Posted tagged ‘funware’

Pure gold: Raph Koster & Amy Jo Kim

February 5, 2009

(CC) Curtis Perry, Flickr

(CC) Curtis Perry

Raph Koster

(CC) Scott Beale / Laughing Squid, Flickr

(CC) Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Raph Koster is a MMO designer extraordinarie and the founder of Metaplace, a game-changing startup in the online games space. Raph has an excellent blog that is definitely worth following if you even remotely interested in what makes online social places (games, virtual worlds, social networks) tick. Most recently Raph has come out with two powerhouse posts on improving socializing. They are pure gold:

Ways to make your virtual space more social

Ways to make your social space more gamey

Amy Jo Kim

(CC) Richard Giles

(CC) Richard Giles

Meanwhile Amy Jo Kim recently gave speeches on Funware at Google and at Dave McClure’s Startup2Startup evening. I’m a huge fan of her work and it was superb to finally see the video recording of her presentation. She has been sharing her slides, but I believe this is the first time the presentation is available in video. Another pure gold post:

Fun in Functional: Google and Startup2Startup

Rescue the princess app – funware by Lost Garden

October 27, 2008

Daniel Cook of Lost Garden recently gave a talk about applying game mechanics to user experience design, that is, funware. His presentation offers great insights and ideas on how to go about applying game-like structures in non-game applications thru using game design patterns.

According to Daniel Funware works because it uses exploratory learning to motivate the user/player. Learning becomes fun! This is also what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi theory of Flow discusses as the “optimal experience”. It’s pretty easy see how this is a powerful concept: simply contrast learning skills in Super Mario vs. trying to bend Photoshop to your will.

Daniel’s presentation is a must read for anyone interested in Funware!

WOW epic mounts vs. Friends for sale

October 12, 2008

The game industry used to be packaged goods industry. We spent anything between six months to several years in product development mode trying to guess what the customers would want to buy, what we could do better than our competitors do, building technology, tools and content. When all was done, the ready game was shipped to the manufacturing plant and out would pour truckloads of shrink wrapped boxes ready to be hoisted on the shelves of GameStop, EBGames or at Amazon’s virtual shelfs.

For all its technological and media breakthrus, the games industry in the 1990s was following a business model borrowed from cereal manufacturers. We even didn’t have the long tail of movies , which have first box office sales, then pay-per-view TV, then premium channels, hotel channels, DVD sales, network TV, soundtracks… Well, you get the picture. All we had was a a couple of months to get the game sold at brick’n’mortar stores, and if we were lucky, the store would restock our title. The luckiest titles could see a release as a Bestseller title a year or two later at a discounted price.

Not terribly exciting is it.

Luckily broadband entered into the picture in late 1990s, and became prevalent in the early 2000s. Games could be delivered electronically as downloads, but a lot more importantly, games could be online services. MMOs like Lineage, Everquest and finally World of Warcraft (11 million users at last count) came to the market and attracted millions. Virtual worlds like Habbo Hotel (108 million registered, 9,5 million monthly users), casual MMOs like Maple Story and social playing sites like Stardoll (20 million registered users) appealed to audiences outside of the traditional gamer market.

But there’s no hiding the trouble.

PC single player market is dying

Max Payne, multi-million seller in early 2000s. Best known as a PC game, but sold vastly more on PS2.

Max Payne, multi-million seller in 2001 & 2003. Best known as a PC game, but already five years ago sold vastly more on consoles, especially on PS2.

As a mainstream market the PC single player market is dying. The main culprits are rampant piracy and the success of video game consoles. The situation is so bad, that releasing a PC version simultaneously to a console version of a game, you are pretty much guaranteed to loose out on a lot of sales. The PC version will be pirated typically before the game is available at retail, and many console gamers will get the pirated PC version and forgo buying the console version. We can argue the reasons, but the proof is indisputable. Game publishers are increasingly postponing the PC versions or cutting them completely, even if the added cost of developing a PC version can be relatively low.

You can still succeed with PC single player titles targeted at niche audiences (e.g. hard core strategy games). Downloadable PC casual games (see e.g. Big Fish Games) are doing quite well and The Sims are also doing quite well. The reason is simple: their demographic is less likely to pirate the game and increasingly these titles use some kind of online persistence to add fun to the game and prevent piracy.

PC online market is thriving

The solution to this PC problem is clearly evident. All PC titles need some type of online persistence and preferably online multiplayer support. It doesn’t have to be a full fledged MMO. You can start with relatively simple things like

  • Leaderboards, cups, challenges
  • Shared content
  • Shared actions (something I do has some effect on your gameplay)

Full-on, persistent world, massively multiplayer environments naturally are most resistant to piracy as well provide highly compelling reasons to play. WoW having 11 million great reasons (=users) going for it.

