Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Is Buying a CityVille Guide for Facebooks biggest game worth It?

71 Million AMU (Average Monthly Users) is pretty hard to ignore, I never did quite get the Mafia Wars bug despite the endless requests flowing in to my Facebook page as more and more updates from friends "needing help on a job", probably just as well really since 40 million players abandoned it in little over a year.I am however fully engrossed with Cityville because it was closest to one of my absolute favourite games Sim City and at 41 years of age I realised I hadn't actually dabbled in the whole social gaming thing (which for someone who works in videogames is pretty tragic). Needless to say Cityville does borrow some gameplay structure from Sim City or is at least inspired by it, however, its economy system is a lot tougher to navigate than I expected.When CityVille guides began popping up I was pretty sceptical about the whole thing. I had never actually played the game myself but I was a huge fan of Populous on the Mega Drive all those centuries ago and my days that turned into weeks that turned into months on Sim City gave me some god like experience,I figured that there couldn't be all that much to it anyway. How much strategy could really go into building a virtual city anyway,especially on Facebook? When I saw all the hype about CityVille and the fact that there were these guides I figured there must be something to CityVille after all, and like I say 71 million players can't all be wrong...can they?
CityVille turned out to be much more complex and enjoyable than I had figured it would be, visually its colourful and eye catching which for me is important if I'm going to invest large quantities of time looking at pretty much the same things for hours on end. There are so many options, buildings, crops, businesses and additions that you have so many decisions to make, and like Sim City every decision has a knock on effect somewhere in the chain. The more I got into playing CityVille the more I realized that the strategies involved were much more complex than I had expected. I did not want to spend all my time using trial and error to get the best possible city. I wanted someone to do all that for me so I went out and bought a guide.
The guide I ended up buying is called CityVille Secrets. I'd heard some pretty good things about it after doing some digging about and it seemed like the most logical choice. CityVille Secrets is relatively new and they update it constantly so it contains the latest additions to the game and will add new updates as CityVille adds new features. I wasn't expecting too much from this guide as I have bought game guides in the past which have been pretty average. CityVille Secrets however, completely blew me away! primarily because it contains so much detailed information, secrets and strategies when CityVille as a Social network game is still fairly new.
I used the guide to see if what it preached would actually work, either that or I'd thrown the best part of the price of a Friday night takeaway down the drain, I dabbled at first but then started implementing the CityVille secrets, tips, and strategies and was pretty impressed with the results because I went from a level 13 to a level 35 in only a week of relatively little gameplay (2 hour stints). There is a lot more going on in CityVille than meets the eye and if you don't do things properly you could be missing out on countless coins and experience while playing more than you need too. If you are interested in getting the most out of your CityVille experience then I highly recommend picking up a copy of CityVille Secrets today.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

E-book marketing and promotion

I'm still waiting for approval from Apple for Carved which is taking longer than I anticipated for launching my book but is due any day now, I somewhat underestimated the time for approvals since I wanted to get carved out on the 10th anniversary of the event it covers.
In the meantime I've been looking into the ways in which I need to think about marketing the book, as a novice author I have a lot of work to do to make Carved stand out the best I can on a minuscule budget. First on the list will either be a small website page promoting the book or a Facebook fan page to build up the awareness.Content wise I'm a bit wary of the Facebook direction because I need to make sure there's enough going on there to engage the audience.
With a hosted mini site I need to factor in the cost of hosting per month against sales, I could very well be paying more to host the promotional site than I'm actually making on the book. I looked at hosting options with various companies but wasn't looking to spend major amounts with email and functionality I didn't want, two companies stood out at offering a bare bones basic package and both had excellent write ups, one was Go Daddy and one was Blue Host, Go Daddy was £4.49 per month unlimited whereas Blue Host offers me the same service for £4.45, I buy much of my domains from Go Daddy and run with one bought from Go Daddy, my wife's forthcoming Tiara business launch also has a domain bought from Go Daddy. The book domain I bought through Go Daddy but I thought it was worth giving Blue Hosting a try in hosting the site to promote my book.
The first thing I need to do is figure out all my meta data, the keywording thats going to get people flocking to my web page, a daunting task for a mini site, I've dabbled with Keywording on Zazzle but its an area I know I need to improve on. if I get it wrong then it'll have the reverse effect and much harder to rectify further down the line.
Additionally to that I need to think about if I should engage prospective buyers via my Twitter link, this will detract from what I use it for currently so I'm not sure yet and people hate being sold to on Twitter. Facebook ads are also on the list since I know I can set a target audience with a PPC campaign but now I'm starting to accumulate costs so I need to tread carefully, advertising, hosting will all add up over time. The fact I can set a budget limit for Facebook ads and target who views them is reassuring that advertising wastage will not be much of an issue.

