Where the whales live - monetization in PS2

Discussion in 'PlanetSide 2 Gameplay Discussion' started by sagolsun, Jan 2, 2015.

  1. sagolsun

    If you have 30 minutes to spare, here's an interesting talk that establishes the terms and concepts of F2P according to one guy's PoV:

    If you don't, this graphic covers most of it - but please see the talk anyway.

    In PS2's case, the pyramid levels are as follow:

    0) Core loop
    Shooting a vanu peasant with your magnificent burgertank. Stabbing a dirty vanu with your wicked magcutter. Driving a magrider down a cliff. The moment to moment shooty, stabby, tanky gameplay.

    1) Retention game
    Unlocks and certifications
    Social aspect of outfits

    2) Superfan game
    Outfit operations and leadership
    Scoreboards (*appeal only to roughly a quarter of the playerbase)
    Dasanfall, ps2players

    If you've seen the talk, you've seen some interesting retention and superfan subgame examples. In XCOM the strategical geoscape filled the role of the retention game, whereas in EVE the goon operation against BOB was shown as an example of the superfan game.

    My point is, PS2 has a good core game. A really really good core game, but at the expense of having a lackluster and bare-bones retention and especially barren superfan game. We call those by different names - metagame, depth, "good PS1 features", resource lattice - all of those reference the two higher tiers of the pyramid.

    Can you compensate for a lackluster retention/superfan game with a solid core experience? I don't think so, because they fulfill different roles. The core game is why I play at all, the retention game is why I log in every week, the superfan game is why I drop what I'm doing and login to defend that strategically crucial base NOW.

    Over PS2's lifespan we've seen lots of incremental improvements and clever use of low-hanging fruit. Small, safe changes that build upon the already solid core gameplay, but few risky moves relating to the upper tiers of the pyramid.

    There's bills to pay though, so SOE is dusting off the harpoons and going whale fishing with their latest iteration of implants. They've been doing small, incremental low-effort changes to the game, so they're introducing a small, incremental low-effort whale net.

    The problem with that is, the game wasn't designed with this particular monetization model, and the seams do show. It's a clever hack that manages to avoid riots of P2W accusations while still being effective at bringing money. But it feels wrong - both to the F2P deadbeats and smedbuck whales, as well as anybody who stops to think about the system for a while.

    I think SOE needs to take a step back, reexamine which parts of the game are missing and rethink the monetization strategy. The meta we've all been asking for, the retention and superfan game, the promised features of ANTs, resources, continental lattice, - those are big changes, unlike the small incremental core improvements we've had so far. But as Nick said in his talk, those upper tiers are where the game turns into a hobby, it's where the whales live.

    TLDR: if SOE wants more money, the way to do it isn't to clutter the core game with ill-designed barnacles, but develop the retention/superfan/meta game we've wanted since forever and weave a new, coherent monetization strategy into it.
    • Up x 13
  2. FnkyTwn

    TLDR: Smedley: F*** b*****s, get money
    • Up x 1
  3. Whatupwidat

    I'm sure SOE are fully aware of their own financial model and how well it's working. Given we're not privvy to those numbers, all we can do is speculate :)
  4. sagolsun

    Sometimes, due to various factors like tunnel vision, company culture and organizational issues, corporations need an expensive physical security consultant to tell them they leave their front door open at night.

    A fresh perspective can't hurt, I think.
    • Up x 8
  5. BlueSkies

    Best part of the whole poster:

    • Up x 4
  6. Whatupwidat

    True...but given how important and core this whole thing is to the entire game and how it's funded - don't be surprised if it's not acknowledged by SOE themselves :p
  7. iller

    Their retention has always been where things break down.

    There's a limit to what a newish Player should be expected to deal with and every factor they should be aware of at every second only to have a fight end in less than a second b/c something they don't understand yet took place in an instant. In a game like COD or CSS, there's only 2 things to be aware of. In this game however there can be 20 other factors that most of us at this point had to simply ingrain into our reflexes. This is easily the most overlooked fact whenever people talk about TTK and why Ps1 had a better TTK that allowed newer players to more gradually learn and see exactly what they needed to improve upon for awareness, as it was taking place.

    So no, I don't see this as a problem where they are courting "Whales" the wrong way. There is no evidence at all that the Whale demographic itself would prefer a robust micromanaging game like EVE or FF14 or whatever else gets thrown around as having "Depth". PS2 could have twice as much depth as it has right now but that won't solve the Retention issue with newer players. Nor will some Tutorial. The new player problem is one of being Information-Starved as in the game itself doesn't want to give them the information at all times they really need to actually learn the damn thing. And the new players themselves, well the LAST thing they want to do is have to go spend a whole week watching Youtube guides instead of just picking up a game and learning by doing.

