Discovery channel: how indie free-to-play games can break through

Creating free-to-play video games is a risky affair.

It’s especially hard for those developers looking to crack new IP, without the help of a brand or a major publisher to drive awareness.

Free-to-play has changed the power dynamic,” said Marvelous AQL Europe CEO Harry Holmwood.

Before, players would have pay 50 upfront for game, hoping they would like it. Now, the players are in control; they can try out dozens of games for free, and only choose to pay when they are fully convinced about a game’s entertainment value.

The knock-on effect is this means developers control their destiny. Faced with a fickle audience spoilt for choice, only the games that have the marketing resources and monetisation in place to attract the right players will have a chance to succeed.”

Holmwood adds that the ever-growing cost of user acquisition”, plus the challenge of keeping customers engaged, means that smaller developers risk being ‘frozen out’.

One solution is for small developers to team up with a marketing specialist, such as MarvelousAQL’s new initiative – MarvDev.

MarvDev is a marketing and funding program set up to help indies get their games noticed. Marvelous’ Japanese parent company is an expert in free-to-play and social gaming, while the UK team has a number of digital experts, including (alongside Holmwood) marketing expert Mike Hawkins (from Kabam) and creative producer Ben Andac.

Holmwood continues: Everyone likes an Angry Birds-style success story, but in this market, they are becoming harder and harder to pull off.

With 150 games being released in the app store each day, and user acquisition costs going through the roof as publishing giants pour in the their VC money, it’s becoming an ever-more significant issue.

We designed MarvDev to bridge that gap. We’re able to offer both funding and marketing support to small and indie developers. We’ll be working with a handful of titles, making sure we can devote the right financial and marketing resources to help that title break through.”

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