Go Read This | How in-app purchase is not really destroying the games industry | Sealed Abstract

On the face of it this is just a piece about the gaming industry, though a fascinating one. In fact this article raises issues for all content industries from games, to books, to newspapers, magazines and music.

It covers the gamut, the explosion of content, the role of market makers (in this case Apple – though to a lesser mentioned extent, Google), the use of price as a lever and the challenges of making money in markets that have become so large, diverse and saturated.

I’m reminded of two realities most forcefully when reading it, firstly that while digital unleashes greater freedom to create and make content of all kinds available, thus empowering the creator relative to the middlemen and women of the previous era, it also (in its current guise by power of platform) shackles them to the power of another middle-person (for books, mostly Amazon) AND makes a sustainable career even less likely because of the huge increase of content such freedom unleashes. Secondly, I am reminded of just how little information is publicly available to those looking at the book trade. Consider the information in this article about the nature of games sales in the iOS store and ponder how different our conversations might be about ebooks if these facts were more openly shared (some notable exceptions on that front would be Smashwords who share quite a lot of data).

Getting people to play your game in a market of 150,000 alternatives requires a different kind of marketing. For example, if the user can choose to pay $0.99 for your app, or pay zero for another app that’s probably just as fun, they’ll pick the free one. The result follows: 90% of apps are free in 2013 when weighted by monthly average users. And when you look only at those apps that use an experiment/test/data-driven approach for their pricing, you see a strong upward trend in more free apps. So the pricing experiments that these developers are running (you know, actual flipping research, not just speculating baselessly in an HN comment) are telling them it’s better to go free.

via How in-app purchase is not really destroying the games industry | Sealed Abstract.

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 02/05/2009

Eoin Purcell

Some fascinating data about iPhone app downloads and how they flow.
Story on Techcrunch & Original Source

The Digital Market is worth £80million in the UK according to this piece in the Bookseller.

A pretty interesting build-your-own-textbook offering from Norton is the US. The story is here and the actual etextbook website here.

A really interesting piece by Tim O’Reilly on books and reinventing them for the web.

A great post by Michael Hyatt on building a platform for authors!

Enjoy the bank holiday if you have one!

Tad Williams, Online Gaming and the future

Eoin Purcell

Tad Williams’ Otherland is to become a MMORPG*
I read about it on Orbit’s excellent blog:

It sounds, from the interview in particular, as though Otherland the MMORPG will be a highly original take on the online roleplaying concept, one that puts the key element of interactive story-telling right at the heart of the gaming experience. Pre-order those virtual-reality goggles now…

And there is much much more on Tad’s blog:

Seriously, I’m really looking forward to this game, although it’s still probably a year and a half away, at least. (The release date is 2010.) It’s being made by RealU in Singapore, published by dtp entertainment, and it’s a major project. The entire Singapore studio is devoted solely to the game, and they’re approaching eighty employees. More importantly, though, they’re doing a beautiful, fascinating job, not just duplicating or doing a pastiche of the books, but trying to take what is original and interesting in the work and opening it out into an entirely new realm, the MMORPG. Into the virtual world, that is, and what could be more appropriate for OTHERLAND?

I like this
I like it a lot. What is more it makes sense. Where we once had games flowing from books, now we have online games developing. I can think of three worlds off hand that I’d be likely to spend serious time in were they to go virtual:

    Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld
    George RR Martin‘s Ice & Fire universe and
    Steven Erikson‘s Malazan Empire

The book I’m reading now offers some hope too, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind is really excellent and the world is very impressive.

Longer term, more strategic thoughts

Looking at this development a number of queries arise.

There is the cost issue. Based on just the evidence we have from Tad, The entire Singapore studio is devoted solely to the game, and they’re approaching eighty employees., this is going to cost a lot of money. Development costs are high for gaming, Halo 3 for instance cost around $30 million to develop and around the same to market!

No small scale publisher can do that (indeed even the big ones will be hard pressed). That means this is an area where at best publishers will licence further work rather than direct or engage in the action themselves.

Then there is first mover advantage problem. I’d suggest that if current online games can improve and deepen the experience over time then they have a fair chance of retaining players rather than losing them to new entrants. In fact there is a very good article in the New York Times about this point:

Warhammer is no “WOW killer,” which is what many gamers and industry executives seem to be waiting for. With its international player base and dedicated development team at Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft isn’t going anywhere.

But for a lot of online gamers, Warhammer is providing the most significant competition for their leisure hours in many years. It’s about time

New games face two hurdles, one in getting gamers to try them and two in getting them to stay with them once they have tried! neither is insurmountable but are no inconsequential, especially when the entrenched opposition is so good.

The question then becomes what is the potential size of the market, how many new games are likely to make it through development to the market and onto achieving viability? and that is essentially an issue of time and attention. Suppose I like the idea of five worlds to play in online, can I really spread my attention across them? No I can’t. I’m already reaching a point of distraction with social networks and online groups as it is, games would suck too much of my time.

Perhaps future generations will be comfortable spending many of their leisure hours playing online games, but I would suggest that the market is limited to a core of heavy players making the liklihood of many games reaching that sustainability /profit point low.

Where does that leave us?

All told this ads up to a realm that most publishers will avoid because of costs, inexperience in the market and a feeling that the rewards are just too risky. yet the potential benefits are huge and the authors will no doubt be aware of this.

I cannot help but feel that as an industry publishing is watching an opportunity slip by and in reality there is not much we can do to change that except licence others to exploit our content and that of our authors.

I need to think more about this but I’m nearly certain that for the industry, that is not good.

*What is a MMORPG
In case you are wondering a MMPORG is a: massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is a genre of computer role-playing games (CRPGs) in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world. The term MMORPG was coined by Richard Garriott, the creator of Ultima Online, the game credited with popularizing the genre in 1997 (for more read the rest of the wikipedia entry here).

Irish game publishers face challenges

Eoin Purcell

Games are not all child’s play
This is an interesting piece though I’d have liked a little more meat, why are really good in depth feature pieces so rare in Irish journalism (I’d love an Irish magazine that promoted long form journalism, 5-10,000 word pieces):

The barrier for entry to the lucrative multibillion dollar cross-platform gaming business may be too high for Irish firms and if the industry is to have any chance of future success clever niches in areas like casual gaming and other supporting fields must be identified.

Still the parallels between book and games publishing are interesting (as are the obvious differences). One of the things that is increasingly frustrating to me is the way Irish people and economic actors simply surrender space to foreign competition. 20 years ago people would have said that Disney’s animation business was protected by enormous barriers to entry and a remarkable catalogue of movies, hello Pixar.

Surrendering territory to rivals can be a wise decision, often it is the correct decision, but there seems to be a tendency in Irish creative industries to surrender space simply because rivals are better funded, longer established and hold greater market share. Are there no opportunities to take some of that share through innovation, smarter products or even, god forbid it, better ideas?

Lots to work on today,