“I pay and buy the most powerful stuff I can find to help me and try to examine what does that change in how the game talks to me. That’s an important step because if the game still talks in the same language like before, I am not a happy user”, explained Teut Weidemann at the Casual Connect Europe conference. Dissecting King Games was the fourth installment of Teut’s dissection of successful free to play games. This time, it turned to King.com’s casual mobile games. The session evaluated several games from King.com, in order to find the formulae of success. Specifically, the talk highlighted Candy Crush (and Soda), Pyramid Solitaire and Bubble Witch saga (1&2) to show the audience the design patterns King.com uses in all their games.
While at Casual Connect USA 2014, Teut Weidemann analyzed the monetization of League of Legends. “Riot’s conversion rate is less than 5 percent,” he said. “That’s not good. If you’re looking to copy League of Legends‘ monetization, don’t. It won’t work for you.”
Teut Weidemann is the senior online supervisor at Blue Byte Ubisoft, ensuring games in development have good online game mechanics and monetization practices. While the complexity of online game mechanics is something many teams underestimate, ensuring success requires constant iteration of both the monetization and game mechanics systems. Weidemann is passionate about educating the industry about online games, their systems, how F2P works and what they need to make good online games.
Weidemann became involved in gaming while growing up on Airbase Ramstein in Germany. The officers club had all the arcade games from the US, something that was a rarity in Germany at the time, and he quickly became hooked on Defender, Lunar Lander, Space Invaders, and Battlezone.
It all began when “Our group of coders was bored and started programming our own games, selling them to small publishers for 2500 DM (DM 1.95583 = €1 when the Deutsche Mark was converted to Euro). As I was the least nerdy, I was the one who would talk to the publishers.” Weidemann’s interest in the games industry became a career by a stroke of good luck when a friend asked him to sell his game for 5000 DM and offered Weidemann 20 percent for his contribution to the graphic and level design. The publisher was so impressed, Weidemann fetched 25,000 DM and quickly began supplying the publisher with more games, one of which was a hit: Katakis on Amiga. This success enabled Weidemann to parley university and jump headfirst into the games industry.
The Future is Online
Weidemann was drawn to online games because he loves interacting with other gamers. Ultima Online represented a turning point for Weidemann where the future of online was clear: Sooner or later, all games will go to online. Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, and Eve Online form the basis for all other online games. “Personally, I think Al Bots, QTEs, etc. are boring; humans write the most interesting stories. Everyone needs to play Eve Online to fully understand the potential of fully immersive online games.”
The best part of making games is sharing the enjoyment with others, when someone he knows picks up one of his games, and likes it, he insists, “You can’t beat that!”
Mistakes are to be Cherished
The Ubisoft philosophy is that mistakes are opportunities we should share proudly and learn from. One mistake to proudly share is Weidemann insisting that a team do what he felt was right, rather than letting them learn from their own experiences. He admits he had a hard time and the situation made him angry, making him so unpleasant, there is a meme to this day uttered frequently in the Blue Byte office, “I Teut you so”. While the story will live on, Weidemann is a new man; after sharing his opinion, each team is free to follow their own path, analyzing how their decisions performed and the result afterward.
Teut Weidemann believe he has proof that the future of the game industry will show an even larger trend toward tablets and mobile. “Tablet will eat into notebook, PC and console market share while Smartphones eat into handheld market share. The game industry needs to adapt fast.”
25 years ago Teut Weidemann decided to turn his gaming hobby into a career. He insists he’s still having fun with his work, saying, “That’s not too bad, is it?” When thinking back , the time in Weidemann’s career that brought him the most satisfaction was in 2000 when a publisher wanted to buy not just his product development, but the entire company. At the time, they had proven they could develop high-end PC games, and they pitched only online games, the right track to be fit for the future. This was before Facebook or free-to-play. The company’s gleaming potential led to the buyout offer.
Currently, he is consulting for Ubisoft‘s online games. He enjoys the philosophy of Ubisoft, where mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn rather than a reason to be fired, something he found a pleasant surprise. “When mistakes and the learning process are a natural part of the company, you can be much bolder, more daring, and gutsy with what you do,” Weidemann said. “And, as direct as I am, I do this day by day.”
