2012/12/30

My choices - person of the year

See below!!

All three have one thing in common: They changed the industry - worldwide. All three come from Scandinavia, in fact two from Finland. Ask yourself - WHY.

If you find the answer let me know. I wish to learn.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Cheers Teut


And my finalist - persons of the year

Is the team behind this company and games:

My persons of the year #2

As they are serveral in this case I simply merge them into one:

My game industry persson of the year #3

My personal Game Industry - MVP

2012/12/29

What I would love to see from Apple in 2013

I am an Apple fanboy. In fact I have been since 1985 when I wrote my thesis for my school on a Fat Mac. I own several Apple devices, from iPhones, Macbook Air's and iMacs to iPads.

I am mostly happy with all the devices but of course there is room for improvement. Let me tell you what I would love to see from Apple in 2013:

iPad Mini with Retina with cheaper 3G Versions
I love the form factor of the Mini but I also understand that they had to release it non retina first to give the larger iPad a distance in improvement. Now I bet they release a Mini with Retina this year, but I wonder what they will give the lager iPad in return? Time for a 256GB version for Audio freaks?
I also would love to have 3G with a smaller price tag. Yes, you can go WiFi or tethering with your iPhone, but just turning on your iPad and immediately surf the net is wonderful.

More Regular iMac Updates
The iMac is a key device for Apple's desktop customer and in fact is the best windows 7 machine I ever owned. Yes, I do run Windows 7 on it for games due to my job. I even upgraded the graphics card in mine although Apple doesn't officially support it.

So I did order the new 27" iMac but I wish they would release a new one year by year so I can keep up with most recent PC technology.

Bring back dedicated GPU's for Air's
I love my Air as I have the last one with a dedicated GPU. It runs games still better than the most recent model from Apple. Either the next mobile i5 has a far better GPU or they should add an optional GPU to the model so I can run games decently :)
Otherwise the Air is perfect as it is.

Stretched iPhone 4S with 5's CPU
Yes this one sounds odd. But imagine: you take an iPhone 4S, put in the advanced CPU/GPU of the iPhbone 5 but stretch the 4S display diagonally without changing the resolution. This means larger screen for touch but the App's still work as the resolution didn't change.

Sounds odd? Well, maybe adding a phone with earphones only to the iPad Mini would do the same trick.

OS 7
I wish the next OS for the Phones/Pad's would get a revamped UI. Some things are still odd to use like switching off Bluetooth or WLAN all the time, or the inconsistency in some user interfaces (pull down to refresh isn't working everywhere).
I get the feeling that the programmers don't have the time to lean back, relax and think about what they are doing due to the year by year release pressure.

Advanced Camera
The camera on the iPhone 5 is very good. In fact the iPhones pushed the camera tech for smartphones far ahead than any other manufacturer.
But I think its time to rethink how those cameras work as the thickness (thinness?) of the phone doesn't allow better lens or sensor technology. Re-position the camera, or make it ejectable or use a 90° inverted light reflector might be helpful to use larger lenses and thus light conditions for the camera sensor.


2012/12/23

Trends coming from 2012

2012 has been a great year for the gaming industry despite being a transition year. Transition year means that the old consoles don't sell as well as they used to and overall revenue from game sales in this time period declines. Also huge investments are being taken into the next generation of console and this is so expensive that many publishers go conservative with their current releases - usually ending up in sequels.

But usually during that time creativity runs rampant outside the large publishers and many new trends are born in that time!

So let's see what has been game changers in 2012:

Crowd Funding: smaller developers find money in the end consumer instead investors. This is cool as that money is "eaiser" to get than from publishers. This can be a good thing for experienced developers and a bad thing on not so experienced ones, as publishers usually share a lot of experience in professional production.
Nevertheless some projects on Kickstarter would never have seen the light if the players wouldn't have pitched in pre-release!

"Mobile" consoles: Smartphones and specifically the iPad have emerged as strong platforms for a multitude of games. Be it indie games or full fledged online MMO's; if you have a hit on the smart devices you can make a lot of money only compared to full fledged online games usually only found on PC's.
It seems that smartphone & tablet gaming is a disruptive force and will take market share from portable consoles and other gaming devices, eventually even consoles. Research has shown that households with tablets spend far less time on their dedicated gaming consoles than before.
The important thing here: the new devices allow smaller developers create and publish games worldwide without any outside help. The publisher model seems to be outdated for a lot of products but AAA projects. We will see tremendous new game formats coming from those devices!

