29th September 2011 by Thomas Bidaux

Realtime Worlds employees – where are they now?

Back in June, during the Gamesindustry.biz Brighton meet up, we discussed studio closures, what they meant to the industry in general and the UK industry specifically. I mentioned that it could actually be pretty easy to do a check of former employees’ profiles on LinkedIn to see what happened to them: how many left the games industry, how many left the UK to find a job, that sort of thing.

This week, for some reason I don’t understand, my brain was fired up at night, I couldn’t sleep and that idea came back to haunt me. So, I spent a couple of hours with LinkedIn and here is the result, a year after Realtime Worlds shut down (maybe that’s my subconscious at work here). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Events, ICO Partners

12th August 2010 by Diane

The end of pay-to-play

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.

Posted in Events, ICO Partners

26th July 2010 by Thomas Bidaux

From Brighton to Munich

On Tuesday 13th of July, I presented my lecture “Games as a service, do you really know what it means?” at the Develop in Brighton conference. While I have changed the slides a bit for the event, the content was essentially the same as when I presented it in Seattle for the LOGIN conference, and you can find the presentation on slideshare.

The really good news is that Dan Hon did a great write up of my presentation (something I meant to do for a while but never took the proper time to do) and you can find it on his blog:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Events, ICO Partners

23rd July 2010 by Martin

Community Manager Conference – Why you should have been there!

When on Friday, July 9th 2010, more than 100 visitors listened to the opening panel of the Community Manager Conference in Leipzig, it was possible to see the excitement in their faces from my chair next to the other panel members. Excitement possibly coming from the opening speech just a few minutes ago and either seeing a lot of familiar faces in the audience or being new to the field and expecting to take away a lot of useful tips.

The opening speech made it very clear. Asking the audience ‘What is Community Management?’ brought it straight to the point why a Community Manager Conference does make sense. It’s by far not the very first time I saw this question being raised and everyone giving a different answer. The first time was years ago and still not much seems to have changed. No wonder then that the audience got excited hoping to know the answer by the end of the day. This, on the other hand, would have been a wonder. Nonetheless, the CMC proved to be a stepping stone for many who are now hoping to be able to visit similar events in the future – and maybe one day be able to answer this question without second thoughts and hesitation.

Read the rest of this entry »

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6th November 2009 by Diane

Up and down the online game value chain

chainIt’s well known that online games have been shortening the value chain, threatening the roles of middlemen such as publishers, distributors and retailers, and enabling developers to get in direct contact with players. However, as some very interesting discussions pointed out a few months ago, acquiring users (call it marketing, or traffic acquisition) is hard and expensive, which lends considerable power to other actors in the chain, such as:

  • Digital distribution sites, like Steam
  • Platform managers
  • Aggregators, like Miniclip
  • Community and media websites
  • Ad networks
  • SEO-savvy “gateway” portals (MMO lists, etc)

Channels like these have grown greatly in influence, and the conditions of working with the most prominent ones are becoming increasingly expensive (some of the biggest aggregators now ask for either lots of cash, or equity). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Events, ICO Partners

19th January 2009 by Thomas Bidaux

Talent available

Nowadays, with many studios and publishers currently laying off quite a scary number of people, we ran into an initiative that we find laudable, even if related to unfortunate news for many.

Vivendi Games Europe is currently in the process of reorganising its activities following the merger with Activision and a number of people were made redundant. A part of the team went to the direction and asked to actually create a dedicated website listing the persons currently looking for a job. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Events, ICO Partners