Posts Tagged ‘microtransactions’

Gamevil posts record profits

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Korean mobile games publisher Gamevil released financial numbers from 2009 yesterday, to a bit of well deserved fanfare. When compared to one year prior, Gamevil increased sales amounts by an impressive 59 percent, totaling 24.4 billion Won, or $21 million. According to company representatives, this is the first time that a Korean mobile gaming company has surpassed the 10 billion Won mark, with Gamevil’s total Net income holding firm at 11.8 billion Won ($10.2 million). Gamevil pulled down a 56 percent operating profit, and a healthy 48 percent net profit, both company records.

main_logoThe majority of sales were driven by their popular titles Baseball Superstars, RPG title Zenonia, and action RPG Hybrid: Eternal Whisper. These titles are available on both standard and iPhone mobile devices. Gamevil points to not only the success of these titles, but more importantly, their microtransaction sales within these games as primary revenue drivers. However, while Gamevil has employed the microtransaction monetization module in their standard mobile phone apps, they’ve yet to make the same jump with their iPhone games. Let’s say that again – Gamevil has pulled down record profits, and is NOT garnering significant profits from iPhone based microtransactions.

“The Korean mobile gaming market is one of the most advanced in the world, driven by original titles and new business models such as micro-transactions and network games,” said Byung Joon Song, Gamevil CEO.

“We’ll do our best to continuously grow now as a global mobile gaming company by developing games optimised for the mobile platform, adopting to new platforms, and leveraging our experience and knowledge that we’ve accumulated throughout the past decade.”

“We’re especially proud of the high profit level we were able to achieve,” added chief financial officer Yong Kuk Lee.

 

Oberon Media puts chips in Android Market

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Under it’s publishing platform I-play, Oberon Media plans to heavily invest in Google’s Android, and is currently planning to release 20 titles for the platform over the course of this year.

i-play-androidI-play’s VP of Sales and Marketing for mobile, Keith Adair states that Android does have a distinct advantage over other (read:iPhone) smartphones currently on the market, in that, “not only can game be distributed via Google’s Android Market, but increasingly carriers will launch their own portals on the platform, enabling a second point of distribution.” He further establishes that each individual carrier is still defining their Android strategy, these distribution channels will give long-established mobile developers an advantage, as they’re likely to take advantage of existing operator contacts.

“We see a big opportunity on the carrier side. I don’t believe that the Google marketplace will be the only interesting channel for Android content,” says Adair.

Given that individual carriers are still scrambling strategizing on how best to leverage Android’s capabilities, Adair theorizes that these carriers will have to differentiate themselves and attract customers into these portals.

To this end, I-play plans on releasing approximately 20 titles for Android this year, including popular I-play franchises Fast & Furious, Deal or No Deal, and Bubble Town. The company also plans on developing social and microtransactions services for Android. Some of these planned features include: multiplayer connected games. I-play’s new offerings should begin hitting the market this month, but company reps confirm that they’ve already tested Deal or No Deal and Sexy Pillowfight in the market. Neither game has performed terribly well at this point, Sexy Pillowfight garnering between 1,000 and 5,000 downloads, while Deal or No Deal saw a paltry 500 to 1,000. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Oberon has yet to really put the screws to their marketing and advertising plan to support these titles, on this platform.

And while the attitude and direction of Oberon Media might be in the right place, the New York based hasn’t exactly had it easy in the past. This re-focusing comes after the departure of COO Don Ryan, complete with a round a lay-offs. November of 2008 saw other cut backs, shortly after they’d announced an influx of $20 million via VC investments. It should be interesting to see of Oberon/I-play’s ‘all in’ but will pay off. On one hand they stand to earn big. On the other, this could very well play out as their swan song.

