GWJ Conference Call Episode 462

Rocket League, OlliOlli2, Prune, Warhammer: Shadow of The Horned Rat, TrackIR, 80 Days, Payment Models, Your Emails and More!

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This week Sean Sands, Julian Murdoch and Rob Zacny talk payment models, their Rocket League love and more.

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Comments

I haven't got up to the VR part of the conversation, but I'm definitely in the sceptic camp. I have no doubt it's cool, I have no doubt I would have fun with it, and I have no doubt that within a couple of hours I'd get tired of being cut off from everyone around me and pack the unit away until I want to impress someone with my cool toy again. I don't even play with a headset because I don't like the isolation.

As Eleima says, VR is a solo thing.

MS's Hololens is several orders of magnitude more interesting to me because it's a cool tech, that also has the potential to mix shared physical and virtual spaces.

Both are toys, but the most fun toy is the one you get to share.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

History is littered with advanced technology that heralded The Future. New technology gets widely accepted only if it's measurably "better" than the old technology in terms of convenience, price and utility.

Not even that, sometimes the better tech just doesn't gain traction. It needs the 'killer app' to gain wide use. What is the killer app for VR that will get it into a significant number of consumer's homes? It may be cool, but fundamentally it's a gewgaw until someone figures that out.

Eleima wrote:

Edit: I've had some more thoughts. The thing about watching movies or playing a console in your living room is that it's a social thing. People get together and do this thing together. The moment you strap that thing on your head, you're mostly closed off from the rest of the world.
Call me when they invent the holodeck. :D

Yes, that's exactly it. It's not just the sense of vulnerability or claustrophobia (although that is a thing), but even single player games can be social or shared experiences. I love watching Shoppy play Persona 4. I vent my frustration at him when stupid things happen in Final Fantasy XIV. I call him over to look if I'm doing something cool. I can easily pause the game and go get a drink. All of these things and more are lost with a VR headset.

Also, a big part of the reason I play video games is to relax. A lot of action games that are perfectly acceptable to play when they're six feet away on a big TV are likely to turn me into a nervous wreck if things are in my face. Like a psycho running up to you and exploding in Borderlands is funny now, but in a VR headset NOPE NOPE NOPE. Only the calmest and safest games would ever work for me that way. I could probably handle a Kirby game.

Demyx wrote:

I can easily pause the game and go get a drink. All of these things and more are lost with a VR headset.

I agree with your other points, but not this one. Surely a VR single-player game will have a pause function, at which point you can simply take off the headset and go get a drink.

[quote="MeatMan"]

Demyx wrote:
Eleima wrote:

I can easily pause the game and go get a drink. All of these things and more are lost with a VR headset.

I agree with your other points, but not this one. Surely a VR single-player game will have a pause function, at which point you can simply take off the headset and go get a drink.

Sure, but taking off and putting back on a headset is a lot more cumbersome.

Playing with Pyroman's DevKit 2, which is a far cry from what the final version of the Oculus will be was enough to convince me that the technology has legs. Whether it moves beyond the enthusiast market depends less on the discomfort levels, and more on whether software experiences that justify it start being created, I think. Much like 3D in films is barely ever used artistically, so it became nothing but a novelty.

Eleima wrote:

Call me when they invent the holodeck. :D

That is the inevitable next step

Edit: But I am sure there will be people who will discount the holodeck saying that they want to relax on their couch, not expend energy to live an adventure.

If you have enjoyed WoW in the past but balk at continuing to spend $15/mo, you should know that it's possible to play WoW without paying a monthly subscription now. The recently introduced "WoW Tokens" can be bought with in-game gold and redeemed for game time. That means if you spend a few hours a week doing your normal max-level stuff, you will easily make enough gold to pay for your game time.

I was skeptical at first, but I have just paid for my September game time this weekend using in-game gold I made over the past few weeks, and there's still another week left in August. I made that gold using a single max-level character, with a combination of auctioning crafted items, doing daily quests, and using "treasure hunter" garrison followers to maximize the gold I get from garrison missions.

