Game Business

The Ouya $1Million Free The Games Fund

With the news yesterday on Ouya’s plans to match the successful Kickstarter campaigns of potentially Ouya exclusive games, a lot of people, both press and developers alike, have wondered if this is a good deal for indie developers. After thinking about it and seeing some numbers, I think it is.

The first thing going for Indie developers is that there are roughly 58,000 Kickstarter backed consoles in circulation right now. That is not including the thousands sold both by Ouya directly and participating retailers. That means there are 10s of thousands of console owners hungry for quality games to reach the console. While asking those console owners to wait a year or more for your game might seem daunting, it is nothing new. It happens all the time on Kickstarter. Continue Reading

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Paywalls are one of those things that have had us scratching our heads for a while. We had questioned the New York Times for its paywall and have shown that it might not be quite as successful as it claims. The main problem with such paywalls is that people don’t like to have their use of a product interrupted and further use blocked unless they pay. Such reactions are not limited to online news either. Other forms of media have much the same issue.

Over at Games Brief, a number of game developers were asked about paywalls in games and whether they should be used at all.

Harry Holmwood writes: “A colleague and I downloaded New Star Soccer at the airport and were playing it on a flight back from Germany last week, got hooked, but then hit the ‘hard payment’ point where we had to pay to continue the career. As we were on a plane at that point we couldn’t do the IAP and had to stop playing. Over the weekend I was tempted to pay and play but didn’t bother – the moment was lost, and I suspect now I won’t do it at all.”

Are hard paywalls a good idea, or should you always make it possible for players to keep playing?

While most developers were pretty varied in their opinions on this question, the general theme is that putting up walls in front of the consumer and preventing them from playing more is something that should be avoided. Take this comment from Philip Reisberger from Bigpoint.

In general, we’ve seen that it’s most important to have the users playing. Monetization is always to be regarded as consequence of gameplay.There are some really core-style titles where a hard paywall is possible, but I’d regard this rather as an exception than the norm.

While it is possible for such hard paywalls to make some money, it would be better to have as many people playing as possible. As soon as a person is no longer able to play, they are less likely to pay into the game. The question then goes to how do you get those people to pay if they can play for free? This is where opinions vary widely.

By allowing a consumer to continuously play, you can provide multiple opportunities for the consumer to evaluate how much they actually value the game they are playing. This is where proper selling of freemium options comes into play. If you have already sold the person on the game itself as something fun to play, then the next step is to sell them on the extras. This can be done by showing them how the core experience can be enhanced by such extras. As Tadhg Kelly of What Games Are explains.

In some cases (Temple Run, Bejewelled Blitz) it’s the same. They basically sell boosters and cheats to make better score runs, and since the core action of the game is so compelling it’s more likely over time that you will buy. Bringing a money-now question into that dynamic is inappropriate for the same reasons as the grind game.

The core issue to remember with paywalls is that it is very difficult to convince someone that paying for the ability to keep playing something they have been playing for free is a very tough sell if all they are getting is just more of the same experience. You need to sell them on an expanded experience, one that they wouldn’t otherwise get if they were playing for free. Of course, there is no one way to do it. There are a variety of market factors that can determine how and when you go about charging your customer.

Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO of nDreams, sums up this overall market reality.

I’d be very wary about ever saying that a particular model/route is ‘the correct one’ or that you should ‘never’ do something. Every game is different and every platform is different. In PlayStation Home, where we publish most of our games, it’s beginning to appear that ‘paymium’ may be the most commercial route given the size of the audience, their propensity to pay and the ease of generating awareness. But on iOS, being new to the platform, freemium is the only model that makes sense to us currently.

FYI, I don’t believe the gaming world will end up existing purely of games that you can play forever with continuous loops, return mechanics and daily bonuses. I believe there will always be games that have a beginning and an end and a strong linear storyline. For these kind of games, I’m not convinced that freemium is necessarily the correct approach.

This variation in the marketplace would then allow for many different ideas of monetization both good and bad, both successful and unsuccessful. However, putting barriers between the consumer and your goods makes it more difficult for that consumer to buy. Look back at the original question. Because of external circumstances at the time of hitting the paywall, that potential customer was not able to process a transaction. That delay then led him to rethink the idea of purchase and, as far as we know, he has not made a purchase, even though he enjoyed the part of the game he played. Why would you want to limit your potential to make money in such a way?

Originally Posted on Techdirt.

