A MAZE Indie Connect Talk

I’ve just finished my prep for my upcoming talk. I’ll again be talking about F2P but this time to a decidedly indie games focused audience. I will be at the upcoming A MAZE Indie Connect 2012. The festival is in Berlin, Germany at the 26th and 27th April. I’ll be on site with my talk The Indie Brain on F2P. A preview of the starting slide is below.

I’m quite happy with the results and I hope I’ll manage to squeeze it all into my time slot, considering I’ve only got 20 minutes (including Q&A). If you’re there feel free to say hi. I’ll also try to tweet about the conference as much as I can.

BGF 2011 recap

Last Friday and Saturday the Browsergames Forum 2011 was held in Offenbach, Germany. As you can guess from the name of the conference it’s all about online games run in the browser with free-to-play being a big part of that equation.

I attended BGF last year with a talk about the qualities of virtual goods. While I didn’t have enough time beforehand to prepare another talk this time I was fortunate enough to sit on a Panel about the future of F2P monetization with:

  • Christian Godorr (Bigpoint)
  • Henning Kosmack (MegaZebra)
  • Egge Diercksen (Mail.ru)
  • Janis Zach (Sponsorpay)
  • Dirk Weyel
  • and moderated by Mark Gazecki (Honeytracks)

I was quite happy with the panel and would have loved to focus even more on the potential developments in the F2P marketplace. I felt like we barely got started when we were already running out of time.

Apart from sitting in the panel I spent most of the time talking to old (and new) friends and colleagues. And if I wasn’t doing that I sat in the other talks and panels and tweeted as much as I could. So from the huge flood of #bgf2011 tweets, here are a few choice moments. Be aware that this is me reiterating what the presenters showed or talked about – there is room for error in there.

Future Trends in Social Games
Jussi Laakonnen – Applifier (@jussil)

  • Slideshare Slide Deck
  • Global gaming market advertising and virtual goods revenue prediction shown up to 2015, at which point 50% of all revenue is in facebook.
  • As market contracts indies have to band together to succeed while keeping control of their own assets.
  • Farmville allows you to find ingame friends that are not facebook friends. This is the Interest graph in contrast to the Social Graph.
  • This means: avatars vs. real identity. Social game companies try to get their own data aside from facebook.
  • Social graph = higher ARPU because of better retention and engagement.
  • Communication among strangers (Interest Graph) may alienate regular casual audience: “Soccer moms don’t like being teabagged” What about anonymity?
  • Googles only chance of making Google+ work is to win as a mobile social network.
  • Valve will probably soon pop up on Android with Steam…

Next Generation of Online Games – Social and Core
Ilkka Paananen – Supercell (@ipaananen)

  • Gunshine: By making the game harder the Monetization increased, as did satisfaction with users and retention went up
  • Typical Gunshine player: 30min session, 4 times a day, 10 active friends.
  • Social 2.0: users are *playing* with each other (not necess. synchronous) and making new friends
  • primary monetization drivers of #Gunshine: Boss Battles, PvP #bgf2011

The Settlers Online – Key Learnings of Year 1
Christopher Schmitz & Benedikt Grindel – BlueByte

  • “With a large amount of data a fool can justify anything”

Creation and Marketing of Browsergame IPs
Markus Büchtmann – ProSiebenSat1digital

  • ~60% of people agree that branded products are of higher quality than unbranded products.
  • Pro7 Games uses voiceover actors famous from related media products in their ads. For example: german Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings actress) dub actor for fantasy game ad…
  • Tv ads have IMMEDIATE effect on number of registrations: people have laptop/mobile device right next to TV (or watch on pc?)

The future of f2p?
Teut Weidemann – BlueByte

  • Teut quotes Heiko Hubertz: next 5yrs. Traditional publishing model, mobile and beowser converge,market crunch, users switch games often
  • Teut quotes Jessica Mulligan: higer consolidation, indy still possible, connected gaming more prominent, subscription for AAA MMOs
  • Teut quotes Andreas Weidenhaupt: platforms willbe irrelevant, F2P will be dominant biz model, Web Games will look like retail.
  • Teut quotes Michael Zillmer: all online games will be in browser. CPA will be > LTV. CRM more important. Main growth limit is HR.
  • Teut quotes Ralf Adam: mobile connectedness = key factor. Localization key multiplier. Budgets will rise but cap.
  • Teut quotes himself: saturation still 3-5 yrs away. Users are key(finding, keeping,crm,communities,roi important)
  • Rift is designed with a backup transition to F2P already in mind.
  • China is 5yrs ahead in F2P: user has too much choice Lack of content means users switch = drive to add content (6 mo at start)
  • If COI rises, why not pay users to play our games? Online poker sites basically do that already