    Beyond that, there's also been other issues where they fail to engage us F2P'ers as well. OR they just write us off as F2P'fo'lyfe. That's not true in my case, I've given SOE money before and I'd give these guys money too if they'd straighten their act up and engage us in a real discussion about all this stuff. But so far they refuse to do that and pretty soon here they're going to start using the nitpicky infraction method to shut all of us up (WHY I have no idea... the actual Devs don't even read this forum and if we really wanted to be thorns in their sides, we'd go twitter/reddit bomb them directly).
    • Up x 4
  8. NinjaTurtle

    I will speculate it's going badly, hence the changes in the way content is being delivered and developed
  9. Whatupwidat

    Aye, my personal speculation is that the whole FtP model was forced on the dev team and now they're basically having to try to match our expectations of the game with what they are physically, and monetarily, capable of achieving AND still having to do it while making money using a pretty unreliable revenue stream.

    I love them to bits as the game's awesome, if still a bit broked in places, but I would NOT trade places with them...the pressure must be ******* insane 0.o
    • Up x 2
  10. iller

    only if "going badly" means not meeting shareholder expectations...

    Otherwise, this game really doesn't have nearly enough Staff, servercosts, or promotion costs to result in a net-loss.
    So I don't believe for even a second they're projecting into the red in the next year. Especially not with the console launching soon
    • Up x 1
  11. sagolsun

    I would, for a little while, just enough to convince myself I don't have the stamina for the job so that I can finally lay my gamedev ambitions to rest. Not that I don't know what it's like cursing at the compiler, gritting your coffee-stained teeth at 4am monday morning, but the pressure isn't as.. relentless.

    I have respect for the dev team of any competent game, double so for any game that innovates and pushes the technical envelope. Costs of innovation are transparent to players, who only see the result, if and when it works.

    I imagine the grunts at SOE don't have as much say in monetization matters as, say, pure gameplay design, particularly when it's in in their department. Feedback still matters though, at all levels. I wish I could devise a simple, elegant and fair monetization method that's also cheap and quick, but I'm afraid there's simply no free lunch.
    • Up x 1
  12. Utrooperx

    Actually, the Financial filing statements for Sony are public records...please see: http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/IR/financial/fr/13q4_sony.pdf

    The most interesting part...Sony had a pretty big loss last year...

    Operating loss of 8.1 billion yen (78 million U.S. dollars) was recorded, compared to operating income of 1.7 billion yen in the previous fiscal year. This year-on-year deterioration was primarily due to an increase in costs related to the launch of the PS4 as well as the recording of a 6.2 billion yen (60 million U.S. dollars) write-off of certain PC game software titles sold by Sony Online Entertainment LLC, partially offset by the above-mentioned increase in sales.

    That "write-off" they mention is due to development costs associated with H1Z1 and EverquestNext...the games haven't been released yet, so everything spent on them is considered a "loss"...

    But this is really a "drop-in-the-bucket" compared to the overall losses that Sony (the parent corporation) had last year...

    Net loss attributable to Sony Corporation’s stockholders, which excludes net income attributable to noncontrolling interests, was 128.4 billion yen (1,246 million U.S. dollars) compared to net income of 41.5 billion yen in the previous fiscal year.

    So when you look at the numbers...can you blame Smed for trying to make some money?
  13. Whatupwidat

    Wow, yeah I'm happy my job is in a factory where I have literally no paperwork after I clock off xD
  14. Jalek

    SOE usually barely rates a mention on the annuals, at least since it became a division under SCE. Even that is minor compared to consumer electronics where Sony has been cutting and slashing, looking for black ink.
    I'm sure there are performance expectations for SOE, though the studio continues to shrink and less appears to flow out all the time.

    The studio's down to two aging fantasy MMO's, one superhero MMO, PS2, a early release project, one going into early release next month, and one still far from daylight. The sparsity of those offerings suggests reasons to devote most available development resources to the new projects at the expense of the existing ones. It doesn't mean players have to like it.
  15. Halo572

    It is the eternal circular argument where this title is concerned.

    Yes they need to make money, so what do they do? Sell implants and aesthetics while ignoring any fundamental content.

    What is the market for implants and aesthetics? a) Really hardcore players/those that try them out and b) hardcore players/those that maybe want a shiny until they get bored of having nothing else and move on.

    When I played I rarely bothered with implants as they were poor at best, now they are a poor premium product. The reaction to them going premium certainly isn't favourable based on this forum.

    And hats can only take you so far, SMNC managed a massive spike in players that evaporated when they got the 4 hats and during that time the player base consisted primarily of 'I haven't got my hats yet'. You still get hat hunters in the 150 global player base.

    SOE have a niche product that has little widespread appeal.

    The hardcore stay on as their god-like intellect can see the game us mortals can't; us mere mortals - the retention game in your diagram - move on as there is nothing here to see and 32 months later who are they really trying to kid; the new players churn and get weeded out either by the 1337 farming they endure when starting or get poleaxed by the complete lack of the retention game.

    A small handful will ascend to hardcore as they have what it takes.

    The top of the pyramid is all they have to work with as all they do is produce 'content' that appeals to them.