For all the rhetoric we hear that pirates are evil, thieving scum, they sure do have a massive positive impact on creators who choose to work with them. Take for instance the recent success held by Sosowski, the creator of recent indie hit McPixel. When Sosowski found his game on the Pirate Bay, he didn’t flip out, he didn’t curse, he embraced the pirates there and turned them into an opportunity for success.

If you dare risk a visit to the Pirate Bay and specifically the page for McPixel, you can see exactly what Sosowski did. He first thanked pirates for uploading the game and then gave away free gift codes.

Yay! My game is here! As weird as it sounds I am actually excited about this.

Anyways, I am not any average video game company, I am just one man making games for a living, so feel free to give me all your money if you like the game!

I get it that in some countries PayPal doesn’t work, or the price might seem really high for some of you, so here are some gift codes for you:
[gift codes snipped]

Most of all, enjoy the game, tell your friends about it, and throw some coins in my general direction if you like it!
All the best,
Sos

This little heart felt message not only led to a lot of people on the Pirate Bay to think more highly of the developer, but it also led the Pirate Bay to seek out Sosowski in order to promote his game on its Promo Bay service.

As a result of the developer’s unusual reaction, The Pirate Bay tracked down Sosowski and the two teamed up to promote the title through the torrent site’s Promo Bay initiative which it launched earlier this year.

The site has been offering a link over the weekend directing visitors to McPixel’s site whilst Sosowski has been running a pay-what-you-want offer on the game. Visitors have also been allowed to torrent the game for free over the weekend to try before they buy.

These two events working in conjunction with each other led to two great benefits for this one man development shop. The first is that the pay-what-you-want sale ended with a total of 3,043 copies sold at an average price of $2.56, with the top price paid being $140. The second benefit is that McPixel is one of the first ten games to be selected by Valve through its new Greenlight service. It is no secret that being accepted by Steam is often a major milestone in an indie developer’s career.

This is yet another story in how piracy can often act as free advertising for artists. This story follows a very similar trend to that of Dan Bull when he used the Pirate Bay to help his single make the charts. There have been a lot of other great stories about artists taking piracy in strides and still managing to be successful. The trick is to accept that pirates are not your enemies, but potential customers who need the right reasons to buy.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

The world of video game publishing is being turned upside down. Much like other entertainment industries, more and more game developers are learning that publishers offer little additional value for the costs they come bundled with. This realization is following other recent events in which game developers, who could not find a publisher interested in their game, ended up crowdfunding and raising the needed money that way. The primary crowdfunding tipping point for video games was Double Fine and its adventure game. That was followed by a number of other successes such as inXile’s Wasteland 2 project.

Now it seems that even with publisher interest, some developers are choosing to stay independent by crowdfunding their new games. Of this group is Revolution Software, which makes the popular adventure series Broken Sword. Charles Cecil told Edge that his company was approached by a publisher to strike a deal for the 5th game in the series, but Cecil had turned them down.

In an extensive interview, Cecil says the industry’s “biggest third party publisher” was interested in taking the new Broken Sword. Instead he decided to seek $400,000 in funding for his new point-and-click adventure through Kickstarter.

“The publisher approached us and asked ‘what do we need to do to publish Broken Sword?’ I was enormously flattered, but decided it was better if we self-published,” he tells us.

Cecil continues to explain that staying independent allows him and his company to control the development and schedule of the game, something lost when signing a publishing deal. He continued to explain that after a publisher takes its cut of the revenue, there is little, if anything, left for the developer.

Publishers take all the risk when they fund a project, but they also take what a developer would see as a disproportionate cut of the revenue. At Revolution we had not made royalties on a game for over a decade until digital distribution which pretty much saved us.

This is something we see regularly in just about every industry. The publisher, label or whatever used to hold all the cards and were able to pull off such deals. Very few of those deals have turned out to be all that profitable for the actual creator. Now, we continually highlight numerous cases of artists pushing back, even to the point of lawsuits. However, the most common method of pushing back is to go independent, much like Cecil here.

Taking a look at the Broken Sword Kickstarter page, it seems that this independent attitude is resonating with fans. This campaign was launched on August 23rd and as of this writing is nearly halfway to its $400,000 goal. Much like the other Kickstarters I mentioned above, this one looks as it will go well beyond that goal.

