Online, Mobile Studio Valuations May Have ‘Peaked’ Says Digi-Capital

Digi-Capital indicates that more mergers and acquisitions in the gaming space are coming, though high valuations for mobile and social companies may have peaked. Examples include EA’s $300 million purchase of Playfish and Disney’s acquisition of Playdom for roughly $700 million.

“The market is accelerating both in terms of investment and mergers and acquisitions,” said Digi-Capital managing director Tim Merel. “We don’t expect that trend to stop. In terms of valuations that’s a different question. Our broad view is that we think valuations will stay frothy for the next twelve months. Beyond that we’re not quite sure and that has nothing to do with the macro economic environment. It’s more to do with the headline-making deals that happened in the last few years. Some of those deals will pay off and some of them won’t.”

“Disney got completely beaten up the analysts and if you read between the lines of what they were saying it was ‘we don’t think you’re making enough profit from games, we think you over paid, why are you in games anyway ‘,” continued Merel. “We think a number of CEOs of public companies will get beaten up, it will hit the share price and they’ll stop being brave with deals and that will trickle down. So from a valuation perspective it’s probably not going to get stronger than it is right now.”


Facebook Apps Create 182,000 Jobs, Says Study

According to a study by the University of Maryland Business School, Facebook applications have created more than 182,000 jobs and contributed more than $12.19 billion in wages and benefits to the U.S. economy. The study was led by Il-Horn Hann, an associate professor of information systems, and was part of a partnership between Facebook and the University of Maryland.

“Our findings confirm that social media platforms have created a thriving new industry,” Hann said. “As Facebook and other platforms grow, we will continue to see job growth and the ripple effects of these advances in the U.S. economy.”

Research showed that Facebook apps has directly created 53,000 new jobs in the software companies that design the apps, and that the Facebook “app economy” has indirectly created at least an additional 129,000 jobs. Zynga, the largest social game maker, has over 2,000 employees.


10 Powerful And Affordable Ways To Market Your Game — Part 2

Today we’re continuing our special feature from TechSavvy’s Scott Steinberg on top ways to market your game. Be sure to read Part 1 for his first five tips if you haven’t done so already.

Build an Informative Website that Works – It seems like an obvious thing, but it’s surprising how many developers or publishers – small and large alike – don’t have a functional and informative website. Unfortunately, there’s no excuse for a poor showing in this day and age: Being visual creatures, buyers tend to make spot decisions at a glance, and the web hosting and domain industry is competitive, so deals on web space and domain names can be found easily enough. That said, your website should lay out all the basic facts about your game including, but not limited to, its name (of course), key features, how much it costs, where consumers can find it, basic gameplay concepts, story and characters if applicable, contact information, and other important details. Also vital to have are a wealth of supporting visual assets, a blog that is actually updated on a regular basis (blogging about the creative process and/or game tips are good topics) and a forum or community of some kind.

“When marketing your game, think about what it can offer users in terms of direct, tangible everyday benefits.”

Even if you’re not a web design guru, you can look up basic tips about how to put together a website that looks professional and balanced. And also keep in mind: Can the flash where possible. All the smoke and mirrors may seem pretty natty looking, but search engines reduce most sites to text and image tags – to improve SEO and online results, you’ll want to keep it clean and simple.

Provide Gameplay Videos and Trailers – As you may have noticed, given the complexity and audiovisual prowess of today’s video games, the medium’s tale is best told in the form of moving pictures. Ergo, whether you simply capture raw snippets of footage or create jaw-dropping animated bumpers, there’s no excuse for coming up short on b-roll or film footage – the easiest way to show at a glance exactly what type of game you’re offering, and why it’s worth picking up. Ideally, a number of gameplay videos should be used to show off as much of the game as possible in as short a timeframe as possible (people start to zone out after the two-minute mark). A quick, tasteful trailer can also let consumers know where to download the game, and for how much.