Sandbox: MMO's came from sandbox (see Ultima Online or Eve Online) and seem to go full circle back to be sandboxes. Why the sudden popularity? Because sandboxes seem to solve one problem: the content race. Online game developers can't create content fast enough to satisfy their customers so they look for alternate ways.
Sandboxes are one way doing it, but only using sandboxes might alienate some players who at least need some guidance through the world. Not everyone has the urge to create his own fortune, some players want a red line guiding them.
For recent sandbox development check out Archage or Black Desert Online videos on youtube. Everquest III is also rumored to be sandbox only as well as Theralon a "true sandbox MMO", from the developers of Runes of Magic. And lets not forget Minecraft, the game of the year Dishonored or GTA V which is being released 2013.
The ultimate sandbox seems to be in development at Blizzard, which project Titan is rumored to be a sandbox where players can even play smithies or bankers in cities.

Perma Death: DayZ started it all; the player can die and actually lose everything. For older human beings who grew up with classic MMO's like Ultima Online you might remember that this is where online games came from.
Since World of Warcraft care-bear is modern, as you can't lose anything. The only game which kept Perma Death in the game is Eve Online. You can even lose your most precious skill level when you aren't careful with your clone.
So why is perma death suddenly modern again? The new XCOM, DayZ and even ZombieU offer game modes where the player really is afraid when he dies as there is game progress to lose.

And exactly this is what the latest wave of games bring back from memories: if you ever played a game where are left with shaking hands when you died - then you will miss that feeling forever. Games creating excitement, Adrenaline - its time that this kind of game play makes it back into the industry and I personally welcome this!

Meanwhile you can read the Top 50 defining games industry quotes.

Update: Read this too http://direcritic.com/2012/12/24/best-emergent-trends-and-other-things-of-2012/

CCP Dust 514 and Eve Online

(warning, contains some fanboy talk from Teut)

One of my favourite bloggers of Eve Online Jester Trek wrote an article about Dust 514 and CCP. He is right of course but still writes an "if CCP finds an audience for Dust 514". He still has hope.

Let me explain what Dust 514 is: it is a f2p Sci Fi first person shooter on PS3 connected to the Eve Online Universe.

Let me decloak (eve insider!) that sentence:

f2p: Free to play, the first of CCP. They never did a successful f2p business strategy.

SciFi: Niche, few female players, i.e. less reach. But for f2p you need to maximize reach to get revenue. Risky genre and setting for f2p.

FPS: CCP never did a FPS. Many people think developing an FPS is easy, but if it was there would be more successful ones besides Halo, CoD and Bf. Oh did I mention this FPS runs on console?

PS3: Yes, Playstation only. This means more restrictions in terms of technology. Oh did I mention this is the first console game of CCP? Did I mention that this is also the first f2p title on PS3? And Sony's payment systems really suck, i.e. less revenue as f2p live from a variety of payment systems?

Connected: This is the interesting thing. No one ever did something like this. If this works great, if not major fail as it is the ONLY innovation Dust has. But: it never has been done before = risk.

So there are a lot of risks there and I see no mitigation from the side of CCP. Knowing the history of CCP they often fly blind until they get a community backlash and then fix it. If they fly this tactic then Dust 514 will fail really fast - and might even hurt Eve Online, their only cash cow which currently pays for all of this.

And what do Eve Online players get in return while CCP spends all money on Dust 514? Shiny new graphics and some new ships. Thats all.

Wake up Eve Online players, CCP fools you currently with shiny graphics and no new game play.



2012/12/16

About Numbers, missreads, marketing

In the times of online games you will encounter various numbers from press releases, shareholder or financial reports or interviews. The problem with these numbers is that teams can be easily irritated by them as per se it is very hard to compare them.

Lets use the most famous example: Users. How many users does an online game has? Lets check one of those misleading news:

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-11-22-warface-has-5m-russian-users

Only by reading the small print you will notice they mean registrations, not users. This number is useless as it means either their marketing did a good job or the game is out for a long time and collected millions of registrations. This number does not tell us how many users are actually playing, i.e. how good the game really is.

Takeaway: be careful with "Users". Most press releases mean registrations, rarely you get active users.

Active users is a problem in itself as the definition isn't standardized either. And usually it doesn't show whether you mean daily or monthly. Monthly of course is higher as it simply states how many users have been playing in the past 30 days and therefore is being used by marketing quite often.

ARPPU usually means average revenue of paying users. You take your revenue of a specified time and divide it by the paying users during that time frame. See, I mention time frame. Again, any ARPPU is misleading as it doesn't give you the time frame measured. As ARPPU tends to go up with the lifetime of users or the game you must have a reference time. Usually you should ask for monthly ARPPU.
As by definition ARPPU should give you the number of spending's on average of your paying users per months.
Usually when you see ARPPU numbers they try to take the highest number they have, which might be life time value. Useless.

CCU or PCU is misleading too. CCU means concurrent users or how many users are online at any given time. As you can see "time" is a variable which the word CCU doesn't define. So what does it mean, average CCU or peak concurrent users? Oh wait, that's PCU. And what kind of skill is it when CCU is very high? That your software architecture can hold it and your hardware is scalable?
And if World of Tanks claim a PCU record of 400.000 "on one server" is this really the case considering the maximum number of players in one game can be only 16 30?
Of course the 400.000 users were logged in and can exchange data in the lobby, but "online" as PCU is a number which doesn't tell you anything, does it?

