2018/07/11

My Digital Dragon Talk as video

If you missed this talk at Digital Dragons in Krakow, Poland,  or didn't attend (which you should next year, awesome conference!), here it is:


2018/05/17

GaaS

If you never heard of GaaS maybe you should invest some time to learn. Game as a Service, or GaaS, is the latest craze on mobile and they are all hurrying to learn what it takes.

Some games implemented GaaS and made a mediocre launch a huge success. Like Rainbow Six Siege, which meanwhile is called the best tactical team shooter of the planet having over 30m players. OR GTA V, which, despite its age, is closing on selling 100m.

Maybe you don't know the fun part of GaaS. The lessons you need were defined over 20 years ago, by a game called Ultima Online. And the developers spread the knowledge of their experience on GDC. Just check Raph Kosters talks and articles here.

So sometimes I feel walking in the past when advising clients on what GaaS means to their development and company.

2018/04/21

My next talks & conferences

April/May is crazy. Too many conferences - all inviting me for f2p talks. So here is my schedule for now:

Week April 23rd: Quo Vadis, a talk about "Meta Games" and moderating a fireside chat with Lord British. See https://qvconf.com/

Week May 8th: Oulu, Finnland, there is half a day a public workshop about the Crazy App Store and More, organized by Fingersoft.

Week May 21st: Digital Dragons, talking about Product Strategy and how it decides your chances of success. See http://digitaldragons.pl/

Week May 23rd, GDD Frankfurt, talking about raising ARPPU/Conversion, the complete version: https://www.germandevdays.com/

Week May 29th, Casual Connect London, again raising APPU/Conversion, see http://europe.casualconnect.org/

and finally Develop in Brighton, talking about Lootboxes: https://www.developconference.com/

Phew. A lot, and I guess the next will be Devcom/Gamescom, but my talk isn't confirmed yet.







2018/04/14

This industry never learns

I do remember back when I launched Panzer Elite in 1999 - a WW2 simulation, but tanks. The same year over 30 (!) flight simulations were released - each one trying to hit the gold mine.

And this wave of followers to hit games was repeated over and over again. Why don't they learn? Remember the MOBA fiasco? A grave of games in the past years. So here goes another:

https://www.gamespot.com/gallery/the-11-biggest-battle-royale-games-to-play-in-2018/2900-1933/?utm_campaign=20160510


Just 11 mentioned I know a couple more.

and I agree here:

https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-04-12-battle-royale-threatens-a-repeat-of-the-moba-bloodbath

DO NOT FOLLOW THE HITS. Unless you are fast and good. OR different, very different. A new setting won't cut it.

2017/12/15

Industry going conservative again

Consoles selling sub $200 (minus the Pro's) - entering last half of their cycle. 2019 will be hard for larger studios. So be prepared that publishers turn conservative not signing risky or expensive products next year as they already invest heavily in the next generation (it already shows this year).
So please, either split your studio into sizable teams working on multiple lower budget products or resize - yes, this means downsizing is a valid strategy.
Take the free advice, it happened before and will happen again.
The over 10-year-old talk describing the cycles can be found here:


2017/11/28

One of PC's best games of all time

I feel honored. Really. And yes its one of my career highlights I designed, with my own company Wings Simulations I sold in 2000. And it had a tremendously long shelf life and still can be found today sometimes for €5-10. The long shelf life is due to the community - and because we gave the source code of the entire project to them. That was a first back then ...

https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/11/24/best-pc-games/18/







2017/11/14

MTX & Loot Boxes - Discussion still going on

As written in my last post the Loot box controversy is still active - and getting worse. It is interesting to follow the press, customers outrage, and publishers answers. Battlefront II and their loot box system even created the most downvoted thread ever on Reddit.

The main reason is that players paying $60+ for an AAA title do not feel eager to be forced to pay via MTX to gain significant important items or unlocks in the game. So EA responded by lowering the needed "grind" to unlock important characters by 75%.

See, that's where the problem lies. Users paid upfront and expect the complete game. They don't want to pay to unlock content (and let's not forget day 1 DLC's). The rule of F2P that content has to be free all the time was violated somewhat.  That's one point, that they didn't implement the Loot Boxes right.