I'm confident my Blurb about my book is tight enough, I reworked this several times over until I was happy with it so I know that the concise information is going to drive forward the message of what the book is about.
But how much will I be spending against what I can make?, difficult to say, hosting with a reputable company is an important investment but all in I'm looking at the region of about £53 for that, another £50 for targeted Facebook click ads and possibly another £24 on printing up some coloured novelty business cards over at Moo to promote the book its getting pricey. I figured the Moo cards were a good idea, that way if I'm out and about I can just slip someone a card that promotes the book and web page in one hit which drives both traffic and awareness. That takes me to around £130 give or take a couple of pounds. That means I need to sell  in the region of 75 books a year since my book pricing is £1.99.

To be honest I might be mad, I'm on Kindle boards and so many people have done a lot less for a lot more gain so I'm borderline confused on what is the best route is, marketing ebooks I'm told isn't a science but I'm convinced that if anyone is going to buy it they at least need to know about it first.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The downward spiral of Marfia Wars and social gaming trends

18 months ago Zynga was pretty much unstoppable, loved and hated in equal measure the games publisher was teflon reincarnated with its farmville and mafia wars titles. However 18 months is a long time in an ever shifting digital market where user allegances are short and players go as quickly as they had arrived.The original Mafia Wars hit its peak on Facebook at around 45 million monthly active users in the summer of 2010. Now it has just 4.4 million monthly active users. Users come and go with most trends, what was popular last year won't necessarily be as popular this year but what I find alarming is that 40 Million players upped and left, where did they go, what are they playing now?. From a financial perspective losing 40 Million players is going to have a massive effect even if lets say only 2% of those users were actively dealing with microtransactional business in the game.

Zynga continues to expand its original Mafia Wars game and recently launched its Chicago city. Zynga helped monetize the game through a series of branded deals that promoted virtual items based on movies such as Scarface and The Green Hornet.

Initially it was perceived that social games were a massive threat to traditional videogames but the results buck that trend in the case of Electronic Arts. According to Appdata, The Sims Social now draws in 65 million monthly active users (MAUs) – the closest it has ever got to Cityville’s current 71 million user mark.Ho monthly users just nine months after it launched.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Kindle Fire pre-orders are burning down the house

It was only a matter of time before Amazon realized the true untapped potential of a handheld reading device that could go beyond what its original Kindle could provide users. Not that I think Amazon was ever really going to just sit there and be happy with a device that only provided content to be viewed entirely in black and white.
If the screenshot leak over at blog Cult of Android is to be believed then it would appear that Amazon's Kindle Fire will be the fastest selling tablet device in the world. Currently Kindle Fire is racking up pre order sales of 50,000 units a day. In the first five days since its announcement over 250,000 tablets  have been pre ordered with the potential to have 2.5 Million pre orders for the device before it goes on sale on November 15th.

Compare that to the Nook colour which took about two months to sell 1 million units and its clear to see that Nook has a major fight for survival on its hands.
Good news all round for writers and e-book authors because it provides choice, they can either release content in traditional novel text based format or further explore the possibilities of projects with coloured image based content as well such as photo books, essays and illustrative works.
The digital e-reader market is expanding faster than the content is providing even more good news for authors, as each day goes by authors only have to appeal to a smaller percentage of the e-reader population.
What will be interesting to see is how long Kindles current monochrome version continues to sell, will Kindle Fire actually start to kill off traditional Kindle sales far quicker than anticipated or will the price difference mean that it clearly divides the market between those who just want an e-reader for books and those who want to embrace video entertainment?

As for Nook its difficult to say what happens now, too many tech companies have jumped on the tablet bandwagon only to fail miserably because they were not prepared for the market place, in most cases competitors to the iPad have released hardware but never factored into the business plan that the content wasn't there to support it. HP's TouchPad being a perfect example, with no 3G support, lack of content, no support for storage cards and high retail costs it wasn't going to scratch let alone dent what Apple was offering. Apple thrives because the content is there to drive hardware sales. Nook on the other hand needs to evaluate what it's offering its customers that Kindle Fire doesn't, it may need to re-position itself on price or functionality but at what expense to its place within the market is difficult to ascertain.