Free-to-Play: A Double-Edged Sword
Weidemann consults on all free-to-play Ubisoft games. He has extensive input during the creation process in the areas of online mechanics and monetization. His focus on online games since 1997 and his previous experiences with Bigpoint and Nadirim (Kabam) have assisted his present role. A deep understanding of why online games work so well, as well as playing them daily himself, is key to succeeding in his work.
Free-to-play is something Weidemann has strong opinions about. He loves that it allows players to enjoy a game and deeply test it before committing to it. On the other hand, he hates companies who use the F2P business model, but put monetization over game play. He insists, “Those companies will fail in the long run and vanish, luckily!”
Gaming is Required
Weidemann tell us that in his career, it is essential to own all game platforms and to learn from their games and systems, emphasizing that he cannot afford to miss one. He owns both the PS4 and Xbox One, and so far prefers the PS4 because he likes their simple interface, digital store, and the Japanese games such as Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) that Sony always publishes. His favorite platforms to play on are PC and iPad: the PC because it offers the largest variety of online games, and iPad because he can play in locations other than his desk. These days he is playing World of Tanks and Ni No Kuni, saying it is a wonderful JRPG with tactical combat and art by the Ghibli Studio.
Just around the corner is Casual Connect Asia 2016! This year, the conference will be held 17-19th of May, 2016. Come to the picturesque Hard Rock Hotel Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa Island. At Casual Connect, the most creative and innovative minds in the gaming industry will be featured. The CGA staff has worked hard to ensure an enriching experience for the attendees. There is something for everyone whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or a budding indie developer. Tracks at Casual Connect Asia include:
This year was a sweet homecoming for Casual Connect Europe as it returned to the city where it all started: Amsterdam. It may have started with only a few hundred attendees back in 2006, but this time, about 2000 game industry professionals gathered in the beautiful Beurs van Berlage for three days to create new connections and learn more about the industry’s current trends. Over 120 lectures were presented by international speakers from companies such as Wooga, Youtube, Facebook, Google, and GamePoint. Lectures included information useful for the current game market, such as Godus creator Peter Molyneux‘s session on design re-invention, new technology, and mobile development.
Casual Connect isn’t just about the handy lectures, but also the professional relationships that are built through meeting and sharing with close to 1000 other companies in attendance. Whether during the day at the show or the sponsored parties at night, there is always the opportunity to reach out and help foster the growth of the game industry community. This was true not only for the seasoned veterans, but new developers as well. Over 100 indie developers displayed their work at the Indie Prize Showcase held at Casual Connect Europe. In addition, 13 teams won various awards, from Most Innovative Game to Best in Show. The winners can be viewed on the Indie Prize website.
Looking forward to returning to Amsterdam next year, Casual Connect is currently focusing on the preparations for Casual Connect Asia, held in Singapore May 20 – 22, 2014. Check out the conference website if you are interested in more information: http://asia.casualconnect.org/
If you were not able to make it to Casual Connect Europe (or if you want to relive fond memories), videos of the presentation are available for free on Gamesauce and the conference website.
Casual Connect Europe Videos on Gamesauce:
Erik Goossens: Indie Developers and Advertising
Vicenç Marti: Community First
Inna Zaichenko: A Passion for Games
Scott Foe’s Evil Hilarity
Sebastien Borget on Educational Social Gaming
Yaniv Nizan: Don’t be Afraid to Win
Chris Natsuume: Making a Difference
Robert Winkler: Standing out with Substance
Cristi Badea: Opportunity for All, Even Underdogs
Teut Weidemann: Understanding Why Equals Win
More video articles can be found here.
