Originally published at https://gamasutra.com prior to gamescom and PAX Dev 2019, republishing here for more people to enjoy!
Proliferation of Digital Stores
Similar to retail counterparts, digital stores have been growing rapidly in both size and numbers. Xbox Live and PlayStation Network on consoles, App Store and Play Store on iOS and Android, Steam and countless others on the PC, all provide digital stores where games can be sold digitally. Each store is powered by a store-platform, providing a collection of backend services so each game can tap into their respective player ecosystems. Each store-platform represents the fragmentation of a game’s player base as friends can’t play the same game together if they buy from different stores. There is also a cost to integrate with each store-platform and juggling operations of a game on so many storefronts. Too many stores can be frustrating for both the players and publishers.
A Platform for your Brand
Blizzard built Battle.net. Electronic Arts built Origin. Ubisoft built Uplay. While these are examples of more stores they are also game-platforms that provide online services direct to players no matter what store they purchased from. For example, I can play Assassins Creed on an Xbox and register for a Ubisoft Club account to gain access to a rewards program for in-game items in other Ubisoft games bought from other stores.
Traditionally the term “platform” is associated with the store or distribution channel. In an industry with an ever-growing number of stores and distribution channels pivoting to a platform that aligns with the game instead of the store provides benefits for developers, players, and publishers. A game-platform can span across multiple store-platforms and act as a glue to unify a game’s fragmented player base. When playing Fortnite on a PlayStation, I can link my PlayStation account to an Epic Games account and be able to play with friends on either PlayStation or PC because Epic Games provides a multiplayer service for Fortnite that spans store-platforms.
A store agnostic game-platform can simplify game development, reduce operations overhead, gain valuable insight to player behavior, the ability for cross-game marketing, and potential for cross-platform play and progression. With reduced dependency on store-platform services and centralized game-platform services, it is also possible to push more game logic into game services and push game changes to players more quickly.
Players benefit because it is easier to provide a consistent and quality player experience with a central set of game-platform services. Policy is a blocker for cross-console play but cross store-platform gaming is trending for the benefit of the player as tech ceases to be a barrier. Tracking player progression with a game-platform can even afford players the freedom to change store-platforms when they want.
As a game grows into a franchise, a brand, having a game-platform that spans multiple games can help track the lifetime value of a player for the brand. Use this data to provide value for their loyalty in return. Instead of starting from scratch with each new game to build a fresh player base, the game-platform can be leveraged to entice existing players to migrate to a new game and to carry a player’s progression and achievements into the next game so players don’t feel they are losing their past when starting a new journey.
With a game-platform and ownership of the players through providing direct services, the natural next step can be to provide a storefront for the game. Battle.net started as a set of online services for retail distributed games and then evolved into providing a digital distribution channel of their own. A direct to consumer store can be a complimentary service while still selling games through all the other stores.
Democratizing the Game-Platform
Releasing a game used to be mastering a gold disc for mass production and distribution. Now online games are launched into countless online stores and distribution channels. Major publishers invested in building their own game-platform layers to provide services directly to users, but this is an expensive investment.
Over a decade ago, it was common for game developers to create their own game engines from scratch. Today, it has been proven that successful games can be built on established third party engine technologies like Unreal Engine or Unity. Likewise, game-platform service technologies are becoming more commonplace. AccelByte is a startup founded by industry veterans with years of experience building and operating large scale online game publishing platforms. Our goal is to provide cost-effective access to game-platform technologies that have proven to be expensive to build over a long duration of time.
AccelByte provides a white-label game-platform that is individually hosted, easily customizable, and yours to own. It starts with an Account Service to track your players across any store. Commerce Services can power your own store across web, launcher, and in-game. Social and Game services can be used to provide a consistent community experience regardless of distribution channel. Whitelabel player experiences with your branding are modular UI components that can be embedded in web, launcher, or in-game experiences for player login/registration, browsing catalogs, or purchasing products. Admin experiences have optimized UX for customer service, community managers, and business operators to run the live game-as-a-service. Developer APIs and SDKs allow ease of game integration with all the backend services.
We provide our game-platform solution as a service. No need to worry about infrastructure, we host and manage tech operations for you. Each deployment is built from scratch and individually managed so the online services are dedicated for your games as opposed to sharing communal online services with other games on a store-platform. As your games scales, your game-platform will scale with you.
Our tech can be used out-of-the-box but is designed with customization in mind. No one solution fits every scenario so we also provide the flexibility for source code level customization. This allows your game-platform to be tailored for your specific needs. We also offer Professional Development Services to help with that customization.
Entrust us to keep up with the latest game-platform technologies and industry trends with regular updates so you can focus on making and operating your game. When using store-platform online services your players and game data belong to the store-platform. With your own game-platform the player data is yours to own. Expanding on ownership, there is the option to take complete ownership of even the source code and operate everything yourself.
AccelByte Product Screenshots
Screenshots are sample implementations of web, launcher client, and in-game experiences to demonstrate how the game-platform services can be utilized.
We can empower game developers to nurture a player ecosystem and publish games directly, like Battle.net. We also provide game-platform agnostic game backend services for cross-platform play and progression, like Fortnite. Our technology can be used for a brand loyalty program, like the Ubisoft Club, to provide additional value for dedicated players. We don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution for backend services, so our solution is a starting point for you to build and own your platform to take ownership of your player base regardless of the distribution channel.
Originally published at https://gamasutra.com.