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[Column] General: Game Vision and Paying for It

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,585MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Today's MMOs seem to fall into one of two categories: Games seeking a long-term audience that require long-term commitment on the part of developers and games seeking to entertain millions for short periods of time that require short bursts of development. In today's Devil's Advocate, we look at the way games seem to be getting developed these days. Read on and then leave your thoughts in the comments.

The demographic among gamers who play online has shifted. Instead of a few thousand people playing Everquest, you now have a couple of million people spread across a ton of online games.  This means that the original targets that existed to maintain a game’s “safe” status have shifted, as new games get a burst of players following launch, and is then followed by a decline of players over time due to a variety of other factors, such as boredom with a game or more games popping up, until a game settles into its realistic set of general numbers of people playing and paying subscriptions. 

Read more of Victor Barreiro Jr.'s The Devil's Advocate: Game Vision and Paying for It.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
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Comments

  • AlBQuirkyAlBQuirky Sioux City, IAPosts: 3,828Member

    It is a good thing if that is what a player likes in games, ie: constant variety. It is not so good if a player seeks one good MMORPG that they may play long term.

    I agree with jbombard's take:
    "I think the question is making games fun for short bursts only a good design match for F2P? I honestly don't see how it could be. I am not going to put money in a game that I don't put a lot of time into. If I was a F2P game designer I would be aiming more for maintaining long term adoptees than short burst game players. If they want people to spend money in their games it seems like making quality games with stories and/or action that really suck you into their world and keep you there would be the way to go." - jbombard

    The scenario you presented is not helping any one specific game. Your budget that you set aside each month (which is a GREAT way to play games) does not support any one game, but rather many games, depending on your mood or interest.

    Will you spend money on games that you will only play for a bit and maybe come back to when new content gets released? Or will you spend money on games that you feel you will be playing for quite some time?

    I've had some fun with a few F2P titles, but did not spend anything because I knew I would be done with them shortly (a matter of weeks). That is a waste of my money. If I found a F2P game that kept my interest for any significant length of time (months), I would gladly spend money there. Whatever I buy, then, will last a little while.

    So, should a game develop itself for long term player retention? I think so. If not, they lose that monthly player money to other games, not their own. You may be spending money each month, but not to any one single game. Game profits do not go into a global pool to be divided up amongst all the games. They go to those games making the money.

    Of course, I can really wrack my brain and think about the turnover cycle and guesstimate about how many players may play and pay each month, but that hurts too much :)

    - Al

    Personally the only modern MMORPG trend that annoys me is the idea that MMOs need to be designed in a way to attract people who don't actually like MMOs. Which to me makes about as much sense as someone trying to figure out a way to get vegetarians to eat at their steakhouse.
    - FARGIN_WAR

  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member


    Originally posted by AlBQuirky
    It is a good thing if that is what a player likes in games, ie: constant variety. It is not so good if a player seeks one good MMORPG that they may play long term.I agree with jbombard's take:
    "I think the question is making games fun for short bursts only a good design match for F2P? I honestly don't see how it could be. I am not going to put money in a game that I don't put a lot of time into. If I was a F2P game designer I would be aiming more for maintaining long term adoptees than short burst game players. If they want people to spend money in their games it seems like making quality games with stories and/or action that really suck you into their world and keep you there would be the way to go." - jbombardThe scenario you presented is not helping any one specific game. Your budget that you set aside each month (which is a GREAT way to play games) does not support any one game, but rather many games, depending on your mood or interest. Will you spend money on games that you will only play for a bit and maybe come back to when new content gets released? Or will you spend money on games that you feel you will be playing for quite some time?I've had some fun with a few F2P titles, but did not spend anything because I knew I would be done with them shortly (a matter of weeks). That is a waste of my money. If I found a F2P game that kept my interest for any significant length of time (months), I would gladly spend money there. Whatever I buy, then, will last a little while.So, should a game develop itself for long term player retention? I think so. If not, they lose that monthly player money to other games, not their own. You may be spending money each month, but not to any one single game. Game profits do not go into a global pool to be divided up amongst all the games. They go to those games making the money.Of course, I can really wrack my brain and think about the turnover cycle and guesstimate about how many players may play and pay each month, but that hurts too much :)


    I would bet the people who are going to spend money on a F2P title are the people who are going to do it pretty quickly. If someone hasn't spent money in a F2P game after a few weeks, they aren't going to.

