Archive for the ‘ Game Advertising ’ Category

SponsoredTweets Scam

SponsoredTweets offers a unique service summed up as this: Khloe Kardashian tweets about you for $13,000.

Of course, there are other options, like CPC advertising where people would volunteer to tweet your message and you pay them per click.

The bad news? Clicks are mostly bogus.

The horrible news: SponsoredTweets will scam you, siphoning funds from your account.

sponsoredtweets-scam

Kickstarter, gold, paper money

Tobold has a few posts on the subject of game funding via crowdsourcing, in other words, Kickstarter projects.

His main argument is that waiting for a game to be sold on Steam for 50% off offers a lot better value than supporting a project on Kickstarter. It’s true that you can get Endless Space for just 10 euro on Steam. You can usually get an AAA games for as little as 30 or 20 euro (recently released and with 80+ on Metacritic).

With Kickstarter you might succumb to the temptation to get some of the exclusive packages, say $5000 for a star system named after you. What’s worse is that you never know if the game will come out, and if it’s going to be any good.

My counter point is simple: crowdsourcing allows for a better alignment of the interests of a game development company and its future customers.

Right now, a corporate executive needs to greenlight a game project in order for it to get funding. What projects get greenlighted? Usually, the safest bets – the latest installment of a franchise, be it Assassin’s Creed 3 or FIFA 2013. Taking huge risks as professional manager is usually not the optimal path for career advancement.

Kickstarter allows game developers to appeal directly to their customers, bypassing corporate decision-making. Is it better? Well, it’s an alternative, and having alternatives is important.

Which leads us to the analogy with paper money. Even as recently as 60 years ago, paper money was a kind of “promisory note”. The bank that issued them promised to give you a certain amount of precious metal in exchange for your paper money. You had to trust the bank that issued them and banks were hard at work to persuade us their vaults are filled with precious metals.

Buying a game from Steam is like taking your gold nugget to the market and exchanging it for a horse. It’s one piece of value for another, ideally, identical piece.

Supporting Kickstarter games is more like taking a promisory note for your gold. You are hoping the game company has gold in its vault and often, they do! It also allows you to carry a lot more value as mentioned above – you get $5000 worth of game, instead of the universal $50.

So what could be done to address the main objection when it comes to Kickstarter projects, i.e. accountability?

Using the analogy, the result would be to have an exchange rate. But we could do better! Why not start a secondary market.

I’m selling my right to name a star system for $3000, even though I bought it for 5000 a week ago. Why? Maybe I don’t believe in the company or maybe my wife saw my credit card statement. Either way, my loss is your gain. It’s also a way to see which projects are going well and which projects are hopeless.

I know I’d be shopping for a deal on those Bones miniatures that sold out before I could get one of the bigger packages!

SWTOR free, WoW loses a million

If you follow the news, you already know that SWTOR will become free-to-play in a month and that WoW has lost another million subscribers (down to 9 million globally).

The funny bit comes from Michael Pachter, a consultant and game industry pundit, who projects some amazing stats for this brave new world for no-subscriptions.

Ultimately, Pachter believes that Star Wars now has the potential to “attract at least 10 million MAUs indefinitely, with upside to perhaps 50 million.” He added, “Thus, we believe that contribution from the model shift could be significant for years to come.”

Yes, just imagine 10 million Jedi fighting against 40 million Sith. The force [of imagination] is strong with this one.

Twitter advertising

Seth Godin has an excellent post about how Twitter can align better with the interests of its users. In short, this basically means turning it into a paid service like HBO and rejecting advertisers:

If [Twitter] relentlessly sell the attention of their users, they will have a misalignment as they maximize profit. The advertisers will want ever more attention, and the users will want to avoid those interruptions the advertisers are paying for. Tension will keep rising as users feel trapped by a medium with few substitutes that begins to charge an ever higher tax in the form of attention wasted.

I think that actually, Twitter don’t have much of a choice. Facebook gets away with the most terrible ROI in the industry by putting ads that no one pays much attention to.

However, I have tested both Facebook advertising and Twitter advertising (via SponsoredTweets). Facebook cannot drive much traffic to your site but at least it gets your page LIKED on a regular basis. Some users will check your site eventually, even if you have to pay for a sponsored story.

The same amount of money spent on SponsoredTweets resulted in a quite a few clicks (as advertisers are paid by the click) but the percent of people who actually signed up for Riftforge was an abysmal 0.2. Yes, 2 in a thousand visitors. Compared to AdWords, which gets 20% conversion, this is 100 times worse.

I’ve seen some anedoctal evidence from book authors appearing on TV saying they got their celeb friends to post a link to the book (Amazon). Celebs with 1,000,000+ followers posted the link and all this noise resulted in a single purchase. Probably the celeb friend buying it via their own link!

