開發者談移動遊戲市場的產品型機會和運作模式

本文原作者:Brandan Sinclair 譯者ciel chen

如果遊戲開發者身上有哪個特點讓你想遠離他們,那就是他們那滿腔的激情。他們那種對於做遊戲的激情、推動傳媒業的激情、以及對爭執“video game”到底是一個還是兩個單詞的激情。(是兩個。)但是直到最近一次和Bekah以及Adam Saltsman在上個月遊戲開發大會的交流中我終於有了改觀,我從沒想過我會從一個遊戲開發者那裏聽到他們會對資金損耗也有“激情”。

這個話題是由《Night in the Woods》引起的,Finji是這對夫婦在三年前創建的,這款遊戲是這兩口子挑出來作爲Finji發行標籤的第一個遊戲項目。《Night in the Woods》是由三人組成的Infinite Fall團隊製作的,於2月份在Steam&PlayStation 4平臺上發行。遊戲發行後好評如潮,但是財政收入表現纔是他們關注的點,據Adam說盡管當時的銷量真是以“幾乎可怕的”數字符合了他們的期望值,然而製作團隊仍覺得跟他們的預期值相差甚遠。雖說Infinite Fall的成員Alec Holowka在發行獨立遊戲方面有很豐富的經驗(榮獲IGF獎項的《安吉拉之歌》的製作人之一),但動畫師Scott Benson和作家Bethany Hockenberry還是這方面待發展的新手。

“當你和遊戲開發團隊合作時,尤其是新團隊或者從沒有發行過遊戲的人,他們不瞭解市場真正是如何運作的,”Bekah這麼說道。“他們覺得你週末發行一個遊戲,然後就沒有然後了,就像你覺得你把你的產品賣掉了,確認一下賺了多少就完了,然後就要開始下一單生意了。但是不是這樣的,在接下來的五年裏你仍然能通過這款遊戲賺錢,然而要想把這個解釋給那些不知道遊戲市場運作方式的人來說真的很難……我認爲這從長期上來講多少能補貼一點日資金損耗,所以我們每談論這個話題時總會很激動”

feedback(from baike.so)

feedback(from baike.so)

Adam還更深入確切地解釋了一下這個想法的情感影響力,他說:“這麼說吧,你終於越過了終點線,人們給出了你想要的反應,而且你還能搬進更豪華的公寓,或者可以負擔起每個月的醫療保健。接下來你的項目可能就不一定要再靠Kickstarter來衆籌了,你不是有一些做承包演出、跟你一樣在艱苦奮鬥的藝術家朋友們嘛?你就可以跟他們合作、僱傭他們來做一些其他他們從沒做過的狂拽酷炫美上天的東西。而我們,就是爲此而來的。”

“這是我們這樣做的首要原因,”Bekah補充說。“我們要在這些所有瘋狂的工作量中投入很多很多很多年,並且要放緩很多我們自己做的遊戲方面工作……我們要做的就是讓遊戲繼續存在,這真的是一件很神奇的事。所以如果有什麼我們做得到的,可以讓這些具有不可思議天賦的人免去資金方面的後顧之憂,我們到底他丫的有什麼理由不做這樣的好事?這真的很酷啊。”

《Night in Woods》的成功發行對Finji來說標誌着類似的“使命達成”的一刻,其本質上來說相當於是Saltsmans對2014年前收入旗下的幾家公司的轉型重塑,包括Semi-Secret Software和Last Chance Media。這次重塑標誌着公司項目方向將從像《屋頂狂奔》和《圓點100》這樣的高端手遊項目撤出。

“我們在那個階段處於一個主攻移動平臺遊戲的公司,但是正在走下坡路。在那時高端手遊收益能力處於下降趨勢,就算是熱門榜前10的遊戲也是如此。”Bekah這麼說。

無休止跑酷遊戲《屋頂狂奔》發行於2009年,但至今仍舊享有長尾效應有着不菲的收入。《圓點100》則是在2013年初發行的,儘管擁有最好的環境,包括好評如潮和希望得到遊戲推廣權的平臺持有者,遊戲的長尾效應還是下降了,而且幅度比《屋頂狂奔》要大很多,幾乎只能做到把投入的錢收回來的程度。

