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Free to Play is not Free to Build (2012)
 

Free to Play is not Free to Build (2012)

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This short presentation was given at the Videogame Economics Forum in Angoulême, France, April 2012. As the game industry moves toward "free to play", it has major ramifications on the game's cost ...

This short presentation was given at the Videogame Economics Forum in Angoulême, France, April 2012. As the game industry moves toward "free to play", it has major ramifications on the game's cost and development strategy. How do we move toward a consistent server-based game experience?

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  • Defining our termsSocial - Facebook, monetize with in-app payments and adsMobile - iOS, monetize with in-app payments and ads. Sometimes pay to play.MMO - well, the unsuccessful ones in the US at leastFree to Play: Console? Console "core" games are not free to play, $60. Well, some experiments by MS and Sony on this.
  • We're going to talk quickly about core F2P and costs involved for these games, how they differ from traditional console titles. Some of this info will also be true for the other categories. Team Fortress 2 League of Legends World of TanksHawken is coming, others
  • Let’s calibrate against AAA core game staffingTraditional console game development costs Graph of Production, Design, Engineering, Art, Audio, QA Roughly 1/3 engineers, 1/3 artists, 1/3 other Initial small pre-production team Grows to maximum size for duration of production Tails off at end of project
  • If no initial tech, bigger bump of engineers at the beginning (building tools for art/design)
  • If DLC, small team for DLC post-release is ~ 1/3 of staff
  • Smaller game scope – reduced art and design requirementsRapid launch – move quickly to production with minimum viable productDLC plan is replaced with ongoing rapid iteration based on player analytics Infinity Blade example: small team but rolled entire group onto updates
  • Service layer - all that crazy stuff you have to build or license, then monitor ongoingly This can be a lot of information -> Scalable, virtualized hybrid cloud infrastructure (AmazonWS, Right Scale, Eucalyptus) E-Commerce system (virtual goods) Analytics Localization QA Installer/Patcher Matchmaking Customer support CRM/Account system Community management Billing
  • Core revenue curve is very spiky on day one with blips for DLCCore F2P revenue curve starts with zero but grows with IAP, requires constant marketing
  • Let's talk about increasing costs of F2P game developmentSocial games growing in cost (team size and project length) Compare Mafia Wars to Castleville to Margaritaville No tech updates here, this is leapfrogging due to demand
  • Mobile games growing in cost Compare Trism to Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds to Infinity Blade Device updates over time
  • MMO games changing in fidelity / cost as well What was initial Everquest or UO cost? Star Wars TOR estimated cost
  • This is a natural cycle.Let's look at console games. Console games used to be fairly inexpensive to produce. Each advance in technology increased development costs They have grown in cost over time, from cycle to cycle, and higher at the end of each cycle–PS1 generation: $2M - $6M (and visual)–PS2 generation: $5M - $12M (and visual)–PS3 generation: $10M - $25M (and visual) most of the games i worked on the past few years were $20-$35-PS4 - ? Purchase price of games isn't going up, and audience only increasing slightly, so With each new generation, must sell more copies per game in order to make a profit So there's pressure to keep cost of game development DOWN Also pressure to improve marketing for each game (fewer, larger risks)
  • What has the console game industry tried to do to reduce costs? Early on, Indy devs look for 1) distribution and later, as more developers came on the scene, 2) marketing Move toward working with publishers Middleware technology: Licensed external technology and servicesGamespy, Agora, etc - or internal cross-team Outsourcing art: Cheaper region can produce more content ($10K/MM in NA, 1/3 or so elsewhere, add oversight costs) Later on, as games became more expensive to produce, Indy developers collapsing due to risk level Publishers buying out devs in order to consolidate costs, get benefit of aggregation More shared internal technology and services
  • So we assume social, mobile, MMO, core F2P games facing similar cost pressures will follow sim trajectoryWe are starting to see a push toward working with publishers/distributors due to costsMiddleware: developers already use a lot of open source technologies which are freeSome licensed middleware now availableMany servicesOutsourcing art?? Indy devs, pub aggregation etc??What level of technology do they live at? Higher fidelity = higher costHow deep are they? Console game 10-12 hours typicallyHow much do they launch with?

Free to Play is not Free to Build (2012) Free to Play is not Free to Build (2012) Presentation Transcript

  • Mark DeLoura – Game Technology Consultant April 6, 2012 – Videogame Economics Forum, Angoulême, France
  • My background:Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • Social, mobile, MMO, Free-to-play consoleMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • 70.0 • Calibrate against AAA 60.0 • Roughly 1/3 engineering, 1/3 art, 1/3 50.0 other QA • Initial small pre- 40.0 Audio production team Production 30.0 Design • Grows to maximum size Engineering during production 20.0 Art • Tails off at end of project 10.0 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • 70.0 • Lack of initial tech 60.0 (internal engine or external middleware) 50.0 requires more QA engineering staff at 40.0 Audio beginning of project Production 30.0 Design Engineering 20.0 Art 10.0 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • 70.0 • For DLC, typically60.0 consider approximately 1/3 of maximum staff size 50.0 QA40.0 Audio Production 30.0 Design Engineering 20.0 Art 10.0 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  Smaller scope  Reduced art and design requirements  Rapid launch  Move quickly to production with minimally viable product  Ongoing iteration  DLC plan is replaced with ongoing live updatesMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  Vast amount of technology required  Scalable server infrastructure  E-Commerce system for virtual goods  Analytics  Launcher/Patcher  CRM, Account system  Community management  Customer serviceMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  Game framework  Adobe Flash: 58% social  Unity: 53% mobile  Social network  Facebook: 72% mobile  Service technology  Scalable server infrastructure ▪ Amazon Web Services: 55%  E-Commerce system for virtual goods ▪ Facebook, Apple for front-end ▪ Back-end?  Analytics ▪ Kontagent 25% social ▪ Flurry 29% mobileMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  Core games spike on day one  Core F2P games require care and feedingMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • Increasing fidelity, team size and project length… Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • Increasing fidelity, team size and project length – device tech improvingMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  • Increasing fidelity, team size and project length…Mark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  PlayStation generation: $2M - $6M  PlayStation 2 generation: $5M - $12M  PlayStation 3 generation: $10M - $25M  Pressure to reduce game development costMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  Aggregated distribution and marketing  Shared technologies  Outsourced art  Aggregated developmentMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  The rise of publishers/distributors  Use of open source and services  Other levers:  Technology level  Game depth  Minimum viable productMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  Cooperation: Rise of publishers/distributors who can provide services  For example, Kerosene Games  Reuse: Rise of middleware and re-use categories  Unity, Amazon Web Services, Raveld  Alternate funding: Funding for content, not platformMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  “Convergence”, to a server-based experience  Game ships as a universe, with each platform accessing it differently  Varying fidelity and gameplay  Each device is a portholeMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012
  •  Contact  Mark DeLoura  mdeloura@satori.org  @markdelouraMark DeLoura Videogame Economics Forum, April 2012