2017/03/28

Why "old" Publishers don't get it?

With old publishers I mean the great EA's, Activisions, Ubisofts etc. They usually are so busy in their own world that they have a hard time looking what is happening outside.

With "world" I mean Fifa, Battlefield for EA, Activision with Call of Duty and their other IP's and Ubisoft with their Sandbox titles.

So when a new trend comes along they usually miss it - big time. EA tends to buy that stuff - and destroy it afterward (remember Command & Conquer and many many other examples). Activision merely does their own thing. Ubisoft just buys smaller studios usually and are busy making Sandbox titles.

What trend am I talking about? A mega trend - which is actually older than they realize: Survival games.

The recent example of Battlegrounds is just the most recent hit the Survival genre produced. Its originator DayZ started it (with some influence from Indie titles). As DayZ was based on the Arma engine the game including DayZ stayed in the Steam charts for months - an eternity rarely achieved by other titles other than Valves.
Really, not even top titles could touch the success. Many others followed and even ones with questionable quality had good sales. Even unfinished survival games stay in the charts - Survival is strong.

But none of the big ones follow up on them. Imagine, the budget of Battlefield behind a Survival game. It could be even a stand alone expansion.

But no, they ignore it. Why? No one knows.

So this is the gap you can jump into. Survival AAA produced and sold by a publisher with the marketing force behind it. Go for it, its here since years. It's time. And if you do and make millions think about the guy who pushed you ;)

2017/03/26

Common f2p mistakes

The video from Casual Connect is online and I also held this talk at Dubai Game Conference past week. If you are interested in the common mistakes most of my clients do you should look at this, it saves you a lot of hassle and consultant fees ;)

And as always, if you think my talks are useful and helped you making good business in f2p think about a donation, simply email me for PayPal or bank information (invoices can be sent as well if you like).

The number of teams thanking me for my talks helping them to success is staggering meanwhile, so someone our there might help me finance the universities of my kids.

And if you missed it, here is my playlist of most of my talks:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuBOOQVWjW9sJSSCSXZ7uOA




2017/03/17

What end of March means

End of March is near. Why am I even talking about this? As long as I am in the industry (and that's close to 30 years) end of March marks a month where usually high-end titles are released with questionable quality.

The Mass Effect debacle happening right now is a typical example - only now users know beforehand. Before the internet happened usually it happened after release.

Ghost Recon Wildlands has mixed reviews and user opinions too. And why Ubisoft launched 2 strong new IP's in the same quarter is unknown to me.

Why does this happen? Fiscal year end. Usually companies had financial years from Jan to Dec but the christmas sales and the revenue plus potential product delays into the next fiscal year made companies shift their financial year from April to March. So before March closes and thus their financial year they release Software - often unfinished - to book the revenue into the current year.

Thats why I don't like publishers being public. At some point they start to serve shareholders more than their customers - the players.

So why does a CEO decide to release a product in not optimal shape even though its bad for the company in the long run? Shareholder happyness? Or maybe because his bonus is tied to revenue of a fiscal year? There you have it. Would you as a CEO release a product if a personal bonus of 10 million is tied to it even though its bad for the company in the long run?

I rarely have seen CEO's having the balls to shif the release date of one of their major IP's. Yves Guillemot from Ubisoft is one and his bonus isn't tied to the revenue. He owns part of the company, no need. This time though he might have been under pressure as Ubisoft is under pressure of a hostile takeover Again - being public has its disadvantages.

This means be careful with titles released end of March. A lesson I learned since decades.

2017/03/11

So Zelda happened

The new Zelda has been released on Switch and is one of the top 3 best-rated games ever. Sidenote: it is as good on the WiiU, so unless you like the portability of the Switch or use it as a couch device the WiiU version is fine too.

Zelda on the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System in case you have missed that console) was a masterpiece in game design. It did so many things right and for the first time and I still use it as a reference in my design classes. It is a milestone in RPG and difficulty progression (another Masterpiece was Mario 64 on the N64 which for the first time showed 3d controls in a world perfectly and games today still use its' controls).

Zelda was polished, updated and released for each new Nintendo system but the foundation remained the same.

This time though they redid everything from scratch. As a Zelda fan, you still find the principles of the original design but so many things are done right.

Zelda is a sandbox world where you can do what you want. It is a perfect combination of open world and RPG. Some site wrote "Zelda is the game which says yes" meaning if you wonder "Can I do this?" the answer is usually yes. Other games restrict your actions, Zelda does not.

Another site rightfully said the feeling you get when playing the new Zelda can be compared when you played WoW for the first time. And I agree.

I rarely write about specific games. The last time was about "The Division", but this time I write about Zelda as you need to play it as it will have an influence on many games like the original or Mario 64 did.

So buy and play and have fun. It is truly amazing and deserves the ratings and the hype.

And I simply leave this video here to show off some funny things you can do in an open world like Zelda:


2016/12/28

What 2017 will bring to the game industry

2016 was harsh. Many studios closed. Some hit games didn't sell. But overall the industry grew as always. Superdata claims we nearly reached $100b in 2016.

Meanwhile China became the largest gaming market of the world thanks to mobile. Talking mobile: it is now the largest segment of our industry. As forecasted by so many.

