Published in COMMUNICATIONS & STRATEGIES No. 94, 2nd Quarter 2014
Video game business models and monetization
Daniel KAPLAN, Business Developer at Mojang
Conducted by Peter ZACKARIASSON, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
C&S: Minecraft is, by any standard, a very successful game. How much of this success do you ascribe to your business model?
Daniel KAPLAN: I think it played quite a big role since it was discounted for quite a long time. The game was discounted from day one, since it was “released” during very early development. The whole idea was to release it early to see if there was an interest and to see if the project could bear fruit. A lot of people who bought it initially, I think, felt that they had somewhat invested into the project and the ones who were on from the beginning made quite a good deal.
C&S: Do Minecraft exploit any specific previous business model, or has it paved its way with a unique model to generate profit?
D.K.: There are other games that were the inspiration for this model, Mount and Blade from TaleWorlds for instance. They also released their game before it was finished for a discounted price and continued the development with the community.
C&S: Today Minecraft has become a phenomenon that is not only tied to the game itself, but there are many physical product spin-offs. How important is this brand extension for Mojang?
D.K.:We are still a game company but it definitely helps. I think there is a fine line in between how much you can do with a brand before it feels too stretched. We try to create merch/products that we would like to have ourselves, rather than try to fill gaps with our brand with various products. It is sure a fine line and I think a brand can be too exposed and become too stretched.
C&S: Is it possible to become too successful? That is, having produced Minecraft – is it possible to repeat that success? What about the next game of Mojang?
D.K.: I think the problem with becoming too successful is that you will always be compared with your success, regardless of what you produce after that. It is important to not lose focus and continue to deliver things regardless of what they are so you don’t stagnate.
I think that it is almost impossible to create a success like Minecraft again. A lof of the “cred” Mojang got was because it was an up and coming company/person during the initial development of Minecraft, and the whole story around Notch (the founder of Mojang) was a classic David and Goliath story, which we can’t reproduce anymore. We have a whole different starting point now in comparison from where we started.
The next game we are working on, Scrolls, is already profitable and was released in a similar manner to Minecraft. We are super happy about the game being profitable even though it is not close to the success of Minecraft. It is a bit silly to try to compete/compare our projects with Minecraft to be honest.
C&S: What directions do you see the video games industry taking when it comes to generating sustainable business models? Last year Minecraft was one of the two pay per play games in the US top 20 mobile games. Not adopting a free to play business model, is it a conviction or the best way to be different within a serious competitive framework?
D.K.:I don’t know what will happen in the future. You see different trends all the time and you see companies not following the trends and they are successful. I think that the mobile business will continue growing and will continue to have different business models for various types of games or apps. I think it is hard to say that everything will be x or y. Considering the widespread presence of mobile devices, it allows for more niche products too which will let you create products that don’t follow the trends and can still be successful.
Daniel KAPLAN is Mojang's business developer since October 2010. He was born and raised in Skövde, Sweden. He founded ludiosity.com
For more information about our activities: www.comstrat.org
COMMUNICATIONS & STRATEGIES
Discover our issue Video Game business models and monetization on this subject.
Head of Consumer Electronics & Digital Entertainment Practice
Future set to play nice with smart toys: a sector forecast to climb to 7.4 billion EUR in 2018.
Smart toys, or app toys, consist of three interconnected elements: a video game, one or more connected objects and a distribution platform with a display. Smart toys now constitute a new market segment, at the cross-section of the video game and toy industries.
Tablets are proving to be a good platform for smart toys to recreate or adapt innovative game concepts and transform existing toys. Smart toys use several technologies that allow the toy to talk to the application: NFC, gesture recognition by camera, static electricity, sound pulses and Bluetooth.
The possible interactions between the three components of video games are inspiring games creators to create new, innovative forms of entertainment, which can be exploited by both video game developers and toy manufacturers in search of new markets. This is why leading toy manufacturers such as Hasbro, Mattel, Lego and Bandai, are gradually embracing them.
