Jump to content
Ghost Recon.net Forums

>>The Commercial Realities <<


Recommended Posts

Over the last several years, I have seen people screaming for an SDK for many games. For some, an SDK would be alright and I know of one developer that releases several for one game, Flight Simulator, but FS mod makers are a hardy lot. Still, there are some mods that leave much to be desired.

Now, FC2 released a map editor based on a sandbox type editor. I know of several games that have said type of editor and have a couple of games that use said editor. The drawback of this type of editor is one could get or release really crappy mods. Still, it makes it easy to create mods. This type of editor lets one build a map from the ground up, including the ground.

A plain mission editor is cool as it allows someone to build custom campaigns/missions for maps already included with a game. Want to recreate an air battle over Leningrad during WW2? iL2 FB's Full Mission Editor allows you to do so using game objects, but not creating a map/level.

The next is old fashioned mod tools ala RSE. They release an editor like IGOR that allows you to place objects on a map and create missions for said map. It uses objects already included in the games or objects created by others made with the other mod tools RSE released but require use of 3rd party programs like 3DSM. This cuts down on crappy mods and allows those with determination to create some really great mods ala Frost Bite or HX4.

The problem is that publishers do not want to spend the money by allowing the developers to create the tools to begin with. As Rocky said, giving gamers the ability to mod keeps the community involved in the game and gives a publisher a built in customer base for future titles as long as said publisher keeps the faith with the gamers to begin with and doesn't do a 180 and go a completely different direction.

From my point of view, release a decent set of mod tools for a game that the gamers want and a publisher will be set. But first, create a game that will be accepted by the gamers. There are reasons why iL2 Sturmovik/Forgotten Battles are the number one forums at Ubi (with LockOn a distant second) compared to other important game titles whose forums are almost dead.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I definitely agree that modding is key to keeping gamers. Not only, though, do mods keep paying customers, they also ATTRACT paying customers...

For instance, looking at Unreal, the only real reason that Epic got my money from my purchase of UT2004, is because of the awesome modding community they have. I bought UT2004 because I heard about a COUPLE awesome mods that I really wanted to play.

... My 2 cents... (Actually $50 lol)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Folks,

Great to hear that GR4 is going to be a reality. And it will be even greater to hear the vendor is interested in the value that the community can bring to their software offering. In in my view, if software suppliers, and in this case game makers, recognize the largely untapped value that exists in the gaming community in the form of moders, they have an opportunity to significantly change the revenue profile for minimal additional overlay cost.

Provision of, and active support for modders, should not be viewed as a cost, but as a value added extention to the base product. And a very profitable one at that.

Once established, the modding community is largely self reliant - so the investment required would be limited to care and feeding over the initial three or four months post game launch. The additional opex/labour costs for supporting the community over this time would be a minimal increment over and above that required to provide base level support for the new release (ie. working through fixes, patches and additional game content). A cost which would be repaid many fold when you consider the hundreds if not thousands of modders that will create content (and so revenue) if managed correctly.

Once established, the modding community will deliver significant additional revenue for the game makers for zero ongoing investment. Ghost Recon, has proven that this revenue trail can continue for at least 10 years. In all honesty, game manufacturers who wish to survive beyond single titles and one to two years in the lime light simply can not afford to ignore this revenue stream.

I'd be interested in other peoples thoughts on the subject of the economics of gaming houses building for and fostering modding.

Dav.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed, to me it is a no brainer. Modding tools enhance the longevity of a title no end (GR mods are still coming out after all these years!), and so long as you have people creating mods, and fans downloading them, you have a captive fanbase all ready for either expansions and/or sequels.

We need a "It's a no-brainer" emoticon. :lol:

If anyone else feels the urge to convince Ubisoft to give us GR4 modding tools, whether it be on release, or after an expansion pack or two, post your thoughts here!

Link to post
Share on other sites

The nice thing about using mod tools and mods in general is that theres a really good chance that somebody who might not have bought the game will see it being played with a mod running, whether it be a map, mission or weapons mod and think "wow, that's not what I expected of it, I'll have me some of that"

Ker-Ching, one more sale and put another few dollars in the cash register.