 

Blizzard announces AH services – hints at Premium Accounts

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Blizzard announced a new service yesterday that will allow World of Warcraft users to access and manage their Auction House items while outside the game. The interaction builds upon the success of Blizz’s Armory and associated iPhone and iPod Touch apps. Blizzard official forum moderator Bornakk posted the initial details to the North American forum:

…This is a fairly complex service to develop, due in large part to its unprecedented integration with the game, so we don’t have an exact release date yet. It’s important to note here that certain elements of the service will be premium-based, which we’ll go into more detail on once the service functionality is finalized. As with all of the services we offer, we plan to integrate the Auction House and Armory in a way that won’t disrupt the gameplay experience, and we won’t release it until it meets the quality standards that we’ve set for our other features and services. You may be seeing bits and pieces of the Auction House service pop up in the test builds we use for the public test realms as we go through the process of internal testing. …

blizzard-logo-whiteOutside of virtual currency earned in-game through quest or dungeon run rewards, Blizzard’s in-game Auction House is widely regarded as one of the best ways to make money within the game. By opening up this service to external use, Blizzard is giving users tools not unlike what daily traders on Wall Street have access to. With this external management tool, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of enterprising players buying and selling around the clock.

There are two things to highlight about this feature.

  1. How will this external access to virtual currency trading, buying, and selling effect the overall in-game economy?
  2. What’s this about the service being ‘premium-based’

Granted, allowing external access to the virtual market is nothing new, and browser based management of sales can be found in a number of online game, but none that compare in size, scale, and overall numbers as World of Warcraft. And again, external access is nothing more than a whole lot of players all hitting the auction house all at the same time. However, giving players around the world a method to constantly monitor their auctions around the clock could result in some very interesting results. Will this buy/sell/trade effect price rates? There are already a number of players that apply real-world financial practices in place in the in-game auction house, and now they’ll have access to even more real-life tools, with which they may further apply out-of-game financial principles.

And now for that interesting pig in a blanket. If this is Blizzard’s attempt to subtly introduce the community to the idea of a Premium Service; it hasn’t gone unnoticed. To my knowledge, this is the first appearance of the idea. Blizzard has long been one of the last remaining stalwarts of the ‘subscription’ based model. However the company hasn’t ruled out microtransactions completely, and have already implemented a few via in-game special pets. And while it’s too early to clearly know what Blizzard has up their sleeve(s), the ‘Premium Based’ service might be an early foray into expanding the ‘subscription’ model. I.e. those with ‘premium’ features may have the option to simply buy an item that they’re after with RMT’s. Alternatively, Blizzard could play the option that Premium players would have access to all game features, areas, etc., while others might have to make microtransaction payments to access the same services. Again, at this point this is only conjecture.

Blizzard released it’s newest expansion pack, “Wrath of the Lich King” back in November of 2008, and have started to tease their upcoming expansion pack, “Cataclysm”, which currently has no release date. It should be quite interesting to see if, how, where, and with what Blizzard may or may not option in some form of microtransactions.

 

iPad arrives – Devs spring into action

Friday, January 29th, 2010

What would this week be without at least a mention of Apple’s latest creation (and announcement) the iPad. While there’s plenty of material out there ranging from why to Colbert’s bold proclamation “Give me an iPad”, the iPad has at least gotten a reaction, good or bad, out of pretty much everyone even remotely connected to the handheld electronics device field. Considering the proliferation of mobile phones, the iPhone in particular, this would encompass a wide majority of folks.

213722-3But what does the iPad mean for games developers? An entirely new playing field. A number of games houses reacted almost immediately to the announcement, with the overwhelming consensus positive and indicating that they’re already hard at work on iPad ready apps.

iPhone dev studios OpenFeint and Scoreloop were two of the first on the scene, clearly having someone waiting, literally, on Mr. Jobs’ every word, just waiting for the cue to click and release the info to the world. Scoreloop says that they’ll have an iPad specific upgrade from their popular Astro Ranch iPhone game that will take advantage of the iPad’s increased screen real estate, appropriately titled Astro Ranch HD. While not pointing to specific examples, OpenFeint Chairman Peter Relan states, “We have plans for some really special features for the iPad that will make social gaming even more immersive.”