Also getting in on the action are video game market players, big and small. Activision Blizzard is one of the pioneers in this area, with its Skylanders series of video games and collectible figurines that interact with a fun app of the same name. As of February 2014, the franchise has generated 2 billion USD and more than 175 million figurines have been sold.
The range of possible combinations between app, object and display device means an equally wide a range of business models, depending on the smart toy creator's core business:
• A toy manufacturer will tend to focus on the object and the business model typically attached to it. This sector is showing no more than 1% growth, so their goal is to capture a share of the video game market by developing smart toys that make better use of the software component. One trump card already in their hands are the licences to popular products;
• A video game publisher and developers will tend to focus on the application, which will be marketed as free-to-play. They have already proven themselves in this segment, but smart toys could well materialize in other kinds of video game, such as sport and action/adventure titles. So there is no shortage of opportunity. Added to which, these new offerings will disrupt the video game value chain, which is dominated by digital content distribution;
• lastly, a pure player from the smart toy sector will opt for a combination of these two approaches.
The outlook for smart toys in this new gaming market is particularly promising: the sector’s worth could climb to 7.4 billion EUR in 2018, compared to 2.2 billion EUR at the end of 2014.
Backed by toy manufacturers, game developers hold the keys to success here, provided they deliver truly innovative gameplay, regardless of the target platform: tablet, smartphone, personal computer or home console.
If you want to discover our study in this new market.
Iliad has made an offer for 15 billions dollars to take control of T-Mobile US at 56,6%. Yves Gassot, IDATE's CEO gives his point of view.
What is the rationale behind the deal?
This is not a typical case of generating synergies by merging two companies operating in the same national market. It will be hard to bank on swift and considerable synergies between a fixed-mobile telco in France and a mobile operator in the United States.
On the other hand, the US market is far more attractive than the French one (short of a major consolidation deal in France which, at this point in time, seems unlikely) and even more attractive than the ailing European market: 9% drop in revenue for operators in Europe’s five biggest markets over the past five years, versus 29% growth in the United States. In addition to revenue, there are sizeable disparities in margins on either side of the Atlantic, due to less fierce competition in the US and no doubt for reasons of scale as well: in each of Europe’s five biggest markets, four mobile operators are competing against each other for an average 63 million customers, compared to the 315 million users in the States. The planned takeover thus serves as a good reflection of the sorry state of Europe’s telecoms market, and the strong momentum that the US market is enjoying (albeit at the expense of American consumers to some degree).
There is also a certain similarity between T-Mobile, the smallest of the four operators in the US, and Free which is a latecomer to the French market: it is still working to catch up on rollouts, and especially on LTE coverage, and to beef up its spectrum assets. It needs to have the lowest costs to be as agile as possible, to shift price points and marketing strategies at will. Here, Deutsche Telekom’s US subsidiary is a perfect match for Free.
And, finally, because Free/Iliad is smaller in size and market valuation than its target acquisition, the deal could confirm an impressive availability of capital that the Altice/Numéricable takeover of SFR first revealed.
Will the deal go through?
At first glance, this would seem to be a financial question above all. Deutsche Telekom is the seller of an operator that it acquired in 2001, and which cost a pretty penny. And a savvy seller at that, as AT&T learned recently, and as Sprint is just now learning… T-Mobile had signed a deal to sell to AT&T, which was ultimately quashed by the FCC and the FTC but which allowed the Deutsche Telekom subsidiary to pocket 3 billion USD and a stash of frequencies, and to jump back in the game by merging with MetroPCS, stepping up its national LTE network rollouts, and engaging in an aggressive but costly marketing strategy. After having taken control of Sprint (third biggest mobile operator in the US) Japan’s Softbank (which is sometimes referred to as the Japanese Free) launched its bid for T-Mobile, and appears to have reached an agreement in principle with Deutsche Telekom. Masayoshi Son’s valuation of T-Mobile is higher and so more attractive for its owner. This is natural since it involves a consolidation (No. 3 +No. 4) which would have an immediate impact on competition, and generate substantial savings for 4G rollouts and on the sales and marketing end of things.