“高端遊戲的收益能力已經大不如從前了,”Bekah說了有關當時他們轉做Finji時的心態:“你投入的時間已經基本無法得到回報了。想在6個月內做出一款手機遊戲是不可能的;一個5到10人的開發團隊也必須花2年的時間來完成一款遊戲。”

Adam補充說:“我們有一堆酷炫的手機小遊戲點子,但是如果遊戲做得太小就很容易被抄襲,那我們就非常有可能爲其他公司的上位做了墊腳石。所以如果我們想要做比較難被抄襲(對別人來說難)、不容易被淘汰的較大型遊戲,那就需要我們投入更多的時間。而如果投入了更多的時間,我們就不得不找出不太容易被抄襲還能回本賺錢的大型遊戲項目。”

1010 (from develop-online)

1010 (from develop-online)

他們明確了手遊已經不再是可持續發展項目以後,他們轉向了PC和主機遊戲的開發世界,儘管他們對該領域大量獨立遊戲崛起持擔憂態度。但跟獨立遊戲狂潮比起來,他們更關注這個領域的未來可能性。一大堆平庸遊戲在STEAM平臺上蜂擁發行是一方面,不過Finji進入的市場裏有像《Gone Home(回家)》、《肯德基0號路(Kentucky Route Zero)》以及《無限工廠(infinifactory)》這樣的好遊戲,驚人的是他們的發行相當有規律。Adam說:“這種趨勢會愈演愈烈,《Overland》和《Night in the Woods》受到的影響都比較小,但是一旦人們意識到還有更酷的遊戲那它們就大勢已去了,所以我們必須對這些項目進行加強否則他們將不再如我們所願地脫穎而出……沒有人會爲他們不瞭解的東西買單;如果我們的遊戲已經漸漸沒落到其他出色、深入人心的作品光環背後,也就不會有人想去了解我們的作品。在這裏,要擔心的不是玩家數量或者市場流動貨幣不夠,而是要擔心你上架的商家那裏上週剛上了12款其他同樣棒極了的遊戲。”

這造成了有關自身可見性的問題,他們試圖從選擇遊戲項目的方式入手來解決這個問題。Bekah說他們在選擇對他們要合作的對象非常挑剔,因爲他們知道這個團隊不僅要出色,而且本身要對將做的遊戲項目有足夠的激情和信仰,只有這樣,他們才能跟這個團隊一樣努力地去做這個項目。他們這個解決方法的一個效果體現在Finji出品的遊戲在外觀上往往能脫穎而出。Bekah提到Finji的遊戲產品目錄裏,有四個遊戲是一個次做美術指導的成員在他帶來的新方法下完成的,這個方法也讓Finji在工作過程中輕鬆了很多。

“我們的市場覆蓋範圍很小因爲我們的團隊非常小,”Bekah說。“我們沒有龐大的預算來包攬所有營銷費用,所以我們遊戲的每一個截圖都要夠吸引眼球。是的,每一個GIF截圖都要讓看到的人說,‘哇!太漂亮了吧!’”

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Getting emotional about monthly burn rate

Finji’s Bekah and Adam Saltsman talk about fleeing the mobile space for the sustainability of a supposedly indiepocalyptic PC and console world

Brendan Sinclair
Senior Editor
Wednesday 22nd March 2017

If there’s one thing you’re likely to take away from talking with game developers, it’s that they’re a passionate bunch. They’re passionate about making great games. They’re passionate about pushing the medium forward. They’re passionate about whether “video games” is one word or two. (It’s two.) But until a recent conversation with Bekah and Adam Saltsman at the Game Developers Conference last month, I had never heard a developer tell me they were passionate about burn rate.

The topic came up in relation to Night in the Woods, one of the first projects the couple picked up for their publishing label Finji, which was founded three years ago. Developed by three-person indie team Infinite Fall, Night in the Woods launched in February on Steam and PlayStation 4. The game was critically well received, but its financial performance was the focus of their attention, despite sales running “almost eerily” in line with their expectations, according to Adam. But their expectations and those of the team differed greatly. While Infinite Fall’s Alec Holowka had plenty of experience working on and releasing indie games (notably the IGF-winning Aquaria), animator Scott Benson and writer Bethany Hockenberry were comparatively new to development.

