ICE08 – Worlds at Play: Virtual & Gaming worlds
About the Panel:
This panel is examining the online gaming phenomenon that continues to sweep across Asia and EUrope and are now surging in North America. What are the emerging trends? What are the business models? Will these avatar based networks soon replace 2d experiences like Facebook?
Moderated by Lucie Lalumiere (VP Interactive, Earth Rangers), the panel consists of Leigh Alexander (Editor, WorldsinMotion.com), Adrian Crook (Freetoplay.biz), Matt Daly (Co founder, Metaversatility Inc) and Barbara Lippe (Art Director/VP International Relations, Avaloop)
Â Heads up everyone: my laptop is about to die, so weâ€™ll see how far along we get!Â
About the PanelistsÂ
Adrian Crook: Producer & Designer by trade, has worked for EA, over the last few years has gravitated towards casual MMOs. Currently doing consulting on free to play projects.
Barbara Lippe: Wrote PHD thesis on the gaming scene. At the small startup in Vienna, doing a self funded project called Paperpint.Â Itâ€™s in closed beta international. Itâ€™s an online virtual world where you can interact and play games with other people.
Matt Daley: We do virtual world development in existing worlds like secondlife.com, we have been around for about a year. Our clients range from car companies to organization interested in experimenting in 3d business items.
Lucie Lalumiere: Should we care about virtual world? Are they going to change how we socialize and how we do business?
Adrian Crook:Â From a social perspective we already do care, and many of our kids do care. Iâ€™m not as convinced it will alter the way we do business. But there is a big entertainment channel for social virtual worlds. There is a business context, I guess Iâ€™m just not sold on it.
Matt Daley:Â Weâ€™ve seen a lot of profound experience illustrating the fact that the framework is there for the game approach, and a lot of the enabling factors arenâ€™t there yet. Either the technology isnâ€™t there, or there is a lack of desire/literacy/interest.Â Iâ€™m not sold on it either, right now.
Lucie Lalumiere: Who do you think will want to be in your world?
Barbara Lippe: 40/60 male/female split.Â We want to keep people busy through games. There is a child making game, that takes a lot of commitment. You have to find a player, fall in love, buy a flat, buy a bed, show you are good at this game, and then you are pregnant with a papermint baby. (Rahaf says: LOL. Sounds like a lot of work!)
Lucie Lalumiere: Who has the time for this?
Adrian Crook: Most of the opportunities in this world are casual MMOs in the under 25 space.Â Thatâ€™s the generation to whom there is no distinction between online/offline lives. So as they age, theyâ€™ll be the bulk of our older demographics.
Matt Daley: You see 11 year olds managing guilds on WOW, because they are the only ones with the time to do that. But itâ€™s only a matter of time that we see these games become less game oriented and more enveloped in daily life.Â I see virtual worlds going in that direction as well. WOW players, for instance, that are older and have jobs, you see that a lot of them take a lot of their time with a strict schedule so they can incorporate it into their lives.
Adrian Crook: So there is a benefit and draw in asynchronous play, and not necessarily need to spend so much time online developping yoru characters. Fitting it into your own schedule without having to spend hours a day.
Lucie Lalumiere: What are some differences across cultures &Â geographies
Barbara Lippe: I think there are defintely different. WE already see different quarters in certain cities and differences among the cities themselves.
Lucie Lalumiere: And in Austria, is there a higher level of engagement?
Barbara Lippe: I think everyone has similar needs, but certain services fit better culturally.
Matt Daley: I think itâ€™s interesting that these spaces are supposed to collapse borders, but we still are at a point where cultural literacies are still different as are technological capabilities. You have a huge percent of Asian gamers that are relegated to cybercafes that might not have system specs that you might want to run on your computer consistently. So you see a lot of interest in low system requirements, browser accessible games.
Adrian Crook: A lot of the free to play sector started in Korea. It did grow out of this need to have games accessible on the fly. So you do have browser based games that you can take where you are. Mobile games are huge.
Barbara Lippe: You have to aware that when you speak about Asia you still have to break it down in smaller regions. Maybe thatâ€™s why WoW didnâ€™t take off in Japan because they didnâ€™t like player killings or that.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is there any sort of development for virtual worlds where soemone doesnâ€™t have to commit that block of time?
Â Adrian Crook: Travion, is a not bad example. Itâ€™s based on X number of turns that you can take during the day whenever you want. Games with small compulsion loops are great too because you can play them in 2-3 minutes if you want. Itâ€™s smart to drive the compulsion loop now.
Matt Daley: Mobile and casual gaming is really taking off. A lot of clients want easy accessibility and better experience.Â WoW did it in an excellent way by providing instant rewards, and you can provide an easy way for users to grasp your world in a small amount of time, then it works. Because then as they go through the world the time and difficulty increases, but it eases them into it.
Â Lucie Lalumiere: How can we make money?
Matt Daley: A lot of the development is soft revenue.Â Where the value is in stickiness, where users can interact in manifestations of the product. Marketing value: attract users and empower them to have some sort of functionality.
Lucie LaLumiere: how do clients pay for this?
Matt Daley:Â Itâ€™s like ad Adspend, thereâ€™s no revenue coming out of these activities, a small part is virtual merchandise, but itâ€™s like an Ad Buy
Adrian Crook: As far a revenue model go, top three are virtual merchandise sales, advertising sales and tiered subscriptions. You can also buy information. There is also opportunity in virtual gifting.
Barbara Lippe: Because itâ€™s a social space, everything that pimps up your avatar is great for you. You have to look the best to get the most flirting items. We work with designer to make outfits which go for 60E. I never thought people would spend so much on virtual items. Giving things is also very popular. Itâ€™s important that gifts you give are seen by others.Â Professions are good, if people can do something in that world and then sell that capabilities.Â We do advertise, but only if can be meaningfully connected to game play or the world. We have an island shaped like a coke bottle, but youâ€™d never see it unless you were using a birdâ€™s eye view.
Matt Daley:Â The difficulty is in the congruence, where you can have these beautiful places, and then user generated content where they create ugly worlds.
Adrian Crook: There was a good book called â€œParadox of Choiceâ€ where essentially he says that too much choice is a bad thing.Â People want some nice focused way to contribute and thatâ€™s it. Another revenue model is actual merchandising, like webkinz.
Audience Question: What are the possibility of a Grand Theft Auto like game?
Barbara Lippe: There is a game like that. I was disappointed in the choices- you can shoot someone, or drive on the street. Itâ€™s extremely limited and American.Â If I want a game like this then i want all the choices available, not just three things.
Matt Daley: Spore is a good example of open ended sandbox typed games. It mixes social networking, UGC and defined game mechanics in a clever way. If you give users the ability to build their own content then you immediately have Manhattan developed by RockStar.