Monthly Archives: July 2009

GameStreamer Review: A Viable Distribution Channel For Developers (And Game Sites)

I got approached by the Timothy Roberts (GameStreamer’s CEO) and Nathan Lands (Co-Founder and Executive Vice President) about a possible cooperation with GameStreamer. We agreed that I’d do a detailed review for them, and Nathan also agreed to do an interview later. I will mostly focus on the developer side (which – bit confusingly – they call “publisher”) in this review, but will also highlight some points about the benefits for those who want to sell their games.

In short: if you are interested in getting more sales (whether you are developing games or selling them), you want to check out their system.

Overview:
GameStreamer (GS) has been working silently for couple of years and recently opened their doors. Basically, they mention having a massive network that contains both publishers and developers. GameStreamer works with clients that have good traffic coming to their sites – and GS to provide targeted traffic to certain demographics. In my mind, this means that for example Car sites could offer targeted Car games to their audiences (instead of “new random casual game every day”). In terms of conversion this sounds good.

They are also working with variety of clients to create new type of revenue streams and they have various payments models available – ranging from try & buy, only buying, subscription, micro-transactions to rental and advertising.

Benefits for developers
There’s some obvious benefits for developers who wish to use GameStreamer to distribute their games:

  • First of all, it’s free (so basically, you have one additional way to get publishers to sell your game)
  • The royalty rates are quite low – as we often see in today’s gaming industry (GS offers 25% of net revenue at the time of writing this review). It’s hard to say if that’s a bad or good rate, since they claim to have a great amount of publishers that can sell games (with great technology) – so who knows if the conversion rates are better (and if their net revenues are decent), then to me it sounds like worth pondering.
  • You might also earn revenue from trial downloads, since the 25% net revenue goes for that too. So basically, the more people download your games – the more you have chance to earn (that sounds like a solid deal to me)
  • Registration is pretty straightforward (register herebut be sure to read the terms before registration, don’t just do what I write here). No hassles to figure out “how to get published”.
  • Please notice that the terms say that you are required to have 36 months with them (although in my experience you usually can discuss on how things go) – I asked this from Nathan and will update this as soon as I get more information on this.

I briefly mentioned to Nathan about getting Dead Wake into the system, and when the time is nearer for release of Dead Wake we’ll continue discussion and see if it sounds like a good deal to try out. Right now I don’t know how good the system is, but to me the concept sounds promising: if they can sell my game to targeted audience (and generate me revenue) then it’s worth the deal. These type of portal options aren’t always available for niche games, so to me this sounds a good distribution possibility for my game. Their site sells games ranging from casual to multiplayer to much more.

Benefits for those who want to sell games in GS catalog
If you want to start selling games from their catalog, you can sign up to become a White Label Partner with them (see WLP overview). They can also help you create your portal with their system. I’ve registered to become a partner to see how the system works, but right now I have no further information about this – except that I’d guess you can customize your portal (at least according to their site) to provide targeted games to your audience.

Royalty rates
Like said, they give 25% of net revenue. The net revenue is a tricky term (which unfortunately most publisher/distributor will give you). If game costs $10, then net revenue isn’t $2.50. It can be $2.40 or $2.00 or $0.73. It all depends how cost-effectively they can provide games. If the costs of providing games are big, then 25% net revenue sounds bad. If they have little overhead in selling games, then of course net revenue sounds just fine.

Since I don’t have access to information that would say what this 25% means in practice, it’s hard to know how good deal it will be. Basically, if it’s a bad deal for developers – then the word will spread and eventually they won’t get many developers and their company will not be here for long… but if it’s too good for developers, then the publisher won’t like it, and soon they might end up having loads of developers but just few publishers.

If on the other hand they manage to balance this to create a win-win-win situation for every party (developers, publishers and of course for themselves) then we know things are good: this means that it might be a simple way to get your game distributed.

Like said, I don’t know how good deal they have, but they’ve got World of Goo in their system, so it can’t be all that bad I believe.

Update: Nathan from GS informed that “they are carefully reviewing some of the feedback and also are considering upping the revenue share from 25% to 35%”.

Revenue also from downloads
I really like that they also offer potential revenues for downloads. I presume this works so that if people click their ads (in case there is such) in your game (or game download page perhaps – my wild guess), you earn 25% of the net revenue. A really nice way to increase developer income (at least when the conversion doesn’t work).

How the GS distribution works
GS allows game developers to upload their games to the system, and then distribute to partner online games stores. So basically, you upload your game – then the GS partners will start selling it. And if all goes well, you start getting bucks.

Bottom line
While I’ve been exchanging emails with the GS folks, I’ve got a professional image from them. I got prompt replies. I felt friendly attitude.

My gut feeling is that GS can be a really big thing in the digital distribution for games. I think they have spent a good deal of resources to make the concept true, and we’ll see how things will go. That’s why I think the developers who get first in the system can benefit from this the most.