From my experience and point of view 2017 will be a hard year. In fact it will be more difficult than this year. For various reasons.

First some AAA IP's won't sell as good as they were, as already shown in 2016. The primary reasons are that gamers spend more time in less games and the competition in terms of price. f2p taking over even more market share does further impact the $60 AAA game market.

And of course mobile. Mobile will continue to grow. We will see new games entering the top 10 which do more and more revenue each year. The PC won't suffer, the consoles neither, but their growth will slow down. Nothing major but it will have an impact on studios relying on the old publisher model - meaning more studios will cease to exist.

We also will see a more dramatic impact on the crowded market space. Too many titles, not enough time to play them all. Remember? We will spend more time in less games. So the only way combating this is to bind your fanbase to your game - this means you must update your game and service it beyond its lifecycle. Games as a service. Invented by MMO RPG's now a must have for all games.

Update: read this:
http://steamed.kotaku.com/none-of-2016s-most-played-steam-games-came-out-in-2016-1791048654

We will see an invasion of non gaming IP's to the mobile space as the desperate publishers try to fight high acquisition costs with using foreign IP's. This won't work for most of them as we have so often experienced in the past: the 80's, 90's, 2000's all had those waves and most publishers failed with them unless they can afford the mega IP's - which they can't. If they afford it they won't have enough money left for the game - meaning they ship shitty games on large IP's - failing. We have seen that as well in the past.

VR will continue to be a toy - not a market (yet). So investors will shy away, studios will close. VR will be in a crisis waiting to be revived.

The Switch will ship and sell ok. Nintendo's IPs will be strong, and depending on Nintendos policy to sign up other developers the console will not rival the PS4 or XBox, it will rival Nintendo's old 3DS system, cutting their own market share.

Consoles will drop in price for Christmas 2017 and for the first time go under $199 - embracing new markets. But those new customers won't buy $60+ software, they will buy already discounted or used software - as we have seen in the past when that happens. Still the market will grow and reach its peak - and drop after that staring 2018.

We will see a new creative push from the III side. What is III? Triple Indie, from pro's who left AAA companies and going independent we will see a wave of really good titles created for lower budgets and selling enough to keep those new studios alive.

This means we see a remix of studios. Old ones go, new ones come - and in large numbers. We need to learn all those new studio names otherwise we lose track - so many will be there. All over the world.



2016/12/25

My Game of the Year 2016

Before I spoil my pick let me explain my situation so you understand why I picked this game.

First I love slow paced games. Second I love games with progression, so I can build up characters, items or what else. That surely points in the direction of RPG's, but i am kind of overfed with them. Both MMO RPG and Single Player. The reason is lack of innovation, most games all now look or act like games I played before - so I got bored of most RPG's; and note that great graphics and story don't do it for me either as I skip story (yeah I know ...) and good graphics are normal for games now.

Second I am in the industry since 30 years meaning I have played thousands of games. So even little things in UI or game play disturb me and I quit - and play the next.

Third I can extrapolate how most games unfold game mechanic wise if I played it for 30 minutes. This makes it challenging to keep me interested, to surprise me or to overcome my threshold.

Fourth, I am "old" - this mean reflexes are less and too twitchy games don't do it for me - unless the game designer put in classes which can be played by older players. Just like World of Tanks did - or recently Overwatch.

So which game did all this to me to get my GOTY pick?

The Division by Ubisoft.

Yes, it had a rocky start regarding update policy, but the recent patches corrected most of it. I love the game as I can pick my pace. The game doesn't force me into anything, which is exactly what I need. Sometimes I can just go for a stroll into the city and still have fun. Or go on a raid or adventure. OR find new gear. Or craft. OR join friends and do silly things.

Close contenders? The Last Guardian - as it is art. Dishonored 2 - as I can pick my pace.

2016/12/21

"In the next few years all games will be online" (Teut 2006)

When I said in 2006 "In the future all games will be online" I got criticized by a lot of senior devs still working on pure retail games. Today of course it seems obvious this is the case. Even triple AAA games designed to be "single player" have online modes, online accounts, post launch add ons via online, online trophies and more to ensure a higher engagement and online copy protection.

The primary reason why online works so well is you can update the game frequently and further retain your players and fans. This can be done in a way that your game virtually never dies. Many MMO's from the 90's are still alive and despite their ancient technology they are still being played.

So this isn't bad news here:

https://www.asheronscall.com/en/forums/showthread.php?73423-Asheron-s-Call

This is good news as it proves how long these games can live. Nearly two decades. Think about it. For a developer having such a title in your portfolio means you have a revenue stream which can take you through years which shake us up badly - like 2016 where many devs were being closed.

Games like Destiny will live until the console cycle ends. And that is a fps. RPG's of course were the first movers but most genres will or have already moved into the persistent universe.

The problem? If too many players are bound to their online games they won't buy as many games as before. So the industry need to rely on growth instead of reselling titles to existing player bases. But this only lasts so long - until they are overfed like it happens this year.

The lesson? You need to design your game to last. The rules you need to apply are hard to learn and to grasp but have been laid out decades ago by people like Raph Koster or Rich Vogel. Google them, read all their talks. They are well worth it.

And if you need help - ask me. I am consulting in this space since 10 years.