My second point is one I said often during my talks when Loot Boxes came up, like here:


If you add Loot Boxes as MTX you admit your normal monetization system failed - unless your core mechanic of the game is Loot Boxes. Like Hearthstone. Clash Royale. Or Puzzle & Dragons. You will notice that these games never came up during those discussions. Or why do Overwatch Lootboxes do not spawn that controversy? Think about it.

Basically, EA admitted their AAA retail flat fee model of $60 for an AAA game is declining, isn't making enough money to return a sizable profit so they add MTX. 

Many games did this but EA of course brutally forced the MTX system on their game going over the top - while other games do it more wisely - as you should do too. Check out GTA V and their online Revenue, or even Assassins Creed IV Black Flag where I was part of the design team of the MTX system. They never had the backlash EA is feeling. 

There are signs on the horizon that the old AAA model is dying. PC revenue is rising but most of that us on the F2P or MTX side, the AAA revenue is not growing compared to previous years. Even console $60 sales are stagnant to previous years or growth curves of previous generations. 

It has come so far that AAA publishers contact me to teach them how to implement MTX correctly so the community accept it and it still raises revenue.

So AAA games feverishly try to adapt f2p methods to raise their profits to cover the ever-increasing development costs - and most of these teams never worked in F2p. They need help. Call me if you need to educate your teams. You can add MTX to your AAA title which players actually love to engage in. Loot Boxes aren't the answer. Believe me. Been there, done that.

2017/09/08

MTX in Destiny 2 and Shadows of Mordor 2 - Scandal?

So the web is alive with discussions about micro transactions in Destiny 2 or the upcoming Shadows of Mordor. Players don't like MTX shops in games they paid $60 for.

But this trend has been here since years. Ubisoft did MTX in the Assassins Creed series. Heck, I was part of the design team who did the MTX for AC IV Black Flag.

The MTX in retail games are adding revenue by x% (I can't reveal the number here, sorry). Publishers need this as games development becomes more and more expensive. Triple AAA products are 50m, 100m even sometimes more than 200m in development. So how many copies do you need to sell to achieve a return on investment? Roughly 3.5 million. That doesn't include marketing yet. Or other costs you need on top like HR, Management, Accounting etc.

So integrating f2p mechanics to raise revenue is perfectly fine.

Also, remember not everyone has hours each day to play those games, but really want to catch up with their friends to raid (like in Destiny) or to see the end, or unlock game modes etc. Why not pay for this service? It's not an alien concept.

Engaged fans of a series are able to spend $99 or more for collectors editions, season passes etc. but complain about some $ spending in game. This is all about perception by seeing a shop symbol in a retail game.

Rarely I have seen this complaint in GTA V. But they do like 700m per year on that. Hmmm.

We "F2P" people saw these trends coming years ago and it will get more intense soon. As the price wars are on and soon you will see AAA games being released for $60 and years after release being made free as their in game MTX mechanics make enough revenue. I have seen it, I know clients working on exactly this with their AAA IP.

So get used to it. It won't vanish and will get more expanded upon - until AAA products finally surrender and will be free ;)



2017/09/05

My Blogs Audience

Grafik der unter Blog-Lesern beliebtesten Länder

So are a large part of my blog's audience comes from Russia? But I never had Russian clients. Why is this? Dear Russian readers, can you enlighten me?


2017/09/02

Coming soon ...

My next talk is in creation. I decided not to do any Dissection talks anymore due to many reasons but someone convinced me to do this one - simply as I spend a long time analyzing it (3 years in fact), the longest ever it took to finalize this talk. I will let you know when and where I will hold this talk.



2017/08/25

App Stores rip off Developers?

So this made the rounds:

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2017-08-22-tim-sweeney-app-stores-are-pocketing-a-huge-amount-of-profit-at-developers-expense

30%. Seems a lot. Rip off right? The problem is that most people saying this, including Tim Sweeney, never operated an F2P game outside an app store and have not the faintest about the operational cost.