I don’t know how much hype GS offers, but the impression I got from them (and seeing all the studios they partner with) is at this point positive, and I think this can help add another way for developers to monetize their games. In their website they say:

… not only can the multi-national developers get involved, but so can the 2 guys working out of a coffee shop in San Francisco.

Sounds good for one-man studios.

Where to go next:
There’s several resources to check out:

  • They have a brochure about GS: download (9 megs).
  • If you are a developer, and wish to get more information about them, I recommend that you visit their game distributor pages.
  • If you want to see their catalog in action, check out their store.
  • If you want to sell their games, see WLP overview.

For everything else, check out their website: GameStreamer.net.

An interview with Nathan coming in the nearly future (say: within couple of weeks or so) – dedicated to game promotion and marketing for developers (questions will be outside GS too). Please comment in this blog entry and ask anything. I’ll be asking Nathan any clarifications there might be about this system, but also will be making questions regarding game promotion in general – and trying to get some tips for developers.

How Parking Slots Can Ruin Your Image (Neste Rally Is Here)

Neste Rally is taking place here in Jyvaskyla, Finland and it’s quite amazing how different feeling there is to go outdoors. You can hear the rally cars cruising down the streets, some people waving country flags, and generally just enjoy the sun and all.

It’s not so nice to see how Jyvaskyla decided to solve the parking slot problem. Basically, there’s too many cars here – and people who like to see rally cars don’t have parking slots. Instead of arranging more parking slots, the city has taken a different way to tackle this.

We were just walking on a wide “walking street” (I don’t know what’s it called in English, it’s a street not for cars – only for people and bikes). We saw some cars parked on the side of this walking path. There were plenty of room to walk, so this wasn’t bothering me (even though anyone who drives a car understands that you are not allowed to park in such places). And then the herd effect happened: somebody had seen somebody else to park on this walking path, so they also parked there. And then another. And another. Eventually, I saw a very long line of cars parked on the sideway.

That was perfectly fine for me – since there was still plenty of room to walk.

But… the city didn’t like this. There was two women giving tickets for “parking wrongly”. It was almost hilarious (but sad too) to see them going the cars one by one and giving tickets.

Technically they were doing the right thing: you are not allowed to park there, so you must pay a fine.

But was it the right thing to do?

I suppose these women were doing their jobs, but I think it’s kind of sad way to deal with this. What do you think these guys think after seeing the ticket. It’s pretty much the first day of the Rally, and these guys have probably come a long trip to enjoy the race. The first thing they see is (1) no parking slots (so what are they supposed to do – drive back home?) and the next thing is (2) a ticket for parking “wrong”.

No wonder if these guys get pissed off.

And what if there’s people who have contacts to some well respected international newspapers for example. I think it’s pretty bad imago for Finnish Rally organization to answer to parking problem by giving parking fines and pissing off people in the very first day.

Sure, everybody who parked there should know in theory that parking on such places is against the rules (and gets you a parking ticket). But if there’s no parking slots, and if there’s freaking international event that brings people into this city, then why not bend the rules a bit (since it would hurt nobody to do that).

I would have given these guys a warning or perhaps brought a big sign saying “no parking”… and perhaps like arrange parking slots instead of arranging an army of ticket people.

How To Use Alexa To Find More Places To Get Traffic

This is a brief tip on how to use Alexa to get hints on where you might get traffic. Alexa is a free system that compares (inaccurate) traffic amounts to several sites. While it’s inaccurate, it’s still usable.

For example, if I want to get some ideas on where I could try to hunt people who like Dead Wake game, I can type the following url in the browser and get a list:

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/deadwakegame.com

On that page, it says:

Something Awful – The Internet Makes You Stupid
www.somethingawful.com/

Goldeneye Source – A Half-Life 2 Modification
www.goldeneyesource.com/

Goa.com
www.goa.com/

GameProducer.net
www.gameproducer.net/

Dark Throne
www.darkthrone.com/

The community of Dark and Light
www.darkandlight.com/

Cronous
www.cronous.com/

Betawatcher
www.betawatcher.com/

12FootTall – Your Gaming Portal!
www.12foottall.com/

These related links appear based on this: if many users go directly from site A to site B, the two sites are likely to be related. Basically, people who visit in Dead Wake site, also visit from these sites (More details on Alexa’s page)

From these, I can see that there’s several gaming sites to which I can approach and consider advertising, link exchanges, email list renting – or simply participating in their communities and promoting my game.

I’m a Book Hogger

I like to read books, and I read some book almost daily. I like to read some sort of business or game production related books, and I started pondering that many books carry the same messages. Recently I read three business books and each of them mentioned “focus” somewhere in the book (focus as a good thing). One book mentioned how important it is to have a professional business plan (which from my experience isn’t that important – a brief biz plan will do fine for starters…)

Anyway.