But money alone cannot be the only factor in play: how American authorities will interpret the acceptable limits of mobile market consolidation also needs to be considered. SoftBank/Sprint have not yet managed to persuade the FCC and antitrust authorities that reducing the market to only three national operators would be beneficial to consumers. And this despite a number of speeches from Masayoshi Son who continues to argue that a “consolidated” third operator would be in a much better position to raid the great bastions held today by Verizon and AT&T. If the authorities remain reticent, Free will have a serious opening.
But it may also have to wrangle with other investors, such as Dish Network which has acquired spectrum and which, now that DirecTV is due to be taken over by AT&T, needs to find other ways to grow its business.
Finally, should the deal go through, Free will need to accomplish what Deutsche Telekom began. This is by no means a foregone conclusion, especially when going head to head with companies like Verizon and AT&T that have more than 100 million subscribers to their name, and which post impressive profit margins on a very regular basis. Up until now, and despite its aggressiveness, T-Mobile has not yet managed to make a dent. Especially galling for Masayoshi Son is that it is Sprint which, in this ambiguous stage of it merger with T-Mobile, is the one that has supplied most of the customers that allowed the Deutsche Telekom subsidiary to grow! Free/T-Mobile could of course continue to grow, at the expense of Sprint. But, 1) Sprint, which has not engaged in a price war in recent months, could play its trump card by making a sharp turnaround and 2) there is always the possibility of an investment from Dish, this time in Sprint, and even of a merger between cable giant Comcast (which is currently in the process of merging with Time Warner Cable) and Sprint (through an MVNO agreement that would complete the cable market leaders’ impressive Wi-Fi base). The allocation of AWS3 frequencies in the autumn, and the auctions for second digital dividend spectrum (600 MHz band) scheduled for 2015 will also go some way in determining the market’s future, without us yet knowing for sure whether the FCC will give the smallest operators a leg up.
Soichi NAKAJIMA, Senior Consultant
Just under 1.4 billion smart meters (electricity, gas and water combined) deployed worldwide in 2018
IDATE reviews the state of smart meter rollouts in various countries (Europe, USA and Japan), which form the first steps of eventual national scale smart grids. Whilst electricity meters are at the forefront of such rollouts, gas and water must also be considered. The drivers and barriers for this market are assessed, and forecasts are made for the number of smart meters to be deployed and the resulting cellular connectivity revenues, up to 2018. Finally, some future paths which may be explored for expansion into smart grids are examined.
IDATE forecasts that there will be a total of just under 1.4 billion smart meters (electricity, gas and water combined) deployed worldwide in 2018, up from roughly 500 million in 2013; a CAGR of 22.7%. Many countries now have regulation in place which targets close to 100% replacement of current ‘dumb’ meters to smart ones by 2020, and such regulations are the primary driver of smart meter rollouts.
The technological composition of communication for smart meters is divided into two main parts; the HAN (or last mile) and the WAN (or backhaul), and the approach differs from country to country. For example, the UK has specified Zigbee as the HAN technology and cellular as the WAN (with the exception of northern GB) for both electricity and gas, whereas in France the technologies specified for electricity and gas differ. In Germany, there are no specific regulations requiring replacing dumb meters with smart ones (just that new meters must be smart), and the technology is for utilities to choose. The main deciding factor for smart metering technology is thus regulation, and if not specified by regulation it is up to the utilities to decide. Whilst most countries have plans for smart electricity meters, there are fewer for gas and for water they are still rare.