    I mean, for every P2P MMO that releases, players don't wait to see if a game is going to hold their interest for months before spending the money on the game. They spend the money right away. I would expect that same general behavior to hold true regardless of the type of game someone is playing.

    This is all just speculation on my part, though I did stay at a Holiday Inn once.

    I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

  • AlBQuirkyAlBQuirky Sioux City, IAPosts: 3,828Member


    Originally posted by lizardbones

    Originally posted by AlBQuirky
    It is a good thing if that is what a player likes in games, ie: constant variety. It is not so good if a player seeks one good MMORPG that they may play long term.I agree with jbombard's take:
    "I think the question is making games fun for short bursts only a good design match for F2P? I honestly don't see how it could be. I am not going to put money in a game that I don't put a lot of time into. If I was a F2P game designer I would be aiming more for maintaining long term adoptees than short burst game players. If they want people to spend money in their games it seems like making quality games with stories and/or action that really suck you into their world and keep you there would be the way to go." - jbombardThe scenario you presented is not helping any one specific game. Your budget that you set aside each month (which is a GREAT way to play games) does not support any one game, but rather many games, depending on your mood or interest. Will you spend money on games that you will only play for a bit and maybe come back to when new content gets released? Or will you spend money on games that you feel you will be playing for quite some time?I've had some fun with a few F2P titles, but did not spend anything because I knew I would be done with them shortly (a matter of weeks). That is a waste of my money. If I found a F2P game that kept my interest for any significant length of time (months), I would gladly spend money there. Whatever I buy, then, will last a little while.So, should a game develop itself for long term player retention? I think so. If not, they lose that monthly player money to other games, not their own. You may be spending money each month, but not to any one single game. Game profits do not go into a global pool to be divided up amongst all the games. They go to those games making the money.Of course, I can really wrack my brain and think about the turnover cycle and guesstimate about how many players may play and pay each month, but that hurts too much :)

    I would bet the people who are going to spend money on a F2P title are the people who are going to do it pretty quickly. If someone hasn't spent money in a F2P game after a few weeks, they aren't going to.

    I mean, for every P2P MMO that releases, players don't wait to see if a game is going to hold their interest for months before spending the money on the game. They spend the money right away. I would expect that same general behavior to hold true regardless of the type of game someone is playing.

    This is all just speculation on my part, though I did stay at a Holiday Inn once.

    That's a very good point, and I agree.

    - Al

    Personally the only modern MMORPG trend that annoys me is the idea that MMOs need to be designed in a way to attract people who don't actually like MMOs. Which to me makes about as much sense as someone trying to figure out a way to get vegetarians to eat at their steakhouse.
    - FARGIN_WAR

  • MadnessRealmMadnessRealm Montreal, QCPosts: 2,716Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by lizardbones

     


    Originally posted by AlBQuirky
    ...


    I would bet the people who are going to spend money on a F2P title are the people who are going to do it pretty quickly. If someone hasn't spent money in a F2P game after a few weeks, they aren't going to.

    I mean, for every P2P MMO that releases, players don't wait to see if a game is going to hold their interest for months before spending the money on the game. They spend the money right away. I would expect that same general behavior to hold true regardless of the type of game someone is playing.

    This is all just speculation on my part, though I did stay at a Holiday Inn once.

     

    Well that's the thing with P2P MMOs, and not just MMOs but any games you can buy (single players, consoles, etc), you generally won't find out if you like the game or not before buying the game. This is sort of the "accepted reality" of the gaming industry. F2P offers an alternative to let the players play as much as they want without investing.

    I can certainly see F2P players spending money very early on in the cash shop, that would not be unusual, but I'd argue that a fair portion of F2P players who spend money only do so after they've enjoyed the game for an amount of time that they feel spending money is "worth it".