So, while many of us have spent a lot of money on WoW subscriptions over the years, it's pretty easy to play WoW for free now.

Oh no, I'm Kindergarten Soccer.

BadKen wrote:

If you have enjoyed WoW in the past but balk at continuing to spend $15/mo, you should know that it's possible to play WoW without paying a monthly subscription now. The recently introduced "WoW Tokens" can be bought with in-game gold and redeemed for game time. That means if you spend a few hours a week doing your normal max-level stuff, you will easily make enough gold to pay for your game time.

I was skeptical at first, but I have just paid for my September game time this weekend using in-game gold I made over the past few weeks, and there's still another week left in August. I made that gold using a single max-level character, with a combination of auctioning crafted items, doing daily quests, and using "treasure hunter" garrison followers to maximize the gold I get from garrison missions.

So, while many of us have spent a lot of money on WoW subscriptions over the years, it's pretty easy to play WoW for free now.

Wait, is the economy that bloated now? I just looked up how much it costs for a 30 day token, and it said 27k gold for North America. Last I played, that was a ton of gold. As in, I've never had that much at once across several characters. Granted, I haven't been an avid player for years, but I would pop in from time to time if it weren't for the pay barrier.

It took me a while to get my character and my garrison up to speed making that kind of gold, but now I can make 300-500 gold per day passively just with garrison and shipyard missions. I do some daily quests (doing all of them is very time consuming), I run the occasional heroic 5-man dungeon using dungeon finder, and I sell bags and enchantment scrolls on the auction house to make up the rest.

The most time consuming thing was getting the treasure hunter followers which double the return on garrison treasure missions, and increasing their gear level so they can go on the most lucrative missions. You can only hire one follower per week at your garrison's Inn, and follower gear upgrade missions don't show up every day. You can make those upgrades with a Dwarven Bunker, but I didn't do that.

I spend less time with my gold earning character now, so I have time to play other characters.

Aha! That's all gibberish to me, so I think it's a pretty good indication the game has passed me by. I'm not sure how to feel about that. Last time I played, I spent more time tending gardens than anything.

That's what the garrisons are like, except instead of growing food, you're growing followers. Or something.

BadKen wrote:

That's what the garrisons are like, except instead of growing food, you're growing followers. Or something. :)

I wouldn't say I've been "missing" it, Bob.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

More recently, and less ridiculously, correspondents on this very podcast were proclaiming that FarmVille was The Future of video games. How'd that work out?

Well:

Localgod54 wrote:

Aha! That's all gibberish to me, so I think it's a pretty good indication the game has passed me by. I'm not sure how to feel about that. Last time I played, I spent more time tending gardens than anything.

BadKen wrote:

That's what the garrisons are like, except instead of growing food, you're growing followers. Or something. :)

Honestly, when it comes to free to play games, I try to avoid them as much as possible. There's a few reasons for this. One is, I prefer much shorter games now. A hallmark of good game design for me is a game that doesn't waste my time. Chrono Trigger would be a good example of this. I didn't have to go grinding in that at all, there wasn't a whole lot of misdirection, the whole game was done with in about 22 hours. A game that wasted my time was Legend of Dragoon, with the long loading times constantly throughout and large sprawling levels that you'd have to revisit several times through the game. 15 hours of content jam packed into a 47 hour game.

Free to play games are like Legend of Dragoon, wasting my time intentionally to get me to pay extra.

The other part is that there's no limit to how much you're going to spend on a free to play game in general. You could put in a thousand dollars and still have to pay even more to see all of the content. Simpsons Tapped Out was like this. I got dragged in by co-workers who wanted help with one of the events. I ended up playing it for about a year, and for that year I never spent any money on the game. At the end, I decided that I'd gotten just about as much enjoyment out of it as I might get from a budget console game, so I gave them $50. I was SHOCKED at how little content you actually got for that amount of money. Within a week, I had burned through all of the new storyline missions and all I was left with was a handful of characters and buildings that gave me a tiny boost every day with no real extra storyline. Shortly after that I deleted it.

