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101459

Do Publishers Understand Mod Support?

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I suspect the answer is that executive, finance, and to a lesser extent marketing decision makers (who in the later case are more concerned with job security) for the most part do not. Explanations and reasons that have been offered by 'AAA' Publishers of the last couple generations of games for absence of mod support have included: increasing complexity of 3D engines, cross licensing issues with middleware that is part of the art pipeline, and wanting to focus resources on the game's development to make it better.

These ring more of excuse or cover story than reason, as there are equally if not more complex indie and FOSS engines, mods are often hacked onto modern game engines even without support which is far more challenging and obviates arguments of difficulty working with the newer engines, middleware companies have been openly enthusiastic about exposure inclusion in any sort MDK gives their product and have presented no hindrance or even cost to licensure, and the actual amount of time and cost to roll a feature limited SDK or MDK is modest, typically requiring less work than producing a patch from a finished fix.

The real reason appears to have its source in executive thinking that mod support for a game competes with DLC and expansions sales for the target product, possibly future products, and does not justify any cost of inclusion, however small for this reason. While this sort of thinking is understandable as it's typical of global corporate sales and marketing think in many industries, it doesn't take into account the larger context of the game marketplace; that market venue is still relatively new new, poorly understood and under analyzed as far as deep market metrics of what has proven to offer very successful revenue return and why...

One of the most significant assets forsaken with mod support is free marketing, where even some of the most conservative estimates value what's had for free in tens of millions of dollars U.S. per title, and the return in the hundreds of millions -- ss with mod support, comes mod development sites and their satellite community and fan sites, YouTube channels, all their positive 'buzz' and the value added SOE benefit of all these sites and their enthusiasm pointing directly or indirectly back to the game and Publisher.

By way of example I used to save and organize links to sites that interested me and had my own little 'Yahoo Link Store'; and just a little over a decade ago the Navy SEALs: Covert Operations total conversion for Q3A had in addition to its main site; fourteen localized National Fan sites, a ModDB page, a Maps DB site, seven big production clan sites, pages on five different leagues and ladders -- and these are just the sites I saved and still have links to for just for one modestly popular Q3A mod of thousands. The point here being there were tens of not hundreds of thousands of sites pointing to id Software, Activision and Q3A which is real market leverage, that no amount of marketing money can buy through aegis like scammy SOE, astro-turfing, and shill-pay 'social media' scam marketing with all their negative back-lash. Closer to home, I still have over eighty links, most of which are dead, to Ghost Recon Mod and Fan sites, and these were just what I collected out of personal interest.

Not even heavy hitter, big three marketing companies like Hill & Knowlton Strategies given insane billion dollar marketing budgets can wield this level of product awareness, enthusiasm, real SOE, positive image, and grow an audience as much in a sustainable manner -- even if they were to target the entire budget on just one of these marketing goals. What's more, in the very market venue of our interest we have on-going proof that Mod support not only doesn't compete with sales of the current title, its expansions, DLC or future products -- it gives every indication of lifting the ceiling on a lot of assumptions in applied marketing to what motivates sales.

Ghost Recon, a game that had its DRM cracked before it went on sale, not only had a record breaking volume of mods created for it, but went on to break records in sales at over eleven million units sold, saw virtual parity in sales for its expansions Desert Siege and Island Thunder, had Fans pining for yet another expansion, and continues to be modded and a strong seller to this day on Steam.

Bohemia Interactive offers what is perhaps the most stunning rags to riches success story making it 'Thee Poster Child' illustration of what Mod support has achieved. This small Czech company brought itself up by its bootstraps with virtually no marketing, from struggling independent Developer to game and simulator powerhouse with in-house sound stages, motion-capture studios, it's own publishing arm, and global military contracts and partners. In some regards BI is more the spiritual successor of the Clancy Games then any Clancy game since Ghost Recon; now with more mods then all Clancy games combined, stand-alone expansions that outsell the previous game they expand, and all done with a marketing and advertising budget that wouldn't sustain for a single day of advertising at the level Ubisoft pours into a current Clancy title.

BI's example, and the Ghost Recon, Rogue Spear, R6 legacy show that not only if Publishers 'stop looking for more ways to market and exploit revenue and just make better games' like explore the market metrics and leverage Mod support offers -- it's clear opportunity exists to make more money, through more sustainable and Consumer positive means...

:zorro:

Edited by 101459

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Modding is what I call 'free marketing' in the games. I mean, several people bought Ghost Recon just to play some of the mods we see around here and, mind you capitalism, they are all free! No costs to the developers or the publishers, made of the pure efforts of the fans, and even then they still give you revenue.

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More then free marketing, mod support opens sales to a broader Audience; BI for example estimates that it sees as large an audience buying its games that want to create and play mods as are interested in the core game.

Mods also put some control of the fate of a game's future in Fan hands; the Battlefield, Unreal, DooM, Quake, and many Valve games have a rich history of Fan fixes that preceded patches, as well as game tweaks that were later adopted by the Developers/Publishers.

Mods also have and continue to lead as free market testing of what works, what doesn't, and what kind of game design is most popular with the broadest, or a specific audience. Valve, id Software, and EA\DICE have by their own estimates substantially increased revenue in subsequent games and expansions by adopting ideas in popular mods.

I'm surprised more Ghost Recon Fans aren't out of their seats with respect to Mod support for GR:FS and aren't harping on this as GR:FS could not only be Ubisoft's money shot Ghost Recon PC game, but with YETI engine could be a long term wish come true for really capable mod support.