Ok, so far so good. New platform, new, tailored games for this platform….now, show me the money. Ngmoco, who took full advantage of Apple’s decision to allow microtransactions within iPhone games, said that their freemium first person shooter, Eliminate would port well from iPhone to iPad, and that their currently-in-development co-op version of Eliminate would do the same. Likewise, EA demoed their Need for Speed Shift title at the Apple announcement and confirmed that they already have a number of titles in the works for the forthcoming iPad. EA did not confirm that these titles will contain microtransaction elements, but given their proven commitment to the business model and gaming associations, it’s very likely.

I mention above that the iPad announcement creates an entirely new playing field for devs. And while the opinions have been wildly circulating, the one that keeps showing up on my radar is “But…it’s just a big iPod.” Certainly from an esthetic point of view this comment has merit. However, once the device is in hand, as Kotaku had access to, it’s quite clear that this is no iPod. While Kotaku editors has trouble controlling the majority of games they tested on the iPad, they did report that menu driven games, such as EA’s The Sims 3 played very well. What this indicates is that an entirely new sub-genre of social, casual, and all around ‘games’ may develop as studios rush to push out iPad read/compatible games. Apple currently does not allow the sale of virtual currencies within the games operating on their platforms (there are however a number of ways around this), they have confirmed that the iPad will support in-app transactions through the iPhone OS 3.2.

Apple’s iPad is expected to begin shipping in late March of this year. Should be a VERY exciting summer.

 

Shanda Games acquires Mochi Media

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

China based Shanda Games Ltd., the gaming unit of Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd., announced today that they’ve reached an agreement to acquire browser based games network Mochi Media. The total selling price was set at $60 million in cash and $20 million in equity retention arrangements.

Shanda Games, by name a newcomer to the gaming world, but in practicality, around for quite some time now. As we reported back in September, Shanda Interactive Entertainment spun off a gaming division, aiming to focus the holding company’s efforts on e-book publishing and distribution, as well as a digital music service. Shanda Games currently manages and operates both in-house developed games, as well as co-developing games with developers acquired either through investments or a third party license.

Perhaps a coincidence, but this announcement also appears just one day after holding company Shanda Interactive Entertainment announced that they’ve appointed Xu Chaojun as Chief Operating Officer.  In their last quarter, Shanda Interactive Entertainment brought home a healty $63.7 million in profit on $202.5 million in sales. I guess it’s fair to say we know where that profit margin will be headed.

“We are excited to be bringing two of the best teams in the online game industry together in the perfect marriage of content and platform. Mochi Media’s impressive array of browser-based games is an ideal complement to Shanda Games’ portfolio of nearly 70 multi-player online games,” commented, Diana Li, chief executive officer of Shanda Games.

With approximately 15,000 games being displayed on almost 40,000 publisher websites, and 140 million active monthly users, Mochi is/was a prime candidate for purchase. San Francisco based Mochi Media is an open platform that offers game developers products and services to help them push their product. These tools range everywhere from analytics and tracking data, to distribution and microtransaction monetization methods.

“The additions of Shanda Games’ extensive content catalog and proven monetization capabilities unlock tremendous value on our platform for everyone involved,” noted Jameson Hsu, co-founder and CEO of Mochi Media.

This buy signals a very strong foothold for Shanda in the North American gaming market. As well, Shanda is not only buying into an established player in the field, but one that’s been pushing the envelop from the very beginning and is looking down the road; most recently evidenced by their Flash Games survey.

The final sale is expected to close in the first quarter 2010.

 

Sony rolls out impressive numbers at CES 2010

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Sony has spent much of 2009 not only slimming down it’s flagship console the PlayStation3 in both size and price, but ratcheting up their virtual world hosted on said platform: Home. And while not exactly first on the scene with lower prices, or a slimmed down version of it’s previous self, Sony’s work has been rewarded, especially this past holiday season. At yesterday’s presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show held this year in Las Vegas, NV, Sony revealed sales numbers for this past holiday season. During the traditional consumerfest that occurs between the American Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas, Sony moved nearly 4 million PS3 consoles worldwide. To put this in perspective, looking at year-over-year numbers, Sony increased sales by 75 percent.

