Five-Forces Analysis has Grim Tidings for Free-To-Play on Mobile

The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy

Image from http://hbr.org/2008/01/the-five-competitive-forces-that-shape-strategy/ar/1

Let me start by saying I like all kinds of video games. I like console games. I like PC games. I like shooters. I like RPG’s. Basically, I enjoy anything except sports games (and that’s really a comment about my attention span for professional sports rather than sports games themselves). I also like mobile games and free-to-play games. And I like F2P on mobile. I’ve had some great experiences with that combo when it’s done well. I still periodically dip back into Avengers Alliance*, and I had some great times with Hay Day and Tiny Trains.

My point is THIS IS NOT AN ANTI-F2P/ANTI-MOBILE/ANTI-MOBILE-F2P RANT.

The intention of this post is not to castigate mobile-F2P, but to point out a structural flaw in the current direction the market is taking. In general, it’s healthy for the industry to have a wide swath of business models, platforms, and vectors for people to games (or consume them, in business terms). There is a massive amount of potential in the mobile/F2P combo, but the market seems to be cannibalizing itself for short-term gains.

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The Backwards Way The Industry Looks at Used/Rented/Borrowed/Pirated Games

This fox isn't evil. It's just doing what it needs to do.

This fox isn’t evil. It’s just doing what it’ supposed to do.

Look at this fox for a moment. Imagine that the rabbit in its mouth is the very last member of a specific rabbit species. The fox has just hunted this particular family of rabbits to extinction, without any help from humans. But does that make the fox evil? Of course not. The fox is doing what it’s supposed to do: find creatures smaller than itself and eat them. The rabbit, for its part, failed to evolve to outrun or outbreed this predation, and therefore was not fit to survive. There is nothing moral or amoral about it. It simply is.

The biggest mistake the industry has, collectively, made with regards to used games is to treat it as a moral dilemma. Gamers are failing to support us. Retailers are stabbing us in the back. Pirates and Gamefly are destroying our profits. We rant and rave in interviews and on Twitter. We decry the wickedness of anyone who does not purchase a new copy on day one, and rail against a vast conspiracy eroding our bottom line. How dare they, these people who call themselves our fans, not support us with their money. The unbelievable gaul of these corporate leaches that have spawned whole new industries, like malignant tumors, on the back of our hard work and have cut us out of the profits. Don’t they understand what they are doing to us? Continue reading