Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 20, 2014
 
Monetizing Minecraft

Congratulations to Teut Weidemann on winning the Evil Game Design Challenge 2 at Casual Connect Europe last month. Although I am not sure whether he is proudly sitting in a corner, stroking his white cat, or whether he is somewhat embarrassed and got into trouble about the "wrong" kind of publicity with his bosses at Ubisoft about this. Because this is a challenge which does not have a very easy, straightforward message. Some people will watch the video and just find all of their prejudices about evil game designers confirmed. Others will like the "evil" version more than the original.

The challenge was to make an "evil", Free2Play version of Minecraft with maximum monetization. Three designers present their various ideas and the audience votes for the best one. And while of course there are ideas on "how can we make people pay", many of the ideas are also about "how can we make players not lose interest in the game". And those ideas are similar to the ideas that you would have gotten if the design challenge had been "how can you make Minecraft more fun". People are willing to pay for a game they have fun with.

What was interesting about the exercise was that monetizing linear themepark games is obviously easier than monetizing sandbox games. But the video shows that the latter is far from impossible. So if you want to know how Everquest Next and Landmark are going to make money once they are released, watch this video!

Comments:
Interesting video thanks for the link.

I do see a flaw in Teut's suggestion for Evil Minecraft. He says he wouldn't interfere with the Sandbox but in order to monetise survival his suggestions make the world more dangerous for everyone. I think that would put off many of the creative players who make the sandbox so great. Why would anyone spend hundreds of hours building the Starship Enterprise if some griefer could destroy it in minutes?
 
I liked the idea that the creative player could create a blueprint of that Starship Enterprise, and either use it as insurance to rebuild it, or even sell the blueprint to other players. But I agree that for some players the monetization schemes wouldn't work.

In my opinion monetization works best on the more competitive players. The less competitive players don't care how long it takes them to advance, so you can't sell them faster advancement. They don't care for status symbols, so you can't sell them those either. And as you said, the concept of griefer protection doesn't really work, because the best and cheapest griefer protection is to quit the game.
 
I feel like none of them did a very good job trying to be evil. Especially the first two, the vast majority of their suggestions actually made the game more fun, only with slightly annoying monetization. Teut had some slightly evil suggestions. But mostly, I felt like there are plenty of (sadly successful) Free2Play games that already exist which have more evil elements than their intentionally "evil" games.

None of them touched on Zynga style Facebook integration, making you post 5 times a day (and making the game unplayable without friends clicking). None of their pay-to-win schemes were even as blatant as World of Tanks, which is a perfectly functional game, so obviously you could go at least one step more evil than that. And especially, they made little to no effort to prey on negative emotions. For instance, paying to not just get your stuff back when you die, but to auto-steal it back from your killer. Buy justice now!

Honestly, it feels like a missed opportunity. They could have gone all out and made a game that said, "you think Free2Play is evil? I'll SHOW you evil!"
 
None of them touched on Zynga style Facebook integration, making you post 5 times a day (and making the game unplayable without friends clicking).

I think that concept is outdated. It was basically a pyramid scheme, and like all of them it eventually collapsed, and buried Zynga under it. They lost two-thirds of their players and their share-price is way down. I wouldn't be surprised if game devs in the know don't use that any more.
 
I find it interesting that two of the three models relied on some form of preventing griefing to monetize the game.

I think what I appreciate about that perspective is the complete acceptance that griefing can and does happen and that rather than try to eliminate it, they try to contain it within the 'rules' that they have setup.
 
"I think that concept is outdated. It was basically a pyramid scheme, and like all of them it eventually collapsed, and buried Zynga under it. They lost two-thirds of their players and their share-price is way down. I wouldn't be surprised if game devs in the know don't use that any more."

While this is probably true, the objective was to make the most evil game, not the most successful game. Which I feel like should have been the point. People seem to be so worried that Free2Play makes developers ruin games for cash, but I think a truly evil game would scare off too many players.

As you saw, even in the "try to be evil" contest, they mostly tried to make the game better. No matter what your pricing scheme, someone who doesn't play your game gives you no money.
 
The objective WAS to make the most successful game, defined as the game that gets the most money out of players. Some people think that getting money out of players is "evil", somehow believing that they are entitled to free entertainment, and that game companies are some sort of charity. But pretty much everywhere money equals success, even in game development.
 
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