So let's see what Apple (Google is similar but slightly worse) does for you if you sell through their store - all included in the 30%:

Payment Systems & Cost
The App Store offers payment systems and an easy way to pay, much easier than any other payment systems found online, increasing conversion immensely. This alone is worth a lot.
Everyone who worked on payment system integration knows how much work goes into this besides systems, UI, flow, optimizing etc. It is a lot of work and usually, you need 3-4 people just working on this - permanently.
Payment providers charge various single digit % of your revenue usually. So this is worth that percentage plus the bonus of ease of use.

In Store Payment System & Promotions
Apple offers iTunes cards in stores in most countries. Including promotions and sales of these. Remember if Apple does a sale on iTunes cards Apple pays for it, your margin is unaffected by it.
For free. This is an effective payment system for people without access to credit cards or bank accounts. Remember stores selling these also take a share - so this one is included as well.

VAT Handling
If you ever ran into accounting in F2P companies their biggest headache is VAT handling worldwide. Every country has different VAT rates, laws and handling of virtual goods. It is a huge problem and usually, accounting is busy fixing things and keeping track of changing laws - in every single country. With Apple, you get a single invoice per month. VAT is virtually gone here. So yes you would easily need an accounting department for handling payments yourself - with Apple you need none. Zero.

Returns, Cancellations, Fraud
The second biggest headache of handling payments yourself is fraud & returns. Apple does this for you.

Available World Wide
Yes, world wide. No issues with integrating how many payment systems so everyone in any country can pay? I remember that one company I worked for had 120+ payment systems online and integrated 2-3 per week (!). Want to do this yourself? Good luck.

Download Cost & Updates
You don't pay for traffic, hosting, and more important for updating your app. The app store and iOS do this for you, usually automatic for the users. And you don't even pay for the traffic or hosting.

In other words, if App Stores wouldn't do all this you, as a small to a medium sized developer, would need at least 5-10 more people handling all of this if you launch world wide.

Is this worth 30%? Easily. And btw Tim Sweeney charges 30% as well in their Unreal market place ;)

Did I forget another advantage? Let me know.



2017/08/18

Honorary Consultation

Sometimes I stumble across a game I really like - from an Indie team. And I offer to help them for free. The only thing we do is a handshake deal if they get filthy rich by their game they thank me.

So recently two of them have been released and I would love you all to download and review it in the app store ok? Give them 5 stars, they are small teams and did wonderful on both projects:

Cat Quest (iOS, Android, Steam)

Look here: https://thegentlebros.com/catquest/

It's a great action RPG and in my opinion, fits mobile very well.

Hades Star


If you like space games, logistics and PvE this one is for you. A very good laid back game pacing on your habit, not the games.



2017/08/15

Coming up: Devcom/Gamescom

I will be attending Devcom and Gamescom next week, speaking about general rules of F2P games and pitching a game - for the first time since years. Schedule is filling up, nice.

If you want to attend my talk:

https://devcom2017.sched.com/event/BL8J

See you there!


2017/06/20

Haha, Best of E3

Remember m Blogpost?

http://teut.blogspot.de/2017/03/why-old-publishers-dont-get-it.html

And here it is, Best of E3 is a .... Survival Game by Crytek!

http://www.pcgamer.com/best-of-e3-2017-awards/

I bet Crytek will push the PR hype soon but I am excited: https://www.huntshowdown.com/


And this:


2017/06/19

Common Mistakes in f2p Design - video!

Here is the video of my Casual Connect talk from this February - Common Mistakes in f2p Design.


Enjoy. And if you like it please consider visiting any of the four Casual Connects happening each year all over the globe.

2017/04/22

Quo Vadis Conference Berlin

Next week is the Quo Vadis, one of the oldest and largest developer conferences in Germany, close to 2500+ attendees.

I will launch my new talk there - "Player Types and your plan of World Domination".

The title is a little aggressive simply because a real title like "Strategic Positioning to increase your reach" might not attract as much audience.

There will be no video but I bet I will repeat the talk on one of the other conferences who tape it and I will post it here.