There are various technologies which could be deployed for both HAN and WAN, and the main area of interest for telcos lies in providing cellular connectivity for the WAN, with their already-established networks covering large areas of the country. However, they face competition from other technologies such as PLC and RF mesh. Particularly in the USA, RF mesh had been a popular choice due to availability at low costs, whereas cellular proved expensive. However, such cellular prices have now come down significantly, from an ARPU typically over 5 EUR to now 0.5 EUR in some cases. Thus with the price now proving more attractive, telcos are increasingly becoming the WAN technology of choice, which can be expected to remain reliable for the foreseeable future. This is particularly important as the life expectancy of meters is long, in the region of ten years or more. Indeed, smart meter vendors, such as Elster and Silver Spring Networks have shifted their future connectivity plans to cellular as opposed to RF mesh. Finally, the migration to LTE allowing for higher throughput is also a positive factor in the long term when considering the smart grid.
Looking further ahead, smart meters are in fact the first steps of building a national electrical smart grid, on top of which various services and applications can be built upon. This involves various actors along the value chain, from meter vendors to network providers, system integrators and all the way up to the service providers. Here, telcos have the potential of providing ‘smart-grid-as-a-service’ to the utilities; a packaged, end-to-end smart grid solution, where the telco takes care of the overall integration and running of the solution. This is a particularly effective strategy for the medium- and smaller-sized utilities (such as municipalities and co-operative utilities), as they can outsource the large majority of resources and equipment which would simply be too expensive to provide by themselves. Such projects have already started in the USA, since 2013 with AT&T on the one hand and Verizon on the other. Telcos do however face competition from other market players, such as General Electric and Silver Spring Networks which also offer such integrated solutions.
It will also be interesting to monitor entities which offer both utility and connectivity services (such as the triple play of Internet, TV and phone). Such entities tend to be municipalities and regional providers, and do not combine these services. However, as smart metering becomes more standard, there is the potential of packaging these two services (utilities and connectivity) as one, to create advantages over their rivals.
Increased competition, a forced rethink of pricing models and the devastating impact of the economic crisis have weakened Europe’s once thriving telecoms sector
Europe’s telecommunications sector has been the stage for a growing number of merger and acquisition deals in recent months. Deals that are clearly posing a conundrum for regulators and anti-trust authorities, resulting in especially long investigations, and controversial “remedies” for those deals that have been given the green light.
Despite which, virtually all of the parties have by now reached the conclusion that consolidation is inexorable, if not desirable. The sector’s main players have never fully recovered from the aftermath of the Internet bubble and the debt levels that ensued. The increased competition ushered in by new entrants, pricing models that have been destabilised by the arrival of Internet companies offering rival (voice, messaging and video) products, the devastating impact that the economic crisis has had on the countries of southern Europe since 2008… together have weakened Europe’s once thriving telecoms sector. In concrete terms, this has meant a 12.5% drop in revenue for the top five European markets over the past five years, a dramatic decrease in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) and, quite naturally under these conditions, in lower per capita spending on new generation access networks (fibre, LTE) than in the United States.
So consolidation appears to be a natural response to the situation, a way to put an end to the price wars and stabilise margins. Infrastructure sharing schemes may precede or be part of this consolidation, but unlikely to take its place. If these schemes can provide an interesting means of reducing costs, they can also allow price wars to drag on. Unfortunately, most of these consolidation deals are taking place inside national markets.
Once the dust from these mergers has settled, European telcos’ margins improved, and the harmonisation of regulation progressed as Mr Junker has said he hopes it will, it is not hard to imagine that the next stage of market consolidation will be cross-border and beyond. We need to remember that one of the arguments put forth when opening the telecommunications sector up to competition was the ability to create a single European market, and to enable the emergence of a handful of pan-European carriers. The stakes here are high: even if the synergies to be had from a cross-border merger are less obvious, size alone will no doubt have an impact on operators’ efficiency and their ability to invest and innovate. We should also emphasise that the creation of a large handful of telcos operating in most EU markets – replacing today’s one hundred or so national telcos, but also competing against a number of operators that target a very particular clientele – will in no way reduce the choice available to consumers. So we should probably just accept the fact of having fewer national operators, and in turn enjoy more meaningful competition – in a vaster, European-scale marketplace – which extends beyond merely price points.