    Personally, I've only spent money on 2 F2P MMOs after playing for an extended time. One of which I've been playing for 4 years, and still play on and off today. That number might increase if I stick with RIFT though, it's a decent game. 

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    Your daily dose of common sense since 2009!

  • GrumpyMel2GrumpyMel2 Catskills, NYPosts: 1,832Member

    Victor,

    One important factor to consider for service oriented products (which is essentialy what MMO's are) as well as real goods (e.g. laundry detergent) is the concept of "brand loyalty". This takes into consideration a facet of human nature that we are essentialy creatures of habit and will tend to continue using something familiar to us over something new as long as we are relatively satisfied with that familiar things performance.

    In real goods this is well recognized by the axiom that it costs 10 times more to attract a new customer then it does to retain an existing one. Essentialy you need minimal spend in advertising and marketing for existing customers and they are also far less likely to require support or assistance with the product as they are already quite familiar with it's use. In fact existing customers can augment ones own advertising/marketing as they evanglize for it's use (if they really like it) among thier own circle of social contacts. This paradigm extends to service oriented products as well.

    Where this falls down a bit is with mmo's, games and entertainment products in general as it takes significant talent and ingenuity to create products that provide sustained entertainment over the long term, particularly ones that don't require a large amount of input from the developer wheras anyone can go out and hire an advertising firm to hype up some new product. That said it is not impossible to build products of that nature. Chess certainly has been able to sustain itself as an entertainment product for example.

    I therefore think there is plenty of room for long-term sustained and sustainable MMO's (e.g. the EvE model) on the market but it does only lend itself well to certain types of MMO's (ones where alot of the content/entertainment value comes from the players not the Developers) and highly talented Development teams.

    One other consideration is that while most of those on this (and similar sites) may live and breath games and therefore have both awareness and room in thier lives for multiple games to play....that isn't really representitive of the wider gaming audience as a whole. Many of them won't have awareness of new games coming out nor will they have time in thier lives to devote to multiple MMO's so any game that is looking to depend on the "burst" model is going to have to factor in spending a large portion of it's budget on advertising/marketing to reach these folks. If it doesn't have that kind of budget, it probably isn't going to be well suited for that model.

    Also the ability to play multiple games when they want probably isn't that big of an advantage for those sorts of (casual) games because they simply don't have time in thier lives to play more then one anyway and it may take them 5 years to churn through the same amount of content that a hardcore gamer does in 3 months.

    P.S. I always though an interesting divergence from the current models would be to go back to something far older and do Pay for Play-Time....this avoids some of the negatives associated with the F2P/cash  shop model.....but still doesn't leave people with the perception that they are paying for something they aren't using the way subscription does....as long as placed at a reasonable rate and capped I think it could work.....say something like $.10 per hour with a cap of $15....so you don't play a game in a month it costs you nothing....you play only 10 hours a month it costs you only  $1....you pay over 150 hrs a month you don't pay anything over the typical $15 sub fee.

  • steamtanksteamtank Rochester, NYPosts: 385Member

    I detest the current revenue market.

    They blow huge budgets on marketing to make a crap game look good enough to drop a dime in/on instead of just making a quality game and letting it grow. (WoW vanilla was quality for its time and grew word of mouth)

    now even in the sanctity of my sub fee i see cash shops......... effing cash shops.  sure its only cosmetic, but unless i can have a way to earn it in game I wont buy it, and then my collection of stuff is incomplete.. and that makes me sad.

     

    make me a good game, ill buy the box and pay a sub fee to fund updates and new content.

    i dont know why that is so much to ask.

  • SovrathSovrath Boston Area, MAPosts: 18,453Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by GrumpyMel2

    Victor,

    One other consideration is that while most of those on this (and similar sites) may live and breath games and therefore have both awareness and room in thier lives for multiple games to play....that isn't really representitive of the wider gaming audience as a whole. Many of them won't have awareness of new games coming out nor will they have time in thier lives to devote to multiple MMO's so any game that is looking to depend on the "burst" model is going to have to factor in spending a large portion of it's budget on advertising/marketing to reach these folks. If it doesn't have that kind of budget, it probably isn't going to be well suited for that model.