“When you work with especially new game developers, or people who’ve never launched a game, they don’t really understand how the marketplace works,” Bekah said. “You have this launch weekend and it’s out, and it’s almost like you think you’ve sold your product so you’ll get this one check and then you’re done and you move on. But no, you’ll still get money for this game in five years. This stuff will trickle in on this weird long tail forever, and that’s a really hard thing to explain to somebody who’s never seen the way it works… I think this will subsidize a bit of your monthly burn for a really long time, and we get really emotional talking about that.”

Adam further explained exactly the emotional heft of that idea, saying, “You crossed the finish line, people are responding to work in the way you hoped. But also you can get a nicer apartment, or afford your health care every month. Your next project might not have to be a Kickstarter project. Some of your artist friends who are constantly doing gigs and contract work, struggling in the same way you were? You may be able to work with them, and provide employment for them to make some other cool, beautiful thing they wouldn’t have been able to do before. And that’s what we’re here for.”

“That’s why we did it in the first place,” Bekah added. “We’ll put in all this crazy amount of work for years and years and years, and postpone a lot of our work on our own game… It just needed to exist. It’s a magical thing, and if any of our work could help provide financial security for this incredibly talented group of people, why the hell wouldn’t you do something like that? It’s cool.”

Night in the Woods’ successful launch marks a sort of “mission accomplished” moment for Finji, which was essentially a rebranding of a handful of companies the Saltsmans had been running before 2014, like Semi-Secret Software and Last Chance Media. The rebranding also marked a change in direction away from premium mobile projects like Canabalt and Hundreds.

“We were a mobile-centric company at that point, and we were already tracking the downward trajectory,” Bekah said. “The earning capacity of premium games had already decreased, even if you were a top 10 game.”

The endless runner Canabalt came out in 2009, but has enjoyed a lengthy tail and still brings in a bit of money. Hundreds launched in early 2013, but even with a best-case scenario including critical acclaim and platform holders eager to feature it, the game’s long tail declined considerably steeper than Canabalt’s, and it merely wound up making its money back.

“The earning capacity of a premium game is not what it once was,” Bekah said of their mindset when they pivoted to Finji. “You can barely pay back the time you have to put into it. You can’t just do a mobile game in six months; you have to spend two years and have a development team of five or 10 people.”

Adam added, “We had a bunch of cool little mobile game ideas, but if we leave them really small and easy to copy, then the odds our work will just fund a bunch of other companies seems pretty high. So if we want to make larger projects that are harder [for others] to duplicate and out-market us, those things require a bigger time commitment. And if they require a bigger time commitment, now we have to start looking at the kinds of returns we saw on our last larger project that wasn’t super-easy to copy.”

They decided mobile wasn’t sustainable any longer, so they jumped to the world of PC and console development even as concerns about the abundance of indie game releases were ramping up. But their concerns were less about an indiepocalypse than an indie rapture. A flood of mediocre titles on Steam would be one thing, but Finji was jumping into a market where great games like Gone Home, Kentucky Route Zero, and Infinifactory release at an almost alarmingly regular clip. “The bar continues to go up,” Adam said. “Overland and Night in the Woods were both specced smaller, but it’s become clear as those projects have gone on how cool everything else is, so we needed to find a way to afford to beef these projects up a bit more or else they’re not going to stand out like we need them to… Nobody’s going to buy our thing if they don’t know about it. And nobody’s going to know about our thing if it just fades into the background behind all these other marvelous, inspiring pieces. It’s not a worry that there’s a limited number of players or money in the market. It’s more like every store they go to is going to have the same 12 awesome games that came out last week.”

That’s created its own visibility problem, one that they’ve tried to solve in how they select their projects. Bekah said they’ve been very picky about who they work with because they know they not only need something outstanding, but they need to have projects they’re personally excited about and believe in because they simply couldn’t work as hard on them otherwise. One side effect of that approach has been that Finji’s games tend to stand out on looks alone. Bekah noted that Finji’s catalog includes four games with first-time art directors who have brought new approaches to their projects, and made Finji’s job a little easier in the process.

“We have a very low market reach because we’re such a small team,” Bekah said. “We don’t have a giant budget to throw in to marketing things everywhere, so every single screenshot of our game needs to be a way to draw people in. Every .gif, every screenshot needs to make people say, ‘Whoa, that’s beautiful.’”(source:gamesindustry.biz  )