Indeed, the real challenge for operators is not to engage in a game of industrial Monopoly and to grow and grow just for the sake of it. Instead, they need to ready themselves as best they can to handle three difficult and dramatic changes. The first is one that must force telcos to continue to improve their productivity and agility, to be able to respond to a fast-changing environment. Even if price wars are currently a trap, it is nevertheless also true that the telecom sector is among those most able to pass digital-driven productivity gains onto consumers, and to generate the means to sustain needed investments. The second change is an accelerate rate of convergence between fixed and mobile infrastructures, spurred by the advent of superfast access. The mobile Internet of tomorrow will be fibre networks’ biggest client. The third game changer is a major one. Namely the increasing influence of software and data on the sector, which will require operators to control quality of service parameters and customer relations in real time.
If the effervescence of the digital ecosystem is today characterised above all by innovative over-the-top (OTT) start-ups, the telecoms sector should not be viewed as the last dinosaur standing, or something akin to CDs being made obsolete by streaming. Regardless of how the future plays out, money will still need to be spent on the networks and the access link in the Internet value chain, with a solid profit outlook in the offing. Something that Europe, which today has no major global Internet platform to its name, would be unwise to overlook.
Valérie CHAILLOU Head of Research, Telecoms Business Unit, IDATE
IDATE reveals global and European rankings
To mark the start of the 8th annual Assises du Très Haut Débit symposium, IDATE is releasing its ranking of countries that lead the way in ultra-fast fixed and mobile broadband subscriber numbers, in Europe and worldwide. An analysis and data culled directly from IDATE’s freshly updated FTTx and LTE global market watch, which examines hundreds of countries and operators.
Growing disparities in fixed ultra-fast broadband
At the end of 2013, ultra-fast broadband (UFB) access – i.e. with a throughput equal to or above 30 Mbps – represented 29% of all broadband connections worldwide. This marks real progress as the percentage stood at 22% just one year ago. FTTH/B is still the mostly widely deployed technology, accounting for 60% of UFB subscribers around the globe, followed by cablecos’ FTTx/D3.0 systems, which account for 29% of users, and VDSL for 11%. In terms of subscriber numbers, all UFB architectures combined, the United States is by far the global leader with 62.5 million subscribers at the end of 2013, compared to 42.4 million for China and 27 million for Japan. France is in eighth place with more than 2 million subscribers. Of course this ranking changes depending on the indicators that are taken into consideration, such UFB subscribers’ share of a country’s total broadband customer base. Here South Korea tops the ranks, ahead of the United States, Japan and China, with 66% – versus 64% for Japan, 60% for the United States and 22% for China. As to the technologies deployed, the US is the undisputed VDSL market leader with some 11 million subscribers, well ahead of the UK and its 2.1 million subscribers. The United States is also the world’s biggest FTTx/D3.0 market, with 42 million subscribers, again ahead of the UK which is home to 3.1 million subscribers, followed by Spain where competition between FTTH/B and FTTx/D3.0 is fierce.
Accelerate 4G rollouts
Julien GAUDEMER, Consultant at IDATE
The volume of NFC transactions is estimated by IDATE at 4.6 billion EUR in 2014 to reach 53.8 billion in 2018
In its latest report, IDATE provides an overview of the mobile and online payment market. It provides the main figures for each market segment (in-store payment, carrier billing, remote online payment). The latest market trends are analyzed, as well as the position and evolution of the main players (especially Telcos and internet Players).
Mobile payment markets are still nascent for the most part, the technical aspects are mature and plenty of commercial offers exist. However, the majority of online and mobile payments are still made by debit or credit card while in-store payments are still made by cash, cheque or payment card.