Panel: IP and browsergames – opportunities and pitfalls
Ralf Adam (Travian Games), Antony Christoulakis (Keen Games), Philipp Reisberger (Bigpoint), Jan Wagner (Cliffhanger Productions), Malte Barth (Iconicfuture) moderated by Heiko Klinge (Making Games Magazine)

  • Antony: box product license simpler. Service model means contracts are more difficult.
  • Ralf: just a limited number of IPs put there that make a good fit for games.
  • Jan: sick of the dev-publisher model. No more. Spent company savings on shadowrun license (which is not AAA class).
  • Jan: but company is small enough to be profitable with only a six figure user number. That is reachable with Shadowrun
  • Malte: IPs are an argument when talking to VCs because that is something these non-techies know. But will look at terms closely.
  • Jan: Game IPs are tough because audience knows what kind of game they want (unlike movies, pen and paper…)
  • Philipp: getting approval for faces from female battlestar actors was harder than getting approval for ships from the company.
  • Malte: IPs take too much time to sort out, not compatible with short dev and tech cycles. Instead maybe branded virtual goods.
  • Ralf: Movie IPs are great for retail products: Release concurrent with premiere. Service games outlast movie popularity.

Analytical Creativity in Game Design
Christian Godorr & Stephanie Hels – Bigpoint

  • First step was to have weekly meetings with all people to talk about what is happening in the game so everyone is in the know. Both qualitative and quantitative reports.
  • Challenge with Drakensang: Low ARPPU for a core game. Figured out events increase that specific KPI
  • Farmerama challenge: lifetime is unsatisfying. Events work, but Crafting adds depth. This leads to animal breeding mechanics.
  • Farmerama user lifetime approaching more core-based game user lifetime. Nice! Good job, guys!
  • When improving ARPPU first focus on high monetizing users so they have more cool stuff without breaking game for others. #bgf2011 #bigpoint

Non-Competetive Game Content
Kathleen Kunze – InnoGames

  • What is the challenge in Farmville? Why do players play farmville, when there is none?
  • Her theory: someone looks for a game that fulfills the needs (maslow’s hierarchy) that are not fulfilled in real life.
  • Not all challenges are competetive! Riddles, growing plants, cooking, making music…
  • Competetive content is not useless for non-competetive players: Medic, Healer is involved but wants to help, not kill.
  • Meaning/quality of the result needs to be important to the non-competetive player nonetheless.
  • You cannot satisfy everyone but you can open new audiences and expand the game.

And there you have it, my slice of the BGF talks. In general it seems that the topics mobile games and the interest graph were pretty important. Let’s see where they are at next year.

GDC Europe: Big Bucks for Bits and Bytes PDF Download

Just a few days ago I held my GDC Europe lecture called Big Bucks for Bits and Bytes – a holistic approach to monetization. I’ve spent a lot of time preparing and was quite happy with the result. The slides are now available on my slideshare account. You can download them from there or watch the slides online.

Title Slide
Click the image to see the slides.

The slides are released for personal use only. If you have questions, need further information or plan to use the presentation for anything other than personal use, please get in touch with me.

Lecture at GDC next week

Next week it’s again time for GDC Europe, this time with me as a speaker. Contrary to what you’d expect from the name of this blog though I won’t be talking about digital spaces. My lecture is called Big Bucks for Bits and Bytes – a holistic approach to monetization and it’s the culimnation of my 2 years with gameforge and the many thoughts and learnings about free-to-play monetization.

If you’re in Cologne feel free to drop by and say hello. I will be talking on Wednesday after lunch starting at in the Rheinsaal on the 1st level. If you can’t make it, then check out the sneak preview below. Once GDC is through I’ll also most likely make the entire presentation available on Slideshare and here on this blog.

Title Slide
What to Expect
Presentation Goals

Storyworlds across Media conference

A few weeks ago I was at the Storyworlds across Media conference at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. This academic conference revolved around the creation of fictional universes and settings (storyworlds) through a variety of media. This conference was my first real contact with academic narratology and it was most definitely inspiring and interesting.

