Playing with revenue models

When thinking about creativity within the video game industry, what usually come to mind are either game concepts or technical solutions. The ingenious code of Pitfall (1982), the jaw-dropping particle effects of Max Payne (2001), the dreamlike atmosphere of Braid (2008) or the physics sandbox Portal (2007). These have been the creative milestones that we’ve come to appreciate when thinking about games.

But let’s add revenue models to the mix.

In the recent years we have seen a major change in the traditional business models of gaming. The fierce competition of retail shelf space, games’ short lifespan post-launch and the ever increasing marketing budgets of triple-A games had left smaller titles practically invisible to the basic consumer. If you even had your game released, that is. When you don’t have a name familiar to the masses, it’s very hard to get a publisher. And when you don’t have a publisher, it’s super hard to fund a big development project.  A few years back these challenges had led to the situation that the main discussion in the industry revolved around the newest iteration of the current golden goose. Until the finance department started to play creative too! Let’s take a look at the new(ish) revenue models in gaming and pass little judgement.

Downloadable content (DLC)

  • Quality post-launch DLC that is either free or really adds to the game. (Witcher 1&2, GTA IV)
  • Launch date, semi-relevant DLC (with claims that the content just wasn’t finished in time), sets the player back by 5-10€. (Bioware & co.)

Playing it rough

  • Hindering the used game market by disabling online features for players unwilling to purchase a 5-10€ online pass. (Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3)
  • Trying to make playing the game illegally impossible by adding harsh digital rights management methods to games. Pirates usually circumvent the DRM in a couple of days, the paying customers on the other hand battle with the ridiculousness indefinitely. (Ubisoft & co.)
The no-brainer (where is one for movies and TV-series??)
  • Digital online stores that have a huge catalogue, offer a great channel for indie developers, bundle games in affordable collections and of course have kick-ass sales during Christmas. (Steam, GOG etc.)
The Holy Grails of the future?
  • Free to play games where you can gain an edge by investing real life money for better equipment, attributes and digital swag. (World of Tanks, Lord of the Rings Online etc.)
  • Pledging money to support  interesting projects started either by talented newcomers or gaming god auteurs like Schafer and Fargo, and the more you pledge the more awesomeness you get in return. (Kickstarter)

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