The YETI engine is at it's core Unreal Engine 2.5 with some advanced render candy; and it seems likely that Ubisoft Tiwak chose Unreal 2.5 for some the same reasons so many other Studios have; Epic's efficient art pipeline with mature, robust and capable tools. So it seems just as reasonable an assumption that even with some of the more advanced light and shader candy offered in YETI the tools remain close to UrealEd making the path to an SDK/MDK as efficient and easy as any Unreal Engine game.

So, perhaps you're a Ghost Recon Fan, love the look of GR:FS art assets but aren't too keen on some of the fantasy features in this iteration of the franchise; just about every modded version of UnrealEd that's appeared with other games would easily let you not only create new maps but address that and:

· add first or third person perspective

· script new interface features (Original Ghost Recon Squad Map/Control anyone?)

· script new game modes

· mod, add/remove and tweak art assets (Stuff you don't like? Take it out...)

· fix broken 'stuff'

There are also a slew of third party tools like plug-ins, WOTgreal, script samples, and excellent documentation that will probably all work with YETI.

For all the reasons in this thread and many others; it would undoubtedly be better for Ubisoft in terms of benefits received to offer an official path of mod support rather have Fans hack their own which inevitably ends up in negative adversarial outcomes (look no further then Sony) where neither party is a particularly happy benefactor. And it looks like Ubisoft could really do with a Clancy franchise winner that's hitting on all cylinders and pumping steady revenue on par with competitors.

:o

Edited by 101459

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LOL .. i have a short answer for the question - No

They don't want peeps making maps and a community. They want you to play the game and in 4 months buy the next version or a map pack that they made. Keeping the game alive doesn't = more sales to them after a certain point. Ghost Recon (OGR) was a fluke. It wasn't intended to last, but Red storm slipped in enough tools that our modders created ungodly countless missions and maps with. Ubi has not let that mistake happen again.

You also have to remember - the PC crowd is now an afterthought. The money is in the consoles and consoles are very difficult to mod with.

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LOL .. i have a short answer for the question - No. They don't want peeps making maps and a community. They want you to play the game and in 4 months buy the next version or a map pack that they made.

I agree that's the prevailing 'wisdom', but the veracity of that assumption ...

Keeping the game alive doesn't = more sales to them after a certain point. Ghost Recon (OGR) was a fluke.

Actually, not entirely true; there have been a lot of games that made the bulk of their sales well past the anticipated 'sell through' and marketing blitz... In the more serious realism and tactical realism genre this includes games like the SWAT games, all the ArmA games, and a large number of mid size and small publisher titles like the Sniper Ghost Warrior...

You also have to remember - the PC crowd is now an afterthought. The money is in the consoles and consoles are very difficult to mod with.

Yes, this appears to be the prevailing outlook at all four corners of big 'AAA' publishing; however having worked in the media industry I can offer that there's almost always a considerable disconnect of awareness at the executive level of large media companies, and what's really going on until it's quite late in the game (no pun intended).

Where it was once possible for big publishing to trivialize small income properties, niche markets, and the PC where margins can be substantial and even more profitable then 'AAA' title console products that's going to change in a hurry as global economics puts more pressure on margins. While 'AAA' console products do gross more revenue it comes at the price of crushing budgets, enormous risk, slimmer margins, limited and costly means to repair a defective or poorly performing product, and big budget 'push' marketing to make sure it all works.

Going forward the economic challenge of a failing global economy is not going to make red ink in business an option, as it will literally be life or death.. I think we'll see things gear more toward leveraging lower cost, lower risk, higher margin approaches -- and Ubisoft has historically been one of the more adventurous and bigger risk takers, if any of the big four takes on the retro gaming, franchise reboot, or slow burn sales approach it will be Ubisoft first.

:)

Boy does this forum hate Opera... I always have to reformat everything after posting...

:blink:

Edited by 101459

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This spin on Blue's News of this Gamesutra article:

[Apr 17, 2012, 7:27 pm ET]

Following up on a recent report that suggests sales of Call of Duty; Modern Warfare 3 are trailing behind those of Call of Duty: Black Ops, Gamasutra has a statement from an analyst blaming this on the game's afterthought platforms, the PC and Wii (thanks Joao). Word is: "Cowen's Doug Creutz said in his latest report that while life-to-date Modern Warfare 3 retail sales are indeed down 4.6 percent year-over-year compared to Black Ops, sales of the game on the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms are actually slightly up year-over-year. However, large declines in sales of the versions of the game for Nintendo Wii, handheld platforms and PC have driven the overall decline, he suggests."

...corroborates some of the things I've been studying, going on at ridiculous length in this thread and reading in the industry press; i.e. slow burn sales still count. and the PC as a target platform because of its 'in-line' aspect with the Internet, more effectual Fans, and better graphics still weighs heavily on sales for all platforms.

As well as the quality of ports, mod support and the extensive resources this brings to bare plays a considerable role in all of this that hasn't been properly put under the 'Marking Tools' microscope; but I suspect the next 'AAA' title to roll capable mod support, as well as more polish for the PC platform will show concomitant up-tick in sales on all platforms.

4.6 percent may seem trivial, but when you consider that's 4.6 percent of over a billion Dollars U.S. -- it's pretty obvious that even this small decline is far from trivial in the larger picture of sales performance.

:zorro:

Edited by 101459

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