2017/03/31

Videos of my talks

Many developers watch my videos of my talks but are missing one or two here and there. So I created a playlist where I link most of them available - minus the ones on GDC Vault if they aren't public: Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVGQLTaJYT6MO7Z4hVHaUyAlyJyZNLG_P



2017/03/28

Why "old" Publishers don't get it?

With old publishers I mean the great EA's, Activisions, Ubisofts etc. They usually are so busy in their own world that they have a hard time looking what is happening outside.

With "world" I mean Fifa, Battlefield for EA, Activision with Call of Duty and their other IP's and Ubisoft with their Sandbox titles.

So when a new trend comes along they usually miss it - big time. EA tends to buy that stuff - and destroy it afterward (remember Command & Conquer and many many other examples). Activision merely does their own thing. Ubisoft just buys smaller studios usually and are busy making Sandbox titles.

What trend am I talking about? A mega trend - which is actually older than they realize: Survival games.

The recent example of Battlegrounds is just the most recent hit the Survival genre produced. Its originator DayZ started it (with some influence from Indie titles). As DayZ was based on the Arma engine the game including DayZ stayed in the Steam charts for months - an eternity rarely achieved by other titles other than Valves.
Really, not even top titles could touch the success. Many others followed and even ones with questionable quality had good sales. Even unfinished survival games stay in the charts - Survival is strong.

But none of the big ones follow up on them. Imagine, the budget of Battlefield behind a Survival game. It could be even a stand alone expansion.

But no, they ignore it. Why? No one knows.

So this is the gap you can jump into. Survival AAA produced and sold by a publisher with the marketing force behind it. Go for it, its here since years. It's time. And if you do and make millions think about the guy who pushed you ;)

Update: someone mentioned Dying Light in the comments. That's one of my favorite games of that time and is a good example that Survival works - and it sold really well.

2017/03/26

Common f2p mistakes

The video from Casual Connect is online and I also held this talk at Dubai Game Conference past week. If you are interested in the common mistakes most of my clients do you should look at this, it saves you a lot of hassle and consultant fees ;)

And as always, if you think my talks are useful and helped you making good business in f2p think about a donation, simply email me for PayPal or bank information (invoices can be sent as well if you like).

The number of teams thanking me for my talks helping them to success is staggering meanwhile, so someone our there might help me finance the universities of my kids.

And if you missed it, here is my playlist of most of my talks:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuBOOQVWjW9sJSSCSXZ7uOA




2017/03/17

What end of March means

End of March is near. Why am I even talking about this? As long as I am in the industry (and that's close to 30 years) end of March marks a month where usually high-end titles are released with questionable quality.

The Mass Effect debacle happening right now is a typical example - only now users know beforehand. Before the internet happened usually it happened after release.

Ghost Recon Wildlands has mixed reviews and user opinions too. And why Ubisoft launched 2 strong new IP's in the same quarter is unknown to me.

Why does this happen? Fiscal year end. Usually companies had financial years from Jan to Dec but the christmas sales and the revenue plus potential product delays into the next fiscal year made companies shift their financial year from April to March. So before March closes and thus their financial year they release Software - often unfinished - to book the revenue into the current year.

Thats why I don't like publishers being public. At some point they start to serve shareholders more than their customers - the players.

So why does a CEO decide to release a product in not optimal shape even though its bad for the company in the long run? Shareholder happyness? Or maybe because his bonus is tied to revenue of a fiscal year? There you have it. Would you as a CEO release a product if a personal bonus of 10 million is tied to it even though its bad for the company in the long run?

I rarely have seen CEO's having the balls to shif the release date of one of their major IP's. Yves Guillemot from Ubisoft is one and his bonus isn't tied to the revenue. He owns part of the company, no need. This time though he might have been under pressure as Ubisoft is under pressure of a hostile takeover Again - being public has its disadvantages.

This means be careful with titles released end of March. A lesson I learned since decades.

2017/03/11

So Zelda happened

The new Zelda has been released on Switch and is one of the top 3 best-rated games ever. Sidenote: it is as good on the WiiU, so unless you like the portability of the Switch or use it as a couch device the WiiU version is fine too.

