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.

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

Qualities of Virtual Goods PDF Download

I’ve gotten a lot of requests to release the slides from the Qualities of Virtual Goods presentation that Volker and I held at the Browsergames Forum 2010. So now that I’ve cleaned up the slides some I can make the available as a handy PDF download:

The article is released for personal use only and it’s copyrighted by Gameforge Productions GmbH. The exception are the images licensed under Creative Commons and clearly attributed. 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.

“Qualities of Virtual Goods” @bgf2010

Just got back from the Browsergames Forum 2010 and it seems like the presentation from Volker and me was a success:

We’ve had a packed room, even though it was too hard to find and not really in the schedule. The talk itself went really good, even though the handheld microphone was a bit of a bother. And then after the talk we got lot of positive feedback from the audience, through twitter and all through the rest of the forum. I’ve even had someone compliment me on the talk in the men’s room.

Right on.

As for the talk: I’ll be putting the slides up shortly. We’ll have to adjust a few things first. Watch this space for the download coming sometime in the next few days.

Browsergames Forum Talk (+ more GDC)

The Browsergames Forum in Frankfurt, Germany will be in a few weeks (on November 5th adn 6th to be precise) and I’ll be there with a short talk on the topic of monetization. I’ll be speaking with my MMO colleague Volker Boenigk and the title of our talk is “Qualities of Virtual Goods”. It’ll run for about 25 minutes and you will be able to catch us on Saturday, the 6th November at 10:30. I’ll use the opportunity to take one of the segments of my planned GDC 2011 talk and present it to an audience. To give you an idea of what we’ll be talking about, take a look at the abstract I’ve sent in to the conference organizers.

This talk will present the audience with a system of attributes that most Virtual Goods possess. The chosen properties are primarily responsible for the users’ perceived value of an item and can directly be affected by the game design and visuals. Knowing about this system and the attributes is the first step in systematically improving the value of your items and overall repository of premium services.

By examining how this system applies to our daily business at Gameforge we will give some practical advice on real world application. To top off the talk, we will be using the developed properties as a foundation for some tricks and methods to improve the monetization of your own free-to-play game.

And having mentioned the Game Developers Conference talk above here’s a small update on that topic: Unfortunately my submission for the Main Conference was declined (*sad face*). However I’ve resubmit my proposal for the Social & Online Games Summit and I’m hoping that there’ll be some room for me in there. (*happy face*) Wish me luck.

GDC Talk Submission

I’ve just submitted my proposal for a lecture at 2011’s GDC in San Francisco. In line with my day-to-day work of consulting external studios, the talk will focus on how to monetize free-to-play games.

It’s titled “Big Bucks for Bits and Bytes“. Let’s hope they’ll green light it. I’d be thrilled to share my experiences and ideas with other game designers.