Whenever you attend any conference this year the same buzz words seem to pop up: DLC, Freemium, Next-gen, and fatigue. All central themes that highlighted this year’s NY Games Conference which primarily focused on the business side of game development. It’s a side that most developers, including myself, often overlook. It’s one thing to create a game, it’s a whole other thing to try to make money from it.
So what exactly were the key takeaways from the NY Games Conference?
EA had to go through a digital transition since they originally were in the packaged goods business, extremely dependent on licenses. But interestingly, they saw that they had to pivot to what gamers are doing and rethink what they were doing. EA is now in a search to create a one to one relationship with the customer and has invested in mobile technology. EA is transitioning to ensure that your gaming is truly everywhere you are. Digital is the future while Freemium is the fastest growing business model that is trickling into the US through Facebook and phones while Premium is solid experience on PCs and Consoles.
DLC ?= Big Money
Given the definite growth in DLC with the latest Madden release already seeing rapid growth in online engagement and Battlefield Premium already providing huge returns. It’s clear, from a business prospective, that DLC only aids the growth of the consoles. But this can’t benefit everyone. While it’s clear that DLC works in the console world, it’s ultimately important to figure out the trends of your particular ecosystem. EA positioned itself as both a content and platform company, therefore allowing them to deliver content and communicate directly with the customer. Eventually, they were able to grow and pivot while covering all the bases. Similarly, Origin was a name that they own and after the service was created, everyone wonders how it does against Steam. EA considers it still early to tell but will need to continue to listen to the audience to figure out the direction it’s Origin service is headed.
The main theme here is to build a great game then decide on the business model. Aim towards the widest possible audience, then decide whether you should implement free to play or micro transitions. In the end, how you interact with the customer on the commerce side is what is different. It’s totally ok to experiment because ultimately how you deliver content and deliver it to the customer into the experience is what matters. Selling subscriptions through the iOS is simple. It’s integrated into the phone experience. On the other hand, Freemium games out monetize subscriptions on a monthly basis. Casual game subscriptions do not really work much. Gamers like the option to leave.
Creating Original IPs
In the ’00s, EA was focused on licensing but in the end they flipped the studio structure to be decentralized. Tight creative teams that don’t get direction from the top. Teams that are separated from the company culture will drive innovation, drive the IP, and eventually create new IPs for the next gen. For example, offering a title as direct to download to test the IP there to see if it has potential to grow as it’s own major theatrical title. What EA has learned is that leaving the teams to create on their own has truly allowed the team’s creativity to blossom without the meddling of the business.
With over one billion gamers, tons of hardware innovation, new avenues of purchasing content, a growing smart phone and tablet movement, they have an on-going thread: great content for every device, available anywhere. It has been a thread that we have heard time and time again. Playstation is making it easy for anyone to self publish through them and therefore allowing them to reach their vast customer base. With a straight forward process, any developers that take advantage of the pub fund will be able to have a direct conversation with the gamers. Developers submit their concepts to Sony and if approved, the checks go straight to the developer.
The overall awareness of cloud gaming is really low. Interestingly enough, once people were informed about what cloud gaming was their interest grew. As long as we are interested in talking about the tech then we aren’t ready to grow. We just need to want it not care about how it works. Simply provide an easy UI to get anything and everything you want without knowing how it actually does it. But the bleek reality is that we have an issue in energy efficiency. At some point we will have to choose what we want more: light versus data, the current infrastructure simply can’t handle both.
Polish of games is getting better but the mobile market is vast. Eventually, mobile devices will be viewed more like a peripheral. You can control your gaming with that device and send your data everywhere. Never forgetting that the core game mechanic has to be a quick loop and if it’s built for mobile, the audio and the visuals are important. People are playing on the go. Hit the users where they are and always wonder if it would it work on a larger screen. Different gaming experiences for different moments.
Monetization and ads are becoming more and more important in the mobile space. Depending on the style of the game, it may make more sense to show in-game ads, or even create a positive brand experience through gifting. Even having players showing their progress to their friends in exchange for in-game currency or baiting them to download your newest game and get some in-game goods may work depending on your ecosystem. Some players can’t stand banner ads and are willing to upgrade to get rid of them then you will need figure out a better way to monetize without the aid of the banner ads.
Looking back, these are all interesting notes that most players and developers don’t notice. We’re usually a demanding bunch that only care about the end result. Many thanks to all the speakers, it was a truly unique experience that I don’t think I had the opportunity to be a part of in NYC. I’m usually in the tech scene for Web Development and it was interesting to see that some of the main concerns, like tablets and the cloud, were prevailing themes of the NY Games Conference. It’s something that’s on everyone’s radar and we’re all trying to work as a community to figure out a solution.
And finally, if you didn’t read through all that above and just scrolled down to the YouTube link below, you’ll start playing through all the videos recorded during the conference by Digital Media Wire.