Posted tagged ‘games’

Complicated vs. Complex: Why Game Development is Hard

April 11, 2015

Developing a game is difficult, to put it mildly. And it never quite comes out the way you plan. Despite this, many developers and (especially) project managers — smart, talented, ferociously hard-working people — continue to believe that somehow this time they’ll make the right schedule and be able to predict months in advance when their game will launch.

This never works (okay, unless you’re just copying someone else’s game). And yet, project leaders continue to create Gantt charts of doom, or to try out one production methodology or another in hopes of making game development predictable. As one pervasive example, Agile/Scrum has long been touted as the way to successfully develop a game. Unfortunately, as some have long suspected and recent data has shown, using Agile isn’t a predictor of game development success (but see below). In fact it scores about as well as using a traditional (and long-reviled) Waterfall process!

Okay, so making a game is hard. Really hard. We all know that. But why? And what can we do about it? (more…)

The Early Game

July 3, 2010

I’ve talked a bit here about the need for depth in social games — the need for an elder game that keeps you playing after you’ve grasped the primary gameplay.  This need is showing up in the “dangerous curves” we’re seeing in many of the first-gen social games topping out and drifting downward as people tire of the same-old gameplay.  There’s no doubt that it’s important to “avoid the VOID” in game design — where VOID is Varies Only In Difficulty (coined by Dan Arey, I believe).  In other words, if all you do is dial up the difficulty as the game moves along, it gets boring pretty quickly.

But on the other end — the nearer end, the one you have to get through to be able to worry about an elder game — things are heating up too.

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Is Facebook Strangling the Golden Geese?

June 22, 2010

Facebook is in the process of introducing Facebook Credits, its entry into the burgeoning ecommerce/virtual currency area.  Given that Facebook is the prime destination for people playing social games, this is hardly surprising.   However, in so doing, is it in danger of driving away the sources of its fast-rising revenue?   Is Facebook strangling the geese that lay its golden eggs?

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Dangerous Curves and Social Games 2.0

June 18, 2010

I’ve written here a few times about the business model for social games and why I think this is a very good area to be working in.  I continue to believe this is a large market in its early stages, with more people spending more on virtual goods in the past year, and with  at least one recent study predicting incredible revenue growth over the next few years. We’ve all seen the meteoric rise in this sector in the past couple of years, both at the top end in Zynga, Playdom, and Playfish (now EA), and in the medium-size and long-tail developers.

But recently, some of the shine seems to have come off this area. This is most clearly seen in the dropping MAU and DAU in the top social games — Farmville for example has dropped from a high of about 83M MAU in March to 66M today.   66M is still a number that no one else can touch, but it’s also a huge drop in a game that had been rising steadily.

And it’s not just Farmville.  If you look at the graphs for the top games that have been around for a while, rising continually (e.g., Texas HoldEm, Cafe World, Pet Society), each shows a peak and a subsequent fall-off.   Notably, this isn’t just due to the age of the game: some more recent games like Treasure Isle and Hotel City show the same dangerous curve at around the same time, even though they haven’t been around as long.  Some like Nightclub City show a rising MAU curve — but a daily users curve that has peaked, indicating that the trailing MAU indicator will show this soon too.  Still others, despite strong PR-backed launches in what seemed like good areas, have fared much worse from the start (indicating among other things how critical repeat play is to the success of these games).

So other than the fact that simply putting out a social game isn’t a license to print money, what does this mean? (more…)

A Moment of Silence at the End of Winter

March 31, 2010

In the last few days there have been at least three notices of MMO or virtual world projects shutting down.  It’s hard for me not to see these as indicators of the generational change in the now-traditional “heavy” MMOs/worlds:  Stargate Worlds, There.com, and Vivaty — all very different takes on the previous age of MMOs/VWs, are gone or going away.

They’re doing so in an online game/world/app market that is growing faster than we can track — just not where they are.  Not to be unkind (any effort in this area deserves some respect), but one way to look at these worlds is that they are the very finest in hand-made carriages for the elite set — right about the time cheap autos are rolling off the assembly line.

But looking forward as well as back just a few years (as I wrote in 2007 about the potential for a “Virtual World Winter“), it may be that this isn’t the depth of winter, but its end.  In December 2007 I wrote:

While I’m still bullish on virtual worlds and MMOGs for a number of reasons, that doesn’t mean we won’t necessarily go through a deep winter before we find spring again.    I’m often asked about what comes after World of Warcraft?  Can this market be sustained?

I think we have the answer; as usual, it’s no — and yes.

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The Mysterious Revenue Gap

March 5, 2010

One of the big questions with people looking at social games is, “sure they have lots of people playing, but how much money do they really make?”  The amazing thing is, there’s actually data available on the web to answer this.  For once entrepreneurs and other game developers aren’t left completely in the dark trying to figure out what they may reasonably make on their game.  And this data identifies not only a great revenue stream, but an interesting gap.

It turns out that the question isn’t whether these games are making money – the question is, why aren’t they making significantly more?  In fact there are similar games making as much as 5x or 10x more than social games currently are.  So why the gap? (more…)

The New Killer Platform for MMOGs is… FaceBook?

November 23, 2008

Since my last post was pretty theoretical, I thought I’d bring this back to earth a bit.

The MMOG market continues to be very hot, and possibly all but impervious even to our current economic chaos.  I continue to see MMOGs in development for ever broader demographics and more obscure (or focused) niches.  Despite the difficult times for some and the demise of others, investment and development in this area continues to be strong.

And yet technology continues to be a huge thorn in the side of any developer.  There are a number of middleware suitors trying to woo developers, but recently an unusual one has appeared on the field.  Can it be that Facebook will save MMOG development?

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