are aware and intended to make large purchases. Michael LIBERTY recommended kids’ games specifically to have a “generous” policy, as they were more likely to see kid-driven friendly fraud.

Current trends. Arthur CHU was very vocal about the increase of the number of account takeovers, and how fraudsters are getting more and more sophisticated in their attacks. Where they once launched blanket attacks to get as many accounts as possible, they now target accounts that they know are very valuable.

Kickstarter Panel

Moderator Cindy AU (Kickstarter)

Panelists Alex NICHIPORCHIK (tinyBuild Games), Wiley WIGGINS (Karakasa Games), Colleen MACKLIN (Local No. 12)

Kickstarter is the most prominent crowd funding website at the moment, and has been used by a number of game studios. The panel highlighted three case studies from companies that have successfully raised money through the service. Cindy AU provided very interesting information as well. I have linked the project for each panelist above, with their company name. So, some takeaways:

Kickstarter data. The website has successfully raised $70m across 20,000 projects to date. IIRC, the biggest project they had was a movie that raised about $500K. After submission, Kickstarter takes about 24h to greenlight a project. Once greenlit, the company can publish the project on the site when they want.

Best practices. Cindy AU gave 3 core rules to maximize your chances with your project.

Rule #1 – Make a video. The web is very much about videos nowadays, and projects with good videos are the ones that are the most successful. It doesn’t need to be super professional, but it certainly needs to clearly describe the project.

Rule #2 – Rewards are very important. Each project offers unique rewards based on the size of your pledge, and it is up to the project owner to define them. Unique, tangible rewards with a strong cool factor help their projects significantly.

Rule #3 – Leverage your existing community. If your project already has an existing community you can leverage to contribute to it, and also to spread the word, this increases the likelihood that your project will succeed. Cindy mentioned that projects with more than three backers succeed 90% of the time.

The panel made very interesting comments on the importance of designing your rewards thoughtfully. Wiley WIGGINS regretted offering a poster reward, because they didn’t calculate properly the cost and the pain of delivering them to their backers. Kickstarter doesn’t get involved in the design of rewards, and it is really up to the company to do its homework as far as costs are concerned. Reward design is very important.

Another consensus was that the duration of the pledge, the length of time allowed to reach the project’s target, didn’t need to be long. The logic is that your early backers will reach it in the first few days anyway, and then progress will be slow and regular until the very end when lurkers may decide to chip in and help.

It was also interesting to note that the Kickstarter system attracted whales in the same way. Thunderbeam offered to make $1,000 contributors their ‘best friend’, which they essentially added just for fun. They now have many new best friends.

I learned quite a bit from these panels, and will definitely be keeping an eye on Kickstarter – I hope they find a way to accept non-US projects down the line.

Posted in Events, ICO Partners

31st March 2011 by Thomas Bidaux

Defining ‘Game as a Service’

I am a regular speaker at game related events, and there are a lot of topics I am very keen to weigh in on. Last year, I decided to tackle the notion of Game as a Service. It is difficult to convey how important this topic is for me and how much I feel we need, as an industry, to improve on that front, but I went for it and tried to cover it all in the allotted hour.

It proved to be impossible to fit everything in, so after the first few iterations of the presentation, I did some pruning and made it leaner (and hopefully better). The first thing I cut was the definition of service. In retrospect, that topic alone could take up a good hour of discussion, and it was overly ambitious to include it with such limited time. So, I renamed the talk to “Your Game As A Service: Designing Beyond Gameplay” and focused it on the practical side of designing the player experience.

I do think that the definition of ‘game as a service’ could use some proselytism in the industry, although I have a hard time imagining conference attendees being willing to sit through an hour of theoretical discussion about it. So, here are some of my thoughts on the subject in easily digestible form.

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11th March 2011 by julien

Shoot to Score: Why Free-to-Play will Win the War of the Online Shooters

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.

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29th July 2010 by julien

Games as services – What can we learn from Guinness?

Guiness LogoThomas recently went to the LOGIN and Develop conferences to give a talk about “Games as Services” (you can find the slides here), and one of the core messages of this presentation is that the games themselves are not the only thing that matter, and that good services around a bad game can still create success. A great example of this concept can be found just accross the corner from where I live: in the world-famous Guinness brewery in Dublin.

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30th June 2010 by Thomas Bidaux

Games as a Service talk – Develop in Brighton

Back in May, I gave a talk at the LOGIN conference about Games as a Service. I haven’t shared it yet here, but there was a good reason (one that is still valid today unfortunately).

Most of my talks recently have been very factual and number-driven, and they have been supported by very factual, number-driven Powerpoint presentations. Sharing those was very easy and straightforward. If you didn’t attend the event then you missed some of the information, but honestly, you could get the gist of it in Slideshare.

The Games as a Service presentation doesn’t work that way. It’s very dependent on the content of the talk, and it doesn’t stand alone very well. I was hoping to be able to take some time to add comments to the presentation, and expand on its usefulness, but realistically it won’t happen before the next time I deliver the lecture, which will be at Develop in Brighton on July the 13th.

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Posted in Events, ICO Partners