The one thing 400,000 PCU tells you is the scale of operations and the number of active users. Usually 25% of your active users are online during peak times, so you can judge from 400.000 PCU that they have 2.5 million active users minimum in Russia (note the 400.000 was Russia only).

It also means that Russia is their key territory as other areas does not seem to have these high PCU's.

Want a good, real CCU? Check this out:


It shows the average CCU load on Eve Online since 2006. And in that game all are online in one world (but not on one hardware of course). I just logged in to find 52.000 53000 pilots online = PCU (16th of December 2012 as Sunday evenings usually are busiest).

Conversion rate: usually a percentage of your active users who pay. On Facebook 1-3% is considered normal, on all other f2p games 5-15% is considered the norm. But % of what? Active users? If you read all the way down here you already know that there is enough room for manipulation on that number alone.

The easiest way to manipulate that number is to take lifetime payers vs. current actives, which raises the conversion rate. Or you only take your active users but delete the "tourists", i.e. the users who register, login and leave as they don't like what they are seeing. Just this makes the conversion look really good in most games.

This small excursion into the world of metrics just should give you a key learning: do not believe the hype, think about what you read. Compare. Ask.

Merry Christmas if we don't post beforehand!



2012/11/11

Transition Years

If you read my blogs or listen to my talks you know that I held a talk 2001 where I described the 5 year cycle of the industry (PDF link, note: this cycle is longer)

Generally whenever the old console is aging and the new one isn't here yet several things happen:


  1. Publishers close or fire people
  2. Publishers take less risk and go conservative (sequels, less 3rd party development)
  3. Developers close down as they can't sell their pitches to publishers
  4. Magazines/Media closes as they are dependent on marketing spending

Some explanation here: most console games are sold to owners who own the console for the 1st year. In other words console sales influence the next 12 months game sales volume. On the other hand: less console sales mean less software sales for that reason. Check current console sales history.

So this causes a dire news coverage and you might take the impression away that we are in deep trouble. In fact we are not - we are in the best state we will be in the next 5 years.

The reason is simple: during that time called 'transitions years' the games industry is most creative and usually comes up with some new toys to play with. In the past transision years we had things like 3d hardware, CD rom, DvD, the internet & team based games and MMO's to drive new categories.

This transition we got smartphone/tablet gaming, or going digital generally which allows even small developers to publish worldwide: basically this fixes the problem #3 above for the next transition years, If the developers are adapting.

Transition years usually cause trouble for publishers or developers who do not adapt or do not want to adapt. It happens all the time as some of those companies start to be comfortable what they do and so they lose the lead.

But listen, we are the gaming industry. We live from innovation, from change, from new technology, from new gadgets and devices or software concepts. If you start to stand still and feel comfortable or want to be, then you are in the wrong industry.

Change is good. And 2013 will be the biggest change for our industry we ever experienced. Exactly that is the reason why I love this industry.

2012/11/08

Online Marketing Lies

Online companies need proper b2b marketing. But they tend to confuse people who don't know a lot about the online games industry. Lets look at a recent example:

Innogames celebrates 100 million users and a revenue of 50 million this year (German link)

So investors are astonished. Wow. 100 million players. (Note: I like Innogames, I only use them as an example. Bigpoint does the same 'propaganda' thing)

No, no. Its registrations. LIFETIME registrations. And as Innogames has been founded in 2007 it means they collected 100 million registrations over the period of 5 years, resembling an average registration count of 2700 per day 54.000 per day (just one user noticed my calculation error? Shame on you!) Now that doesn't seem as much anymore is a lot. (calculation assumes linear reg numbers which of course is wrong, I simply use it to make a point).

This number only tells you one thing: their marketing is pretty good. That's all. It does NOT mean:

- they have 100 million players
- they have millions of players in one game anyways.

So lets look at the second number: 50 million revenue. That is very good. As they have 3 major games (Tribal Wars, Grepolis, Forge of Empires) you can basically assume most of the revenue is done by those games (neglecting their other games like The West etc.).

Grepolis is by far their largest, Tribal Wars WAS their largest and first success, Forge of Empires is their latest success. So we can roughly assume a revenue distribution of 3:2:1. Lets add 1 for the smaller games, i.e. 7 parts:

5 Million / 7 = 7.142 Million a share, or:

Grepolis: 21 million - or 1.75 million per month
Tribal Wars: 14 million - or 1.16 million per month
Forge of Empires: 7 Million - or 1 million per month (it was launched later)

Notes: Tribal Wars and FoE might be switched, depends how Tribal Wars suffered from the Grepolis launch. From my info it didn't suffer at all.