Of course, there are a couple of free to play games that I feel like I've paid for and gotten my money's worth. No Heroes Allowed was a good one. I spent about $15 on it and that unlocked everything except for the consumable potions, and I didn't see much need for those potions anyway. Jetpack Joyride was also worthwhile, and I only really bought the coin doubler for it, and that was worth the small amount I paid for it. It was enjoyable to keep playing that, and time that you enjoyed wasting isn't wasted.

I'm perfectly willing to pay $100-120 for a game that I know will last me a long time without too much filler, and I'm also fairly willing to pay $50-60 for a game that I'll play through for 10 hours or so and be done with, if I want to support that studio and I'm really excited for the game, thus I'll buy collectors editions for the things I'm really interested in. I've probably put $300 into HumbleBundles and maybe played a couple dozen games out of those.

It's just the skinner box games where there's no upper cap that make me cringe.

Also, I've mostly sworn off paying for subscriptions to games I'm not actively playing. These days, if I play at all, I'll just buy 1 month worth of FF14 and try to get at least a couple weeks in before I get bored, then cancel it for 4-5 more months. WoW holds even less interest to me than that.

I'm really surprised Kickstarter didn't come up in the discussion of pricing. That's basically the center of a venn diagram with Free to Play and Collector's Editions I wouldn't be surprised if Rob's right about the margins on Collector's Editions being higher. If they weren't lucrative I don't think so many companies would be doing them, and manufacturing collectibles isn't that expensive when done in large quantities.

Tanglebones wrote:

Regarding F2P games and their monetization, I finally broke, over this past year, and spent money twice in Marvel Puzzle Quest - the first two times I've ever spent money on a free to play game of any sort. That said, I don't regret it at all - I knew I was being manipulated (the game even comments on it in its metatext, through Deadpool - one of his powers is literally, "Whales! Whales! Whales!"), but I was enjoying (and am still enjoying) the game, and I wanted to keep all the goodies that had a timed expiration date.

I've had less reluctance to dropping money on F2P games, but I agree I'm a lot less willing to do it on mobile products. I generally view many of these games as psuedo-MMOs due to their long drawn-out nature, especially if there's some sort of guild or community aspect to it, and therefore they're a service. If the game isn't constantly badgering me to spend money (or watch ads) and the devs are good about regular updates I'm a lot more willing to throw them some money as a show of support for their efforts. And I'm not talking $5-10 either. I think I've dropped about $25 each on Marvel Puzzle Quest and Terra Battle at this point, and I'll usually pick up a pre-order bundle each time a new expansion is released for SolForge.

I can trace this mentality back to my 9-10 years with Kingdom of Loathing. From what I've heard about Card Hunter they have a similar business model to KoL so that's probably a game I'd have no issue with spending money on.

However, I totally get where Sean is coming from with this need to cheat the system and see how far I can get without paying. That's been my experience with Plants vs. Zombies 2 which for some reason I never gave any money to probably because buying plants felt a lot more like cheating than spending money for some character slots in MPQ.

With regards to pricing of micro-pricing in games, I think one aspect that stops me is that it often feels like cheating. If I finish the game (3 stars on all levels or whatever) and I paid for some advantage, then the whole "I won" feeling is substantially diminished.

I really wish some games had a "Give us 5 bucks because you enjoyed the game" button as well. It would probably not be used very often, but I'm certain there's at least 1/2% of players are reasonably well off who don't otherwise buy cheats that would use it.

By the way, does anyone really know how the economics of the mobile space really works these days? I know the zeitgeist has been "you must make a game that has the psychological hooks to make 1% of your player base spend ridiculous amounts of money because 99% won't spend anything", but is that still the general wisdom?

