Good F2p games clones and what it means for you

Well guess what: most successful f2p games are all clones of existing games. Or at least close adaptions.
Lets check some out.

Clash of Clans (iOS)
The best monetizing f2p game from the west does 2 million US$ a day, but the team did a close to identical game called Galaxy Life in their former company Digital Chocolate, which again is an adaption of a Facebook Game called Edgeworld by Kabam.

By the same developer Supercell this is basically a Farmville variant. A good one yes, but still a lot of mechanics were taken from that old Facebook game by Zynga (which in turn cloned it from an Asian game)

League of Legends
Yes, even they adapted the grandfather of Moba, a Mod for Warcraft III called Dota. And yes, Dota2 is the sequel. Of course the setting and graphics changed, but the fundamental principle of the game remained the same (and yes, I know the guy is one of the original Dota mod creators)

Puzzle Dragons
A match three game with RPG elements and monster fusion meets Pokemon. The most successful mobile game from Asia even dwarfing Clash of Clans in revenue. Variations were available before (like Puzzle Quest) but not the mix like they did. Clones are appearing daily.

Candy Crush Saga
Well take Bejeweled, attach a meta game and progress, voila you have a game which does 30m a month. Many tried but King.com Saga recipe seems to work for casual games. Only after Candy Crush moved to iOS it bat their former revenue king Bubble Witch Saga which doesn't work on mobile as well due to interface issues. Clones have been tried, the more successful ones are even from the same publisher King.com. None can reach the success (and if you wonder there is a reason for it).

World of Tanks
Counterstrike with tanks. Nothing special right? Attach a progression system and monetization and voilá you have a hit. I might be too simplistic but under the hood WoT is nothing else.

So what did those games above do to actually be that successful? The numbers are extreme. Millions of users, millions of revenue even daily. The above games dominate the f2p online space. No wonder companies try to clone those games - some even 1:1- all those images are from a different Clash of Clans clone.

It seems there is enough potential in old successful game loops that you simply take these, attach a meta game with progression and monetization strategy and you might have a million seller. It seemed to work for the companies above right?

What really happens is that f2p is still young and exploring new areas, so expect more mature games (or more core as you would say) to expand into f2p space soon, so that the two leaders LoL and WoT can be challenged.

Also expect any game loop you know to be misused as a f2p game at some point. Some already have been tested like Black Jack, Golf, Poker, Asteroids, Mahjong etc. It is a formula and simple (core gamne loop + Meta game & progression) and will be exploited as such. It is so simple that I wonder why the huge wave of these games hasn't arrived yet.


Steam Machines will fail

I won't write a lengthy blog post about them. I simply predict they will fail. Read on.

The Gordon Kelly sums it up in the comments with these questions:
1. Can you can tell me why a mainstream user would buy a Steam Machine over a console?
2. Can you tell me why hardcore gamers would buy a Steam Machine over a standard PC?

Read yourself here: http://goo.gl/5hIWgE

Never underestimate Nintendo

Well, it happens every console cycle that industry experts want to tell Nintendo what to do. Just check the headlines here:


Thats really funny. If Nintendo would have listened to those experts the last cycle they would have been gone by now. And guess what: which console sold most last gen?

I wrote about this a lot of time, simply use the label Nintendo.

Some rules about Nintendo:

#1: it is a Japanese company, i.e. they think differently
#2: Nintendo has patience. Decades of patience. It is 125 years old ffs
#3: Nintendo is rich. They don't even need to sell consoles to be richer
#4: Nintendo always did their thing. They were wrong before and it didn't hurt (Virtua Boy, Powerglove)
#5: Nintendo isn't and never was for the core gamer. But our industry writes for the core gamer

And this time the internet remembers your articles and I will pull it out and call YOUR NAME with all the crap you experts have written :)


iOS App Store congestion

Many developers and publishers alike are worried about visibility on the App store. To counter this they try to spend more and more money on user acquisition. Or they find creative ways to game the App Store.