Now close to 2 million revenue a month per game is nothing special in the f2p space considering you operate world wide. Operating three good f2p games and making 4-5 Million per month is good. But its not perfect. There are iOS f2p games making 3x as much per month.

So I hope I put some of these numbers into perspective. Again, don't get me wrong. I like Innogames, I don't criticize them, I use them as an example. I just criticize the propaganda around f2p numbers.

2012/10/25

Brain Lag

Sometimes you need a break. Even from Blogging. Wait and see.

Meanwhile google "transition years" or my "The cycle of the game industry" talk to understand whats going on these days.

Cheers.

2012/09/21

MMO Account Security

Here is a great article by Guildwars makers about account securities:

https://www.guildwars2.com/en/news/mike-obrien-on-account-security/

I love his sentence where each word is a link to a security breach of a MMO company which I quote here:
But in recent years,a truly staggering number of game companies and web sites have had their account databasesbreached. These reports of security breaches — 77 million accounts, 25 million accounts, 24 million accounts, untold millions more — may seem abstract, too big to be real, but they’re obviously not
I agree that account security is a problem - but is it really necessary to put extra work on the player only because your security systems lack innovative concepts? Since Blizzard released the authenticator their account hacks were reduced by a large margin. Where is my Guildwars authenticator?

If you ask why spending money on account security then let me tell you that 60% of trojans on your PC are written to steal MMO accuonts - not your credit card or bank details. As MMO accounts are more worth these days than your limit on your credit card :)


2012/09/13

iPhone 5

So the iPhone 5 was anounced. As usual Apple anounced price, preorder date and shipment date just under 2 weeks from the anouncement. I wish other companies could do this.

Am I happy with the 5? Well yes - no - sort of. Its a nice upgrade and I will love the taller screen as I read a lot on the phone (Facebook and Twitter). Is it a revolution? Of course not. I don't get why people on one hand criticize why Apple doesn't revolutionize the mobile market every year and on the other hand buy Samsung clones which suck.

I don't get people sometimes.

Does it matter? Well sort of. As people who buy Android phones might miss why iOS is special. Its usability is better in my opinion. The only area where other companies are left to compete is 'more' technology and lower price (which leads to less business).
With 'more' I mean larger screen, more memory, more CPU. But don't they understand that this is just the base of the experience. They forget that the operating system need to shine as well and thats where Android lacks - as Google doesn't seem to care. It is a search engine company after all. And as a Smartphone company you have lost control over that important piece of software.

In the long run it won't matter as it didn't with mp3 either: mp3 players are dead, its called iPod now. We call programs "apps" now. We call places to buy apps Appstores. So in 10 years it won't matter anymore. Believe me.

It is like that all hundreds of tablets iPad wannabes merely account for 9% of the internet traffic compared to 91% from the iPad. Its like that 70% of smartphone revenue share is owned by Apple.

But don't get me wrong. Samsung is important for Apple to push them further in the race envelope. How bad non competition can be you see on their standstil on iPods which they just re-engineer every couple of years.

My worst gripe with yesterdays event?

1) no new iMac
2) no new Retina 13" Notebook
3) No Mini iPad

2012/09/12

Online Games are made of people

Sometimes life reminds you that the people you play with in online worlds - like Eve Online - are real people. Sometimes someone like this never comes online again.

Yesterday was such a day in Eve Online when one of the most important diplomats of my alliance went offline forever - having been killed in yesterdays attack on Americans in Libya.

Cheers mate, fly safe wherever you are:

http://themittani.com/news/rip-vile-rat


2012/09/08

Angry Birds Friends

Now thats a cool feature of a Facebook Game by Rovio: playable embedded code (click on it)


2012/09/06

Full Steam Ahead

Steam is market leader on downloadable PC games. Without steam you only do a fraction on digital sales on PC. The problem was that you had to ask Valve for permission and their review process is a mystery. When they say no - it meant no. No chance of reversal.

So Valve changed the way products enter steam and put the power into the hands of the community. YOU can now decide which game comes on steam. Well, most of the time.

Steam rejected an erotica game from Greenlight and then put a $100 fee on games which want to get published to hinder crap entering the system.

That still reminds me how console development works. You need some sort of control over content, otherwise your platform turns into a dirtpile.

That sex is not ok on steam but ultra violence is - that is an entirely American tragedy comedy.

2012/08/31

WoW dies! Really! Help!

Ok. I lied. WoW is not dead. Recent reports from Activision financial states subs are down to 9 million, that was the number WoW reached in 2007.

Read again.

2007.

That was 5 years ago.

So why should WoW suddenly die. They got more subs than any other subscription competitors combined. They lost more subscribers than most competitors ever had lifetimes. And its normal. Pre expansion WoW always declines a bit. Wait until Pandas invade WoW and you see them all back "checking out the Kung Fu Pandas".

WoW is now old but still rocking. I don't see WoW vanishing for the next 5 years minimum. Reason is simple: most successful MMO's are still around. Even Ultima Online is still there and rocking on its scale. So don#t worry, WoW is a stable environment where you can invest your time.