I understand the business model, and it probably does produce a large consumer surplus (millions play the first 1/3 of thousands of game without spending a penny!), and perhaps it's (almost) the only way to have a hope of making money in the space, but I feel the sort of games the model produces don't match my personal approach to games.

However, I suspect that outside of a few lottery winners, any developer that makes the players pay up front won't stay in business. The people demand free.

Sigh, yet another case of catering to my desires as a consumer is economic suicide :-(.

West, my sister works in mobile gaming so I have some insight in the matter and can ask for more if needed. From what I gather, some people really do spend a lot on these "extras" in F2P games. And don't forget there's the ad revenue when people don't pay.
In the end, I think it's a very uneven terrain. A lot of these games aren't going to make any money because the market is already flooded as it is, but the larger ones, King, Gameloft and a bunch of others, have shown us that it can be lucrative.

Well, not "needed" as this is entirely curiosity (I'm not in the industry), but if you'd be willing to ask your sister as to what she feels is roughly the percentage of revenue comes from "whales", I'd be very grateful.

Even if my impressions of "lots" was accurate a few years ago, the industry changes rapidly, and there may be entirely different revenue models.

Well it hasn't changed much in the past five years, from what she told me. Apparently they have all these metrics (Daily average users, Average revenue per user, etc), but she wouldn't give them to me. However, she did say that there aren't that many whales as people think (and the part of me that lives data hates her for not giving me specifics). She also added that these numbers vary significantly from game to game which makes complete sense. I'm guessing Candy Crush and FarmVille have varying metrics.

Thanks! I wouldn't want any specifics, as that will vary a lot from game to game anyway. Mostly I'm hoping to get insider's general impressions. I figured whales are pretty rare (1 in 100? 1 in 1000?) , but the most interesting question is not how many, but what percentage of revenue.

If it's as high as a I fear, you end up with game design that must be intriguing enough to get hundreds of thousands to try the game (because whales are rare). Thus it has to have a great beginning, so people are recommending it to others.

But then you need to add in the psychological hooks that compel people with the appropriate psychological tics to start paying, and continuing to pay. And that's where it becomes icky. You can't survive on having a 1% of the base say "great game" and hand you $5. You need to design to hit those 0.1% who feel compelled to give you hundreds.

Part of my worry is based on a conversation I had with an insider a number of years ago. I suggested that the industry would be better off if Apple limited the amount of sales from any one game to $50 or $100. In other words, there would be a limit to how badly an addict could be taken.

He bluntly suggested that if that were the case, Apple would lose every major mobile-oriented game publisher almost instantly, as they'd switch platforms or go bust! No doubt an exaggeration, and quite possibly inaccurate (insiders don't have perfect information), but I've not heard a lot to indicate he was wrong, either.

The idea that games could only be financially successful by using the same dubious tactics as casinos seems tragic for game creators.

west wrote:

The idea that games could only be financially successful by using the same dubious tactics as casinos seems tragic for game creators.

I clipped the quote for brevity's sake, but I just wanted to say nice series of posts. I find this topic fascinating. The whole whale concept in general seems anathema to good game design. In general, I find it so unappealing, I'll rarely even try a free to play game.

At about 1:02:30 Rob Zacny mentions a game … no idea what he says. Sounds like "U 4"? Any clues?

Kopfsammler wrote:

At about 1:02:30 Rob Zacny mentions a game … no idea what he says. Sounds like "U 4"? Any clues?

I can't tell if you're serious or not, so I'm going to err on the side of a caution. That was EU4, Europea Universalis 4, which has become a bit of a running joke on the podcast because Sean Sands has played a LOT of it these past two years or so. As in over a thousand hours and counting.

Not a joke … been out of podcasts for a few years so I missed the reference, haha. Doing a ton of catchup!

Thanks!

Kopfsammler wrote:

Not a joke … been out of podcasts for a few years so I missed the reference, haha. Doing a ton of catchup!

Thanks!

For reference: