Teut Weidemann is a man that knows the game industry business, especially when it comes to common monetization mistakes. In a talk delivered at Casual Connect Europe, Teut divulged his knowledge from his 10 years of consulting F2P companies. In this talk, Teut covered some of the most common mistakes in game design and monetization systems – which should help prevent them for your next game so you don’t have to hire him to fix them! A big piece of advice that Teut imparted was: “In-game sales damage your revenue in the long term. Money compensates time or skill. The later the player starts to spend in the game, the more likely he will turn into a whale.” Learn more in the full session feature below!
Teut Weidemann is a senior online games specialist and consultant at his own company I Teut You So. In his 10 years of dealing with free-to-play games, he says the evolution of the monetization style has come in circles.
“I experienced free-to-play first in MMO RPG’s which offered the ideal way to monetize all aspects of such a game,” said Teut. “Then came Facebook with their rip-off monetization mechanics promoted by Zynga which too many tried to copy to mobile. Then mobile grew up, still hasn’t entered maturity yet, but it’s getting there.”
“If I look at some games now, they understood this and got away from those rip-off mechanics very fast when they realized players, specifically payers aren’t stupid and using those mechanics is neat for short term profits but cuts down life time – and profitability in the long run,” he continued. “So let’s say we came from teen age and now are finally entering adult age, still a long way to go though.”
What originally pushed Teut into this career was his passion for online games. In particular, he called out Ultima Online as a huge influence.
“When I started playing online games most publishers didn’t even know what MMO RPG meant, or why people would play this. I was very passionate and knew online games were the future. To push this in an environment where no one was working on these games the consultation was the only way to go – besides developing your own. Which I did, but it was canceled in 2005,” detailed Teut. “That I do the consultation as freelance was a by product of my CEO position as there is this strange thing here – when you leave as a CEO everyone wants to make sure you are OK – and doesn’t touch you for a year or so. So I did the consultation gig until I found something new but the gig was better than I thought. Now I am here, doing it for a decade which always surprises me the most.”
Not Settling with The Settlers Online
Teut learned a lot during the time he spent at Ubisoft. During that five years with the company, Teut worked on over a dozen games.
“The good stuff was the professionalism they approached some things and the experts behind it,” described Teut. “Take BI for example (that’s Ubisoft’s word for Analytics). The people in that department were math geeks who also had fun with games and databases. How rare is that? What they did with data was an eye opener for me in many ways – specifically as they were also able to explain complex relationships between data to people who don’t know math as they do.”
Probably the most important game Teut helped design at Ubisoft that influenced the future of his career was The Settlers Online. “I did the original design concept, the monetization mechanics and helped setting up the first live operations and guided the game as a creative & monetization director through its first years of operation,” said Teut. “We were in the lucky position to have a good team and to be left alone. No one cared outside the developer studio what we did – until the game did more money than the original Settlers. Then things became different.”
“Today I would have made the game less dependent on Adobe Flash, but hey, who would have known the issues with that. Being browser also helped in making this game so widespread as we know many play this in the office,” Teut laughed. “I also would have put far more pressure into the way the server/client setup was done. Both would have solved a lot of problems we had. Otherwise considering it is a very complex game running the browser it is still the most successful free-to-play game for Ubisoft and still making money. I guess the original team can be proud of that?”
Transitioning to Games-as-Service
Teut has seen large parts of the gaming industry shift from a traditional retail products model to that of of a free-to-play model. He says that the biggest challenge in learning the transition was the change from games as a product to games as a service.
“I mean it took EA, Ubisoft or Activision nearly two decades to get this, and they still do mistakes what this essentially means. But the move of even their AAA brands into services show they embrace this now,” Teut emphasized. “The funniest moments always were the communities. It was odd for retail publishers to have the customers directly at their door steps. I mean, this direct unfiltered feedback was an eye opener for many and they handled some of it badly at first but when they were demonstrated the power of proper service, community management and support they were amazed.”
“Generally speaking turning a retail publisher 25 years old to an agile free-to-play publisher is very very hard. Too many old habits which stand in the way doing stuff optimal for free-to-play. I recommend to those old publishers to isolate their free-to-play endeavors into an extra unit and let them loose. Otherwise it will fail too often,” he continued. “Many get monetization and game design wrong in tandem. They try to plug in a monetization design to their game design as an afterthought or a separate thing– which means the game doesn’t look like one complete experience but somehow two – the game and the monetization system. Users will see this and always will think about ‘ah, that’s where you want my money’. Monetization is best when it’s a natural part of the whole game, not a separate artificial thing on top. By the way, that’s why copy/pasting monetization systems from other games into yours is most often a mistake.”
“Teut Told Us This”
Teut has had the luxury of being able to experience many different games and see the stories of multiple developers. He describes it as a great privilege to be able to meet so many talented people and share in their success.
“I have clients all over the world and if they invite me I am always amazed meeting different cultures, people and companies. This is a wonderful attribute of my job – travel – that’s why I even try to take my partner and toddler with me most of the time which many find odd but accepted it as the Teut thing,” said Teut. “I’ve had many proud moments: having your first game in the charts, watching someone buying your game in the stores, being one of the first teams back in the ’90’s signing a worldwide publishing contract, my first exit or my first free-to-play game going over $1 million U.S. dollars in revenue per month. Many of them, and to be honest, nothing led to these moments but having passion doing what you love.”
Still, this doesn’t mean that Teut hasn’t had difficulties when it comes to consulting. “Due to the accumulated knowledge and stories of all the games and data you have in your head, you often know what’s wrong and right,” Teut pointed out. “However, making the client follow that advice isn’t as easy as I thought. Often they need to know, but still want to do their own mistakes to learn. The hardest choices are always the toughest. In my 10 years, I have at least advised 10 projects to be canceled – and only one followed my advice! The others launched and were abandoned later.”
“I remember that when I told one of my largest clients, Ubisoft, unpopular news what would happen and when they didn’t listen and afterward always said ‘Teut told us this’ which led to the famous meme ‘I Teut You So’ – which I promptly adopted as my company name,” he added.
The Archive of Existence
When asked to peer into his crystal ball over what future trends will be, Teut responded that it’s hard. Even with a lifetime of knowledge in the industry, it can be hard to predict what trends will be successful and which won’t.
“Now that others realize VR isn’t here yet and still takes 5+ years and mobile taking over the world, I guess we see some micro-trends first before the next big thing happens,” theorized Teut. “It will be tough for the next years to survive even though the industry will still grow. The only thing – which has started already – are more acquisitions; the fight for talent.”
When asked for a concluding statement, Teut said, “What we learned in the past which still is valid today. Many things we see and are surprised about happened in one way or the other in the past – but most people in the industry weren’t around back then. It’s tough to explain that you know what will happen as they don’t believe you – or mix up the time line how things happened back then. There is no archive you know… it only exists mostly in the brain of the veterans.”
David Radd is a staff writer for GameSauce.biz. David loves playing video games about as much as he enjoys writing about them, martial arts and composing his own novels.