Walking into a video game store used to be a candy store experience. Colorful boxes and cartridges behind a glass shelf like plastic candy. Stack of the latest game release waiting to be picked up by the cash register. Bookshelf of gaming magazines with cheat codes and strategies wrapped in plastic to prevent peaking. Big boxes of each console on the back shelves guarded by the shopkeep. Bargain bin of cheap old games reeking of stale cardboard boxes. Like the video rental store, game retail stores have been in decline with the advent of digital distribution platforms and the Internet.
In the place of retail, a plethora of digital distribution systems have emerged. Xbox Live & PlayStation Network on consoles, iOS & Android on mobile, Steam & and countless others on the PC all provide digital stores where publishers & developers can sell products.
From a Product to a Service
“Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter.” (Fight Club)
Games used to have a clear ending and are like a single-serving consumable product. Finish a game, then move to the next. Games released have a finite amount of content. However, players today expect more from their games beyond the initial purchase including day-one updates, regular game balance updates, and periodic fresh content. As digital distribution systems evolved to meet consumer expectations, games became platforms for content delivery service.
Online gaming also elevated multiplayer gaming from a common living room to each player’s personal space. “See you online later” has become as normal as “See you at the pub later”. Each store provided the tools for games to host a virtual community. Make friends, compete in multiplayer games, jockey for leaderboard positions, and show off your achievements to the public. Even single-player games can take advantage of online social features like community events or challenges. Social & community management are added value serves expected of online games to provide fresh game experiences, often paired with new content.
Our Social & Game Services competes directly with services provided by each distribution channel as well as other independent solutions. We differentiate by providing a set of online services pivoted to serve the game, not store, and thus direct ownership of player data.
If a game were an amusement park, units sold is the equivalent of entrance tickets. In-game stores are the equivalent of concession stands inside the park. More games are starting to adopt in-game stores to further monetize ongoing user engagement. On mobile platforms targeting casual players, many games have transitioned fully to in-game monetization and are free-to-play. This lead to the now detested but effective model of time gates that players can pay or watch ads to bypass. MOBA games have a pipeline of playable characters and skins for sale. Competitive multiplayer games monetize with cosmetic content to avoid a pay-to-win stigma.
Like an amusement park, a live online game is a service and requires operators. Operating a live game now involves community managers to keep the players engaged, business operations to manage catalogs & promotions, and customer service to deal with complaints. While this is already an extra cost to operating a game-as-a-service, it is only further complicated by all the different digital distribution channels in the industry.
Commerce is a tricky subject, as each store is protected by policies that ensure commerce flows through them. Our solution is built to complement integration with each store’s payment systems, as well as enable a direct-to-consumer distribution channel.
Direct-to-Consumer Brand Store
Minecraft is the definitive success story for a self-published game. The game was originally sold via a simple website, with an account system, and auto-updated. Updates included new items, new blocks, new mobs, new modes, and even changes to the game’s behavior. MMOs and MOBAs games are also examples of direct-to-consumer successes, providing game launchers capable of updating the game and selling new content. Certainly helps Dota2 to tap into a strong Steam community or HotS tapping into a fanatical Battle.net community.
As more game developers are seeking to distribute directly, which aligns with providing games-as-a-service, more individual storefronts will continue to appear. Our PC Launcher Client, Build Info Service, and Commerce Services combine to help enable a direct-to-consumer storefront that plays well with also selling the game in other stores.
Online technologies allow for games to serve virtual communities, for a game to be provided as-a-service. AccelByte’s products can help be the foundation for online services dedicated to your games.
Go to the products page to view our products.
Check out a Gamasutra article we published about our platform-as-a-service here.