If the books are telling the same old things in different form, why read them at all? Why not just pick one good book and be done with it.

In terms of time spent versus information got, that actually could be a pretty good strategy to just pick couple of solid books and be done with it. For me, there’s two reasons why I keep reading new books. First is that I like reading books. I’ve never been into theory and didn’t really enjoy reading text books at school… but I like reading books by people who have succeeded, get tips from them and apply these lessons in my own stuff. (Practical example: I prefer Jay Abraham’s practical marketing books over theoretical Philip Kotler – although both are worth checking out).

The second reason for reading more and more books is that they can be a good reference on really finding out what has worked in the past (and possibly will work fine in the future as well). If one book mentions “focus” as one path to success, and others are saying the same thing… then this stuff might be worth applying. (Of course there’s chance that all these books are wrong, but I think this can be a good filter mechanism anyway)

Thus, I keep reading books. What about you?

About the Insiders Service: (Answer to “Any plans on restarting this?”)

I’ve been getting some questions about re-opening the game producer Insiders service. Right now I’m still keeping the doors closed to finish things and to finalize the new service improvements. I’ve been asked “when it will be open” and right now I can say that “in 2009″ is my best call right now. I don’t have an exact date, but I will be mentioning it as soon as I know it.

Those of you who want to be first to hear about the reopening of the service, please subscribe to the Insiders waiting list.

Those of you who don’t know what the Insiders service is, it’s basically a service for game producers and developers – with close to 100 members right now. Members get access to press release service (which the existing members really enjoy), and to access to various resources about game production. All sort of good stuff to help with the development and sales. Last time the service was open half-a-year ago, and it will be re-opened this year.

I will be getting you guys more information about this in the future, so join the list.

Do You Use Your Phone Effectively?

I don’t use email, calendar, web in my phone. I actually rarely even call anybody. Nor send SMS messages. I think I usually try to avoid using my phone, although I keep it near me most of the time I’m awake.

I think my phone is more about giving people possibility to reach me, rather than me to reach people. I prefer using blog, email and skype for staying in touch with people.

Lately I’ve seen some non-profession related benefits for getting some smart new phone (things like getting pics or recording some family events or small things, or perhaps using google maps while traveling and stuff like that – nothing too dramatic though).

But for profession, I’ve managed to avoid my phone pretty effectively. And, I’m happy with the situation.

Reiner Knizia (world known board game designer) said that he doesn’t have a cell phone. He’s too busy working, and he doesn’t need interruptions. I think that’s pretty interesting way to look at things (and I suppose it fits well for a designer).

What about you. What kind of phone you have? Do you really need it? Are you more effective now, or is the phone actually slowing down your progress?

If You Want More Sales, You Could Ask These 3 Questions From Your Customers

Any producer and developer can do this to improve sales. Simply send an email to your existing customers and you can get tons of information to improve sales. Many people are happy to help you out even if you don’t give them any incentive (like free expansion pack for those who answer).

Ask these questions from your customers:

1) How did you found out about the game? (The purpose of this question is to know where to advertise more. When I’ve asked this question, I’ve got pretty interesting clues on which places are important for gaining traffic. Helps you to know where to focus.)

2) Why did you buy the game? (This is perhaps the most important question to ask, and it can reveal you a loads of things that you never guessed. People don’t necessarily buy the game because you put tons of features in it. They might bought it because they thought it was fun and had cute creatures in it.)

3) How you would like to improve the game? (Only ask this if you actually plan to do something with the answers. If you want to know how to improve the game, the people who actually bought the product are a really good source for ideas.)

With just these 3 questions, you’ve done a better job than the 80% of other companies in this planet (who don’t ask these questions).

Here’s My Old New Idea On How (Portal) Games Could Be Priced

Some time ago I posted a blog post with thoughts about how games could be free to play and the comments and further pondering got me thinking about a new type of system for pricing. I don’t know if it could work, but I think this type of approach could be interesting to try out.

Here’s the idea in a nutshell:

  • There would be this Big Game Portal that would have all the games in the world. Well, as many of them as possible anyway.
  • Membership for this Big Game Portal would cost $9.95 per month (maybe with a free 30 period trial).
  • Games wouldn’t be multiplayer games – instead of one big game (think of World of Warcraft) to play, you could play any games.
  • Developers would get a cut based on how many people play their games.

The idea is simply to “play all games for $9.95 per month” (or $6.95 or $14.95 per month could be tested as well). For 10 bucks, it could be a fun deal for players. For some games it probably wouldn’t work, but I think for many developers this could work – and it could mean extra revenue for them as well. For portal, well, it depends.

I’m thinking that if WoW has like more than 10 million players (just a figure I heard some day), then perhaps we could see 10 million or 100 million players each paying $10, I think there could be interest from developers too (that’s 1 000 million bucks to be shared among the developers… per month – plus some for the portal).

The games that would be played most would get the most revenues.

Your comments & thoughts?