In any case, be sure to tag all assets with the game’s name, website and any key sales points you want to get across. Note that gameplay videos can be uploaded to YouTube, which will help ease your site’s bandwidth consumption: Users generally aren’t picky about the video source, or how fancy your dedicated player looks, as much as the actual content and title itself.

Speak Subtly, But Loud – Though it’s important to be naked about certain aspects of your game (how much, where to find it, release date, etc.), it also doesn’t hurt to employ a little creative storytelling by being a little mysterious about your game’s storyline, characters, and settings. Consider the buzz the first Dead Island trailer generated with its slow-motion “rewind” of a zombie battle that ended (began, rather) with the death and infection of a little girl. While the best marketing is sometimes the most direct and straightforward, it’s OK to veer off the beaten path from time to time, so long as you make active efforts to make messaging transparent, and tie it back to the overall story your brand is looking to tell.

If Your Game is Digital, Free Codes Can Speed Along Word of Mouth – Free game download codes passed around via Twitter, forums, and communities (with the moderators’ permission) are a good way to get your game in people’s hands and spread recommendations via word of mouth. Given that the cost to offer digital titles free is minimal, and benefits positive buzz can convey are potentially massive, sometimes, simple grassroots efforts such as seeding the Internet with freebies can be an effective way to raise awareness. Succeed or fail, there’s also another significant upside to keep in mind too: Amongst cost-conscious fans and critics alike, it’s also a handy way to instantly generate some goodwill.

Cut to the Chase “One of the most important things is that you sell [your game’s] benefits, not features,” writes “apyoungblood” of “Here’s an example to clarify: ‘I bought Super Smash Bros Melee because I enjoyed playing it with several friends,’ versus, ‘I bought [Super Smash Bros Melee] because it has multiplayer options.'” The first example highlights the fun that you can have with your friends if you buy Super Smash Bros Melee – e.g. the title’s social upsides, which piggyback on a core feature to add a massive form of value and potential purchase driver that you won’t find described on the back of the box. The second example merely points out that the game has a certain set of capabilities.

When marketing your game, think about what it can offer users in terms of direct, tangible everyday benefits. What sets it apart from the crowd You already know why your game is special. Don’t be shy about letting rest of the world know the same in straightforward, compelling terms.

Burnout Crash: The Opera

Burnout Crash is the new downloadable title that should fulfill the desire for automotive carnage. This trailer has the classic song Messa de Requiem serving as a backdrop.


Portal: No Escape Film

This entertaining short film makes good economy of its rather sparse scenes and some neat special effects to create a compelling version of Aperture Science. Among the best Valve fan films out there (and that’s saying a lot).

Join The F1 2011 Wall Of Fame

To coincide with the launch of F1 2011, Codemasters has launched a unique Facebook application where fans can submit their profile picture to become part of the wall of fame. Once submitted, fans can click, drag and zoom into a mosaic of the box cover art made entirely of profile pictures that have been submitted by users. At the time of publication, over 14,111 “drivers” had been submitted to be part of the mosaic. Click “find me” to locate your own image on the wall of fame.

Feature: Steam Pirates Take To The Crimson Seas

Crimson: Steam Pirates is the first game from Harebrained Schemes and is also the first game to come from Bungie’s indie publishing wing, Aerospace. It has over 5620 Ratings and has an average score of more than 4.5 stars, showing that people really like it . . . and it’s free to download. We talked with Jordan Weisman, founder of Harebrained Schemes, about the game and his propensity for world-building.

Talk to me about the decision to make Crimson: Steam Pirates a free game.

A lot of that was taking place on the Aerospace side. It came late in the development process and the inspiration was something that came partially out of both studios in order to give the game more exposure. The thought was to make it free-to-play and give away the first day missions in order to garner a really large initial audience — I think it’s worked well.

What do you think of the reaction from consumers so far to Crimson: Steam Pirates?

It’s been really overwhelming; the number of downloads, the number of ratings and all very positive, which is very gratifying for us.

How has the decision to release the game for free affected the launch?