Everybody here knows what talent is on the boards so give em a chance eh?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think a mod community would be fantastic. perhaps even to the point that we can probably come up with some sort of standard.

nothing more confusing than 6 games and 6 totally different mod tools. perhaps even make the mod tools via this community and allow game devs to adopt them. this way, modders can use tools already. it would probably simplify the whole process.

But I might be just blowing smoke here

Edited by Papa6
Link to post
Share on other sites

Some may be thinking, why would a business encourage others to develop "free" content for a game. Well, it all depends upon your mindset. People do not just buy one game and as long as new content is released for it, never buy another title. Quite the opposite infact. You should see the shelves of my friends games rooms! Wall to wall games. The better the experience with a game, the more likely people are to buy future titles. Mod's allow players to personalise their game. In doing so it creates positive feelings and ties to a brand - in this case a game manufacturer. All companies want this brand loyalty.

Read what Doug Lombardi, Valve's marketing director and Jason Holtman, Valve's financial director have to say on the subject.

Doug Lombardi, Valve's marketing director. "It's not just so they can brag to a bunch of people on a forum. They're serious. They want to quit their day jobs and do this thing for real. So they're forming companies. I was around in the Half-Life days, and if you'd told me in early 1998 that people in the mod community would be forming articles of corporation, I would have laughed at you. But we see it now."

While some in the community say this commercial approach destroys the spirit of modding, Lombardi says: "I think you just end up with more polished works."

Jason Holtman, Valve's financial director, concurs...

Taken from ...Mods are moving from bedroom to boardroom -

Independent coders have always added to games, but now they are getting much more businesslike about it - Alexander Gambotto-Burke The Guardian, Thursday November 20 2008

So, UBI, (and people of GR.net), I encourage you to consider what other successful and innovative comanies (aka. your competitors) are realising - catering and indeed fostering modders is no longer simply tolerated by game manufactures, but is now considered an integral component of game design and marketing.

I then encourage you to do some Googling on the subject and talk with your peers and customers and you'll recognise the winds of change are already blowing. Time to set sail.

Dav

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please bear with me while I introduce an analogy, here. Let's try to compare the ability to mod a game to the concept of open-source software - and no, I am not proposing an open-sourced game or game engine - I just want to focus on the potential of freely expanding the existing feature set of a software title through third-party developers.

By now, all of us have come in contact with open-source software, the Firefox browser, Linux etc. - and we have seen what can happen when the united forces of independently thinking people are unleashed upon a software project: It suddenly develops the potential to grow far beyond its original goals - it gains the potential to excel in its class.

If you keep a product completely proprietary, it can still achieve excellence - under one condition: You have to get everything perfectly right yourself! You have to know exactly what your user base wants and be willing and capable to fulfill this demand. But there is a catch - not all of your users want the exactly same thing! You cannot make all of them happy with one solution, their wishes are diverse and sometimes even contradict one another.

And here's where the limitation of proprietary products kicks in: The developers will focus on the "majority". They will call upon the market researchers to find out what the potentially largest customer base would want, and then they base their development efforts on simple math, in an attempt to do the economically responsible thing. Wrong!

There is a major flaw in this school of thought. If you ask people what they want, they tend to name things that they know, that they have experience with - things that they are used to. If you ask many people and then use statistics to find out what all of their demands have in common, you additionally limit this list to the lowest common denominator.

What you end up with in this way of determining your customer profile is the sure-fire way into mediocracy. Yes, you can sell a lot of product to the masses - initially. Until they find out that there is nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing unexpected in the product - until they find out they got exactly what they asked for, but nothing more.

At this point the proprietary product is stuck in an "average" existence - it's "good enough" for average people to buy because it's new, but it lacks the one thing that separates the true classics from the remaining stream of products: It does not stand out in the crowd!

But if the product is open to modification by others - if it's open-source / offers a good set of modding tools - here's where the independent developers / modders come in. All they need is a solid base to build upon and a product that has the potential to evolve into something they dream about. If they are given the right tools, there is no limit to what they will do to realize that dream, and - lo and behold - in the end their dream may turn out to be just what the "majority" of customers wanted, but just did not realize.

In case all of this does not make my opinion perfectly clear:

YES, GIVE US MODDING TOOLS! ALL OF THEM!

