The Life-cycle of online games

 Some players seem to forget that the gaming industry is a business run by game companies funded by money investors who do not give a damn about the players, so it is always about the money and therefore is run as a business.

Online games are a two part product, one being the actual game box called the "traffic generator" because it is what leads people into spending money and the second part which is the the "margin generator", in this case we are talking about the in-game shop or the monthly subscription.

In most cases the "traffic generator" is made cheaper in order to attract clients thus having a lower contribution margin, the perfect example of this are the free-to-play game which cost nothing for you to start playing thus attracting the masses that can't or don't want to spend money even though most of them eventually do, the subscription model however slightly exploits this as we are going to see in the product stages.

So what are these stages? In business management all products go through several stages called the "product life-cycle" but i won't bore you with the details, instead i will talk about the game changes in each stage from a players perceptive.
Hyped players at a midnight launch

1. Market introduction stage
2. Growth stage
3. Maturity stage
4. Saturation and decline stage

On the first point when the game is still in development they start to increase the hype of their product for several reasons, the most basic one is to get the more players interested in the game, the second one because players do a leap of faith fueled by their own expectations multiplied by the hype and this is where most subscription based companies exploit the price a bit, since they know most players will buy the game anyway they increase the cost of the game to match the standard industry price for games in general, the difference is that most games with that cost do not have subscriptions so the game-box money is their only revenue source however subscription games get money from both models.

The Growth stage is after the game is launched, they will keep adding new fun stuff and making the game truly better by putting an effort,lots of quick patches, free extra content, cool new event, etc...

Maturity stage is achieved after the game is around for a while, most players are reaching the limits of what can be done in the game and the developers excitement starts to waver, they no longer listen to players and start to do things in a formulaic method by reusing content, making older content easier to motivate you to play with another character thus expecting players to stay around a bit longer.

The final stage of saturation and decline is when the players start to see the mind numbing content for what it really is and begin to leave, the companies see their player-base getting reduced so they announce the new expansion with the "never before seen features" thus starting the hype and setting the cycle back to stage one.

Any player with enough experience under his belt has been a part of this at one point or another.
Share your thoughts and experiences on the comment section bellow!


Anonymous said...

I've been a gamer for years and I never thought of it from this prospective...

pownyhof said...

Really interesting and i truly agree with that ! nice post :P

Hento the loony repairman :D said...

i have lived trough long and short life cycles of a few games, its always tricky to keep peoples attenton once you run out of content, and hence why some companies delay new content or others keep pushing new content .. several things can happen, some people love to go slow and eat the content in many weeks, while other players expect to crash trough content in a single day, and there never a way to please both crowds.. sometimes the games..shift in their gameplay style and can drive people away or in ! im looking at you vindictus the last updates are just a boss killing daily fiesta Oo

Mike's Gaming and Random Stuff said...

very interesting post

Foxzero said...

haha indeed i can say same thing since i ve been also a gamer since quite a long time XD

Iv40 said...

Awesome blog you have here dude, love your posts. You got a nice take on games too. Been playing games most of my life and had no idea about how the industry works.


Cynical720 said...

Love it, never thought of it like that!

Anonymous said...

True story

Magnum said...

...and the final-Final stage of an online game is releasing is as a free to play, well - maybe except for some minor add-ons, such as clothes, hats or even major things - like when you give players the ability to buy XP and weapons. Anarchy Online, Team Fortress 2 and also - recently - Lineage 2 - are good examples of such life cycles.

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