2016/07/17

WTF Niantic

So the servers of Pokemon Go are unstable.

The game crashes frequently.

The game loses it synch with the server often.

Bugs. Bugs.

Usually if companies release an online game and this happens they put a full stop on acquiring new users, even close down the registration and fix things first. As users are the most important thing you have. They are your customers.

Not so Niantic. Despite servers being overloaded they add country by country putting even more load on the servers - annoying most players.

I asked myself why. Niantic isn't stupid. So the only explanation I have is they want to increase the value of their company before users get bored with the game and numbers stabilize. To explain (easy model): a company's evaluation is usually based on yearly revenue times a multiplier, like 3. So if you do 100 million a year you are worth 300 million.

So Niantic adds countries to raise revenue so their evaluation gets higher and higher. I think there is someone negotiating with them to buy - and they release country by country to put pressure on them to close as otherwise they get more expensive over time. Nintendo surely is interested. Now they can afford it too - easily.


2016/07/14

So Pokemon Go happened

Now news about it here. I might get paid for this ;)

Really. What did you expect. They could have slapped Pokemon to an average game and would sell tons. So they slapped it on this one. AR isn't doing a lot for the game, they could have skipped this. Pokemon is the secret sauce to its success.

Want proof? Look in what shitty condition the app is. No onboarding, crashes, glitches, server overloads, disconnects. Nintendo never ever released a game in this bad shape ever. No game would have gotten away with this, but Pokemon overshadows it as it is the first time people can enjoy Pokemon outside the Nintendo Hardware space - on their mobile phone. This alone sells anything.

More news might come. We'll see.

2016/07/03

The bane of IP's

I have worked on games with foreign IP's a lot. You know you develop a game with an IP which you license. The industry has done this since their beginning and in the long term those business ideas fail. And there are reasons for this - but somehow they tend to forget - and history repeats again.

Soe of you might remember the time when Ocean, Activision and the rest bid themselves to death for arcade machine licenses. Outrun, Defender, R-Type etc. None of these games are around anymore. In fact most of us remember the original arcade developer and not the licensee. Who remembers that Activision did R-Type? In fact I produced R-Type on C64 and Amiga for them, but this is another story.

So this happened in the last weeks:

http://venturebeat.com/2016/06/28/kabam-to-make-mobile-strategy-game-based-on-james-camerons-avatar/

http://venturebeat.com/2016/06/28/plarium-teams-with-skydance-to-create-terminator-genisys-mobile-game/

Again f2p publishers turn to IP's to make their games more successful. Here is the thing. f2p games are successful if they live long. Decades. Believe me, the good f2p games are still around. Maybe you can check out Tibia, a game 18 years old and still feeding a developer of 70 people.

The problem lies here: who knows if the IP you license is still sexy in 5 years? or 10? Exactly then your game might fail. Who knows if the IP owner screws up their IP in the long run like the TV series Heroes or any other similar fail?

And this leads to the question: which IP's are worth licensing anyway?

I always tell my clients that IP's are only valuable if they represent a universe, not just a single story or setting. Lord of the Rings. Star Wars. Those are universes. Worth taking.

This again leads to the business problem that publishers bid themselves to death for the valuable IP's. Do you remember EA paying $200 million for Harry Potter? Where is that now?

This makes IP's very expensive in the long run and cuts into the development budget and ultimately into the quality. That was the reason why most IP based games simply sucked in the past. And will in the future. I say most, there are exceptions.

There are other problems too. The IP owners are very protective about their IP messing up your game - as they usually don't know how games work and their IP protection is more important to them than a good game, which they can't even quantify. This for example led to the strange fact that most racing games weren't allowed to damage the original cars of BMW, Mercedes etc.

And believe me, working with IP owners sucks energy out of the team and you, and the game ultimately, reducing your game to nothing.

So here oyu are sitting on a bad game with an IP you don't own after 5 years and wonder what to do.

Creating your own IP is 100x more valuable than buying someones IP. If you do you will never own your game. Never, wich contradicts everything you need to do to your game as a service. As you can't do whats good for your audience. Ultimately you will fail. Like so many others before.

Read the history of the game business. The 80's, 90's, 2000's. Every 10 years this happens. And fails.

p.s.: exceptions to the rule exist and you will notice that many use them as proof this works, however there are 10x more fails than successes with IP's. If you don't know how to work on IP's DONT DO IT.