However there is another obvious way getting your App visible. Have a bloody good & distinct game.

If you do whatever everyone else is doing then the only way to separate you from them is either price or marketing spend (aka visibility). Price is tough as you can't go cheaper than free (well you can, but that is not here yet).

Lets see some examples: strategy games. There are really bloody good strategy games on the App Store. Check them out yourself: http://toucharcade.com/top-reviews/strategy/?time=all

Just look at the 5 star rated ones. Awesome isn't it. The key trick is that I put on "life time", i.e. all 5 star rated games since the App Store exists from that site.

Why this? Because the iPhone to an extend doesn't change a lot in terms of games. Practically you compete against all games having been released since ... lets say the iPhone 4, that was in 2010.

This is what I am worried about more than visibility. In the next few years you need to compete against all hits since 2010. That is kind of unique. On consoles hits from 2 years ago aren't really competing anymore with you. On iOS they are.

Look at the top grossing charts. do you realize that most of these have been released prior 2013?

Check yourself: http://blog.tapjoy.com/app-development/what-do-apples-top-grossing-iphone-apps-of-2013-all-ha/

So if you plan to make a runner game for example don#t do this unless you are 100% sure you are going to revolutionize that genre. Or a tower defense game.

Do what no one does. Or do it entirely different. Be bold. Be different. But be realistic.

Also check this list out (Metacritic): http://www.metacritic.com/browse/games/genre/metascore/strategy/ios?view=condensed

And do  me a favour and buy one of my all time favorite real time strategy games on iOS: Red Conquest.


The WiiU CPU sucks - NOT

A recent anonymous post is making its rounds on social networks from a disgruntled developer:


While its worth reading make note that you can replace the word "WiiU" with any console in the past. Working on new consoles sucks. Launches are always messy. Some remember that Xbox development kits where Apple Macintoshes. Imagine that.

The point about the CPU clock speeds in the article is a bit extreme and wrong. Recent trends basically move more and more work into the GPU of your computer.

Wolfgang Engel, the "Shader God" of this industry (among others responsible for Lara Crofts Hair in Tomb Raider), explained it to me like this:

"GPUs move into the direction of CPUs since 2007. They become more general purpose. Fortunately they have a multi-core / multi-threading model that is very efficient and much easier to use.
On a fundamental level the difference between a CPU and GPU is the type of data they work on. GPUs work well on lots of similar "small" data sets while CPUs can work on more generic data. It turns out that games have a lot of those small data sets and that in general they became more common over the last 20 years with large amounts of data generated by computers.
So what we are seeing is that the importance of CPUs decreases in game consoles and the importance of GPUs increase. GPUs take over more and more CPU tasks. 

This is why the XBOX One and PS4 have -compared to the PC market- rather slow CPUs but quite fast GPUs."

No reason to complain about low clock speeds of your CPU, simply learn proper shader language and do your work there. And that is where the major difference lies from the last generation of consoles: when the PS3 and Xbox 360 was designed the GPU's weren't developed with that general purpose architecture. Now they are.

Sidenote: as all three consoles use AMD chips as GPU's they basically define the GPU and Shader standard to come. I wouldn't buy nVidia shares now...

Edit: and more developers speak out:



Microsoft is losing one advantage on Xbox One

Microsoft is stupid sometimes. Well maybe more often than we like. Microsoft introduced the internet to consoles. The Xbox was a good start and they made it really good on the Xbox 360. Yes, they screwed up their interface and shop over time, but still it was much better compared to their counterparts Sony or Nintendo.

Why is this? My explanation is that both Nintendo and Sony are Japanese and in Japan the Internet never took off as big as in the western world. Online games never played a major role. The reason I guess is that PC's aren't used at home much due to space restrictions. Japanese people access the internet through their mobile phone. So they had all sorts of online services much sooner than we had. They already had full internet functions when UMTS was still in development in the western world.

