Industry going conservative again

Consoles selling sub $200 (minus the Pro's) - entering last half of their cycle. 2019 will be hard for larger studios. So be prepared that publishers turn conservative not signing risky or expensive products next year as they already invest heavily in the next generation (it already shows this year).
So please, either split your studio into sizable teams working on multiple lower budget products or resize - yes, this means downsizing is a valid strategy.
Take the free advice, it happened before and will happen again.
The over 10-year-old talk describing the cycles can be found here:


One of PC's best games of all time

I feel honored. Really. And yes its one of my career highlights I designed, with my own company Wings Simulations I sold in 2000. And it had a tremendously long shelf life and still can be found today sometimes for €5-10. The long shelf life is due to the community - and because we gave the source code of the entire project to them. That was a first back then ...



MTX & Loot Boxes - Discussion still going on

As written in my last post the Loot box controversy is still active - and getting worse. It is interesting to follow the press, customers outrage, and publishers answers. Battlefront II and their loot box system even created the most downvoted thread ever on Reddit.

The main reason is that players paying $60+ for an AAA title do not feel eager to be forced to pay via MTX to gain significant important items or unlocks in the game. So EA responded by lowering the needed "grind" to unlock important characters by 75%.

See, that's where the problem lies. Users paid upfront and expect the complete game. They don't want to pay to unlock content (and let's not forget day 1 DLC's). The rule of F2P that content has to be free all the time was violated somewhat.  That's one point, that they didn't implement the Loot Boxes right.

My second point is one I said often during my talks when Loot Boxes came up, like here:

If you add Loot Boxes as MTX you admit your normal monetization system failed - unless your core mechanic of the game is Loot Boxes. Like Hearthstone. Clash Royale. Or Puzzle & Dragons. You will notice that these games never came up during those discussions. Or why do Overwatch Lootboxes do not spawn that controversy? Think about it.

Basically, EA admitted their AAA retail flat fee model of $60 for an AAA game is declining, isn't making enough money to return a sizable profit so they add MTX. 

Many games did this but EA of course brutally forced the MTX system on their game going over the top - while other games do it more wisely - as you should do too. Check out GTA V and their online Revenue, or even Assassins Creed IV Black Flag where I was part of the design team of the MTX system. They never had the backlash EA is feeling. 

There are signs on the horizon that the old AAA model is dying. PC revenue is rising but most of that us on the F2P or MTX side, the AAA revenue is not growing compared to previous years. Even console $60 sales are stagnant to previous years or growth curves of previous generations. 

It has come so far that AAA publishers contact me to teach them how to implement MTX correctly so the community accept it and it still raises revenue.

So AAA games feverishly try to adapt f2p methods to raise their profits to cover the ever-increasing development costs - and most of these teams never worked in F2p. They need help. Call me if you need to educate your teams. You can add MTX to your AAA title which players actually love to engage in. Loot Boxes aren't the answer. Believe me. Been there, done that.


MTX in Destiny 2 and Shadows of Mordor 2 - Scandal?

So the web is alive with discussions about micro transactions in Destiny 2 or the upcoming Shadows of Mordor. Players don't like MTX shops in games they paid $60 for.

But this trend has been here since years. Ubisoft did MTX in the Assassins Creed series. Heck, I was part of the design team who did the MTX for AC IV Black Flag.

The MTX in retail games are adding revenue by x% (I can't reveal the number here, sorry). Publishers need this as games development becomes more and more expensive. Triple AAA products are 50m, 100m even sometimes more than 200m in development. So how many copies do you need to sell to achieve a return on investment? Roughly 3.5 million. That doesn't include marketing yet. Or other costs you need on top like HR, Management, Accounting etc.

So integrating f2p mechanics to raise revenue is perfectly fine.

Also, remember not everyone has hours each day to play those games, but really want to catch up with their friends to raid (like in Destiny) or to see the end, or unlock game modes etc. Why not pay for this service? It's not an alien concept.

Engaged fans of a series are able to spend $99 or more for collectors editions, season passes etc. but complain about some $ spending in game. This is all about perception by seeing a shop symbol in a retail game.

Rarely I have seen this complaint in GTA V. But they do like 700m per year on that. Hmmm.

We "F2P" people saw these trends coming years ago and it will get more intense soon. As the price wars are on and soon you will see AAA games being released for $60 and years after release being made free as their in game MTX mechanics make enough revenue. I have seen it, I know clients working on exactly this with their AAA IP.

So get used to it. It won't vanish and will get more expanded upon - until AAA products finally surrender and will be free ;)


My Blogs Audience

Grafik der unter Blog-Lesern beliebtesten Länder

So are a large part of my blog's audience comes from Russia? But I never had Russian clients. Why is this? Dear Russian readers, can you enlighten me?


Coming soon ...

My next talk is in creation. I decided not to do any Dissection talks anymore due to many reasons but someone convinced me to do this one - simply as I spend a long time analyzing it (3 years in fact), the longest ever it took to finalize this talk. I will let you know when and where I will hold this talk.


App Stores rip off Developers?

So this made the rounds:


30%. Seems a lot. Rip off right? The problem is that most people saying this, including Tim Sweeney, never operated an F2P game outside an app store and have not the faintest about the operational cost.

So let's see what Apple (Google is similar but slightly worse) does for you if you sell through their store - all included in the 30%:

Payment Systems & Cost
The App Store offers payment systems and an easy way to pay, much easier than any other payment systems found online, increasing conversion immensely. This alone is worth a lot.
Everyone who worked on payment system integration knows how much work goes into this besides systems, UI, flow, optimizing etc. It is a lot of work and usually, you need 3-4 people just working on this - permanently.
Payment providers charge various single digit % of your revenue usually. So this is worth that percentage plus the bonus of ease of use.

In Store Payment System & Promotions
Apple offers iTunes cards in stores in most countries. Including promotions and sales of these. Remember if Apple does a sale on iTunes cards Apple pays for it, your margin is unaffected by it.
For free. This is an effective payment system for people without access to credit cards or bank accounts. Remember stores selling these also take a share - so this one is included as well.

VAT Handling
If you ever ran into accounting in F2P companies their biggest headache is VAT handling worldwide. Every country has different VAT rates, laws and handling of virtual goods. It is a huge problem and usually, accounting is busy fixing things and keeping track of changing laws - in every single country. With Apple, you get a single invoice per month. VAT is virtually gone here. So yes you would easily need an accounting department for handling payments yourself - with Apple you need none. Zero.

Returns, Cancellations, Fraud
The second biggest headache of handling payments yourself is fraud & returns. Apple does this for you.

Available World Wide
Yes, world wide. No issues with integrating how many payment systems so everyone in any country can pay? I remember that one company I worked for had 120+ payment systems online and integrated 2-3 per week (!). Want to do this yourself? Good luck.

Download Cost & Updates
You don't pay for traffic, hosting, and more important for updating your app. The app store and iOS do this for you, usually automatic for the users. And you don't even pay for the traffic or hosting.

In other words, if App Stores wouldn't do all this you, as a small to a medium sized developer, would need at least 5-10 more people handling all of this if you launch world wide.

Is this worth 30%? Easily. And btw Tim Sweeney charges 30% as well in their Unreal market place ;)

Did I forget another advantage? Let me know.