So Twitter better offer a premium service to users because advertisers will get burned in no time. Of course, this is no secret in Twitter HQ, which explains why they haven’t rolled out mass ads yet.

P.S. If we view Zynga as a media-entertainment company (which in a sense it is), Seth might find it the perfect example of misaligning the interests of company and users in an attempt to maximize profits. If HBO was following Zynga’s example, it will go free to watch, giving you the first X minutes of any show for free and the longer you watch it (or the more episodes you’ve seen), the higher the price for the last X minutes of the show. Prices of $50 for the last 5 minutes will be frowned upon by the general public but some “whales” will actually pay them!

Zynga’s fall from grace

Now, Zynga’s stock is not the only taking a nose dive following disappointing Q2 results (Apple disappointed analysts too, failing to impress for the first time since 2003).

However, there’s a notable difference – Apple saw sluggish sales of iPhones (probably in anticipation of iPhone 5) that were not offset by more iPads, iMacs, etc. Zynga, on the other hand, has experienced no growth (apart form its acquisition of OMGPop) and although revenues grew a notch, expenses grew faster:

Faced with a dismal quarter, Zynga lowered its outlook for the year on Wednesday, citing game delays, reduced expectations for “Draw Something” and what it called a “more challenging environment on the Facebook Web platform.”

Comments made by Zynga founders (this time it’s Eric Schiermeyer, not Marc Pincus) are not mitigating the crisis at hand. On the contrary, they are further alienating whoever has any good will left. Eric Schiermeyer publicly acknowledged Zynga games are little more than a Skinner box, you know the one where mice press a lever to get random rewards.

Of course, games are not that great of a Skinner box, compared to say real-money gambling. So guess where Zynga is headed next? That’s right (quote courtesy of VB):

Mark Pincus, chief executive of Zynga, said in a conference call with analysts today that the company will launch its first real-money online gambling poker game in the first half of 2013. The game will likely be launched outside the U.S., since real-money online gambling is still illegal in the vast majority of states.

Always Hardcore

Experimenting with game apps at Apple’s appstore, I’m even more convinced that indie developers are left with an “interesting” conundrum: with the low price point of the appstore you need a pretty big market to recoup your costs; at the same time, the casual game market is so saturated that you are forced to differentiate your product by addressing a genre audience.

So the question for indie developers is: Do I go after casual players (like Rovio) or do I focus on hardcore players?

In the appstore, Rovio is equivalent to the sound of the jackpot being hit that is heard all over the casino. It reinforces a compulsive behavior that benefits the casino. Apple are getting tons of apps for no development cost at all. If you make a Flash game for Kongregate or Miniclip in the good old days you could expect at least $5,000 plus a profit-sharing agreement. With Apple, you pay to get access to the appstore (was $99, now at $29) and you only get a few pennies from each purchase.

So the answer for indies could be found in the video below (or in the title above). Go hardcore and stay out of the appstore (unless you have a free app with a marketing angle). Finding a hardcore audience on a platform that you can support long term – be it the web or mobile – is the only answer for building a game company that survives it’s first release.

With Riftforge, we have targeted hardcore fans of fantasy RPG tactics. It’s developed with HTML5, so it’s compatible with all Apple devices (you should check it out on the new, retina-quality iPad!) but you don’t need to go through the appstore. Just fire up Safari.

Famous last words

Everyone’s familiar with the famous last words list – you know, the RPG one. Here’s one:

I’ll take off my armor so I’m silent and slip past the dragon.

In a recent discussion about whether Warhammer Online is a failure or not, someone brought up a Marc Jacobs interview. One of his quotes has become synonimous with WAR’s failure to keep the 1M subscribers it got after launch:

“The corollary to that is if you’ve seen a game consolidate servers, you know it’s in deep, deep trouble — that’s not a healthy sign for an MMO,” he said, citing Sony’s January-released “Pirates of the Burning Sea” as a recent example. “It will be the same for ‘Warhammer.’ Look at us six months out. Look at us six weeks out. If we’re not adding servers, we’re not doing well.”

By his very own definition, WAR failed spectacularly but was there any other way? For all practical purposes, Blizzard has come up with the FORD MODEL T of MMOs. They will milk it for decade (at least) and hope that their next model (TITAN) will capture WoW’s market share.

However, there are other factors making it even harder to beat a blockbuster MMO. For one, it’s the networking effects – chances are your friends play WoW rather than ANY other MMO. Even more important however is the fact that most of WoW’s players are first-time MMO players. They are happy with Blizzard and have little incentive to change the supplier of their MMO.

Even though there’s many WoW clones that hope to capitalize on these first-time MMO players, the only ones that are doing OK are free-to-play ones that solve the issue of the subscription fee. To use another analogy, the only way to beat Windows is through a free (or dirt cheap) *nix OS, like Mac OS or the many Linux distros.