    There is something to be said  about this.

    When I was at PAX and speaking/meeting many people interested in TESO, I discovered that most of them knew little to nothing about mmo's. What they knew? WoW, GW2 and TESO.

    With some variance here and there.

    for me it's a culture shock to go from this site to a gaming convention and realize that what I spend most of my time talking about "here" is not really that well known elsewhere.

  • BattlerockBattlerock Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,393Member
    Pretty much everything you say is done with evil intentions. Your avatar is very fitting and even these devil's advocate columns. This column is no exception. You know as well as I that cash shops are meant to take advantage of those that cant control the urge to feed thier desires much like a casino takes advantage of compulsive gamblers.
  • MondoA2JMondoA2J Henderson, NVPosts: 258Member
    Originally posted by Battlerock
    Pretty much everything you say is done with evil intentions. Your avatar is very fitting and even these devil's advocate columns. This column is no exception. You know as well as I that cash shops are meant to take advantage of those that cant control the urge to feed thier desires much like a casino takes advantage of compulsive gamblers.

    Actually ALL casinos and their employees are instructed to look for problem gambling. The same way a bartender can cut you off. Your dealer or hell even the waitress can report you and they will remove you from the casino if they sense a problem is forming.  They drill this into employees for 8 hours straight and many people have this misconception that Casinos want to take every penny you have.

    Also compulsive gambling is just like any other addiction just like drugs or alcohol, it needs to be diagnosed and treated and most casinos (atleast the ones in Las Vegas) treat this very seriously. After all just like MMORPGs don't want a bad reputation with their cash shops. Doesn't look good for casinos when customers are jumping off parking garages cause they gambled all their money

    Sorry had to comment on that and now as to the OP....Good article.

     

    MMORPG Gamers/Developers need a reality check!

  • BattlerockBattlerock Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,393Member
    Originally posted by MondoA2J

    Originally posted by Battlerock
    Pretty much everything you say is done with evil intentions. Your avatar is very fitting and even these devil's advocate columns. This column is no exception. You know as well as I that cash shops are meant to take advantage of those that cant control the urge to feed thier desires much like a casino takes advantage of compulsive gamblers.

    Actually ALL casinos and their employees are instructed to look for problem gambling. The same way a bartender can cut you off. Your dealer or hell even the waitress can report you and they will remove you from the casino if they sense a problem is forming.  They drill this into employees for 8 hours straight and many people have this misconception that Casinos want to take every penny you have.

    Also compulsive gambling is just like any other addiction just like drugs or alcohol, it needs to be diagnosed and treated and most casinos (atleast the ones in Las Vegas) treat this very seriously. After all just like MMORPGs don't want a bad reputation with their cash shops. Doesn't look good for casinos when customers are jumping off parking garages cause they gambled all their money

    Sorry had to comment on that and now as to the OP....Good article.

     

     

    You're right I shouldnt be comparing gaming cash shops to those innocent casinos. Shame on me.
  • blohm86blohm86 GöteborgPosts: 43Member

    Curse the F2P model and all that supports it. The gaming audience accepts these lame games and just fall onto their traps. innovation has been replaced by clones, caring communites has been replaced by animalistic pre-teen hordes of festering, cannibalising sociopaths. 

    The golden age of gaming has passed, now only darkness; F2Pmodel is coming.

  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 2,715Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by blohm86

    Curse the F2P model and all that supports it. The gaming audience accepts these lame games and just fall onto their traps. innovation has been replaced by clones, caring communites has been replaced by animalistic pre-teen hordes of festering, cannibalising sociopaths. 

    The golden age of gaming has passed, now only darkness; F2Pmodel is coming.

    ... just like Winter? lol

     

    Nicely written one, Victor. The key line is "The demographic among gamers who play online has shifted." I'm writing the same since years, alongside with the inevitable shift towards f2p.  And since - as you wrote - we cannot change the course, we can either curse like the quote above, or "I decided to change my approach towards games."

