In the ongoing war against lockboxes, we as gamers sometimes forget that developers still need to earn money. As much as we complain about some monetization methods, as long as it drives revenue we can at least still play our favorite title. Because otherwise, it’ll just get shut down. While this is a more or less logical conclusion, data about the cost and earnings of games are pretty hard to come by. Some of it has to do with studios simply not sharing stuff. But the free-2-play, mobile, and subscription market also has made things more complicated. It’s not that you can just count sales, multiply that value by the box price, and put it all in a shiny chart.
Raph Koster Has Some Data
Veteran game designer Raph Koster, widely recognized for his work as the lead designer of Ultima Online and the creative director behind Star Wars Galaxies, presented some numbers about the topic on his blog a couple weeks ago. If you’re not completely allergic to science and numbers, it’s an amazingly interesting article that we absolutely recommend to read in its entirety. But of course we also deliver a solid tl;dr with the most interesting aspects.
Raph basically concludes that while the cost of games has gone up per byte, players are spending less. So to come up for increased costs, you need to sell your product to more people. “But… at least in developed countries, we are actually close to market saturation.” If the recent trend continues, the average game will be free in ten years (and average means AAA in this case) while the development costs will skyrocket to 250M and above. This demonstrates how much money developers need to make after the initial release (for example through lockbox monetization).
Koster offers some inconvenient solutions to gamers and studios to fight the current situation:
- Focus on retention and community: The most profitable games are evergreens.
- Let players generate content at no cost: UGC, using player models, customization, whatever.
- Make less games, raise prices on the existing ones.
- Algorithmic and procedural approaches need to become dramatically more widespread.
- Shift our F2P emphasis, which currently depends on trickling content and upselling it.
He mentions more point in the article, but these are probably the most interesting ones in terms of Neverwinter. Especially the Foundry and community engagement comes to mind, which this game (despite some improvements lately) still lacks. There is however one more obvious takeaway from the data: Go support the games you love. They need it more than ever!
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