2016/06/23

Why do people play Game of War

If you haven't played Game of War you should. It represents a genre which kickstarted f2p in Europe. Among the originators was OGame, Tribal Wars, Travian, Ikariam, Grepolis and more. They all follow the same principles invented by a game called Planetarion - which failed to monetize as f2p wasn't invented back then.

And believe me every single game I mentioned is better than Game of War. So why do people play it and why is it so successful?

Game of War violates pretty much any f2p fair play rules. When you log back in after some days absence you have to close sales pop ups like crazy. Generally this game tries to sell you something at every corner of the UI. And it gets on your nerves, it disturbs game play. It is bad.

But it makes tons of money.

Why? Several reasons.

It was a first mover. Game of War was one of the first games of that successful genre being on mobile in a pretty solid quality.

It is a whale hunting game. The conversion of the game is bad but the ones who pay do so in exorbitant value. From stats I know it is by far the game with the highest average spending per paying user (ARPPU). Note: the value shown in the link is average YEARLY spending. Note 2: Some games excluded like Puzzle & Dragons which features a higher but only in Japan. Lets stick to world wide.

It is attractive to new gamers who don't know better. Yes. This. This is the prime reason. You should know that most gamers on mobile are new to games. This is a fact. So when they play Gamer of War they simply do not know the better ones. The the competition is either copying the bad style of Age of War or isn't known to them due to less marketing spend.

And the operator of Game of War knows this and puts their marketing where the new gamers are: on TV. TV ads attract a lot of users who aren't experience much in games. And when they are attracted ti strategy games they might try Game of War. The bad things of the game like the push to sales and pop ups are just something they think is normal. They accept this. Experienced gamers wouldn't. But those are the minority compared to the vast size of the mobile market.

There you have it. Game of War is successful as most of their players are new to games but fascinated by this successful genre. Competition is fierce. There are literally hundreds of these games in the App stores. And many of them are better. Some company make their living out of them like Kabam or Plarium.

The sad side story? German f2p publishers established f2p in Europe with this genre pre 2010 but lost the lead 60% market share (!) as they were too slow to move to mobile. Very sad.

2016/06/15

Why Apps might be dead (Update)

We remember. Years ago we called them Programs or Software. Since Apple launched the App Store we call them Apps, even on PC or other devices. Even the TV now has apps. Researchers forecasted the Web is dead, as its content and interaction move to App's of the provider instead. This is already happening as statistics prove (google for access numbers of mobile for Google, Youtube etc.)

Now Apple opened maps, messenger, Fotos and more of their apps to developers, allowing them to develop plugins. In my opinion Apple isn't doing this for fun, they are forced to do this.

The trend is less App switching. We have so many apps now that people simply no longer want to switch between them. Like going to maps to look for a restaurant, reserve in another app, book an Uber in their app to drive there.

This also explains the incredible value WeChat and Line have now. Check this out:

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2016-06-13-line-to-launch-ipo-at-USD5-5-billion-valuation

This means WhatsApp is under pressure. The big secret of those new chat programs in Asia is their plugins. You can do everything inside the chat you normally do in Apps. In fact in China WeChat is so massive that if you aren't in WeChat with your service you virtually don' exist.

Facebook looks into this direction with their Messenger, but WhatsApp seems to sleep regarding this matter.

We'll see. the world of apps is changing again.

How this effects mobile games? Well, the first games making millions are inside WeChat. The other way around works too: why isn't your chat and clan chat no in those chat apps instead doing your own? There is my hint.

(Update) Techrunch well written article on the Messaging War:

https://techcrunch.com/2016/06/14/apples-ios-10-finally-truly-begins-the-mobile-messaging-war/


2016/06/10

I am wondering .. a f2p Masterclass a good idea?

I play with this idea since some time and wonder how large the interest would be. Assume I do a 2 (or 3?) day Masterclass in f2p design covering all topics from monetization, system design, KPI optimization, Event design etc.

Of course the content would differ from the workshop you can find on youtube. That one was rather basic, this one is a designers in depth thing.

Would that be something you would be interested in? I would book a conference room in a Hotel you can stay and negotiate special deals. The evenings would be spend to mingle and talk about our favorite topics. Timeframe would be sometime mid/end of July. Or maybe the weekend before Gamescom?

The goal of the workshop would be to give you the weapons to properly design f2p games or optimize yours.

If you are interested shoot me an email and how many people would like to attend and what special interests you would have regarding topics and way how the master class would work.

Contact: teut986@gmail.com