Even if Guildwars2 had to stop digital sales as their servers became too full. Threatening WoW takes much more than a good game these days.


2012/08/28

Gamebriefers

So some industry experts will answer oen questions every couple of weeks to be posted on gamesbrief.com.

Read the first one here:

http://www.gamesbrief.com/2012/08/should-pitfall-have-launched-for-free-the-gamesbriefers/

Cheers Teut

Console Market Installed base

Posting this for my reference (dynamic data)



Busy playing Guildwars 2

I am busy playing this wonderful Guildwars 2. Its great, it is one of the most beautiful worlds I have the honor to explore. For experienced online MMO players I recomend reading this:

http://www.destructoid.com/your-guide-to-guild-wars-2-232724.phtml

as it explains the differences between your usual copy&paste WoW clone and GW2. I might post more screens soon, but I usually spam my facebook friends with them.

So be patient with me until I update my blog - when I have time between Guildwars and Work.

2012/08/24

2013 - enjoy 2012 as long as it lasts

You might have noticed that the frequency of layoffs in the game industry is increasing. Popcap, EA, THQ, Funcom, Sony and many more are firing people on all fronts.

Why? As noted in the last post the current sales of the consoles are declining. There are several reasons for it:

The technology becomes old
Remember the 360 has only 512MB memory while your PC already has 4GB upwards. Most current graphic cards have more memory than the current console generation. Hell, your iPhone has more memory and CPU power than the current console generation.

The market becomes saturated
That's harder to prove but older generations showed that new market segments can be penetrated by lowering the price. Now here is a problem: while older generations could be lowered as low as $99 the current one is too expensive to build due to the hard drive inside. Mechanical devices do not scale down in price as digital chips do. Of course they could put Flash memory inside - time will tell.

The $99 segment doesn't buy software
That's a fact which was learned by the PS2. As some of you know the PS2 lived longer than any other console system. It was still on sale while the PS3 already reached its peak. EA was still releasing new software on PS2 last year! The problem of course is the user base: if you save money to buy an old $99 system the reason usually is spendable income. So spending half of the console price on games is out of question. So that user base usually trades games, buy used or rent them.
No fun for software sales :(

PS1 sales by price reductions

Initial Development
So when the old generation behaves like this there is a new one, right? Well yes, but what it takes to develop software on them is rich: you need to redo your tool chain, rewrite a lot of code, optimize your engines to a new hardware setup.
Worse: as the hardware of the development kits isn't final the console is constantly changing underneath your game engines forcing you to rewrite a lot of code on constant basis.
Speaking of dev kits: these are very expensive at start, we speak of $10.000 upwards for one. If you need a team of 100 for a big game franchise you just spend 1-2 million  US$ without even having coded a single line yet.
So here we are, having spend millions on dev kits and have roughly a burn rate of 500.000 US$ per month for the ramped up team. But the consoles launch really late, maybe even get pushed late, costing us even more money.

These are all reasons why investing in new consoles is risky. But why do pubs do it then? Because the rewards are high. At start there are only a few games so you are all alone on the shelf in your genre if you are lucky. And your game will sell for 5 years - generating profit long time after the usual lifetime. And the start of a console generation is a perfect place to start new IP's which you can reiterate every year. One of these huge IP's can carry one publisher for years.

Whats why the publisher invest in the risky start of a next generation console. That is why they play safe on all the rest, reducing risky projects, firing people to save burn rate and betting safe by releasing sequels only.

But don't worry. Thats normal. And healthy. This pattern repeats everytime the console generation changes. I survived through 5 of these cycles so can you.

2012/08/22

"The game industry is changing!"

I can't stand it anymore. I see people (who should know it better) hanging their faces into the press saying how our industry is changing this year and that everything will be different from now on.

First: this has been true since I am in the industry, thats 25 years (I joined 1987). Welcome to the ride. Thats most likely why we think the games industry is coolest (it never gets boring).

Second: we are in transition years. This means that the old console sales are declining and the new one isn't here yet. This causes a double negative effect on publishers: their revenue is lower and their investment into the next generation is very high. Of course they play conservative and fire people where they can to safe costs.

If you're interested into some of this industry cycle attributes read my very old (but most downloaded & copied) talk "The five year cycle of the games industry"

Does online change the industry? Of course, but online is here since 1997, so don't act surprised please.

Does iOS change the industry? Sure, new device, awesome reach, new revenue paths. But did iOS hurt the consoles? No, but yes for handhelds. iOS expands our market, it doesn't cannibalize much.

2012/08/19

Sequelitis - bad or worse

Strange that Assassins Creed got criticized by having too many sequels. I have to agree 100% with Alex when he says that yearly sequels are ok, hell, I would even buy Assassins Creeds if they come every 6 months.

