Sowing the Seeds of Change

Many of us like to play games. The gaming world now makes more money than Hollywood.

Many years ago we started to make games for ourselves as we liked to spread a little joy and it was great for our own promotion. These games were classed as ‘viral games’, simply because they often went viral. Our first game Monster Poolside Sumo was played more than 5 million times in one month. It was one of the first games on Miniclip.

We knew that this new ‘viral gaming’ would catch on. We started making games for brands and they started to spread virally. This is what we always wanted to do, knowing that we are bringing joy by entertaining the public and getting paid for it, made us a happy company.

At first getting our games out there was easy, really easy. We just posted it on a few sites, sent it to a few friends and hey presto an enormous success. They were not that many games around and the novelty was still fresh.

As the years have gone by many more gaming sites have been born. Its seems that everyone wanted to own an online Arcade, they all probably wanted to be the next Miniclip (with good reason).

Thousands of these sites have sprung up all over the web in every conceivable language. Many of these sites have become very popular, often more popular than many of the biggest names on the web. These sites target specific demographics, there are sites aimed at girls, boys, young un’s, men, women and even silver surfers (oldies).

Matmi have been building a seeding database over these years which is now probably the most advanced seeding database in existence. It features all the sites where we can promote our games.

At the same time all this was happening, many traditional magazines and traditional media companies were losing much of their audience to the online space. This obviously affected their ad revenue which has been constantly diminishing.

It was a matter of time before these companies decided to get a slice of the online pie, most of them have not done this organically, instead they have been on a spending spree buying many of the game sites and entertainment portals. Many of them have spent millions acquiring these sites. Club Penguin (kids MMOG) sold to Disney for $700 million, Mousebreaker (UK game and video site) was sold to IPC (magazine publisher) for a seven figure sum and Venture Capitalists have injected many millions into entertainment portals.

The problem with this is that these companies now have to get a return on their investment, traditional banner adverts do not work as well as they did so they have decided to charge those people who gave them the games that made the sites busy in the first place. They are trying to force their old method of working onto the new online world. Now many of these game sites want to charge us to put our advergames onto their sites. We knew ages ago that this would happen and understand that people need to make money, but what we did not realise is that they would try and introduce a ‘pay per play’ method.

The problem with ‘pay per play’ is that it ruins the creative freedom and imagination of agencies like Matmi. It means that if we make a really popular game we will end up paying through the nose for its success. On the other hand, those making crap advergames will still get a lot of traffic even though they don’t deserve it. Users end up engaging with brands through a bad experience which is no good for anyone.

Some of these companies want to charge up to 15p per play. So if our game went on their site and had 300,000 plays we would have to pay an extra £45,000. When a game costs a client anywhere from £15,000 an extra £45,000 bill is not what they want.

There are many losers with this ‘pay per play’ method, firstly the consumer, as the games that are forced upon them is because the amount of money paid to the site, not the quality of the game, the other loser is the clients who have the games made because they will have to invest more money for seeding purposes.

We do not oppose paying for seeding, sometimes its the best way to get very targeted traffic plus the game sites need to make some decent money. However we think charging a flat fee for a guaranteed time period is a fairer method for us, the end user and our clients. Or if they insist on the ‘pay per play’ it must be capped.

These companies need to realise that their old methods of charging will not and cannot work in this industry.

The problem we have now is that many big traditional ad agencies are jumping onto our wagon but often are producing pretty crap games and using the ‘pay per play’ method to guarantee user numbers. Some of these companies often pay more than £50,000 for seeding. This is simply ridiculous. None of these agencies that pay this much have ever got the amount of targeted traffic that we have by using our organic seeding methods. Soon the big agencies will realise that they are often paying over the odds.

So I have a warning on three accounts.

Firstly to the end users, the game players – these new methods of pay per play are going to make the quality of the games unimportant, you are going to end up with overly branded crap games on many of your favourite sites.

Secondly the clients – Using ‘pay per play’ method you are going to pay a lot more when having a game produced and actually getting a lot less.

Thirdly the ‘pay per play’ gaming sites (portals etc) – your new ‘pay per play’ model will result in less quality games and many game producers who used to give you non branded games for free will be aware of your charging mechanism and will want a slice of the pie. Whilst this is happening other sites with no ‘pay per play’ will get the quality content, which will result in them becoming the most popular sites because as we all know ‘Content is King’.

So what happens next? Many of the big game producers, digital engagement agencies and viral agencies are now working together producing the game / entertainment portals of the future. Their combined knowledge of games, game sites and promotion puts them in a great position to have the busiest sites of tomorrow.

Matmi will carry on making great games as we always have, we will still promote them in the same way using our advanced seeding database. We will pay for seeding when we think it is needed and we will carry on discussions with many of the big game portals to work out a deal that we are all happy with and a method that does not ruin the industry that we live and love.

October 2008