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The Next Wave of Free-to-Play: Licensing
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The Next Wave of Free-to-Play: Licensing

June 16, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

On the other hand, San Mateo, CA-based MMO developer Gazillion Entertainment plans to concentrate on its licensing partnership with Marvel Entertainment. In April, it completed development of its kid-focused Marvel MMO Super Hero Squad Online and "in at least a year" it intends to release a F2P Marvel Universe MMO.

"Generally speaking, licenses help in a really crowded market -- and this is a space that is a lot more crowded than it was three or four years ago," says Dan Fiden, Gazillion's VP of publishing. "On Facebook in particular, licenses certainly are helpful in allowing developers to more easily acquire customers. If you have a great brand partner -- something that evokes the kind of game in either tone or gameplay that you're offering -- it's an easier way to communicate with your potential customers."

While licensed PC and console games often earn their reputation for poor quality because they often need to be rushed in order to be released day-and-date with, perhaps, a high-profile movie, licensed F2P online games are a different beast, says Fiden.

"The current F2P games are constantly being updated and frequently don't launch in the same way that a package goods game launches," he explains. "For example, we're not tied to the release of the latest X-Men movie. Tying directly to a specific date isn't the reason we're working with this license; that would be a little short-sighted.

"This is a broad license that allows us to take advantage of lots of opportunities and Marvel events in the movie, TV, or comic world after the game is up and running. Our biggest priority isn't meeting a certain deadline; it's making sure the basic game and basic service are as good as we want them to be."

Fiden suspects that as more and more F2P developers turn to licensing so that their games will stand out in the crowd, the preponderance of licenses will ironically create a "crowd of licenses." The competition will then heat up for the most high-profile, most "well-loved licenses."

He predicts developers will recognize the opportunity to use "non-obvious licenses," ones that are well-known but may not be obvious choices for gaming -- and then employ them in creative ways. For instance, he says, when he used to work in the casino gambling space, one of the more popular titles was a Top Gun game -- not a brand one would immediately associate with slot machines.

"But people remembered the movie fondly and the game manufacturer was able to use the brand to create something that ultimately resonated with customers," he recalls. "I think developers will be seeking out those sorts of opportunities."

He also foresees an increase in the number of developers doing in-game licenses rather than licensing the entire game, which is something that's very popular in Korea.

"You might have a car in the F2P game and you'll be able to modify it with an item that actually exists in the real world," he says. "For example, a mini-transaction might enable you to put, say, Firestone tires on your car. I think some developers might want to generate revenue that way."

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