Zelda on the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System in case you have missed that console) was a masterpiece in game design. It did so many things right and for the first time and I still use it as a reference in my design classes. It is a milestone in RPG and difficulty progression (another Masterpiece was Mario 64 on the N64 which for the first time showed 3d controls in a world perfectly and games today still use its' controls).

Zelda was polished, updated and released for each new Nintendo system but the foundation remained the same.

This time though they redid everything from scratch. As a Zelda fan, you still find the principles of the original design but so many things are done right.

Zelda is a sandbox world where you can do what you want. It is a perfect combination of open world and RPG. Some site wrote "Zelda is the game which says yes" meaning if you wonder "Can I do this?" the answer is usually yes. Other games restrict your actions, Zelda does not.

Another site rightfully said the feeling you get when playing the new Zelda can be compared when you played WoW for the first time. And I agree.

I rarely write about specific games. The last time was about "The Division", but this time I write about Zelda as you need to play it as it will have an influence on many games like the original or Mario 64 did.

So buy and play and have fun. It is truly amazing and deserves the ratings and the hype.

And I simply leave this video here to show off some funny things you can do in an open world like Zelda:


2016/12/28

What 2017 will bring to the game industry

2016 was harsh. Many studios closed. Some hit games didn't sell. But overall the industry grew as always. Superdata claims we nearly reached $100b in 2016.

Meanwhile China became the largest gaming market of the world thanks to mobile. Talking mobile: it is now the largest segment of our industry. As forecasted by so many.

From my experience and point of view 2017 will be a hard year. In fact it will be more difficult than this year. For various reasons.

First some AAA IP's won't sell as good as they were, as already shown in 2016. The primary reasons are that gamers spend more time in less games and the competition in terms of price. f2p taking over even more market share does further impact the $60 AAA game market.

And of course mobile. Mobile will continue to grow. We will see new games entering the top 10 which do more and more revenue each year. The PC won't suffer, the consoles neither, but their growth will slow down. Nothing major but it will have an impact on studios relying on the old publisher model - meaning more studios will cease to exist.

We also will see a more dramatic impact on the crowded market space. Too many titles, not enough time to play them all. Remember? We will spend more time in less games. So the only way combating this is to bind your fanbase to your game - this means you must update your game and service it beyond its lifecycle. Games as a service. Invented by MMO RPG's now a must have for all games.

Update: read this:
http://steamed.kotaku.com/none-of-2016s-most-played-steam-games-came-out-in-2016-1791048654

We will see an invasion of non gaming IP's to the mobile space as the desperate publishers try to fight high acquisition costs with using foreign IP's. This won't work for most of them as we have so often experienced in the past: the 80's, 90's, 2000's all had those waves and most publishers failed with them unless they can afford the mega IP's - which they can't. If they afford it they won't have enough money left for the game - meaning they ship shitty games on large IP's - failing. We have seen that as well in the past.

VR will continue to be a toy - not a market (yet). So investors will shy away, studios will close. VR will be in a crisis waiting to be revived.

The Switch will ship and sell ok. Nintendo's IPs will be strong, and depending on Nintendos policy to sign up other developers the console will not rival the PS4 or XBox, it will rival Nintendo's old 3DS system, cutting their own market share.

Consoles will drop in price for Christmas 2017 and for the first time go under $199 - embracing new markets. But those new customers won't buy $60+ software, they will buy already discounted or used software - as we have seen in the past when that happens. Still the market will grow and reach its peak - and drop after that staring 2018.

We will see a new creative push from the III side. What is III? Triple Indie, from pro's who left AAA companies and going independent we will see a wave of really good titles created for lower budgets and selling enough to keep those new studios alive.

This means we see a remix of studios. Old ones go, new ones come - and in large numbers. We need to learn all those new studio names otherwise we lose track - so many will be there. All over the world.



2016/12/25

My Game of the Year 2016

Before I spoil my pick let me explain my situation so you understand why I picked this game.

First I love slow paced games. Second I love games with progression, so I can build up characters, items or what else. That surely points in the direction of RPG's, but i am kind of overfed with them. Both MMO RPG and Single Player. The reason is lack of innovation, most games all now look or act like games I played before - so I got bored of most RPG's; and note that great graphics and story don't do it for me either as I skip story (yeah I know ...) and good graphics are normal for games now.

