‘Guild Wars 2’ Has Unique China Pricing

With a free trial underway in China, the marketers of Guild Wars 2 (creator NCSoft and Chinese partner Kongzhong) are trying a very different path to profit for a Chinese MMORPG. Most MMORPG’s in China are free-to-play, but Guild Wars 2 will have an upfront price to pay –and it’s set to sell for a bargain basement price upon its release.

When the game goes on sale later this spring, it’ll retail for 88 RMB, or around $14.50 in American dollars. Pre-orders will kick off starting on April 2nd, while the trial is in full effect. That marks the lowest price point for the game to date, as it sells in other markets (including the US) for as high as $50.

Those in China that are interested in the trial have until today at 5 PM to check it out. Otherwise, at least it won’t cost very much. It will be interesting to see how this pricing experiment in China performs, and whether it might change the way MMORPGs are priced in China.

Source: Games In Asia

Mobile Market Lessons From App Judging

The Big Indie Pitch, sponsored by Rovio and Immersion and staged by Pocket Gamer took place yesterday, and I was one of the judges. It was grueling, with 35 different game apps being pitched to you in on three minutes or so apiece, with another minute or two to switch between apps. This took place in a crowded bar, with music playing in the background and announcements blaring through the PA system as emcee Chris James (managing partner of Steel Media, parent company of Packet Gamer) strove to keep things moving. Adding to the audio confusion, at least half of those pitching the apps had strong accents, making the pitches even more challenging.

The games covered a broad cross-section of genres, styles, complexity, and completion. Some of the apps were months away from launch, others were already on the market. The one thing they all had in common was the passion of their creators. Unfortunately, passion is no guarantee of either excellence or commercial viability.

The only guidance the judges received was to select the —œbest— game as the winner, who would receive $5000 worth of banner ads and other benefits from Pocket Gamer. A great prize, particularly for a game developer struggling to get noticed. But how do you define —œbest — Clearly my opinions were wildly different from many of the other judges, when we got together at the end to select the winner (and some honorable mentions for the consensus picks for the best games). One of the game I ranked near the bottom of the 35 was the second best game according to half the judges. None of my favorites were even mentioned by other judges in our brief discussion.

What is the—œbest— game Certainly, for each individual that would be the game you enjoy the most, or feel best expresses whatever qualities you look for in a game. That’s not how I approached the matter. Without exception, as far as I could tell, these game developers were not creating their apps purely as an artistic expression. They all hope to make a living from their apps. One developer told me he had put his life savings and two years into his app. With that in mind, the —œbest— game would have to include some amount (and probably a large amount) of commercial potential, as well as aesthetic appeal, playability, innovation and panache.

The first pick of the majority of judges was Bounden by Game Oven, a two-player dance game. You find a partner and you each grasp the phone with one finger on a circle near the edge of the screen. In the center of the screen, a small ball is surrounded by a couple of circles with a gap in them. These are rotating, and you tilt the phone to try to get the right alignment. This means making sweeping arm movements, and perhaps spinning around and twisting . . . all while hanging onto the phone and keeping in mind your partner. The idea is that the two of you will create a dance. Or perhaps get tangled up like a Twister game.

Fun Somewhat, and perhaps appealing to a small audience as an occasional game, kind of the way people play Twister. A moneymaker Not likely. It’s an interesting curiosity, and an innovative use of the platform, but this app is not going pay the rent. Or even the cable bill. It’s a project worth doing, but it’s tough to imagine large numbers of people playing this, or playing it for long. It felt more like a student game project than a commercial entertainment. The Dutch National Ballet helped with the game’s choreography, which perhaps is an indicator of the potential of the game — it could be as popular as ballet! Yes, ballet is a great art form, but it’s not a huge market opportunity.

The 35 different games included many platformers and arcade titles; more than half of the games were casual. Most were responsive and playable, yet ultimately not very memorable. There were a few with greater ambitions, providing a strategy game with ways to combine things in order to create items or abilities. Surprisingly, a solid number, perhaps a third of the games, were intended to be premium games, not free-to-play.

Terrifyingly, many of the developers did not yet have an answer to the question — How does your game monetize — Maybe it would be free-to-play… maybe they would charge something for it . . . they hadn’t decided yet, even though in most cases the game was only a month or two away from launch. This betrays a fundamental lack of business savvy and knowledge of the market which does not bode well for the future of a game. The monetization strategy should be a basic part of the game’s design, if it’s going to be executed well. It’s a rare game that can embrace different monetization strategies at a moment’s notice.

The best games I saw were well thought out and well executed, with a level of polish that stood out. The graphics were slick, the controls were responsive, and the game idea was interesting and looked to have broad appeal. Only three games got my top rating. One was Glint, by Ensomniac, a fast-paced puzzle game that’s already available on iOS and Android. Another was First Strike, a nuclear war simulation by BlindFlug Studios, already out on iPad and Android. The final one was Jurojin: Immortal Ninja from Critical Bacon Games, which is an attempt at creating a fast-paced battle game like League of Legends on a mobile platform (though it’s one on one, or a four person survival mode combat, instead of large teams).

All of these games were polished, gorgeous, and looked like they could be addictive. Those are all qualities to strive for in a game that you hope will generate some good revenues. Hopefully more game creators will think about the business and marketing aspects of their game before they embark on the difficult and lengthy process of creating a game.

The Future Of Game Advertising Is Data, Data And More Data

How are you building social currency Jesse Divnich of the game research firm EEDAR asked that question to the audience of game developers and professionals. Many of the other talks and panels at GDC this year discussing trends in game marketing and monetization touched upon that important question.

One of the take-aways from many of the marketing and monetization sessions at GDC 2014 is that Facebook remains a critical tool for virality and discovery. Especially for mobile games.