But what does make a sequel good for publishers? First it is a return of investment. If you got a blockbuster its easier and cheaper to develop the sequel as usually the tools and technology only needs upgrades - not a rewrite.

Also the risk is less as the sequel should sell nearly as well as the original right? Well from blockbuster data I have seen sequels actually outperform the originals - that happened to Call of Duty - Modern Warfare.

Speaking of CoD: they are milking the franchise even more by having alternativing teams on the IP. Not too bad either if they can deliver the experience and quality. I bought Black Ops and it was worse than the earlier ones. Did it hurt sales? Nope. So it seems that one title in a series with slightly less quality doesn't hurt your sequel plans - delivering multiple bad sequels does.

My question is wether a brand can be over saturated and destroyed. On this Gamescom Ubisoft anounced three Might & Magic titles at once. Customers might get confused but on the other hand each title adresses a different audience. While Might & Magic Heroes Online adresses the fans from the original the Champions card game is more casual (good for iPads?) and the dungeon runner adresses a slightly younger action RPG crowd. I am curious how those titles work out.

So: if you love a game series how much sequels would you manage to buy each year? One? Two? Or even more?

*Disclaimer: The above is Teut's personal opinion - none of this is official Ubisoft policy or statement

2012/08/18

Pledge this

Sometimes I might post news about Kickstarter projects I find cool. this time its:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/659943965/planetary-annihilation-a-next-generation-rts



Its a cool RTS made by some folks who did TA. If you don't know what TA is or was, pledge anyway.

Thanx!


OnLive is "gone"

So its official: OnLive is brankrupt, or whatever it is called in California (Chapter 11? ABC?) but it is claimed that all rights, patents and assets have been sold to one individual - but all staff layed off.

So why did OnLive not work? Well first most developers I know never believed in it, even after they saw it. The business model sucked bad. OnLive did not solve a problem for our key markets as most of us have pretty decent machines and the core market buys digital. The markets which needs OnLive do not have strong machines and have a weak internet, thus OnLive doesn't work.

The markets with weak machines actually are mostly f2p online MMO markets - not careing about the games OnLive offered and the company weren't online in those markets anyways.

The lag issue was always discussed away but it really existed. Games which needed fast response were unplayable on it. Games which don't need it were playable fine. So why should someone pay monthly fees to rent games on that service?

Essentially OnLive was a digitzer service to convert 3d games to flash video.

Some reasons why OnLive didn't work:

1) infrastructure too expensive, dependend on high internet backbones only available in industry states
2) low income from users
3) scaling up the userbase is expensive as their hardware was complex

Note that online games solve #1 as they work in most internet quality networks (they are build for them) and also solve #3 as developing cheap server backends is part of the challenge. Therefore online games can afford #2.

Wait, did I just say online games have a low income. Yes I did. Considering most players play 4-6 hours per day for 30 days per month (=120-180h per month or full 5 days) for merely $10-$20 then yes, its damned cheap. Most people spend more money on their internet line than on the game itself. Hell most people spend more on beer than on WoW.

Anyway, my personal opinion: OnLive was already dead when they startet and I said that often enough. I am happy its gone as I no longer need to listen to the bullshit that streaming is the future. It's not.

So why did GaiKai sell for $380 million to Sony? Because Dave Perry is a brilliant man and Sony won't have any use for it. Believe me, if the PS4 will have streaming its either for backwards compatibility or will cost premium.

2012/08/17

GC day two

I actually didn't go to GC on day two simply because the public area can be walked in two hours (which I did wednesday see previous post).

The business center  is as usual the most interesting part for industry progessionals but I preferred working on my mails and reports instead.

But I attended the wargaming.net party - which was a blast. I was home at 3:30am :)

Highlight: life performance by LMFAO. That act must have cost a fortune but the party was IMBA. As usual the best party in town, thanx Tom for the invitation!

The Anno and HMMO anouncements rippled through the internet and fueled a lot of discussions. Fans think that only because UBI does an Anno f2p game they stop developing retail versions. The fans might be wong right there.

Silly along those lines are statements from Electronic Arts where they claim that they will never give up retail and on the other hand claiming they will be 100% digital sometime soon.
This clearly shows that while some territories are moving to a digital markt fast (while others are already there like Asia), some territories want to stick to retail as long as possible.On the other hand maybe they release those statements only to calm down panicking retail chains.

My opinion: a flood can't be stopped by hoping the tide will change. 100% digital is strong (see iPhone app store) and has advantages for publishers and customers. Retail will be small in a few years.

2012/08/16

GC Day one

GDC last day wednesday is problematic as Gamescom opens its doors as well. So some talks do not attract enough developers but the organizers made sure some highlights were scheduled on that day to fill the rooms.