    This video game is all video and no game. Even Pong has more of a reason to play than this does, good luck on selling that concept and respect for the bloody minded stubbornness of trying for over 2 1/2 years to do so.

    Maybe their next project could be the King Canute simulator. With hats.
    • Up x 2
  16. Degenatron

    So by your assessment, SOE should stop making the API freely available, it should charge cash to start an Outfit, use the comm channel, place comm icons, or even run a Platoon. Things like "access to the score boards" and stats tracking should be behind a pay wall, along with Outfit and platoon leadership. They should lock out the free players and those that have built websites around stats tracking, so they can monetize those aspects of the superfan experience.

    As a subscriber, someone who has spent a LOT of money on cosmetics, and someone who is willing to spend more money on this game, I can say unequivocally that there is a cap to how much I can spend with the current model. In fact, I'm at it. There's really nothing else I want. I have the camos, helmets, armor, and patches I want. I have "my look" and so there is nothing more I want to buy. I know I can't be the only one. SOE needs a model in place which causes players like myself to buy something that is "consumable". Now that can be a membership (which I will continue to carry simply to support the game I love and for no other reason - well, not entirely true, Landmark and H1Z1), but that is an even more limited audience.

    So, are you ready for SOE to slam the door in the face of some of the biggest Superfans so they can monetize the the top of the pyramid, because that is exactly what you are suggesting.
  17. Who Garou

    PlanetSide 2 is Pay-to-Win. It was when I started playing. It is even more so now.

    F2P players are not "deadbeats". PlanetSide 2 is an F2P. In reality, the F2P players keep the game alive and interesting for the P2W players that do use the cash shop. You know, to make them feel big because they can slaughter so many players that haven't built up enough CERTs and/or (and really just more leaning towards) spent as much money in the cash shop.

    Sure. Skill has something to do with playing the game. Skill is what makes it fun for F2P players to play the game.

    P2W players are willing to put down as much money as they need to win. They are willing to pay to be cool.

    P2W is much different than the way subscribing to a game used to be. P2W is much different than the current All Access plan. In fact many P2W players pretty much despise the concept of the All Access plan from what I can tell. This sector of P2W players think that the All Access plan should be nothing more than a glorified F2P. This sector of P2W players think they deserve more because they are willing to pay a lot of money to be cool and win.

    P2W games aren't games; they are cash-grabbing-machines disguised as a game. Some disguises are better than others, while others seem to wear thin over time.
    Of course, everyone hates the P2W moniker, so there are always those that will strongly defend what they are doing or a game they enjoy is not P2W, because, you know, it would be really wrong/bad/not-cool if it was.
  18. Goretzu

    Honestly I'm unsure that is true (not particularly about SOE, but about many businesses in general), as much as anything because trying to avoid blame/perception of failure obscures all sorts of things (when honesty might help the company, if not the individual). I mean certainly they'll be aware of their bottom line.... they may be less aware and indeed accepting of why it is what it is and what would be a good (or bad) idea for the future.

    But anyway, what I think SOE is lacking with PS2 is things keeping players wanting to play (the thing they did so well with EQ1)...... if you don't have that you can set up all the revenue streams you want trying to milk players with a drip.... drip.... drip...., but you are ultimately destined to always fail.
  19. NoctD

    Imagine an inverted pyramid. SOE only cares and caters for the few whales. Guess what happens when you build an inverted pyramid? Its got no foundation, it topples over.
  20. sagolsun

    That's an example of hideously bad monetization. An example of good monetization would be to allow outfit leaders to upload custom outfit logos for, say, 10000 stationcash. If they'd include an SC pooling/gifting system you could probably charge even more. I wouldn't complain about a high price - your logo would have to be vetted by a person and then would end up on the machines of every PS2 player in the world.

    Good point - there's nothing in the game for you to buy, you've already got what you want.

    I'm absolutely not saying that SOE should start charging for existing free functionality, hiding APIs behind paywalls or whatnot. If that's the impression you got, you misread my post and completely missed the point of the talk I linked to.

    What I am saying is that if SOE wants more sales, it has to create new markets. Implants are a new market, but they're also a low-effort attempt at gouging the bottom of the pyramid, the core game. This is the wrong place to be looking for monetization at this point in the game's lifecycle. The superfan game, the "metagame" - think continental lattice, ANTs, resource system - is where I see the potential for meaningful monetization. For me, buying a reload with 10sc would be unacceptable. But how about buying an improved ANT automated resource collector that benefits every player of your faction on the continent? Instead of selfish purchase of personal power, sponsoring a faction?

    Except for implants, particularly the latest iteration, SOE's track record has been very good. Of course whales are the best kind of players, but SOE knows better than to try and filter out the F2P deadbeats. If you filter out all the plankton, the whales will starve.

    For the record, "whale" is a term as accurate and entrenched as it is derogatory, I'm calling F2P players deadbeats for balance. ;)