Link to post
Share on other sites

The publisher of the massively successful Call of Duty World at War game think that getting mod tools out there, and quickly, is a good idea apparently.

Treyarch has released this toolset allowing modders and mappers the tools needed to create mods and levels for Singleplayer and Multiplayer modes for Call of Duty: World at War

Hmmm, single player tools too!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm, if a game came out that was good though, and did have mod tools, surely it would cater to more than just the customer base it was intended for. Games such as BF1942, which was a really nice game and interested hundreds of modders, I'd even go out on a limb and guess that the desert combat mod made EA a pile of cash just by the number of gamers who bought 1942 just to play DC.

Obviously you'd need sales figures to confirm it but I'd be willing to bet that BF2 sales are still going a few years on and its the mod community that is keeping that going.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
Mod capability is a key to longevity of a title, but not to it's success.

Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree, jsonedecker. Modding capability is a key to a title's success - just not the only key, and certainly no guarantee. And the reversal - meaning no modding capabilities - does of course not necessarily mean a title cannot be successful, it just lacks one key feature, for which it can compensate in other areas, as I have pointed out previously:

If you keep a product completely proprietary, it can still achieve excellence - under one condition: You have to get everything perfectly right yourself! You have to know exactly what your user base wants and be willing and capable to fulfill this demand.

An (oversimplified) comparison: Top-notch graphics - certainly one key to a games attractiveness that may lead to its success, but not necessarily required to achieve popularity. Even a butt-ugly game can be successful, as long as the sum of its other features makes it stand out again.

But there is a far more disturbing undertone in your statement: To disregard longevity when measuring a title's success leaves a hint of bad taste in my mouth, as I have a feeling that this philosophy lead to many bad decisions in game development policy, which I addressed to some extent, elsewhere.

Let's take a moment and examine the differences between games that enjoy short-term success and those whose popularity lasts. What sets them apart? I will use examples everyone here will probably be familiar with - Blizzard's StarCraft and Westwood Studios'/Electronic Arts' Command & Conquer series.

Some numbers: StarCraft was published on 31 March 1998 with its sole official expansion pack StarCraft: Brood War following on 30 November 1998. Command & Conquer was released about three years earlier, on August 31, 1995, and spawned eight game sequels plus eight expansion packs, bringing the number of total releases to - I don't know - one hundred?

It is estimated that by now, over 12 million copies of StarCraft have been sold and both the game and its expansion are still available for purchase at Blizzard's online store, today. For Command & Conquer, sales estimations reach about 25 million copies for the complete series including expansions, and I cannot actually find any title for sale on their web site - but that's probably just me, as I have no patience for bad web design, whatsoever.

So while Blizzard created 2 titles and still supports them to the nth degree today, e.g. with the latest update being about 4 weeks old now, EA (after buying out Westwood in 2003) have brought their tally up to 16(!) different titles - 8 times the number of Blizzard's - yet sold just about 2.5 times the amount of copies.

It would be far beyond the scope of this thread (I guess) to dive into all of the fundamental differences between the philosophies of these series and their makers, but anyone even slightly familiar with the subject can agree that there lies an entire dimension of disparity between the fanatical quality Blizzard offers in their StarCraft game and the lets-make-another-quick-buck approach EA has implemented in the C&C series.

Longevity and success... no relation?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Here's a quick additional thought on the notion of modding capabilities. Look at this website - GR.net - and ask yourself whether this kind of community would be possible for a game confined to a static unalterable setup. Sure, there are fan community forums for games without modding tools, but how long does it take to discuss a game that stays the same? How many posts are needed to explore every aspect of the game down to the last detail? One thing is for certain - the answer can be expressed with a limited number.

With a (good!) fully moddable game, that answer becomes a lot more difficult - just look at the amount of posts here at GR.net for the good ol' GR, eight years after it was published. As of now, there are 14,336 topics with 135,770 replies - and still going strong! 8,565 topics with 98,180 replies on the subject of modding alone - that's about 60% of all topics and over 70% of all replies. There can be no doubt about the fact that this community is largely kept alive by the sheer countless mods created in the past and still being created today. They offer ever new reasons to play and discuss the game and be part of a group of people with a common interest.