Other Coverage of Casual Connect Europe:
7 upcoming indie treats from Casual Connect 2014 in Amsterdam – Pocketgamer.co.uk
Video: Evil Game Design Challenge winner pitches F2P Evil Minecraft – Gamasutra
5 things we learned at Casual Connect Europe 2014 – Pocketgamer.biz
The DeanBeat: Developers need platforms that aren’t always in flux – Gamesbeat
14. Februar: Casual Games Association zeichnet Indie Games aus; Microsoft muss Schlüsselpositionen neu besetzen – Making Games
What Games Are: Going Small – TechCrunch
Spil Games will trigger ads at ‘cliffhanger moments’ in games by indie developers – Gamesbeat
Casual Connect Europe mit neuem Besucherrekord – Gamesindustry.biz
Mobile game Shapist was inspired by ancient Asian block games – Gamesbeat
GameDuell: “Spielerbindung deutlich gesteigert” – Gamesindustry.biz
If you want to score a good publisher, you need to think like a publisher – Pocketgamer.biz
Nextpeer makes it easy to challenge your friends in mobile multiplayer matches – Gamesbeat
Molyneux: “Geld zu verlangen ist kein Recht. Man muss es rechtfertigen.” – Gamesindustry.biz
Casual Connect feiert in Amsterdam erfolgreichen Neuanfang – Gamesmarkt
Is Christmas losing its sparkle? Flurry points to drop off in yuletide download growth – Pocketgamer.biz
The Dutch want gaming startups to sprout like tulips (interview) – Gamesbeat
Casual Connect 2014 • Drie Nederlandse winnaars bij Indie Prize award show – Control
Portrait of a Pretentious Game – Rappler
Casual Connect 2014 • De succesfactoren van Reus, de godgame met een indieprijskaartje – Control
Grand Cru: Console devs are ‘utterly failing’ at in-app purchases – Pocketgamer.biz
Game makers beware: Virtual goods purchases are about to be regulated – Gamesbeat
Casual Connect 2014 • Een bedrijf opstarten doet niemand voor je, vergeet niet te relaxen en wees een ster – Control
Asian companies account for nine of the top 10 game mergers and acquisitions – Gamesbeat
The Godus amongst us: Molyneux talks free-to-play farces, winning without chasing whales and his top score on Flappy Bird – Pocketgamer.biz
Peter Molyneux believes ripping people off with free-to-play games won’t last (interview) – Gamesbeat
Size matters: How to scale your game for overnight success – Pocketgamer.biz
FlowPlay helps developers like Joju Games differentiate their social-casino titles – Gamesbeat
Molyneux: Free-to-play is like ‘smashing consumers over the head with a sledgehammer’ – Pocketgamer.biz
Dandelions benoemd tot beste indiegame Casual Connect – Gamer.nl
Share and share like: Why developers need to care about their sharers – Pocketgamer.biz
Mimimi gewinnt Indie Prize – GamesMarkt
Flappy Bird was the perfect accidental guerilla marketing campaign, says Creative Mobile – Pocketgamer.biz
Casual Connect Amsterdam – Freegame.cz
Mech Mocha Founder Arpita Kapoor Wins Most Prominent Female Indie Award at Casual Connect Europe – Animation Xpress
Casual Connect Europe 2014 – Амстердам – ITC.ua
As Scott Foe reminds us, the Evil Game Design Challenge was the most watched session at Casual Connect USA. He hopes to top those numbers in Amsterdam, claiming, “With industry hitters like Ben Cousins, Teut Weidemann, and Laralyn McWilliams, we should be in for a hilariously evil time.”
Scott Foe is one of the few people in the games industry who admits to having any free time. He co-founded Big Head Mode with Tipatat Chennavasin and Richard Au and became its Chief Creative Officer. Recently, they sold the studio to PlayFirst, leaving him with ample time to play golf and watch Twitch.tv. When not fully immersed in these activities, he enjoys watching basketball and shooting hoops, making use of his amazing 2 ½-inch vertical.
A Pack-a-Day Habit
Foe became a part of the games industry directly out of college when Sega recruited him to be a part of the team that created and launched Sega DreamCast. He has remained in the industry simply because he feels he is making a positive contribution. He says, “Bringing joy to people is a big part of my drive,” so if he were not involved with games, he would choose to be a part of the entertainment industry in some other way.
As for the games he personally enjoys, Foe admits, “I do suffer from a pack-a-day League of Legends habit, and Chantix can’t even put a dent in that.” However, he claims to have no particular platform preference. And, although he has nothing against Android, he feels, “iOS can’t be topped for unflappable joy of user experience.”
Laughing at the Future
Foe is someone who is constantly looking forward, claiming that his proudest moment always comes from whatever game he is working on next. But he doesn’t envision any particular trend as the next important phenomenon in the industry, saying, “Anyone who tells you they can see the future should see you laughing at them ten seconds later.” Wearables are what he sees others in his area emphasizing for the future, but he has not yet felt inspired to do anything with wearable computing. But he admits, “Who knows what tomorrow will bring?”