So I walked GC as this was the only day I had time and I was shocked. A lot of room was left empty, some halls had wide highways free - so large was the distance between the booths. So what happened? Besides Nintendo & Microsoft not attending or having booths I guess the transition years shows its toll. The publishers have less revenue from the old console generation and the new one isn't here yet.
GC mirrors this. The show was clearly either online games or games with heavy community relations like League of Legends, World of Warcraft or Diablo.

On wednesday Ubisoft also had its press conference and finally anounced the projects I had the honor to work on with some of the best teams in Ubisoft Blue Byte in the free to play business. So here they are:

Anno Online - register for closed beta
Heroes of Might & Magic Online - register here for closed beta

So with these:
Silent Hunter Online
The Settlers Online

we will have 4 f2p browser games online
4 projects in 2 years. Growth  from 50 to 200 people. What can I say? Online games change the world.


GDC Day two

Day two had less exciting talks for me personally but the feedback from people I talked to showed that some really good speakers were around.

My goal was to network on that day and I met mostly old friends of the industry and some new ones. Rarely* did I encounter someone who was not working on a f2p title, be it browser, mobile or client. If developers jump ship from the "old retail" when will the world stop buying them?
*Regional differences apply.

The evening was plastered with parties and I followed the latest trend of GDC this year: party skipping. So I went home, played a bit Eve Online (50 kills, yes baby!) and watched Fringe with my wife.

2012/08/13

GDC Europe - day one

So I walked into sessions which I thought are interesting. You never know: many sessions end up in rants how cool the speaker or his company are.

So I was surprised to end up in a talk - the first one by Jared Psigoda (Reality Squared Games) - which was very good. I learned a lot about the Chinese MMO market and also gained insights how westerners are looking at it and vice versa - as the presenter was American working in China since a decade. Details later. Best talk so far!

The next talks were exactly what I feared. DICE ceo had a talk how cool they are. Nothing learned - no knowledge transfer. But he was level designer in 1998 and now is CEO of Dice. See? You can have careers!

World of Tanks CEO was funny. For a Russian he did pretty awesome jokes on the industry but after 50% he lost it and of course said how cool World of Tanks is blah blah. Nevertheless he gets my sympathy bonus.

Then I ended up in a f2p companies talk which was 20% on topic and 80% "This is how f2p works". Not learned much here but it gave me enough reflection in my work that I had 2-3 ideas I emailed myself to put onto ToDo (I email myself ToDo's)

At least I ended up following a new trend on GDC's: skipping the parties. So I drove home and have a nice evening instead talking to the same people every year. I will see you all tomorrow guys!

GDC Europe and Gamescom

So it is this week again. Networking, meeting all friends in the industry, exchanging gossip and latest news (Business cards) and see where the industry is heading.

I try to post a summary as soon as the parties are done ;)

Cheers!

2012/08/10

Retail in trouble?

Gamesales are down - again - by 20%. Is retail in trouble? Or does NPD Data simply negate online sales or have not sufficient data? Does NPD count in App store sales on iOS?

Some facts about 2012:

1) We are in a transition year. This means the old consoles are dying, the sales volume is lower and so are games on consoles. Reason: most games are sold to users of new consoles, not existing ones. New consoles are either not anounced yet or coming later - sales volume doesn't exist. No wonder publishers are in trouble.

2) Games price structue is under pressure. While free to play promotes "free" the high quality games on iOS are either $1 or less or free to play as well. I regulary read reviews from iOS games where they say "its ok to pay $2 for that game". What would that guy say to spend $60?

So why should someone spend $60 for a console game when there is choice "out there" for free?

Some Reasons:
1) IP, i.e. prior experience with that game IP like Assassins Creed, Call of Duty and the like
2) Game production value. Games on consoles are high value and expensive productions
3) Location of gaming: consoles are living room, PC is office room, mobile is - well - mobile
4) missing alternative. Madden football or Fifa Soccer can't be found as f2p or on iOS

The good: market is expanding, everyone plays, we know that now.
The bad: the next generation consoles better embrace online and new business models like f2p or they have severe troubles.

Fun fact: NPD is the worst name for a company as from German point of view they represent the Nazis (NPD=Nazi party)

2012/08/09

OUYA will fail

So OUYA grabbed 8.5m for their console. No one asked the question why Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft spend billions to develop consoles but they can get away doing one for 8m. And pay production.

No one asked if they violate patents of existing console owners - see their controller.

No one asked if their business model is questionable. How do they expect to earn money? If someone sells software on their console how much do THEY earn?

No one asked if piracy is a problem. Its rampant on Android already - and they even invite root kits and hackers to their console essentially destroying the business they are in. Who is going to develop on their console if you don't sell?

So the question is: why should I buy an Android phone with no screen and touch, only working on my TV? Which advantage does this console has over my PS3 or XBox?

If only one of the above points is true the OUYA is dead. As an investor I would run away - too risky. As a developer I would run away due to piracy. As a gamer I prefer to have those games in my pocket - not on my TV.