This social factor should not be underestimated! A game is just a program, a silent entity if you will, and although it can offer great joy to players on its own, the true fun just begins when this enjoyment can be shared with others in many ways, and one of those ways - maybe the most important one - is through dialogue with other people. Man is a social animal, and the same reasons that drive us to live in huge cities cause us to flock together in internet forums - we love company.

I don't think it is really necessary to explain the commercial implications of a healthy fan community. Obvious to anyone with a basic knowledge of marketing, the "social animal" factor applies to consumption of commercial goods just as well as it does to cities and internet forums. Where there is a lot of people already, you can expect yet even more to show up, soon.

Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, Jsonedecker has a point. Take a game like Battlefront.com's Combat Mission series. They have never allowed for any mods beyond reskinning the models and user interface (and an extensive mission editor), yet have been hugely successful for a wargame (and rightly so, it's brilliant).

That said, modding, or rather a flow of quality content, does indeed add quite a bit to the longevity of a game. Of course, it usually has to be a pretty good game in the first place. GR and the excellent Heroes Unleashed mod released by a certain Mr. Apex is an obvious example.

One of my favourite talking points as a gamer pundit is monetizing longevity. Usually, developers/publishers are paid when a sale is made and that's that. Features to enhanced the lifespan of a game, such as mission editor and mod support have only benefited the developer/publisher indirectly through increased customer awareness of any expansions or sequels. But in terms of direct revenue, it's only the actual sales that have mattered. A game that sells a million copies and is played for a month before gamers grow tired of it, generates the same revenue as a game that sells a million copies and is played for years.

But what if there were direct benefits to the industry from longevity? Then continuous support (an example in recent years would be ensuring compatibility with Vista), mod support and an influx of new quality content becomes a very tangible (and potentially very profitable) concept. Ultimately, we're looking at a "games as a service, not a product" system

Respectfully

krise madsen

Link to post
Share on other sites
One of my favourite talking points as a gamer pundit is monetizing longevity. Usually, developers/publishers are paid when a sale is made and that's that. Features to enhanced the lifespan of a game, such as mission editor and mod support have only benefited the developer/publisher indirectly through increased customer awareness of any expansions or sequels. But in terms of direct revenue, it's only the actual sales that have mattered. A game that sells a million copies and is played for a month before gamers grow tired of it, generates the same revenue as a game that sells a million copies and is played for years.

But what if there were direct benefits to the industry from longevity? Then continuous support (an example in recent years would be ensuring compatibility with Vista), mod support and an influx of new quality content becomes a very tangible (and potentially very profitable) concept. Ultimately, we're looking at a "games as a service, not a product" system.

Ouch! I would be very careful with the call for a "service vs. product" system, because people prefer to own the things they pay for rather than rent them, and if continuous monetary support for (the same) products by (the same) customers is required, this is what you'll end up with. The whole "rent your music", "rent your movies", "rent your software" idea is bound to go the way of the dinosaur sooner or later, if you ask me, because people will hopefully come to realize that the price/performance ratios become less and less enticing for temporary products. I for one love to play my old CD's and DVD's from time to time, and it is a great experience to launch a quite "ancient" game now and again, too - all this included with the original one-time purchase, without the need of a new payment.

A prolonged life span of a game title benefits publishers a lot more than just increasing awareness for expansions or sequels. Believe it or not - but it actually can drive continuous sales, too. A good computer game does not go "bad" with age - if it can hold on to a spot of high popularity over a longer period of time, chances are that new players will be introduces to the game who will then go and buy a copy, too (see my previous post about the StarCraft example). Of course, a million copies at once vs. a million copies over time is (basically) the same revenue, but given two equally good (selling) new games, with one of the two having more longevity, chances are the long-term support will lead to higher total revenue in the end.

With this I have not even touched the potential for secondary revenue streams through e.g. game merchandising from "official strategy guides", collector's items etc. up to books and featured movie deals - all more likely to be commercially viable for a game with sustained following (again, see Blizzard's example). Because what is it that keeps a good game alive for so long? Quality! And quality sells, no matter what our friends in those advertising agencies spin to the public. In the long run, a good product should sell better and bring more revenue stream than a bad one, and designing a good product does not necessarily require more money or time than creating a bad one, it just needs a lot more careful consideration, or - more obvious - heart and brain.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...