• IDATE estimates that e-commerce is a 1,145 billion EUR market generating 34.8 billion transactions (according to CapGemini) in 2014. M-commerce has generated 115 billion EUR in revenues, through 29 billion transactions including about 13% of alternative payment systems (other than payment cards).
• Regarding in-store payment with NFC mobile solutions, IDATE estimates that 278 million NFC-enabled mobile phones will be used in 2014, and 28 million users are likely to use their NFC phone to make mobile payments. The volume of NFC transactions is estimated by IDATE at 4.6 billion EUR in 2014 to reach 53.8 billion in 2018. All these figures have to be compared with the few hundred trillion USD of global payment transactions per year. If the figures show differences between these markets, other stakes need to be taken into consideration to better understand the overall market payment ecosystem.
• Regarding carrier billing systems, this market is estimated by IDATE to reach 18 billion EUR in 2014, with about 30% of direct online carrier billing.
From the user point of view, the mobile wallet battle focuses on ease of application and added value compared to payment by debit card. Most mobile wallets currently available are no easier to use than a debit card, and do not have the critical mass to be used at a large scale.
Julien Gaudemer, Project leader of this report, says “The main added value is the other services included in the wallet: loyalty programmes and offers management.” However, some players try to reduce the overall payment process in-store: Apple initially developed iBeacon technology for in-door geolocation but it could be used to automatically pay for goods when leaving the store. Alternatively, PayPal has developed payment during ordering (e.g. for the Mc Donalds application) to avoid the in-store payment step.
• Mobile wallet applications can now manage various payment cards, loyalty programmes and offer coupon storage to make them more attractive than traditional payment systems. These features allow service providers to get users’ purchasing habit data in order to provide targeted advertising and offers. In addition, players that are already involved in the advertising market (like Google) are able to increase advertising prices due to a better targeting technique
• Internet giants and new mobile payment players are trying to change the traditional payment ecosystem to gain more revenue. The payment market itself does not bring as much in revenues globally, which is why they are especially trying to bypass all intermediaries between themselves and the user’s money. For instance, Paypal wants to avoid payment systems (like Mastercard and Visa), banks and telcos. Google uses its mobile operating system Android to provide an integrated payment system (using NFC) and a mobile wallet, avoiding telcos and other related intermediaries (like Trusted Service Management services). From the merchants’ perspective, payment service providers need to convince them to adopt their solution: transaction commissions and interchange fees are therefore the key stake as, if they are too high, merchants will not use them. Besides, the recent development of the virtual currency “BitCoin” has been seen as an innovation for some observers but as a threat for the financial sector by others. Many small players have developed new services around the new currency to convert it into traditional currencies or use it on a mobile device or in-store.
Software-defined networking (SDN) market is estimated at €816 million in 2014 projected to reach nearly 7 billion by 2019
IDATE publishes a status report on Software-defined networking/Network functions virtualization standardisation efforts, which explores telco and equipment suppliers’ positioning on future network architecture concepts. This analyses the strategies and degree of involvement of the ecosystem’s various stakeholders. It also provides SDN/NFV market figures.
SDN and NFV associated with cloud computing at the core of telcos’ and equipment suppliers’ strategies
SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network functions virtualisation) are seen as the main upcoming technological disruptions in networking architectures. They allow a network to be more programmable, open and scalable.
Entire ecosystem invested in standardisation
The telecoms and IT industry is involved in the standardisation initiatives taking place around SDN and in the work being done by ETSI on NFV.
Traditional equipment manufacturers, and especially the top suppliers of switches and routers – Cisco,
Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei – are the players most actively involved in this area.
The top telecom carriers are more interested in NFV, and are involved both in standardisation efforts and in conducting proofs of concept.