Over the course of three days I got to meet a set of interesting and intelligent people and talk about a intruiging topics. Of course there also were a number of papers being presented, some of which were quite intriguing while others were rather dry. Videos of all talks are supposed to be made available at the website, free of charge, later on. I’ll briefly try to highlight the, in my opinion, most valuable sessions so that you can give them a look once the videos are online.

Storyworlds across Media
from Marie-Laure Ryan

This introductory talk providfed a good overview over the idea of “storyworlds” and how they fit into theories of narratology. This lecture was a great start to the conference for someone new to the academic discourse on this topic. One of the things I specifically scribbled into my notes was her list of “constituents of storyworlds”, e.g. the things that together can create a storyworld:

  • An inventory of existents
  • A space with certain geographic features
  • Physical laws
  • Social laws and values
  • Events. A history of changes that happen in the narrative
  • Mental events

What I found especially interesting is that she specifically points out the fictional geography of storyworlds and it’s importance.

A Game of Thrones: Transmedial Worlds, Fandom, and Social Gaming
from Lisbeth Klastrup and Susana Tosca

These two discussed a few transmedial events surrounding the launch of the Game of Thrones TV series, specifically the online games. They made a few interesting observations when it came to the different target groups, how they overlap and interact. Using some low-fi data mining they tried to figure out how readers, GOT enthusiasts, gamers and other people interlocked.

The Developing Storyworld of H. P. Lovecraft
from Van Leavenworth

A lecture dealing especially with the slightly odd nature of the Cthulhu mythos and it’s reincarnation in different “texts”. There are a few peciularities since the IP is no longer copyrighted and there is a wide range of different authors. It seems that it’s more of a brand that implies that the text provides a certain sense of world, unifying themes and returning elements. The latter could be locations (Arkham…) or characters (old ones…) but don’t have to be.

Strategies of Storytelling on Transmedia Television
from Jason Mittell

This lecture delved into different methods of sharing the storyworld of a series outside of the TV show. Jason explained two fundamentally different approaches using the examples of Lost and Breaking Bad. The former is expansionist, where the transmedial material expands on the world an adds new histories, characters and events. The Breaking Bad material on the other hand aims to “fold in on itself” to provide denser information about the character themselves, to help viewers get into their heads.

Jason also noted that there are three different kinds of tie-in games to movies and TV shows:

  1. Exploratory: These games allow you to explore the fictional storyworld yourself.
  2. Imitational: Games that allow you to “try on the skin” of the story characters. These often fail because the expected drama from TV and Movies is missing.
  3. Narratively: Games that try to retell the story of the movie in the game. This is almost never done for TV shows. Here the approach is usually to have the game be “one extraordinary episode”.

The Paradox of Interactive Tragedy: Can a Video Game have an Unhappy Ending?
from Jesper Juul

Here Jesper took a closer look at the elements that make up a tragedy and why it’s so difficult to recreate that in games. His theory is that this lies within the paradox of failure. Usually, when we as players succeed in some task within the game, we are happy, as is the protagonist. Likewise, when we fail we are frustrated and suffer, as does our protagonist. In Tragedy however we need to delight at the failure and misfortune of the protagonist. Our long-term aesthetic desire for a well-rounded story has to overcome our short-term desire for the protagonist to succeed, something that’s quite strong in video games.

Experiencing Environments PDF Download

I’ve finally held the lecture mentioned in my last post. I was pretty happy with the results and since I wanted to share the slides with my readers I’ve just uploaded them to slideshare. You can download them from there or browse them here.

The slides are released for personal use only copyrighted under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. If you have questions, need further information or plan to use the presentation for anything other than personal use, please get in touch with me.

Experiencing Environments lecture

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been collecting material and planning my upcoming lecture at the International Film School in Cologne.

Today I’m finally sitting down to really flesh it out and as a little teaser I’ve uploaded the opening image and an introductory slide. As you can see there the lecture is called Experiencing Environments.

It is about level design focuses on the topics of environmental storytelling and player navigation. The latter will mostly be information from my No More Wrong Turns article but the former is mostly new material compiled for this lecture.

Of course, once everything is done, the lecture is held and any possible feedback is incorporated I will upload it here to share with the greater gaming community.

In the meantime enjoy the previews and if you do have any additional material or interesting links on the topic, feel free to send them my way – there’s always room for more!