At the end of the day, this upswing in sales, combined with increased efforts to make ‘Home’ a serious part of the package bodes extremely well for Sony. As with size and price, Sony’s Home hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype. It’s already been through a few iterations, but it seems as though Sony might very well now be on the right path. They recently drove the “we’re serious about Home, MMO’s, and microtransactions” flag into the ground with the launch of Sodium One. Early reports have indicated that players have taken to Sodium One, which again, bodes well for Sony. They’ve now got an attraction within Home that has not only generated a bit of press, but is also getting the people through the door.

Electronic Theatre ImageNot coincidentally, VEEMEE, an independent creator of branded and original content for platforms and virtual worlds, yesterday launched The London Pub for PS3 Home users. Priced at €4.99 the virtual watering hole and hangout features a mulit-player darts game, a roaring open fire to chat by, comedic beer taps, crank phone calls, and hand dryers that don’t dry your hands. Kirk Ewing, Creative Director at VEEMEE comments, “It’s always nice to inject a bit of humor into the games industry. In a virtual pub you can get all the banter but obviously none of the booze. Also offering a real world tie-in, VEEMEE has partnered with Unicorn, makers of fine dartboards, and will be giving away 30 real Eclipse Pro Dartboards within the first 30 days of the London Pub’s opening, and tops the pub darts leader board on PlayStation Home.

Late last year at Sodium One’s introduction, Sony rolled out some Home user numbers, touting a decent 10 million users. With a lot of wrapping paper now making it’s way to the incinerator, there’s sure to be a whole new onslaught of Home users, as they plug-in, fire-up, and (hopefully for Sony) start enjoying home so much that they’re ready to make a microtransaction. Or two. Or 10 million.

 

8 out of 10 ‘2009 Best App Ever’ contenders are games

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Sponsored by 148Apps, the second annual ‘Best App Ever Awards’ nominees have recently been published at bestappever.com and voting is now open. The annual competition seeks to find the best apps in the iTunes App store. The goal of the project is to spotlight the very best apps based on consumer views, not just the highest sellers of 2009.  And according to consumers, 8 out of the top 10 ‘best apps’ this year are in fact, games.

bestappeverLasting just under a month, the public nomination process saw 26,899 opinions, and listed 3,639 different apps. BestAppEver breaks apps down into 56 unique award categories. Along with public opinions, 148Apps also brought in a team of industry people and iPhone application developers to help narrow down the nomination process.

Again, while BestAppEver breaks nominations out into 56 distinct categories, there’s one category that is very unique: (quite literally) Best App. The nominees for this category represent the top 10 vote getters in the initial round of voting.  App developer Firemint had two entries make the list, Real Racing and Flight Control, priced at $4.99 and $0.99 respectively. But perhaps the most notable of all nominees is ngmoco’s free, free-to-play FPS shooter: Eliminate.

You’ll remember that ngmoco was one of the very first iPhone app developers to take advantage of Apple removing the microtransactions restriction, even choosing to break the news via a tweet. A little over a half a month later, they made good on their promise and delivered a free-to-play handheld shooter with quite good graphics and a microtransaction system in place. Now, not that I’m trying to rig the voting – but doesn’t a free-to-play app certainly deserve a vote? Especially when it’s the only free app in the list?

Voting is now open at bestappever.com and closes on January 31st. Winners will be announced on February 10th at the 2010 Macworld Expo in San Francisco.

