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Trumpeted on stage at WWDC, given the Editor’s Choice on release and featured to an unprecedented degree in the Gamers television ad for iPhone 6, no game has seen as strong of a promotional push from Apple as Metal showpiece Vainglory. The fantastic take on MOBA for mobile devices has seen strong reviews and industry support. And yet the game’s performance has underwhelmed relative to the amount of attention garnered. To date, the game has failed to break into the top 150 grossing in the US for iPhone or iPad. In the past three months, Vainglory has not appeared in the top 150 downloaded apps chart in the US on either device.
Featuring an all star team of accomplished executives, Super Evil Megacorp has raised $15 million to date (according to Crunchbase) and no doubt has the ability to raise millions more if they are in need. As a company set on building a 10-year plus franchise with Vainglory, it appears their focus is not on overtaking Clash of Clans this year, but on being the first touch game to fill a stadium full of eSports enthusiasts League of Legends style some years from now. In a recent interview, COO Kristian Segerstrale explained the company’s community first approach to development and how they’ve “deliberately chosen from the start to almost be the caricature anti-monetizer.” Continue reading 5 game monetization optimizations for Vainglory→
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First announced over 2 years ago, Industrial Toy’s Midnight Star is the latest attempt from a group of industry heavyweights to translate first person shooters for mobile devices and the free-to-play business model. With an impressive pedigree including Ex-Bungie head Alex Seropian, the PR around the game has implied that Midnight Star will be to the mobile FPS genre what Halo was to the console FPS genre. Included in this mission is the heartfelt desire to do free-to-play right, as expressed in a pre-launch article on GamesIndustry.biz last week:
“The other big difference is the mentality; Industrial Toys are looking for longterm engaged players, not quick win idiots who will spend $30 on a diamond hammer and never return.”
If you have followed my work on game monetization, you will know that much of monetization happens in the UI/UX layer. The motivation to spend must come from the fun factor of the game itself, but thoughtful UI flows that balance making purchasing present with respect for the player are key to good monetization. With that in mind, I wanted to quickly touch on five monetization missteps Midnight Star makes with its presentation layer. Continue reading 5 monetization missteps in Midnight Star’s UI→
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CES 2015 has come to a close and one of the big stories as it relates to gaming is VR. Oculus Rift had a huge presence, Razer and friends announced the Open Source VR ecosystem and headset, Samsung showed off Milk VR and we all had a good laugh about 3Dhead’s taughted Oculus Killer. Continue reading The free-to-play opportunity in VR→
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Peggle Blast, a free-to-play entry in the fantastically addictive Peggle series, was featured last week as one of Apple’s Editors’ Choice. It has reached top 25 downloads in the US on both iPhone and iPad and is just as fun, whimsical and addictive as the original game. It also employs one of my most hated free-to-play monetization tactics.
Much of my work as a monetization design consultant comes in the UI/UX. Most free-to-play games are built on a small pool of monetization features and their success or failure is determined by a combination of the game’s inherent fun factor and the presentation to the player. Just like Candy Crush, Farm Heroes or any number of Saga games, Peggle Blast offers the player to buy extra moves instead of giving up when they are about to lose a level. But the presentation of this feature uses a trope I find annoying and disrespectful as a player. Continue reading How Peggle Blast employs a most hated F2P tactic→
Don’t feel like reading? Enjoy this analysis video of the AC: Unity checkout flow
In many ways we are in a golden age of PC gaming. Nowhere has this been clearer to me than the ease with which I turned down current gen Black Friday console deals. Most of the games I want to play are on PC. There are platform exclusives I am eager to play, but no one system has a critical mass of exclusive titles that demand a purchase. With my overflowing backlog of games purchased in endless sales and bundles and most multiplatform games being available day one on PC, there has never been a better time to be a PC gamer. However, with the dominance of digital distribution has also come a glut of digital platforms.
Steam, Origin, uPlay and Desura are all installed on my gaming rig. Soon GoG’s Galaxy will make my backlog of classics much less of a library and more of an active collection. Of these platforms, 3 have a clear place in the world. Steam is my primary gaming platform. GoG is a repository of classics. Desura is home to all the Humble Bundle games that have not made their way through Greenlight. Continue reading The messy interplay between Steam and uPlay in Assassin’s Creed: Unity→
Slides and audio from New approaches to free-to-play game design, my game monetization talk presented at GDC Next ’14 in Los Angeles. Here is the talk description:
Too often, a game team chooses the free-to-play business model without truly considering the design of monetization elements early in the project. Only when it is too late into the development cycle do they learn that there is not a clear or compelling reason for players to spend money within a game. This talk goes in-depth on concrete methods for designing a game’s monetization from day one. Using the design methods in this talk, a game team can ensure that they are building a F2P game that has both a sound business foundation and proven fun factor.