    For me it wasn't even a choice, my games changed to freemium one by one, so if I wanted to continue I had to accept their new model... which in time led to certain curiousity for f2p models in games, comparing them, find the weak spots and the key selling focus, etc. (I'm usually a theory-crafter player :) ). No, it doesn't need pen and paper as you wrote, and no headache either, at least not after almost 3 years :)  (or 4? DDO switched in 2009... wow, time is flying fast indeed)

     

    And for the starter one from jbombard “If I was a F2P game designer I would be aiming more for maintaining long term adoptees than short burst game players.” - I'm not quite sure. Everyone's working for money... It was the case even in the golden age, if you check the big names, mostly all of them started because of his/her first game brought in to him'/her 1-2k $'s from a magazine or a store chain.

    Without proper targeting you can't make a financially successful game, and you simply cannot ignore the needs of your market. Which is changed, and the long term adoptees as you said are the niche minority... It's much more logical to make a great first month with some long-term goals embedded, and only later fine-tune the latter in the light of the remaining playerbase's needs.

    I'm not saying that's a clear way to make great games, ofc... but I can understand why are they developing this way. I'm sure that everyone's wanna make great games (maybe except some eastern browser-based cashgrabs :) ), and it's possible to do that even within those boundaries as well. Possible, just much harder. Which doesn't give too much hope on the future games, sadly...

  • BurntvetBurntvet Baltimore, MDPosts: 2,938Member Uncommon
    Too bad there are not any new games that come out aiming for the "long-term player". As such, a lot of this article is moot, as if there are no such games (except for EvE and a few of the old games that are quite long in the tooth), current players have the choice between short term games, and more short term games. And that is not worth throwing down a full box price for (the TOR lesson). So, until some QUALITY games aimed at / designed for longer term play come out (and no, that MO/DF2/AoW garbage does not count) gamers are stuck with the same weak, shallow MMOs released, over and over.
  • jbombardjbombard SapporoPosts: 530Member Uncommon

    ooh, I'm famous. lol.

     

    I think our definition of burst gaming may differ.  Burst gaming is what I do on an xbox, or something like playing through Bioshock infinite.  If I am playing a game for more than 2 months, I don't really count that as burst gaming.

     

    I absolutely will not put any money into a game before I have played it and know that I enjoy it and am going to be playing it for a while.  I have spent money in every F2P I have played long term but never in the first few weeks.  If I have to pay to level at an appropriate rate, I'll just quit.  If I have to pay for basic convenience, I'm gone.  I will pay for character slots if I know I'm going to make more alts.  I will pay for playable content such as new zones and quest packs.  

     

    I think the games you see switching payment models are different in that they already have a considerable amount of content available to new F2P players.  The thing is most of the games that have made the switch haven't released any real content, 90% of the "new content" is just more stuff you can buy in the store.  The games as games are pretty much dead(if life is having a growing and expanding world with new content).  Also these games have already paid for their initial development, so they are basically paying for overhead.  A new from the ground up F2P has to pay for all that development, and if it is too shallow and short people aren't going to hang around or spend money and they aren't going to recomp that cash.

     

    I honestly can't think of a completely from scratch F2P game that I have enjoyed playing.

    IMHO if you want to make money in a F2P, you can't feel like you need to spend money.  If I feel like I need to spend, I'll just play something else.  They have to make you feel like you want to spend money.  Not because it is hard or inconvenient if you don't but because their is additional fun and value to be had if you do.  So many F2P games I have played fail here.

  • AlBQuirkyAlBQuirky Sioux City, IAPosts: 3,828Member


    Originally posted by jbombard
    IMHO if you want to make money in a F2P, you can't feel like you need to spend money.  If I feel like I need to spend, I'll just play something else.  They have to make you feel like you want to spend money.  Not because it is hard or inconvenient if you don't but because their is additional fun and value to be had if you do.  So many F2P games I have played fail here.
    Full agreement from me!

    - Al

    Personally the only modern MMORPG trend that annoys me is the idea that MMOs need to be designed in a way to attract people who don't actually like MMOs. Which to me makes about as much sense as someone trying to figure out a way to get vegetarians to eat at their steakhouse.
    - FARGIN_WAR

  • FoeHammerJTFoeHammerJT Broken Arrow, OKPosts: 148Member

    A few points regarding MMOs, Revenue and Marketing Strategies.