 

Sony gets serious about MMO’s, social gaming, and microtransactions

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Arguably, SOE’s virtual world/meeting place, Home has been a bit of a dud. It’s had a rocky road thus far, but it looks like there might be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. To be fair, Sony has always stated that Home is a testing ground for a number of future projects. It looks like this holiday season and early 2010 will see the first true realization of these behind-the-scenes- projects.

sony home 1While Sony counts approximately 27 million gamers on it’s flagship platform the PS3, they’re currently just shy of have 50 percent of these users involved with Home (appox. 10 million). And even though these numbers seem paltry when set next to figures such as Zynga’s, Sony has a unique market, as they’re playing in a closed room, but now trying to open the doors to play with others. To this end, Sony announced today that a new game, quite different than Home players are used to will launch within Home’s virtual world. Typically, Home’s offerings are nothing short of an ‘average’ Second World experience. 3D avatars, wandering around, playing a mini-game here or there, etc. With the launch of Sodium One, all of that is about to change.

Not only will Sodium One give players a completely new experience with Home, it’s also a stepping stone to an even larger ambition SOE has in store. Following the lines of a traditional MMO, Sodium One is a virtual world within the virtual world of Home. In premise, the game is a simple action/pilot/shoot type game. However, any worries about the title’s ability to stand on it’s own within Home have been quickly dashed, as early reports state that the 3D art and animations are on par with today’s standards. I mention this, as Home’s standard wander around action is relatively slow, often begging the question – is there something wrong with my console?

As with a number of features within Home, Sony also plans on taking advantage of users’ willingness to pay with RMT’s to distinguish themselves. The first five levels are free, but after that, players have the option to unlock more xp through microtransactions ranging from $.99 to $4.99.

PlayStation Home director Jack Buser comments that this in only the beginning of a virtual goods business model in Home. “We’ve evolved Home into a true social gaming platform,” Buser said. “We are poised to take a leadership position in social games with Home.”

And as we predicted, 2009 has truly been the year of the free-to-play. Sony may not have been first on the spot, but that’s not to say they’re too late to the game. They’ve quietly been building the back end processing, currency, digital objects, and development and infrastructure to open the doors for developers to create virtual goods to be sold within Home.

Sodium One, developed by Nottingham, UK based Outso is only a first piece of a much larger full scale MMO developed specifically for Home. Halli Bjornsson, CEO of Lockwood Publishing, the firm behind Outso’s development work, said that Sodium Two will launch early next year with additional multiplayer combat options. Launching the title piece by piece allows Outso to tweak the game to users’ preferences as they move through the development cycle, and thereby reduce risk of non-acceptance.

As it stands right now, Sony’s outlook for Home is twofold: one piece will continue to expand the virtual content within the complete world of Home, while the other piece continues to develop tools for outside developers to create immersive 3D gaming experiences for Home users. Buser comments that around 30 game developers have already signed up for the process.

And to top it all off, Home’s numbers have been on the rise. October of this year saw 8 million users, while only two months later, Sony has capped the 10 million user milestone. 2010 already looks interesting and promising for Sony.

 

True Games snags yet another Top EA exec, moves to Lone Star State

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

(Formerly) Irvine, CA based True Games has recently announced that they’ve appointed former EA, Turbine, and SOE veteran Mick Giles as their new Chief Technology Officer. Giles brings 13 years of industry experience to the table, having most recently served as Senior Director of Online Operation for North America and Asia and Senior Director of Technology for Worldwide Studios at Electronic Arts. Pardon me…what? That actually bears repeating – EA’s chief of Online Ops and director of global Tech – just joined a relative startup, with a business model based on free-to-play titles supported by microtransactions. To say this is big might be selling the concept short.

If Giles’ most recent position didn’t warrant enough street cred, he also served as Execvutive Director of Technology at Turbine, where he oversaw core development projects, operations, IT, and Biz Dev efforts for Asheron’s Call, DDO, and LotRO. And rounding out the ‘Wow, this guy’s been a major player in a lot of stuff’ category, from 2003-2006, Giles filled the role of Director of Platform Technology at Sony Online Entertainment, meaning he was deeply involved in development and technology efforts in titles including EverQuest, EverQuest2, Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix Online, and Planetside.

