Publishers fireing people all over

You heard the news. Activision fires 800 people despite best year ever in terms of revenue. Arena.net, the operator of Guildwars, seems to get large layoffs. EA will fire a lot of people from their Australian studio (For Americans: that's near the Hobbit place, not the one in the Alps).

Longtime readers of my blog know why this happens now. Others can read my 6-year-old entries here:



Let's take the Activision case. Why fire 800 people when you had a record year? The reason is, you don't fire people due to the current year's results, but what you see in your forecast of the next. If you look at Activision's portfolio for 2019/2020 there is a large gap of original titles. Even Blizzard, part of Activision, said there is no new Blizzard game coming for a while. So the next one or two years will look bleak for Activision. That's why you optimize your company and fire the bottom 10%.

I am not defending this, I am just explaining. The one thing you can blame Activision is that they knew this is coming, its poor planning (and letting Bungie leave, wtf?).

Activision needs to invest their best teams into the next console generation. As the current one will drop in revenue in terms of software and the new one won't do much at first that gap is what we call transition years. EA is very experienced in this and already cut off workforce last year and will continue this year. If you google back into 2012 you will notice the same happened.

This transition year might not be as bad as the previous ones though as the rumored backward compatibility of the next generation, the Switch and the mobile market might buffer some of the previous revenue losses.




So Bungie got Destiny back - and finally can run it as a proper game as a service, which Activision refuses to adapt for most of their products (aside from Blizzard). Mobile games go GaaS for some years. In fact, most successful games today are GaaS games, even GTA V or Red Dead 2 are managed as GaaS.

What is it? Look at this video from 2011 showing Knowledge from 1997 which again has been gathered for 20 years at that point. GaaS is old. The knowledge though is deluded due to the death of subscription MMO's - at least in the classic industry. To learn about GaaS all you need to do is to google - and watch talks from 1997 ;)


Happy New Year - here is whats up ...

2018 was a year full of travel. You will have access to most of my talks which were taped. I also published the ones online for download. So what's coming 2019?

I am busy with two large clients so I actually stopped taking new ones - but I do have partners I can recommend working for you. So don't worry.

I will also cut down my conference visits as I am starting my own mobile game project soon. Watch this space as soon as we can talk about it.

The next conference up is White Nights Berlin. I will talk about the "Lost Art of Immersion on Mobile". Something completely different but its a topic by heart.
The only other conference fixed so far is Devcom right before Gamescom. I do not know if I go to GiC or Digital Dragons in Poland yet - we will see. GDC USA isn't a place for me since years, although I have been on the first 10 since it started (yes, 1988 onwards) and triple-A and console aren't much for me these days although I am helping on a AAA f2p title at the moment. There is also the fact that the advisory board of GDC USA keeps ignoring my submissions, which is strange to experience when most other conferences fight about me but GDC isn't. Well, their loss.

So, if I visit other conferences which topic would you love to see? Let me know. I have covered so many that I might have lost track what you want to hear or learn about.


Up close & Personal

The chance to ask me anything:

 Breakfeast with Teut in Berlin


My Poznan GiC slides were downloaded over 1000 times. So if anyone plans to develop this let me know, I would love to give additional input.


Next Conference Visits

Casual Connect Serbia, October 1st to 3rd
Doing my Lootbox talk, maybe they tape it so I can post the video. I am also hosting a fireside chat with Patryk from Vivid, details see link above. Looking forward to this one, as I love Casual Connects.

GiC Poland
A week later I am in Poznan, Poland, to visit GiC. It is an awesome conference with high-quality talks, come to get some and see my talk where I try to design an f2p game in 45 minutes on stage.


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:



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.


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.


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:


Just 11 mentioned I know a couple more.

and I agree here:


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


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:


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 ...



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.


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 ;)


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?


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.


App Stores rip off Developers?

So this made the rounds:


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.


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.


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:


See you there!


Haha, Best of E3

Remember m Blogpost?


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


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

And this:


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.


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.


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!



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.