If you look at how Nintendo handles the internet it can't get any worse. You add friends by using cryptic numbers like 435132. They claim to protect their kids customers. Sure. That can't excuse the bad online experiences you have with their club Nintendo or their eShop. If you ever tried to buy software there, recover your password or even link new devices you know what I am talking about. Abysmal user experiences.

Sony had the same problem for a long time but patched up their systems over time. Still it is odd that when you login the PlayStation Network on your PC and click on an advertised title to buy it you are redirected to their shop and need to LOGIN AGAIN. Besides only accepting credit cards (no point cards available) they have a decent collection of movies and TV series on top of their game offers.

The PS4 is slightly better in this regard but you see the Japanese style Internet of the 2000's working on all ends. I was surprised that Sony has the lead in live streaming over TwichTV on the PS4 while the Xbone feels like a closed system currently.

And that is my point: Microsoft is losing their big advantage they once had: The internet, online games, connectivity. And Sony is catching up fast. While Nintendo still doesn't understand how the internet works Sony is implementing features fast. Besides Twitch they offer now streaming services for PS3 games through their GaiKai aquisition. If that works well or not doesn't matter, what matters is that Microsoft must speed up their operating software development and store offers, otherwise they will continue to lose against Sony.


Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2014. It will be an important year as the last generation of consoles will start to fade out while the new one takes over.

This Christmas will be the time of the new generation. The last hurrah of the last gen consoles will be in its software. Some good games are still to come.

The problem however is numbers. The last gen won't sell the millions of games it used to be simply because some users migrated to the new one, some users stored their consoles away or they simply break (remember the last gen is particularly prone to this).

The next gen won't have the numbers yet. GTA V sold zillions on a market with 140+ million consoles. The recent sales numbers of Xbone + PS4 are close to 8 million in total. If you extrapolate this to Christmas we might end up with maybe 24 million end of this year (both Xbone + PS4). Thats ca. 15% of the last gen market so publishers won't expect more than 20% of the revenues counting the effect in that there aren't many games yet and people buy everything they can get their hands on.

So the revenues of all publishers will be DOWN this and the next fiscal year (ending March 2015). Still it is an important step as afterwards we will end up with a better and healthier console market simply for some of these factors:

The PS4 and Xbone embraces online much better than the last gen. This will help smaller titles to be distributed online and make smaller console teams viable.

This will also allow MMO's to migrate to the consoles helping with long term revenue and retention for these titles. This include f2p titles (and first ones are very successful like Warframe)

More importantly the architecture of both consoles are very PC like as they use PC components. This will make cross platform development much cheaper and easier helping return of investment, lessening the risk of large scale AAA game development like Assassins Creed IV or GTA V was. You can basically develop for 2 consoles and PC at once without losing too much quality. The last gen had problems due to their custom architecture. Hint: this will push PC gaming a lot as a side effect.

So I expect further consolidation in 2014 until more money is being made on the markets (including mobile, online) which will have an investment effect in 2015+ soonest, maybe even as late as 2016. In 2016 we will be back in a market of 100m+ consoles making even more money than this gen. Remember this kind of investment has a lag of one fiscal year.

What about the other markets? Mobile will still grow (and is still growing in case you doubt it) but it is getting rather populated. The market is swamped with clones of games already existing making it even worse for new innovative games to be noticed. I think this is only a temporary phase until the markets mature and both developers and providers find ways to offer better visibility and customer acquisition. Signs of this are already there.

What about me? I will have public appearances in Helsinki at one of their Universities teaching f2p:


I will also attend Casual Connect in Amsterdam participating in the Evil Game Design Challenge and talking about WoT:


Next I will attend Game Developers conference in SF analyzing the monetisation of World of Tanks:


Finally I will be in Berlin for Quo Vadis of course, ranting about our industry and giving German developers a glimpse what awaits them;


See you on one of these events or on this blog. Thank you for your loyalty and listening to my rants!