Second I am in the industry since 30 years meaning I have played thousands of games. So even little things in UI or game play disturb me and I quit - and play the next.

Third I can extrapolate how most games unfold game mechanic wise if I played it for 30 minutes. This makes it challenging to keep me interested, to surprise me or to overcome my threshold.

Fourth, I am "old" - this mean reflexes are less and too twitchy games don't do it for me - unless the game designer put in classes which can be played by older players. Just like World of Tanks did - or recently Overwatch.

So which game did all this to me to get my GOTY pick?

The Division by Ubisoft.

Yes, it had a rocky start regarding update policy, but the recent patches corrected most of it. I love the game as I can pick my pace. The game doesn't force me into anything, which is exactly what I need. Sometimes I can just go for a stroll into the city and still have fun. Or go on a raid or adventure. OR find new gear. Or craft. OR join friends and do silly things.

Close contenders? The Last Guardian - as it is art. Dishonored 2 - as I can pick my pace.

2016/12/21

"In the next few years all games will be online" (Teut 2006)

When I said in 2006 "In the future all games will be online" I got criticized by a lot of senior devs still working on pure retail games. Today of course it seems obvious this is the case. Even triple AAA games designed to be "single player" have online modes, online accounts, post launch add ons via online, online trophies and more to ensure a higher engagement and online copy protection.

The primary reason why online works so well is you can update the game frequently and further retain your players and fans. This can be done in a way that your game virtually never dies. Many MMO's from the 90's are still alive and despite their ancient technology they are still being played.

So this isn't bad news here:

https://www.asheronscall.com/en/forums/showthread.php?73423-Asheron-s-Call

This is good news as it proves how long these games can live. Nearly two decades. Think about it. For a developer having such a title in your portfolio means you have a revenue stream which can take you through years which shake us up badly - like 2016 where many devs were being closed.

Games like Destiny will live until the console cycle ends. And that is a fps. RPG's of course were the first movers but most genres will or have already moved into the persistent universe.

The problem? If too many players are bound to their online games they won't buy as many games as before. So the industry need to rely on growth instead of reselling titles to existing player bases. But this only lasts so long - until they are overfed like it happens this year.

The lesson? You need to design your game to last. The rules you need to apply are hard to learn and to grasp but have been laid out decades ago by people like Raph Koster or Rich Vogel. Google them, read all their talks. They are well worth it.

And if you need help - ask me. I am consulting in this space since 10 years.


2016/12/17

People hate Mario on iOS - do they?

Mario mobile is upon us, at least the iOS world. And check this out:

https://sensortower.com/ios/us/nintendo-co-ltd/app/super-mario-run/1145275343/#review-history?breakdown

The number of 1 star reviews is staggering. Of course most people are angry about the $9.99 paywall after the first world. So there are two reasons why:

1) The way they build in the paywall is not nice to consumers. f2p managed to find ways way better than this.

2) Users are trained now games are free. 95% of all revenue and sales are f2p games. And as I am telling in many of my talks: most mobile gamers are new to games, so the heck they know they need to pay $10 after three levels. f2p would at least allow you to have fun for free and enhance it by paying what you want, not what Nintendo wants.

Some interesting observations about Mario.

There are many f2p mechanics inside the game, like multiple currency, the way they unlock things etc. Paid apps usually do not have this.
So I think the game was planned at f2p and Nintendo pulled the plug late and removed f2p and implemented the paywall.

Huge mistake in terms of revenue, but hey, its Nintendo and their IP, they might have other plans.

The UI is really bad at places. Their friends list? Linking your game with accounts? Thats not how mobile games look like. In fact many of the bad UI habits are pure Nintendo Wii/WiiU/3DS adaptions. We even have the dreaded friend codes :/

There are better runners in the app store than Mario. But hey its Mario. Revenue wise it was a bad decision to remove f2p. The best selling runner Subway surfer does more revenue each year than Mario will do in a life time.

(Link with regards to @ZhugeEX)