[MUD-Dev] Working with Franchises (was Star Wars Galaxies: 1 char per server)

Ron Gabbard rgabbard at swbell.net
Fri Jan 31 09:24:01 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: "Michael Tresca" <talien at toast.net>
> Ron Gabbard posted on Thursday, January 23, 2003 10:32 AM

>> Profitability is the BEST metric for measuring the overall
>> quality of the game experience.

> Correction: long-term profitability is the BEST metric.

Without getting too businessy, profit is profit.  The decision to
continue to support and grow any particular game has to be
considered in terms of the net present value (NPV -- sum of total
discounted costs and revenues over time) of doing so.  It may be
that supporting an existing game gives the company more bang for the
investment buck than developing a new game.  Alternatively, it may
be that the current game is existing on the fringe and there are
multiple potential projects that could yield a greater return on
resources currently being expended growing and supporting the
current game.  It's an analysis that is (or should be) done
constantly by the company.
 
>> The game designer (and entire game company) has one goal... to
>> create a value proposition that will attract as many paying
>> customers as possible given available resources and retain those
>> customers for as long as possible while still remaining
>> profitable.

> I agree, especially "for as long as possible."

> Remember, these games require a considerable investment of time
> and money.  They have more depth than many other ventures, even
> other games, because they are UNIVERSES.  Making a game with
> incredible depth, only to have it loses its popularity in three
> years is a waste.  We should NOT see mass exoduses of folks from
> Ultima to EverQuest to Asheron's Call to Dark Ages of Camelot.

All facets of the goal are critical.  A company isn't going to pay
$150/customer per year to retain a $125/year cash flow... thus
profitability is central.  A 3-person company starting a small MUD
will have different capabilities and goals than a company with a $10
million budget which will have different capabilities than a $25
million budget... thus, available resources are critical.  Yes,
getting new customers is historically more expensive than retaining
existing customers.  However, it's just one piece of the overall
puzzle.

With regards to player defections from one game to another, why not?
There is a definite herd mentality in players of MMOGs.  They like
to play with their friends even if the game their friends are
playing may not be their favorite amongst all available options.  If
a group of people decide they want to try the "release of the
month", their defection impacts the overall enjoyment level of those
people within their social circle left behind.

Secondly, there is no penalty for leaving a game outside of the
character's gear and wealth becoming less valuable due to mudflation
and inflation.  Players can come back in a year to 18 months if they
so desire and plug right back in.  Additionally, since the player's
investment in the game is 100% captured in their character's skills
and "saved" assets, they know they can switch games at no to low
risk and come back if they so desire.  This will be different in
games where a larger amount of the player's wealth is captured in
"world" assets like houses, shops, and other decaying/destructible
assets that the player OWNS and to which they attached.  THEN, if
the player leaves, they know that they are going to lose a big chunk
of their time investment in their character as they are not there to
manage their world assets.

>> Sustainable business models are at the corporate level, not the
>> product level.  Meaning, a company that is good at profitably
>> churning out new products to capture the "flavor-of-the-week" has
>> a business model as sustainable as the company that focuses on
>> products with longer life cycles.

> MMORPGs don't get churned out.  They better not be considering the
> challenges in building one.  If they were so easy to churn out,
> there'd be a lot more already in existence.

> MMORPGs are not simply new products.  They are "experiences" with
> long life cycles.  So far, all I've seen is the rush to market
> approach -- grab as many customers as possible and then let the
> game flameout, ultimately losing customers to other MMORPGs in the
> same genre.

Is it "grab as many customers and let the game flameout" or "release
the game with a subset of the total desired content/features and let
the customers fund on-going development"?  I am betting it's the
latter.  On average, 90% of new businesses fail within one year so
it shouldn't be surprising that most MMOGs don't reach critical
mass.  The "rush to market approach and let the customer fund
on-going development" may be the only affordable strategy for the
development project that isn't bankrolled by a large multi-national.

Cheers,

Ron


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