“Mick brings to the team an extensive background in technology, operations, platform management and more, and we look forward to adding his expertise to our management team,” said Jeff Lujan, Founder and CEO of True Games Interactive. “With one live game in Warrior Epic and one game about to go into beta in Mytheon, as well as multiple games in development, his expertise and experience is a welcome addition to the team.”

This announcement follows True Games’ rather recent appointment of 15 year industry vet Frank Lucero. And lest we forget, K2, Namco, and Vivendi vet Peter Cesario is now with True Games, as well as former NCSoft and EA exec Peter Jarvis. It looks as through True Games has truly managed to attract some very powerful people all under one roof.

And it looks like that roof in the Golden State isn’t going to be big enough.

Bundled with the announcement of Giles joining the True Games team, they’ve also announced that they’re officially moving their HQ from Irvine, CA to Austin, TX. Not exactly a surprise move, as only this past October, the company announced that they’ve opened a development studio in Austin. Slated for an official closure in March 2010, many of True Games employees will soon be relocating to Texas. The company cites continued growth, stronger internal communication, and a heavier focus on game development, as well as the excellent talent pool in Austin as primary motivators to move.

“Once we were doing our planning for the next several years, it just made more sense for us to combine offices in Austin, as opposed to moving everybody here to Irvine,” Cesario said.

It’s also fair to say that economic conditions are a factor in True Games’ decision. Cesario relates, “Last week, a company official was in town looking at potential office locations. An agent quoted the monthly rent on one of the spaces.”

Confused, the company rep. replied, “No, not square footage, what’s the rent?”

“That’s the best quote I’ve heard,” said Ceario. “It kind of sums it all up.”

 

Mochi Media survey reveals only 6 percent of Flash games monetized through microtransactions

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

San Francisco based Mochi Media recently announced the results of their Flash Games Market Survey finding that only 6 percent of all Flash game developers are using microtransactions to monetize. Oddly enough, Mochi Media says that the survey was conducted prior to Flash based games having a widely available microtransactions tool kit. Bad timing, or just bad luck?

flash-games-market-survey-copyThe survey found that the most popular method of monetizing Flash games is still rooted in in-game advertising. The majority (58 percent) of respondents indicated that they use in-game advertising as their primary monetization method, with sponsorships taking second place at 43 percent. Licensing held down third place with 26 percent, and web site ads landed in forth with 20 percent. Monetization via microtransactions scored dead last in developers methods, garnering only 6 percent.

While this data might not look so hot for the Flash gaming community in terms of microtransaction monetization, it’s important to keep in mind that this community is unique amongst the greater game development population. Of those that were surveyed, the study found that only one-third of developers consider themselves ‘full time’. The survey found that the vast majority of Flash games developers are hobbyists who create games in their spare time. This same percentage also indicated that they’d only begun developing Flash games within the last two years. Matching up with these responses, it’s duly noted that approximately three-quarters of all Flash game portals are still in start-up mode, only having been founded within the past two years.

Taking a look at the numbers, it’s quite easy to deduce from the survey results that monetization within Flash cased games could use a severe shot in the arm. Only twenty percent of all 1100 Flash developers reported that they could be earning $1000+ per month from their games. When jumping to the $5000+ per month mark, the numbers drop even lower, down to five percent. And those that could support a staff and associated actual ‘business’ at $10,000+ per month are represented by a tiny 2 percent slice of the entire industry.

Conducted in partnership with Adobe, Newgrounds, Casual Gameplay and FlashGameLicense.com, the Mochi Media survey was conducted over a three month period. However, Mochi has yet to specify which three months the survey was conducted, begging the question – was it really conducted before microtransaction monetization tools (i.e. Mochi Coins) were made available to developers?

Not merely a coincidence, Mochi also announced their second annual Flash Gaming Summit together with the survey release. The summit will be held this coming March 8th at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center.