     

    I'll start with one obvious but often overlooked point: Make a good game and people will pay you to play it. Simple fact. Ask Blizzard, CCP, or Mojang.

     

    Next major point is a bit less clear. We have a much bigger industry in 2013, and gaming platforms are quickly evolving.

     

    As the gaming industry as a whole continues to grow, there will be bigger bucks outs there. Increases in demand, inevitably invite increased supply. Meaning: more people making more games. Sounds good so far?

     

    Here's the catch: Now these new guys (investors) are making games simply to make the maximum profit possible. If they manage to make a good game along the way; heck, they might even get a copy for their own kid in that case. These are now the same guys pulling millions out of grandmas' checkered purse every year with the flashy slot machines at Native American casinos all across America.

     

    And these guys have figured out their next big hit:

    F2P Games, on every electronic device you own.

     

    The core issue is consistently over-looked:  motive for creation means something. What's the difference between a painter like Buonarroti and the guy responsible for air brushing Lindsey Lohan for Maxim Magazine?

     

    Giving a crap. That's the difference.

     

    15 years ago when the gaming industry was much smaller, it was mostly populated with people who's prime interest focused on creative exploration of an interactive art form. A platform where story teller and reader could interact and both be a part of the new world.

     

    Then came the MMO, and now they were creating worlds for us to explore together. People from across the world were living out fantasies online and interacting in crazy (and sometimes very strange) new ways.

     

    This is the issue being over looked: the revenue model influences the design of the game.

     

    12 years ago the MMO gamer was asked to purchase the game itself and then help support its growth and infrastructure with a monthly fee. Obviously a profit was the point of the price of the game, but it wasn't the driving force in the game's creation for its designers.

     

    While the modern F2P trends with regard to revenue acquisition are both varied and complex they can generally be summed up as this:

    How can we get the most gamers to give up the most cash in the least amount of time without getting tagged as "Pay to Win" (i.e. before they move on to the game we have slated for release next quarter).

     

    Does that sound like a recipe design to build a creative atmosphere that will inspire the players and fill gamers with joy? Do you want the guy air brushing Lohan to paint on your ceiling?

     

    These new guys to the new gaming industry aren't stupid and they aren't financing these games to explore an art form or create a masterpiece. They are making COD 25: Rainbow Ops 7 and the next re-run of WoW complete with exclamation marks over NPC's head for one purpose: profit. (I'm a freedom loving objectivist, but I concede their are industries often not best served by the profit motive.) 

     

    You see, these guys understand what the US government learned more than a hundred years ago, people are more willing to part with cash in small chunks.  This is psychologically provable. That's how the plague of income tax withholding has choked people for a hundred years now.

     

    People will give up 5 bucks a day, everyday,  for a month just as long as you dangled the next carrot in the right light; but don't ask them for 60 to own it all, they are much to well informed for that old trick.

     

    Since this trend is irreversible we as gamers have little in the way of recourse, but might I suggest:

     

    Demand Quality. Be a more discerning crowd. These new designers depend on gamers to be fickle and spread their money around all the time in new games. They want you to plop down 100 bucks in six weeks and move on to Big Chicks with Big Swords 7 once you have all the flashy mounts and shiny swords they put in that cash shop.

     

    Demand a chance to play a game before throwing 200 bucks at a company to play their early alpha because some guy with a degree in reading your mind wrote a bunch of cool-sounding features on a blog and you asked him to take more money if only he'd let you play it 3 days sooner. Please don't confuse this with helping support a vision for a game you want to see made. People pay artists for a portrait before it complete and whether or not they like it. If you are supporting art, go for it.

     

    Demand a good experience, on everything you spend money.

     

    And finally, consider giving the indie guys a chance and be willing to sacrifice some pretty graphics and voice acting for interesting and thought provoking game play.

     

    I know, I wrote an article in answer to an article. How did this not go over a character limit? :). For those that read this, thanks, I hope at least something written resonated with you.

     

     

     

     
     
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