While Jesse Divnich presented research showing that Facebook has dropped from being the #2 source of mobile game discovery in 2012 to #5 today (behind different forms of word-of-mouth as #1, featured in store front as #2 and top charts as #3), Facebook is still the undisputed leader in mobile game promotion.

In the company’s own session on Wednesday, Facebook’s Dan Morris showed some impressive figures to back up its continued relevance for game developers and marketers. For example, Facebook is now driving 735 million clicks to games every day and that number keeps on growing.

“The growth of casino games over the last year is probably no surprise to anyone here, but we are seeing growth in many other categories as well,” he said. “Our native ad feed stories is something we are particularly excited about growing in 2014 in
and we have served 245 million mobile game app install ads to date.”

In separate sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, Dimitri Williams of Ninja Metrics as well as Jesse Divnich of EEDAR pointed to the need to focus on the 1 to 5 percent of game users referred to as “whales,” users who convert and monetize much better than the majority of players.


Game Developers Conference in San Francisco

So how do you make sure that you get as many whales as possible to play your game Getting demographic and psychographic targeting right is no doubt key to success here. Especially when it comes to mobile games. Going too broad with your advertising is expensive and techniques like paying for your advertising on an install basis (CPI) rather than reach (CPM) can be much more effective.

But even if you manage to convince your advertising partners to pay on a CPI basis, how can you make sure you are getting the right users who will monetize.

Music service Pandora’s Andre DeRussy‘s talk focused on just that, the importance of tracking post-install behavior so that you’re not just buying “dumb installs” for your game, but make sure that they are actually spending something and interacting with the downloaded app. At Pandora they have a lot of active mobile app users, so they pride themselves on being able to predict user behavior well, which is the message they wanted to get across to game developers.

Bottom line: The real advantage going forward will be to use data to drive your marketing and user acquisition tactics. Look at what is performing and who is converting, in real time. Then change your tactics accordingly. The Facebook platform is just so powerful here because they have the most data and a huge audience of 1.2 billion users. Many other publishers are also trying to copy their sponsored updates and in-stream app install ad format, but not doing it as well. At least not yet.


‘Naval Strike’ Ready to Launch

Battlefield 4 Naval Strike, the first of five expansions planned for release by Summer, is coming March 25 for Battlefield 4 Premium members and April 8 to everyone. This trailer not only sets up the scenario of Naval Strike, but also does a fine job showing off all the emergent gameplay madness inherent to Battlefield 4.


Devils And Dragons Inside


Game of Thrones has received the final trailer for its fourth season and it effectively teases much of the larger storylines for the coming season, from the conflict between Cersei and Tyrion, the demands of the “Red Viper”, and the harsh justice of Daenerys. Early April can’t get here fast enough.


How A Dog Helps Wounded Warriors

The Netherlands’ Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation has run an ad which keenly demonstrates how a veteran can benefit from having a dog. It’s a great ad for demonstrating the natural empathy that animals can demonstrate, which is often what those who have seen combat need.


Facebook: 375 Million Users Play Games

This week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Facebook wasted no time in explaining how to build up a strong audience for cross-platform gaming.

During a panel at the event earlier this week, engineering manager Aaron Brady broke down some interesting statistics for the site, indicated in a blog post. An average of 375 million people play Facebook-oriented games on a monthly basis, through both desktop and mobile devices. For good measure, cross-platform play is huge, having grown 2.5 times the level of mobile-only players, and 1.5 times over routine desktop players.

The stats also indicate that cross-platform play across both devices also grew quite a bit between September and November 2013, with games like Candy Crush Saga leading the charge.

Needless to say, Facebook’s gaming portal isn’t going to slow down anytime soon, if at all.

Source: GigaOm

Epic Cuts Price On Unreal Engine

Epic Games, the team behind the Gears of War franchise and Infinity Blade series, just made a move this week at the Game Developers Conference that could open the door to a series of new developers.

Founder Tim Sweeney has announced a new business model for the company that will make the Unreal Engine set of tools and source code available to developers for a bargain basement price. The service will run would-be game makers only $19 a month, as well as 5 percent of gross revenue from the game.

This is a huge change of pace from what the company previously requested, between a $99 license fee and 25 percent of game earnings if it managed to make over $50,000. Of course, flat fee deals can still be negotiated, as always. That’s the way big publishers prefer to work with Unreal Engine.

With rising costs in game development, Sweeney believes this move will be beneficial to up-and-comers. “We succeed with this only if developers succeed in making great games,” he said.

Source: The Verge

Twitter Hints It May Lose The @

Vivian Schiller, Twitter’s Head of News, unleashed some information that elaborated on some previous hints that CEO Dick Costolo had made about some changes to how we interact with one another on the site. Signs are pointing to Twitter removing the @ and #– replies and hashtags.

These fundamental elements are the building blocks of Twitter, and Twitter doesn’t appear to want to use that functionality anytime soon. When Facebook finally took a cue from Twitter to utilize tags and hashtags within posts, it appears Twitter wants to make theirs simpler just like Facebook.

What’s more, it appears that the alpha version of Twitter for Android shows that Twitter has been actively experimenting with this change.

Tomos Evans, Director of Social Media at Ayzenberg Group feels Twitter is under pressure.

“The potential removal of the @ reply is surely a response to the increasingly stagnant growth of Twitter. To compete (and now to answer underwhelmed shareholders) there’s a logic to Twitter’s desire to simplify its unique language. The change would appear to be purely ‘grammatical’ but foreign grammar puts many learners off a new language, and I’m sure Twitter hopes any simplification will draw new users to the platform,” said Evans.

When it came to what this move could mean to marketers, Evans was positive. “For brands and brand managers, the removal of something which intimidates consumers should be seen as an opportunity to foster growth and engagement.”


Source: TheNextWeb