Electronic Arts aimed to just do that last year with “Majestic,” which used media ranging from phone messages to online chat to involve players in a interactive mystery. The initial episode from the t rex game, offered at no cost download, attracted significant interest, but few saddled with it and have become paying customers.
“‘Majestic’ was really a really interesting experiment,” Pidgeon said. “I don’t think it spells doom for converting that casual gamer. There were just way too many barriers for casual gamers to get over with regards to accessing material on the internet and awaiting stuff to download. It’s form of a good example of the pioneer–as defined by finding their way back with lots of arrows inside your back.”
Bryan Neider, chief operating officer of Electronic Arts’ online branch, called EA.com, similarly characterizes the video game like a slightly painful learning experience.
“‘Majestic,’ even though it wasn’t commercially successful, did lots of interesting things which I do believe we’re gonna see appear in other games,” he stated. “Everything we learned is the fact people wish to play at their very own pace. We had an episodic format, and people didn’t desire to wait.”
Electronic Arts’ high hopes are perhaps more firmly grounded for the “The Sims Online,” the web version in the smash PC game. The internet version is predicted being ready late this current year.
“The Sims” is widely credited with broadening the viewers for PC games, particularly by attracting female players, and Neider expects the upcoming version to similarly widen the audience for games online.
“We believe the ability will probably replicate the really broad appeal in the PC product…and convey that breakthrough success completely to another environment,” he said.
“I’m being very conservative about ‘The Sims Online,'” IDC analyst Schelley Olhava said. “The question is what percentage of those who play ‘The Sims’ offline would they motivate to pay for a subscription fee? I’m not convinced this will boost their subscription base in the millions.”
Although developers of subscription-based games try and calculate what is going to attract a broad audience, purveyors of free games know what draws a crowd: card, board as well as other basic games that provide ample opportunities for players to talk with an additional. The process, instead, is to understand what might motivate advertisers.
Stung with the overall advertising crunch which includes shuttered many content sites, operators of free game sites are scrambling for ways to make a stronger pitch to advertisers. One of several promising approaches is sponsorship, in which a game serves as a vehicle for promoting an advertiser’s products. The advertiser typically will cover the development and hosting of the game after which promotes it, boosting overall visitors to the overall game site.
Microsoft’s The Zone gaming site offers several sponsored games, starting just last year with “Toyota Adrenaline,” a racing game built across the company’s latest truck.
Microsoft is also trying to create ongoing sponsorship opportunities with “OutSmart,” a quiz show game where players compete with a celebrity to reply to questions in line with the celebrity’s work. The record, film or TV company of the celebrity will pay for development and promotion in the game.
Sponsorship makes good business sense, said Chris Di Cesare, group product manager for The Zone. And in case proper attention is paid for the development end, such run 4 game may offer compelling experiences for consumers.
“For that casual gamers, what we’ve really learned that works is the thing that we call adver-gaming,” Di Cesare said. “It turns out to be a genuine win-win for the game player as well as the sponsor. With ‘Toyota Adrenaline,’ we could actually give gamers a sophisticated 3D racing game that truly pushed the envelope as far as graphics, and Toyota got great exposure.”
“Exactly what do advertisers want?” Di Cesare asked. “Things which are compelling and interesting for the consumer. That’s what games are.”
Pidgeon agreed that sponsorships are the most useful hope for free game sites to break out from the banner-ad ghetto.
“Sponsorship is apparently the most sensible approach for cross-promotion and creating a better case to advertisers,” he said. “It’s far more effective in terms of brand recognition than other kinds of advertising.”
But Neider asserts that sponsorships can undercut the game developer’s reputation by putting product placement ahead of the game experience.
“We’re really leery of letting advertisers come in and dictate the game content,” he was quoted saying. “That’s one reason we wish to take the chance to the advertiser, not the opposite. We wish to maintain that game design integrity then see which advertisers may be appropriate.”
The wild cards in the online gaming market are computer game consoles, that will become an increasingly important conduit for online experiences across the next few years. Microsoft intends to launch an online service for its Xbox system over the summer, and Sony is taking care of similar plans due to its PlayStation 2 console.
Pidgeon mentioned that although run ninja run consoles will account for just a small fraction of online game revenue in the near future, console makers have a chance to create their dextpky35 rules in a way that favors subscription revenue.
“It’s will be easier to earn money there because in the PC space there are actually every one of these people handing out stuff,” he said. “People don’t have those expectations about the console side. I believe Sony and Microsoft will certainly structure the online services to ensure that there’s going to be services charge that features basic content as well as a real push to upgrade to premium services.”
DFC’s Cole said consoles have the potential to vastly expand the online gaming audience if console makers do it properly, so that it is as easy to try out games offline as online.
“I do believe connectivity is the No. 1 obstacle for online gaming,” he was quoted saying. “People will get frustrated really easily trying to figure out how you can configure the PC games for online play. Anything that helps make the connection process easier will bring more and more people in.”