Core vs. social & casual markets

The core gaming market (PC single player, MMO, console games) is huge market. Its revenues from the vast majority of the $37 billion global games software sales (year 2007). This market is predicted to grow steadily at around 10% compounded average growth rate. The revenues are huge, but the audience size isn’t nearly as impressive when compared to what the social and casual gaming segments have been able to attract is just a few years.

Casual games, to which I include also casual console games like Guitar Hero, Singstar, Wii Sports, Brain Training and the like, sell in overall in the billions of dollars, and are the industry’s primary growth driver. It’s been two years since the launch of Nintendo Wii, and it still selling out. Guitar Hero launched a huge music game segment, that almost single handedly raised Activision as the world’s second largest games publisher (after merging with Vivendi’s game unit, the combined Activision-Blizzard is now neck and neck with Electronic Arts). These titles have expanded the definition of games, made the much more socially acceptable, and attracted millions after millions of new players. They’ve converted diehard opponents of digital games into fun-loving players. I can overstate how amazing this has been.

At the same time social games on social networks like Facebook and MySpace are the second largest category after “just for fun” apps like Funwall and Superpoke. These simple, addictive and often outrageously viral games attract at best over million monthly average users. The monetization has been primarily advertisement based, but new Cost Per Action (CPA) methods (Offerpal, Super rewards) as well as the sales of virtual goods are starting to make a difference. It has been claimed that Mob Wars is the best monetizing game application on Facebook and allegedly makes over $20 000 a day, which would mean well over a one million US dollars in yearly revenues.

I’ve tried to summarize my thinking about the core, casual and social markets in the diagram below as well as make some predictions on where the market is headed.

Please note that the diagram is a generalization and I’ve purposefully omitted all figures. You should take it is an opinion, not as a market research data.


I did a 20 minute presentation on this topic recently at the Mindtrek conference. You can find my slides at Slideshare along with an audio track.

I blogged earlier about the excellent panel that followed the three presentations in the “Business of playing together” track.

So, what do you think? Is the PC single player market as doomed as I think it is? Are there going to be big returns on the huge investments VCs are making in the market as we speak?

Funware changes the world

October 9, 2008

A year ago at the Casual Connect Europe conference I was introduced to the Funware concept by the ever-so-energetic Gabe Zichermann 1). I was fascinated. Gabe put to words something I had inherently known: game mechanics are becoming more and more prevalent in all kinds of products, services and interactions. He had also coined the term funware:

Funware is the use of game mechanics in non-game applications.

Let that sink in for a moment.

A couple of examples of Funware include:

Why funware?

As Amy Jo Kim of Shufflebrain put it games engage us in flow and use variable ratio enforcement to quickly hook us. I claim it is even more fundamental. Playing is how we’ve all learned to interact with other people  when were kids. It’s how we learned about the law of gravity by dropping things to the floor and watch them shatter (I have two toddlers, so trust me, I know this =)). It’s how we learned to understand the emotions of other people. It’s how we learned to talk.

Fundamentally we are playful beings. We are wired to play and funware applications make use of this engage us, keep us coming back and make us happier using them.

How to add fun to my app?

If Ebay has a game designer on staff, why don’t you 3)? (apart from the fact that finding a good game designer is darned hard, trust me, I’m trying to hire one to Everyplay ;-))

Perhaps you are of the under 35 year old generation, that has grown up playing and still keeps on playing (like I do), so thanks to that intrisic insight you may have added some game mechanics already. I doubt Twitter, Facebook, IRC-Galleria and all the other big social media phenemons had game designers on staff, but they had founders who understood fun even if they couldn’t explicitly rationalize why they were doing things they way they did. It was just fun.

If you want to have a more structured approach, you should consider Amy Jo Kim’s toolbox outlined on her presentation Power to Players:

  • Collecting: people, points, badges, trophies
  • Points: for measuring progress, enabling comparisons
  • Feedback: for faster mastery and added fun
  • Exchanges: structured social exchanges either implicitly or explicitly
  • Customization: expression, sharing, communicating

Her presentation gives also further insights how to tie this together with technology trends such as social media, accessible tech and syndication. Shufflebrain is walking the walk with their forthcoming Photograb game. I’m definitely looking forward to playing it!

Funware @ Ignite Mobile

I’m a big believer on funware, and the use of games outside of the strict definition of “games”. Inspred by Amy Jo Kim’s presentation I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic. The first ever Ignite Mobile sessions proved to the be ideal venue. It took place in a bus full of startup entrepreneurs headed out of Helsinki to the Mindtrek conference at 07:15 in the morning, so we were all a bit groggy. Despite the sleepiness doing the Ignite session (my first!) was a lot of fun. Big kudos to Antti Akonniemi of Kisko Labs for setting it up!

