Why “Friction” is the biggest obstacle to a mainstream audience.

September 12, 2011 — Leave a comment

Speaking last week at Cloud Gaming Conference USA, Gaikai CEO David Perry claimed that friction is the biggest obstacle holding gaming back from breaching the mainstream.
Regarding MMOs, Perry stated that “81 per cent play with friends and family, 75 per cent make good friends with other players, and one in 10 actually end up in a physical relationships… That’s because MMORPG s are the original social games. The problem is there’s so much friction that you can’t share it as easily as some of these other games [on FaceBook].”
Perry cited World of Warcraft: Cataclysm as a prime example of this phenomenon. “It sold 4.7 million units in its first month. The best one month debut ever for a PC game, which is pretty great, right? Not really. The same month Cityville came out and it debuted on Facebook and signed up 100 million users. If WoW was a Facebook app it would’ve come out in 67th place. Counting all 12 million lost subscribers and it would only rank in 18th place.”
DP – I’d LOVE to see what would happen if WoW suddenly became as easy to share as any Facebook game.
“Another example is Call of Duty: Black Ops. It had the biggest launch in history. So guess what happened next? It had the biggest sales drop off in entertainment history. Sales plummeted 85 per cent in week two. That means they did a great job at getting to the core audience, but not everyone else.”
“If I was an investor at a traditional game company and I was calling up the CEO, I would say ‘how are you going to get us to 100 million users? What seems to be the plan. These billboards just don’t seem to be working. Magazine adds don’t seem to be working either.'”
DP – I compare games like Call of Duty & Battlefield to be like Avatar, our industry needs massive blockbuster properties like these and I just WISH that countless new gamers could get the chance to experience them. Just imagine the first video game you ever take the chance to play is Battlefield 3 or the first movie you ever watched was Avatar. For me there’s two types of games, ones that you PLAY and ones that you EXPERIENCE. The industry needs both, Facebook needs both.
Perry calls out price as a major huge hurdle for sharing. “High prices are actually number one, if you ask gamers. We did a survey on that.” DRM and platform incompatibly are other significant hurtles mentioned.
“We surveyed over 20 thousand gamers to know what they think and asked what I think is the most important question, “What influences you most to make a decision to buy a game? Shockingly, most of what we spend in the industry is at the bottom of their list, TV commercials, banner ads, and all that…. It turns out gamers love DEMOS, reviews, ratings and YouTube videos. They don’t believe trailers anymore as they’re not made by the same people who made the game.”
“The number one choice is always needing to try it out,” he explained. “A separate company did a survey asking gamers ‘Where would you like the advertising money to be spent?’ and the number one choice was game demos. The number two choice was in-store game demos.”
“So knowing this, the publishers must make it really, really easy for people to try their games, right? The answer is no.”
To prove this he had someone at the office make a video of trying to install a WoW trial. This included filling out forms with a username, password, e-mail, and four legal agreements before having to download the demo and deal with friction issues.
“Blizzard has done a great job of getting their friction below many other companies, but any friction like that guarantees you’re still losing customers in a time when the game industry does not want to be losing any new audience.”
“34.9 per cent of users will just type garbage into these forms,” Perry added. “Another 31 per cent will just skip your product. They don’t know how long that process is going to go on. There’s no warning.”
Perry explained that Apple had a billion downloads in nine months, because they focused on disrupting the acceptance of friction by all other handset makers.
He then showed a video of someone trying to download the Lost Planet demo from Steam starting with installing the service. After multiple legal agreements, asking what language you speak (after the first legal agreement), signing up, a large download, entering your mother’s maiden name, a bunch of time and 41 clicks it was installed. “There has to be a better way.”
DP – I present Steam “with love” as frankly I think they have saved the PC games industry. I just think Steam could grow at an alarming rate if they could reduce this friction.
Comparatively, running The Witcher 2 on Gaikai’s site took only two clicks. One click brought up a window that would automatically detect whether the game could be played or not on this particular computer, while entertaining the waiting user with videos of developers talking about the game. After about two minutes it was ready to play locally.
Ordinarily this would only require one more click, but in this case the publisher had an age barrier. This is something there’s really no way around for Gaikai as this is dictated by the ESRB. Even then Gaikai is researching how to reduce the ESRB clicks.
Afterward, Perry showed an example of the 20 gig version of World of Warcraft with all the expansions playing entirely on Facebook via Gaikai. He stated that so many users play games like Cityville because they’re on Faceook anyway, so by placing more hardcore experiences on there, they’ll be played by a whole new audience that would have never spent the time going to get it.
“We can plug any kind of game into Facebook. I think it’s going to blow people away when they’re clicking through a bunch of flash games then they see something like FIFA Soccer, and then they can share that with their friends.”
“I believe that games are the number one form of entertainment.” Perry declared, “and there are countless users around the world who just don’t know how amazing they are yet.”
“Instead of bringing the gamer to the game, we are dedicating our time to bring the game to the gamer.”
Source: Jeffrey Matulef, gamesindustry.biz

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