In the US, Amazon has about three quarters of the e-book market so its audience is already established and at $199 it provides a good halfway point to the iPad 2 which retails in the region of $470. Admittedly with nowhere near the same functionality as the i-Pad the Kindle Fire is still an impressive bit of kit.

In a perfect World...

If you asked me what i'd do to fix the current state of games the answer would not be a simple one, neither would it be a very popular one.
I say this because if you look closely at how videogames are trending right now you'll see a very worrying state of affairs for traditional boxed product, which, for all intents and purposes finds itself in an increasingly shrinking marketplace in a murderous economy. Yes, there will always be a market for boxed products, No, Apple hasn't killed off CD albums just yet despite launching the ipod a decade ago and No, Kindle and the impending Kindle Flame hasn't quite signed the death warrant of legacy book publishing (although Amazon do sell more digital books than paper books these days).  It's a pretty safe assumption that the next line of consoles will require monster sized hard Drives as downloadable product and DLC play an ever increasing part in video game entertainment, cloud based gaming, boxless downloadable digital is here to stay and they will continue to shape the market in which video games operate in.

Boxed product won't vanish overnight of course and in all probability larger titles and franchises will continue to have shelf presence because of the brand equity and trust in the consumers they have built over time. An example is Activisions regular map packs for Black Ops, if each map pack release can still generate over $12 million dollars each in revenue on what is probably little more than a $2 Million outlay on the dev cost for each pack then its clear that making a ton of revenue is where the focus for larger publishers in gaming is going to end up.
I know what you're going to say, "but in order to build those sales they'll need a physical product first", true, the instore physical aspect of a product on a shelf is good for the consumer because they can see it, it's real and tangible, its also good for trade but right now games bricks and mortar retail is literally on the floor and its not going to get better. Game Group, our very own homegrown specialist videogame retailer made a loss of £51.5 million before tax in the six months to July 31st, almost double its loss for the same period last year.
So what's happening?, well for starters everyone knows the global economy is the worst its ever been and that obviously isn't helping anyone. This in turn is keeping people away from premium priced luxuries which means that core gamers are buying less games than they were before. Social games like Zynga's Farmville has thrived off of the social network buzz that infiltrates our daily lives because of its free to play element. The good news is according to a study is that 82 percent of hardcore social gamers play console games, the bad news is that as the market for social gaming becomes more diverse and more accessible its taking players away from traditional console, that is to say they are actually spending less time playing console games. And before you say it, no the typical demographic of social gamers does not consist of women over 40, far from it, hardcore social gamers, at least 55% of them are male and 57% of those players are well under the age of 40.

Smaller publishers are going to have to think about the content and business model they are working to in the coming months and years ahead. If games are not offering value for money and unique experiences they will fail, the way I see it is that traditional console games will radically drop in price to a third of their current value, so for example, several years down the line Modern Warfare 4 is going to set you back £15 full price, however to get the maximum value from the game and to remain competitive in multiplayer you're going to need to fork out another £35 for  'awesome content' not including the 4 separately priced map packs plus the two additional weapon packs and uniform pack.

Even if console game pricing remained high in years to come publishers need to think about ways they can engage the player and keep them motivated with the brand with unique content and additional motivators like DLC. On the one hand overpriced map packs have been the norm but publishers and developers need to think about extending the customization options for the player as an individual. Players want to stand out in multiplayer matches, they want to create a tailor made experience of their choosing and design, they want to feel like they have invested not in just the pocket lining of the publisher for the priviledge to play but also so they can enhance and modify to tailor the games experience. Expressing themselves socially amongst their peers is incredibly important to gamers and I think so many publishers and developers are not even scratching the surface as yet.

Social Games are successful because they allow players to modify and personalize and share those experiences in the social space, there are in-game variations that make the game totally unique to the way users play it and want to play it. As more and more mobile digital devices become available they will continue to erode the physical presence of console videogames. Are map packs adding value to your experience? some would say yes others aren't so convinced, yes they support the brand in that they continue to provide an experience for the fan, remember that a brand doesn't just solely exist as the box the game came in but rather the playing experience that a user derives from the product also.

The transition as we approach the next generation of consoles is always a tricky one, the timing has to be golden, high cost consoles anytime soon will only limit the amount of users that buy into it, accessibility and content are king. Sony has superbly powerful tech but an absolutely awful functionality, Microsoft has an unbeatable functionality but limited tech even if Bluray sales are slowing. Cloud services, sharing social network and cross platform will be integral to the success of next gen, until then its going to be a rocky ride.