Virtualisation in telco networks making progress, but more slowly than in datacentres
The first available SDN equipment was designed for datacentres, and was thus installed by companies operating in that field and cloud service providers. Pioneer SDN and NFV products for telco networks are now available as well. The carriers that are the frontrunners in this area – including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, NTT and Telefónica – have all announced plans for a large-scale transition to a new networking architecture.
The global SDN and NFV market in 2014 is estimated at €816 million. Telcos still account for only a sliver of the market: 5% in 2014. But as more and more carriers make the transition, this share is forecast to grow to 19% by 2019 .
The SDN and NFV market (million EUR)
Source: IDATE, SDN and NFV for telcos, June 2014
Published in COMMUNICATIONS & STRATEGIES No. 94, 2nd Quarter 2014
Video game business models and monetization
Interview with Yves GUILLEMOT Co-Founder and CEO UBISOFT
Conducted by Philippe CHANTEPIE
French Ministry of Culture and Communication;
Associate researcher, Innovation & Regulation Chair, Paris
C&S: We have entered the 8th generation of consoles. Do you consider it likely that this will upset the market positions of publishers and console manufacturers?
Yves Guillemot: This new generation of consoles brings many changes, incorporating all the innovations from parallel markets and multiplying their potential through technological power. These platforms reach an unparalleled high level of performance, immersion and opportunities which allow us to create even more powerful game experiences. Each generation of consoles has large implications for publishers who need to invest heavily to maximize power and be able to seize the great opportunities that arise.
On the other hand, the strong growth in mobile and PC markets, driven by social games, permanently connected and free access, is a challenge for traditional industry players, with new economic and editorial models that differ from more traditional games. These models started being introduced at the end of the previous generation of consoles. New platforms like the Playstation 4 or Xbox One have fully integrated these developments and allow us to put the player at the center - before, during and after the game experience - and to give him/her an increasingly active role in changing content.
C&S: Casual gaming has grown rapidly and has already started occupying a predominant position. Do you think it is likely that this will continue to increase?
Y.G.: Casual gaming is not a new phenomenon. In 2006 the Nintendo Wii had taken a big step towards attracting video games and a new audience, part of which is now plays more traditional games. The rise of social networks, mobile games and online greatly amplified this phenomenon and globalised the supply and the audience to which it is intended. The video game market today encompasses nearly 2.5 billion players, compared to 500 million previously. This is a pool of significant growth for our industry. For example, one of our flagship brands Just Dance is a dance game first released on the Wii, which has sold 49 million copies since 2009. It was particularly popular during the Christmas season.
C&S: We are witnessing significant changes in revenue models. Are these new models mature enough and able to renew the game console segment?
Y.G.: These new models are growing dynamically and also continue to evolve. Some examples or experiences have shown us the difficulty of maintaining high market shares and good consistent results. Without a miracle, renewal is necessary to adapt to a changing marketplace. Ubisoft deploys and uses these models, while consolidating and diversifying a portfolio of original brands for which we control the entire creative and commercial process. Beyond the video game, our goal is to increase the visibility and attractiveness of our franchises by being increasingly present on new media such as television, with the Raving Rabbids TV series, and soon the cinema with the adaptation of franchises like Assassin's Creed or Splinter Cell. The Raving Rabbids Futuroscope theme park attraction, open for several months, is also a success.
C&S: Do you consider that the development of competition in the video game industry will lead to transform the production system of game publishing and how?
Y.G.: In recent years, production of video games has become considerably more professional. Our industry is constantly evolving: our businesses, the technologies we use, as well as the habits and customs of the consumers, such as being permanently connected with their phones. These changes are revolutionizing the way we design our games. We must constantly renew and adapt to propose the most innovative and immersive creative experiences. For example, a game like Watch Dogs allows our players via mobile applications connected to the game console, to play anywhere and anytime; it also allows their friends who do not have game consoles to help them progress in the game. Our mission is to provide our players ever stronger and enriching experiences while finding technical solutions allowing us to reduce our costs and therefore our risk. To remain agile and ready to face these challenges, we actively invest in R & D in France and abroad.
