We’ve had a lot of questions regarding our choice of Steam as the primary distribution platform for Dead Cells, as well as why the game will be buy to play (b2p) instead of our traditional free to play (f2p) model. Here’s a look at why we’ve made these choices and what it means for you guys.
What’s Steam and why would we want to be there?
Steam is a digital distribution platform created by Valve (the guys who did Half Life etc) which incorporates; Digital Rights Management (DRM) a gamified social network (thingy) and other services to facilitate PC gaming. Over the years it has become the number one platform for releasing PC games.
However, Steam is more than just a distribution platform. From a developer's perspective, Steam is a large audience of avid gamers who are willing to pay money for games from a variety of genres and styles. It’s a discovery platform, where you can build a following for your game and even crowdsource funding (through early access). It’s also a type of free advertising portal, with each new game released on Steam guaranteed 1M impressions aimed squarely at people who are interested in the type of games that you are making.
Basically it’s like going from selling lemonade at a roadside stall (what we do now) to having your lemonade in the largest supermarket chain in the country, with guaranteed free advertising on launch.
There are a few reasons behind this choice. First and foremost, the majority of the guys working on Dead Cells are all hardcore gamers, so they want to make games that they would like to play. This means innovative game mechanics, amazing art, engaging worlds, detailed storytelling and an attention to detail. There is no real reason that this has to be done through the B2P model, but for the guys it just seems more ‘legitimate’.
Next is the fact that while MT has always done F2P, the market has changed. F2P has moved to mobile, leaving the web based F2P model for dead, the remaining web based F2P games are now either on Facebook or have shifted to PC client downloadables anyway.
Mobile F2P has become infinitely more competitive and transformed into something new and more complex than the F2P that MT has traditionally done. If we want to be competitive in the true F2P space (not just free games with ads in them) then we need a team of engineers and data scientists dedicated to collecting and analysing data, so that we can iteratively test ideas and optimize towards a set of predefined KPIs that Google or Apple are looking for. If you can do that, then you can get to the top of the app stores, if not, then you can catapult up there anyway, but inevitably slide down the rankings (as we saw with Monster Hotel).
The highly competitive nature of mobile F2P and the structure of the app stores ensures this. It’s a business model that is working very, very well for the big guys, but one that leaves smaller indies with some tough choices to make. The biggest one being, am I willing to go through the new F2P design process and change my game to make it suitable as an F2P? Or do I want to work in a space where my creative idea is king and I have the creative freedom to make the game I want to make?
So does this mean that we will never do F2P again? No, in fact we started out with Dead Cells (HZ) as a F2P, it just means that we will pick the right economic model at the right time for the right game. Are we all knowing gods that can get it right 100% of the time? Bahaha no. But this time we feel that B2P is the way to go.
I’ve been very light here, in what is a really really complex subject, so if you have some pointed questions directly related to the F2P vs B2P issue, please leave a comment here and I’ll answer the most pertinent questions as I can.
No doubt you’re all wondering about the Multiplayer vs Solo question too, well that’ll be the topic for my next post…