Tag Archives: GDC

New approaches to free-to-play game design – from GDC Next ’14

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.

Escaping the indie shame spiral

On the second day of GDC, I presented Escaping the Indie Shame Spiral as part of the Indie Soapbox session at the IGS. I wanted to expand on the information I presented it in the talk and share it beyond those developers who could afford to attend GDC.

Defining the Indie Shame Spiral

When I left EA after a 4 year stint at the company I had two goals. One was to found a start-up and the other to finally build and release some of the art game concepts I had been mentally developing for years. The start-up goal was realized, but after a year and half we shuttered our doors after failing to secure funding via the venture ecosystem or Kickstarter. My indie game aspirations quickly fell by the wayside as opportunities to consult presented themselves. I have been lucky enough to build a business as a monetization design consultant and my initial savings have been largely untouched thanks to freelance work over the past two years. I have contributed to a lot of games and have traveled the world to speak at conferences on the topic of F2P design. Yet the longer I go without filling my dream of completing one of my art games, the more regret I feel.

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Designing in-game purchases – GDC Next ’13

Description of my talk from GDC Next ’13 – Designing in-game purchases:

In-game purchases are here to stay. Now more than ever it is clear that players are comfortable spending money in browser, mobile, and download games. But just because players are willing to pay does not mean game developers know how to give them something worth buying. This talk gives practical, hands-on guidelines and processes for designing your game’s monetization. Core loops, feature design, economy design, user interface tips, user experience flows, and forecasting tools are all covered in this actionable talk from a 11 year design veteran who has successfully made the leap from designing paid games to freemium games.

Game Design is Business Design – GDC 2013 Edition

I presented this latest version of my game monetization lecture – Game Design is Business Design – at the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference as part of the Free to Play Design and Business Summit. In the talk, I mention some tools and templates in the lecture that you can find at the following links:

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Deathblow!

or, Ben Cousins was Too Gentle

On Wednesday of GDC, Ben Cousins of ngmoco delivered easily one of my top talks of the show, “When the Consoles Die, What Comes Next?”  This succinct talk painted a clear picture of the collapse of the Cinema relative to TV and a similar collapse of Arcade relative to Console.  Cousins’ hypothesis stated that a transition is already underway; Console is rapidly giving way to Mobile, and in the near future Gree will be to Nintendo what Nintendo is to SNK.

This picture was painted using a variety of data sources: historical data on market capitalization for key companies, year-over-year market size of Arcade vs. Console, losses of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division, etc.  In one slide on comparing annual arcade revenue to console revenue, Cousins highlighted two years where the markets were roughly equal as the tipping point from which Arcade would never recover.

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No One’s Better than Cloning

On the first day of GDC, I was introduced to a designer from a venture funded, Bay Area mobile/social start-up interested in BioWare Social.  I recognized the studio name from one of the dueling sets of recruiting billboards adorning the 101-N, and its top performing iPhone App.  When I asked why she wanted to change companies, she said “All we do is make clones, and I’m better than that.”

“No one’s better than cloning,” I replied, eliciting an amused chortle from former colleague and master designer Soren Johnson, who I had been catching up with.

“Wow, Ethan’s so grizzled,” Soren observed.

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Game Production Hotline

On Sunday, I moderated a panel at the 2012 Flash Games Summit on the life of flash developers.  I was joined by some of my favorite developers: Andrew Sega (Mytheria/Armor Wars), Dan Stradwick (Monsters’ Den) and Sean McGee (Thing Thing Arena/Endless Zombie Rampage).  During the panel, and in discussions throughout the day, feature creep, difficulty finishing games and not knowing when a game was complete were frequent topics.  For instance, Dan has been working on Monsters’ Den Chronicle for 2 years.  The first year was spent working on a hugely ambitious Monsters’ Den Godfall, before he decided to do something of a smaller scope and ship quickly (inspired by Andy Moore’s SteamBirds talk from the previous year’s FGS).  One year later, the third entry in the series plays fantastically and is nearing distribution.

In the past year, when Dan would tweet about feature creep, I replied by asking if he needed me to fly to Australia and use my Producer super powers to help him ship the game.  After a day at FGS, I had a brilliant idea.  I want to set up the official Game Producer Hotline.  For the low, low price of $0.99 you can call and tell me about the mind blowing feature you want to add to your game.  I will listen thoughtfully, ask questions and then say “No.  It’s a great idea but ship without it.”

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Dragon Age Legends Road to 100k Likes



Here are the slides from my GDC Online 2011 talk, “Dragon Age Legends Road to 100k Likes”. Talk description from the the program guide:

We live in a new world where borders between game developers and their players have broken down, where a Like can be more valuable then an ad campaign and where your fans can literally reach you 24 hours a day. In this metrics driven talk, Dragon Age Legends’ producer Ethan Levy explains the successes and failures of the game’s innovative pre & post launch social marketing strategy. From its MMO style Closed Beta program, to its fully animated trailer, to getting a Facebook game front paged on IGN, Dragon Age Legends was a game of firsts in the social gaming space.

Dragon Age Legends at GDC Online

In October of 2011, I gave a talk at Game Developers Conference Online entitled “Dragon Age Legends’ Road to 100k Likes”.  You can watch the talk for free at the GDC Vault.  Here is the description of the talk, which was presented in both the business and customer experience track:

We live in a new world where borders between game developers and their players have broken down, where a Like can be more valuable then an ad campaign and where your fans can literally reach you 24 hours a day. In this metrics driven talk, Dragon Age Legends’ producer Ethan Levy explains the successes and failures of the game’s innovative pre & post launch social marketing strategy. From its MMO style Closed Beta program, to its fully animated trailer, to getting a Facebook game front paged on IGN, Dragon Age Legends was a game of firsts in the social gaming space.

I plan on posting up the slides sometime soon for more convenient digestion.