I think . . . ultimately, the free-to-play model is not a deciding factor; it’s the quality of the game. It drives a higher amount of trials, but you have to have a good game. I do think it helped add some fire to fuel, however.

What are your plans for monetization moving forward?

On iPad, we’ll sell additional chapters and if we move to other platforms we may switch to another model. Discussions are underway for other platforms, but no announcements to be made.

Tell me about your partnership with Bungie and how that’s helped your company get off the ground.

We have along standing relationship with the Bungie guys all the way back to when they were in Chicago with us at FASA. After I left Bungie, I helped to do the viral campaign “I love bees” at 42 Entertainment. When they wanted to get into the mobile social space, we bounced some ideas back and forth and it’s been a great experiment for both of us. Their feedback on the game was very constructive; they helped ship the game and made sure we had a high quality piece of entertainment.

For the record, what’s the extent of your work experience?

I founded FASA and helped oversee Microsoft Game Studios after Microsoft bought us out and I later created WizKids which produced the games like Mage Knight and HeroClix.

You were the one instrumental in making sure there was a wall between the rest of Microsoft and Bungie, correct?

Yes, it was important to preserve their development ecosystem, so one of the things I fought for was keep them insulated from the rest of Microsoft’s subculture. They were still learning the difference between running a business for productivity software and entertainment software; the Xbox was still in its infancy at that point.

Because of their scale, it only makes sense for them to get involved in something if it is big. Well, what about work on your old properties, Battletech, Shadowrun, Crimson Skies and the like?

When I was at Smith & Tinker, another start-up, we had worked to license them back, but the constraints of the license made it hard to exploit. But there are some interesting developments; we might still see something in the future.

Ah yes, there was that issue with Harmony Gold suing over the Robotech similarities with Battletech.

That was a fairly small matter. The problem was the economics of licensing the game from Microsoft. It just didn’t make sense to make the game unless we owned the property because of the limitations it had.

So what you’re saying is that making a AAA game for one home console is hard to make all the numbers add up?


So is Crimson: Steam Pirates like a spiritual successor to Crimson Skies?

Crimson: Steam Pirates is connected with the sort of pulp adventure history with a story that ties into it. In that it’s related, but there’s no actual connection between the two proprieties: Crimson: Steam Pirates is a Victorian inspired adventure, whereas Crimson Skies is an alternative history for America in the 1930s.

Any tie ins or promotions you’re looking to potentially do with Crimson: Steam Pirates?

Apple liked it enough to make it game of the week! I saw in Entertainment Weekly put it on the ‘must download’ list for the print and online. In terms of other promotions, none that I’m aware of, but most of that would fall on Bungie Aerospace.

With all your varied interests as evidenced by your past projects, why do this?

I love high fantasy to science fiction and I guess one of my reoccurring loves, from Battletech to Shadowrun to Crimson Skies, is basing fiction on history. Battletech is the Roman successor states in space; that’s a bit far flung, some I just stick closer to history. It’s fun to play with the history of an era by having people like having Thomas Blood try to assassinate Queen Victoria.

The setting is pretty accurate for Crimson: Steam Pirates – England rules most of the world, the Caribbean is a hotbed of piracy; we just amp up some of the weird science. It helps make the world seem more real, even if someone isn’t a history buff themselves, because it feels like something that’s really happened.

Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s been a great coming out party and look forward to working with [Bungie Aerospace] more in the future and you’ll hopefully seem more great games from us down the road.

Jordan, it’s been a pleasure.

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App Store Game Revenue Mostly Coming From In-App Purchases

Analytics firm Distimo indicates that in-app purchases now account for 72 percent of revenue generated by the App Store. A sample of the top 300 apps in each category showed that the number of free apps has grown by 34 percent since 2010, with paid apps increasing by 7 percent.

Only 4 percent of apps allow in-app purchases, however their revenue has increased 28 percent from the same point last year. 48 percent of that revenue comes from free apps, with 24 percent coming from paid apps that allow in-app purchasing.