C&S: Which factors do you think are the most disruptive of the game economy factors present or future: free to play, an actor like Steam, etc.?
Y.G.: The free-to-play model was born in Asia to circumvent the problems of piracy of the PC game business model. This model has experienced significant growth in recent years in Western markets. By removing entry barriers, it allows players to experience games and be free to invite their friends and invest if they like the content. This model has now gone beyond the sphere of casual games in which it was previously embedded to move towards more traditional experiences and platforms such as consoles. Ubisoft has been present in this segment for some years with games like Settlers Online, Howrse, and more recently with Trials Frontier, and The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot.
C&S: The Montreal studio set-up seems to be a supporting model of this industry. What elements of this support do you consider are the most strategic to strengthen the ecosystem of this sector?
Y.G.: Canada, but also other territories around the world, has been able to highlight craft, creativity and innovation as a driver of economic development. These territories were able to discern the many benefits that the digital creation industry and jobs with high added value could bring. In addition to the direct incentives, education is also specialized in these areas to form a diverse pool of talents. Two key factors in this success that are important in the eyes of the gaming industry are the unique efforts and the simplicity of public procedures.
Yves Guillemot founded Ubisoft in 1986 with his four brothers, and was named CEO of the company in 1988. Starting off by importing and translating video games from England, Yves and his brothers immediately used the distribution business to fund the creation of games, starting with Zombie in 1990 for Atari ST. Yves has overseen the phenomenal growth of Ubisoft into an internationally renowned and respected creator of quality video games with 29 studios, distribution in 55 countries and with more than 9,200 employees around the globe. For the 2013-2014 fiscal year it generated sales of 1.007 billion euros.
Born in Brittany of France's west coast, Yves grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. All five Guillemot brothers worked summers in the family agriculture supply business. Later, Yves attended business school in Paris, formalizing his education in the creation and sustenance of an enterprise. Yves is married and enjoys playing video games with his three children.
Published in COMMUNICATIONS & STRATEGIES No. 94, 2nd Quarter 2014
For more information about our activities: www.comstrat.org
COMMUNICATIONS & STRATEGIES
Deputy Managing Director
Director of TV & Digital Content Business Unit
It is no secret that the shift to digital has had a huge impact on the music sector: the multiplication of distribution channels, the shift from owning albums to listening on the fly, along with piracy have resulted in a significant drop in revenue for the sector, the arrival of new unlimited music services and, more generally, the core revenue stream shifting from the sale of recorded music to exploiting all of the rights attached to an artist.
The role of live performance has also changed. While it has always been a special event, providing a venue for fans to meet the bands as well as being a promotional vehicle, concerts had long been a by-product of records. Today, they have become not only essential revenue streams, but also an essential means for music lovers to discover artists, and for artists to develop their careers. In addition to the their growing weight in music industry economics, the live concert market is also being affected by the internet: the use of social media to promote an event, online ticket sales, the importance of metadata in creating and maintaining ties with fans, new forms of interaction during concerts, etc.
Among these many developments, digital technologies open up new opportunities in the realm of recording and broadcasting concerts. As with recorded music, video, news and now books as well, the rise of digital and the web is steadily creating new ways to distribute recordings of live concerts, which had long been the sole dominion of a handful of TV channels, and so confined to only the most popular artists. The proliferation of online distribution channels is already driving up demand. At the same time, on the supply side of the equation, new, cheaper recording and distribution solutions continue to lower the barriers to entry. So more and more players are getting in the game. They are coming from new sectors of the digital ecosystem: pure player concert sites, internet giants, telecom and consumer electronics industry players… but very few live event organisers.
It is within this new environment that IDATE was commissioned by musical, concert and variety show union, PRODISS, to provide an analysis of what impact digital technologies are having on live performance.
> The report and its summary (in French) are available online at: www.proscenium.fr/thinktank/