Saturday, March 26, 2011

Low Cost Airlines of Games - Part 2

...continuing from where we left off earlier this weekend. If you still haven't read Low Cost Airlines of Games - Part 1, might as well do it now.

All the games that use the 'free to play and then fortune to keep playing' model presently, are amongst the first to make such games. They have got millions of players thanks to the immense popularity of social networking sites and proliferation of iPhone, iPad devices. Publishers are getting away with absolutely substandard products because there was nothing like it in the market before this (And I hope this doesn't become a norm). And because these guys are making billions of dollars, quite a few publishers are jumping onto the bandwagon to reap the benefits.

But when there is more than one publisher in the foray, you no longer have the monopoly. And when someone doesn't have monopoly, their product needs to be much better or different from the competition. And people can easily figure out best amongst similar products. In short, the kitty splits.

With the attention span of present generation rivaling that of a gold fish, the Publishers don't know what game might work and what might not. Therefore to stay afloat, even the Dev/Publishers that have been renowned for unmatched quality have to cut the production costs so that a flop game won't result in a huge hit on their finances (amazing use of flop and hit in the same context). And therefore, they essentially try to get a game out within minimum possible time.

Typically a AAA console game usually takes around 1.5 to 3 years to make depending on whether it is a sequel/episodic or a 'from the scratch' game. The production costs of such games are huge. When these games pay, the payoff is huge; when they flop, entire studios close down.

A free to play game, of the current generation, usually takes around 5 months or less to make and new content gets released periodically. If it's a hit, the publisher keeps it going, if it's a flop, they kill the game.

Games that get made in 5 months and which need to appeal to millions of people (quite a hard task that) cannot be of the same quality as AAA products, in any respect (Most of FTP games are still Open Beta and buggy). Eventually, this idea of selling/playing quick frivolous games will become stale, even for the players. In short, the games will have to evolve. Evolution is always complex and complexity means more time to develop. The idea of making a game in 5 months will take a back seat and we will be back to square one of making a quality 'free to play' game. Longer production cycles, heavy costs, too many publishers

So all this is for what?
Look forward to the next installment for some hilarious examples of what might happen to current generation games if they are made free to play!


Jayanta said...

Can't wait for the next one

Purnima said...

oooh! Social games sure is an interesting topic! The "Freemium" model!

Reminds me of a person who commented on Ernest Adams' facebook post on the overdose of monetization topics in this year's GDC!

Quoting her here:

"If I ever hear the betrayal of the English language that is the word "freemium" again, I will not be responsible for my actions (and I'm not even at GDC)."


Abhishek Deshpande said...

I am quite skeptical about using the word 'Freemium' myself, cause there's nothing Premium about it except for Premium costs.

Arijit Goon said...

Great article....I was just discussing this topic with my colleagues this morning...and then read ur article...really got irritated after hearing these gaming panel discussions in Nasscom GDS & FICCI..they start and end with one word..."revenue" body talks about "quality" or production....farmville succeeded and all indian gaming heads become "innovative"...just as in past they got "innovative" with FPS and MMOGs!!

Dark Lord said...

Amen to the "quality" part. I really am a little scared about the future of the gaming industry. Will AAA titles survive...or will the temptation to make a quick buck (specially true in all Indian gaming companies)prove to be the universal death of the industry? Already most of the innovative and good titles are coming from either "Indie" sources or a handful of big production houses. As Einstein said in "Red Alert" - Only Time Will Tell!! :)

Abhishek Deshpande said...

@Dark Lord - Wait till tomorrow to understand the full gravity of the situation. It is as serious as it is hilarious.