In my last piece, I wrote about the effect (or lack thereof) that spending $100 in IAP in Battlefield 4 had on my experience as a player. The conclusion was that spending money had little meaningful effect on my performance, and I actually enjoyed my play session slightly less for having spent money. I felt as though I did not receive much value in return for my spend, leaving me dissatisfied with the IAP and unlikely to make in-game purchases in future Battlefield entries.
In this piece, I will explain some ways that BF4 could have made me as a player feel more positively about my IAP experience without upsetting the balance of gameplay. Much of my work as a monetization design consultant is about UI/UX design that makes purchasing clear, present and rewarding for the player. For BF4, these are all areas where improvements would make the player feel awesome about spending money on IAP without upsetting the delicate game balance that is the foundation of this multiplayer shooter. Continue reading Battlefield 4 monetization analysis→
Back in March, Battlefield 4 started selling the Ultimate Shortcut Pack, the “ultimate way to level the playing field,” for $50 (now $40). In May, the game began selling bronze, silver and gold Battlepacks, giving players “a shortcut to catch up with their friends on the Battlefield,” at prices ranging from $1 for a single bronze pack to $12 for a set of 5 gold packs. These digital items are just a small part of EA’s digital extra content offerings that generated $794 million in revenue over the past 12 months, according to the most recent quarterly earnings report.
Although my work as a monetization design consultant has primarily been in mobile games, in-game purchase tactics similar to those from the pure F2P realm are undoubtedly becoming a regular part of the premium game business. However, for games like BF4, the desire to generate incremental digital revenue must be measured carefully against game balance and the long-term community happiness at the core of this blockbuster franchise’s annual success. Continue reading What does $100 buy in Battlefield 4?→
I was 9 hours into playing a mobile, free-to-play, build and battle game when I made the decision. I was going to pay to win. Not necessarily because I was loving the game so much as I thought it would be interesting to document. If I spent $100 on in-game currency, how far would my money go? Was it enough to ascend to the highest levels of that week’s PvP tournament leaderboard?
The tournament was only a few hours old. Having spent about 7 minutes fighting PvP battles, I was currently ranked #13,909 on the leaderboard. 7 days later, I will have spent over 6 hours and $60 in energy costs to finish in 15th place.
As a monetization design consultant, I have learned many lessons from games in the build and battle genre whose top contenders are permanent fixtures of app store highest grossing charts. I explain the importance of having a social elder gamer such as the PvP tournament I participated in for those games where it is appropriate. The game I played in this instance is not especially important. There was a city that served as an appointment center. There was a single player, PvE campaign, and what I will call pay-for-participation events including the PvP tournament, a form of guild warfare and a PvE boss battle system. There was energy gating. There was gear fusion. There were prize chests. It could have been one of any number of games, but I will say it is not currently on the top 150 grossing chart in iOS/US. Continue reading Paying to win→
As trumpeted by the recent Activision earnings report, Hearthstone – Heroes of Warcraft is off to an incredible start with 10 million registered users. Alongside a stable of Blizzard titles, Hearthstone’s launch has helped drive record digital revenues within Activision; 34% of all Activision revenue for the recently completed quarter comes from digital sources. As both a childhood Magic: The Gathering enthusiast and a monetization design consultant, Hearthstone’s release on the iPad has been one of my most anticipated F2P games this year. In a market dominated by a small number of genres, flooded with me-too clones, the game promised a welcomed blend of fresh air, quality and nostalgia.
I spent 20 hours with Hearthstone as both a free and paying player to research this analysis. The game is clearly driving a significant amount of revenue for Blizzard. In the top 5 countries for mobile app revenue, Hearthstone has performed strongly on the top grossing charts over the past seven days with average positions per country of 12 (US), 109 (Japan), 1 (South Korea), 12 (UK) and 8 (Germany) according to App Annie. These are ranks any company would be ecstatic over. The purpose of this report is to analyze the game and suggest features that will help turn Hearthstone into the next member of Activision’s billion-dollar club. Continue reading Hearthstone – Heroes of Warcraft monetization analysis→