You can find my presentation along with the audiotrack on Slideshare. Note: there are more details and links to further info in the slide notes. Apologies for the low audio quality due to recording in a moving bus.

The video of the presentation is also available on QIK (kindly recorded by Tommi Rissanen) as well as on Floobs.

Can you imagine?

It’s time to re-think what games are and start considering how funware can make your application better. Here are a couple of juxtapositions to get you started:

  • E-banking service that’s fun and engaging, while driving further revenue (think preferred customer levels, money saved/invested as points, quests, social media)
  • Motivate MMO players to do more outdoors exercise (think geocaching, quests, mixed reality, social challenges, Nike+Ipod, rewards in the original MMO)
  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions (think Chorewars meets utilities metering,  gas and electricity bills, social challenges)

Can you imagine more challenges we should solve with game mechanics? Can you come up with the solutions to to solve the ones listed above? Feel free to pitch in the comments!

1) Interestingly Gabe’s RMBR is now longer providing any of the funware apps they developed. I wonder what’s going on.
2) Jane McGonical, the lead designer of Superstruct, is one of the most influential game designers at the moment. Her amazing presentations are definitely worth your time.
3) Source: Gabe Zichermann at Casual Connect Europe

Mindtrek – panel on the Business of playing together

October 9, 2008

I’m currently at Mindtrek, a 700 person conference on all things in digital and social media. The conference has been great so far. Hearing Marc Davis‘ talk about Yahoo!’s approach to web 2.0 and world 2.0 was a great and inspirational opening to the whole event!

On the way to Tampere we world’s first ever Ignite Mobile session (Ignite on a bus!) where I did a presentation about Funware. Slides and further info is now available.

At Mindtrek I did a 20 minute segment on the Business of playing together track talking about the changes in the game industry. I’ll also post that presentation along with the audio track also as soon as I can bend Slideshare to my will ;-).

The panel discussion following the three segments (me, IRC-Galleria‘s Ville Mujunen and Ironstar Helsinki‘s Joakim Achren and host Peter Vesterbacka) was excellent and lasted for more than hour. We had a great audience willing to ask hard questions ranging from policy making in virtual worlds to EULAs to the distinctions between virtual and real items and whether we can have multiple lives (one in a MMO, and then real life persona). Here are some quick’n’dirty notes from the panel

  • We live in the equivalent of feudal ages in terms of virtual world policy making and EULAs. Virtual World operators are benevolent dictators with pretty much unlimited powers. On the other hand the players have the final power, because the companies try to create revenue from the players, and the only way to do is to please the players. However, in terms of readable EULAs, player representatives in the world management and the rights of players are still highly underdeveloped. The interesting developments in this area include EVE Online’s Council of Stellar Management, The Avatar Bill of Rights, Metaplace’s simple Terms of Use.
  • Virtual vs. real. This was a great discussion on whether virtual items are as real to use as “real items”. The simple answer is: YES, virtual items are just as real. Brain scanning has been used to show our primal responses to receiving an item are “oooh, shiiny!” regardless whether it is virtual item or real. This really comes back to the values we instill in the culture/world we are in. The gift you get your friend is much more the physical gift. It is a social expression of the feelings and emotions your friend has for you. The on-going credit crunch was also used to highlight how something as real as “money” has become highly virtual. If your bank goes away taking your money with you, your money just became very “virtual”.
  • Multiple lives vs. roles. It is psychologically impossible for us to have multiple independent personas unless we are schitzophrenic. What we have are roles. I’m a dad, a business man, a colleague, a friend, a leader, a follower, a MMO player etc. I’m still one person and these roles affect each other. It seems there was confusion of the terms at the panel. Regardless of how we call it is clear that we want to have multiple roles to experience different lifestyles, to adapt to different types of social situations, for escapism, for just the fun of experimenting, …
  • Funware. I’m a big proponent of a funware (the use of game mechanics in non-game applications). I gave highly opionated comments on how funware can be used e.g. the save world thru cutting carbon emission.

Overall Mindtrek has been a blast. It has been great meeting a lot of interesting people from Finnish startups, VCs, game reseachers and academics and other cool people. Just today I sat down with a lunch with a random person only to find out that he is interaction designer, programmer and game developer. Wow, we had an amazing lunch discussion and had so many shared interests to discuss. This is the best part of Mindtrek – it is a truly cross-discipline, international event with really interesting people.