With all these independent successes happening throughout the games industries, the question must be asked, “Is there a place for publishers?” That is a question those organizations will have to ask within themselves. We have written before that in the future, those companies will have to move away from being gatekeepers and into being enablers. Those companies that refuse to adapt to that reality will find that they will have a tougher time of staying successful in the future. Until then, those enablers that make things happen, such as Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services, will continue to gain ground and enable successful careers for artists.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Kickstarter has become a powerful tool for artists and creators to take their future in their own hands and succeed or fail by their own merits. While a Kickstarter based business is not a guaranteed success, it is one of the many powerful tools for that purpose we highlight here on Techdirt. Much like any other business model, running a successful Kickstarter campaign takes a lot of work and a lot of speculation about what your potential fans and backers expect. With all this in mind, it is great when people, who attempt a Kickstarter, share their experiences, whether good or bad.

Over at Gamasutra, one such creator, Ryan Payton, shares his experience running the recently successful Kickstarter campaign for Republique. As Ryan explains this Kickstarter was not an easy success.

I was driving across Seattle’s 520 bridge on a beautiful, sunny afternoon on the third day of our Kickstarter campaign, dazed and confused, and momentarily considered hitting the red “abort mission” button on our whole Kickstarter. Fifty-five hours into our campaign and we had only gathered 11 percent of our funding goal.

It was this moment that he realized that he needed to figure out why it was not going as smoothly as he expected. While he lists a number of reasons for why the campaign was struggling and what he did to turn it around and eventually succeed, it was his first discussion point that took me by surprise. One of the reasons he felt his campaign was not succeeding was that many people thought the campaign was “too polished.”

A week into our campaign, we were surprised to see dozens of comments online from people saying: “Look at that game, look at how expensive their video looks… They don’t need our money.” Meanwhile, our company bank account was getting dangerously low.

As I sought out reasons as to why our campaign wasn’t resonating, I realized that people were put off by how polished everything looked. This was disappointing because, yes, in fact, we worked extremely hard to make everything as professional as possible.

This has been one critique of Kickstarter we have seen come up from time to time. If potential backers feel that the person asking for money doesn’t really need it, they will complain and withhold their money. This is an unfortunate attitude for people to take because it really doesn’t matter who you are and if you “need the money.” What matters is that you are using the campaign to connect with fans and get the money needed to succeed where you need to.

Initially, I was frustrated at the “too polished” complaints, especially when I remembered the late nights and weekends Craig Cerhit put into our video content. I often thought about the rich guys on Kickstarter intentionally making rough-looking webcam videos to appeal to peoples’ charitable instincts and subsequently pull in six or seven figures in pledges.

Based on what I have read about running a successful campaign, having a quality campaign video is one of the primary ways to reach your goal. Even Kickstarter tells people that having a good video is helpfulin making a project successful. If your video is utter crap, people will lose interest. But is there really such a thing as having a too polished video turn off fans? Honestly, there is no reason why it should be an issue. Having a high quality video shows off the love you have for your project. That is the important thing to convey to the public and especially to build a report with them. Something that Ryan learned as the clock was running down on the campaign as his team prepared both a new video and a Livestream event on the last day.

Instead of focusing the team on Kickstarter success or failure, we decided to host a Livestream party for the final three hours of the campaign and just have fun regardless if we hit our funding goal. Too distracted to work on the game, the team started prepping food and activities for a big online thank you party for the community. At the time, over 7,000 people had pledged a total of $355,000 towards our game. We wanted to thank them, even if we failed and didn’t receive the money.

What transpired what something I was dreading the entire month: dozens of articles with headlines like “République May Miss Kickstarter Goal.” While I was anxious about that negative press, it was calling renewed attention to our campaign, which we smartly prepared for: we uploaded an entirely new debut pitch video that reviewed all of the news from the past 30 days (PC & Mac announce, David Hayter & Jennifer Hale), showed new gameplay footage, and addressed all the feedback we got from the community. We slapped a “New Video!” sticker on the top of our page, welcomed all the new and returning visitors, and crossed our fingers that this time they would pledge.

What happened in that last day was an amazing turn around for Ryan and his team. They managed to complete the goal of $500,000 and then some. An excellent ending for what looks to be a great game.

So what exactly turned this campaign around? Ryan and his team did a whole lot of prep work prior to launching but all that prep work did little toward the final goal. What Ryan learned and highlighted in his other points was the importance of engagement with the community in order to connect.

The final three-hour Livestream was the best idea we ever had. We don’t know if the 4,500 views sparked increased pledges, and we didn’t care — it was all about connecting and celebrating with the thousands of dedicated backers and enjoying the victory together. By the time the clock struck zero, we were at $555,512 and hugging each other.

I don’t really know how many different ways we can say it. “If people like you and your work, they’ll pay.” CwF+RtB. Being Open, Human and Awesome. And many more iterations on the same theme. The fact remains, this concept is integral to success.