Media Art, User Experience Design, and Interface Development

Downloadable content is not enough

Posted on 2013-05-22

Mario and Luigi run for money

These days it seems like everyone talks about games in terms of downloadable content (DLC), in app purchases (IAP), monetization and the likes. As if the only way that marketers know about connecting with their clients–gamers–is by finding new ways to withdraw money from their pockets.

Many additional levels and characters are sold, which can be interesting to extend the life of a game. Very often, hats, suits, skins, weapons, berries and all sorts of other in game items are sold for actual money, which feels greedy. Some games companies even release games that are just reusing old assets, which feels like they are raping my childhood worlds. Game creators and marketers are fighting about monetization, to the point where game creators built a game that mocks DLC.

Wait, am I that bitter? Not exactly, but I believe that there are many ways that have yet to be explored.

People want to create hommages to the digital worlds they grew up with. There is no shortage of games being recreated in Minecraft or Little Big Planet. Some people take upon themselves to remake old games, even if sometimes companies ask them to cease and desist.

There is a faint light of hope when a company as big as Capcom actually supports a fan game to the point of releasing it onto their own website.

And therein lies the future of monetization.

Game companies should encourage fan creations. They should sell packages of assets. Many people would be happy to buy an official Super Mario Bros. spritesheet, for example. Sell those per game, per level, per character, try new stuff!

How do you monetize that further? Allow only people who bought the official package to release fan games legally. Yes, we all know hundreds of spritesheets are already available for free on the net, but the rights to those still belong to the game companies after all. If a fan game is free, money has been made from the spritesheet packages sold. Or if the fan game is to be sold at a price, do the reverse of the Apple store: keep 70% and let the fan keep 30%.

There will never be a shortage of people who want to create fan games, artwork or fiction. It’s been there forever in our culture, there are now new ways.

Dear game companies, stop clinging to your crazy copyrights, let go a bit and let the crowd create content for you, you will earn their respect, and most probably money as well.

2 responses to “Downloadable content is not enough”

  1. Unfortunately, the number of people who want to make games is small, and the number who are capable of making games is even smaller.

    I have seen lots of businesses try to make money from giving away a game making tool and selling asset packs. None have ever made money.

    The things that have worked (like Little Big Planet) charge for the core game and make the fan-created content a retention device, not a monetisation device.

    I do see a future in this model for letting fans build stuff that keeps fans-who-are-not-creators interested. But not as a monetisation technique.

  2. That’s a fair point. I think “monetization” may have not been a clear enough term in my argument. I do not mean to use assets as ways to make money in a current game, but rather a way to let fans create content, and make money out and it while respecting the fans rather than simply ask them to cease and desist.

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