2012/08/08

Facebook ready for hard core?

Facebook games are played by millions of people. But "our" industry doesn't like these games. Some of these games we do not even consider to be games.

An article on techcrunch takes a view on things and is a pretty good read. Go there. Get back here when you're done.

So, there you go. Basically most games on Facebook use identical mechanics. Most games reuse whatever the big thee come up with and reiterate the same games all over again. Rarely do we see a new idea. If something new and successful appears its either cloned immediately or bought off by the cash heavy competitors.

So - what are the next steps on Facebook games in your opinion? Is Facebook ready for hard core gaming?

I might have a panel to moderate on GDC Europe about this topic so be creative - I might ask your question or state your opinion!




2012/08/04

Facebook - Wild Zone

We are all aware that cloning games, monetization ideas or even whole game mechanics is daily business on Facebook. Now EA didn't like that Zynga did clone their beloved "The Sims Social". It seems Zynga this time stole one of the favourite toys of a publisher and they are not amused.

What is amusing though is the level of detail at which Zynga cloned Sims Social. They even copied textures down to the exact RPG color value.

This doc reads: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101954002/EA-v-Zynga-Complaint-Final

The question is what comes out of this trial. Can they force Zynga to remove the game? And the key question is: does this change how EA's own Playfish "clones" games?

Update: History of Zynga cloning lab

2012/07/30

Clarification - Bigpoint

Under no circumstances I suggested that Bigpoint as a company has problems in my last blog post - on the contrary. Even if some games so have problems after running 6 years a company like Bigpoint has a diversified portfolio to counter those revenue holes.
Want to see? On my last post I showed you this Google trends chart:

You see clearly that the 2 big hits Seafight and Dark Orbit suffer by age. Now lets move that picture into the right relationship when examining Bigpoints other projects: 



As you can see Seafight and Dark Orbit are so tiny against Famrerama that you can barely imagine how big that game is for Bigpoint. As they expand their casual portfolio I guess thats only part of the picture. They just anounced Rising Cities.


2012/07/29

Browser games f2p saturation?

Readers who follow the industry know that Bigpoint recently lost some of their talented managers. Readers with detail knowledge also might know that Travian lost their CEO with the original founders moving back in, merging their Travian Games with Travian Publishing.

So what is happening? Is this the first sign of saturation? It can't be denied that the amount of free to play content has increased 10 fold over the last years. As the games industry finally accepted the concept the number of titles being released is staggering. This means competition is much higher, choice is manifold so users leave games more easily for new experiences.

You can see some effects of this by using google trends (I love this tool): Seafight. Dark Orbit, Drakensang Online and Pirate Storm, all Bigpoint:


Since beginning of 2012 there is a huge downwards trend in Bigpoints' key titles while their new ones didn't catch up yep (Note: Farmerama and SG not mentioned). Interesting to see that Bigpoint tries to find a replacement for the troubled Seafight with Pirate Storm or Kultan - why else would they release two similar pirate games at once.

Let's trend some strategy titles Travian vs. Grepolis vs. Ikariam and OGame:


It seems that the downwards trend started sooner on this genre. 2009 generally was a year where a lot of games has been hit (see first chart - Seafight).

What happened 2009? What happened begining of 2012? I am into this and very curious.

Let's discuss!

2012/07/07

GDC 2011 talk posted

I get many requests for the slides of that talk, so I simply posted it on slideshare here.

Have fun, and don't forget to quote me please when you use it.

GDC 2011: Out of Client services
View more presentations from Teut Weidemann

2012/06/27

2012/06/26

An entirely different topic: upgrading iMac 2009

I spend some time thinking about buying a new machine. I use an iMac i7, late 2009 model for work and gaming and I love it. Apple didn't manage to anounce a new one so I upgraded my machine with a SSD and a new graphic card. Wait, a new gfx card - usually not possible on an iMac. Well, Apple used very similar layouts for 2009 up until 2011 models so the 2011 card fits into the 2009.

You can see the work needed here: http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/iMac-Intel-27-Inch-EMC-2390-Graphics-Card-Update/9553/1


2012/06/17

GDC Europe talk 2010 and its echo

At GDC Europe 2010 I did a talk together with Chris Schmitz from Ubisoft about free to play monetization. An editor from Gamasutra (Brandon Sheffield) wrote an article about it which spawned a heated discussion about ethics in free to play games (see comments underneath article).

So for your enjoyment read this first:

GDC 2010 talk by Teut Weidemann - with comments

and then their really well done fllow up:

Playing with fire: Ethics and Game Design

PC/Console gaming is dead - oh really?

My talk from Quo Vadis 2012 about the usual returning statements that either the PC or Console is dead -which never happens:


Golem Quo Vadis Interview II

The second interview by Golem.de with me about the future gaming market  (German only, sorry folks)

- which fit my talk at Quo Vadis about the future of the industry (see newer posts)