[Editor’s Note: Contributing writer Simon Newstead is CEO & Co-Founder of girl avatar game Frenzoo, a 3D fashion startup. He can be contacted at: simon at frenzoo dot com.]
Billing itself as one of a new breed of pure play web publisher, True Games Interactive opened shop at the beginning of 2008 is expanding its team and title list. We invited CEO & Co-Founder Bob Drobish to reflect on their first year and where free-to-play social games are heading.
How did you start True Games and how has the first year been?
We began True Games by stepping back and doing our home work. We looked at player interests, trends in the industry, and the gaps between the two. From that we built a business model and a plan that was compelling enough to attract the best professionals and business partners in the industry.
We were fortunate enough to attract people like Peter Jarvis formerly of NC Soft and Peter Cesario formerly of Namco Bandai. We were also fortunate enough to attract business partners like Petroglyph, GOA, and Possibility Space. Of course, one of the highlights of the year was connecting with global media giant UTV as both an investor and strategic partner. It has been a great year.
Your first game announcement was Warrior Epic. Are you focusing on any particular type or genre of games?
We have exclusively focused on micro-transaction based online games. Our immediate titles are exclusively designed for PC. The two titles that we have announced so far, Warrior Epic (Developed by Possibility Space) and Mytheon (developed by Petroglyph) will be downloadable clients, but with a twist…
From a gamer point of view, are there any synergies between games on your platforms?
Yes, there will be synergies in terms of billing and currency, but we feel that this isn’t the most compelling aspect to gamers. We believe that it is the overall quality of the player experience throughout the full lifecycle of a game that gamers want and need. That being said, our platform will offer user-friendly, mechanical conveniences that will add to the quality of the overall player experience.
How do you view the economic climate and how that will affect the F2P market either good or bad?
The economic climate is of course challenging for us as it is for all business. As an industry however, I think that online, micro-transaction based games offer a uniquely compelling entertainment value proposition. In these economic times, we’d expect that the most cost-effective entertainment options would have an advantage and we think our business model fits into that category. Gamers do not have to spend $60 up front on our games. They can download it at no cost, play as much as wanted with no subscription charges; while having options for micro-transaction purchases.
Is True Games targeting a global audience or focusing on US and English speaking markets?
All the IP’s that we establish are designed with a global audience in mind. Some western markets we will serve directly. Others we will serve through syndication partners with local expertise; but always designed for and distributed to a global audience. Player interest in games is global. The internet is global. So yes, we have developed games from the ground up to cater to players all over the world.
Many believe that old subscription models will give way to pure micro-transaction models, what’s your take?
There is an undeniable trend toward micro-transaction based models. Our research shows that this will continue in the years to come. However, I think the market will continue (at least for the foreseeable future) to offer subscription and micro-transaction based models; in some cases both for the same title. We believe there will be a rise in various hybrids of the two forms. Ultimately, the most successful model will be the one to serve the player best. This will require extensive testing and research.
What is the most exciting development you anticipate in 2009 for the industry?
The most exciting development we anticipate in 2009 (and what our business is built upon) is the launch of AAA games with a free-to-play model. Clearly, there are a lot of free-to-play games and AAA games. However, there is no successful AAA game with a micro-transaction based model in the western market. To develop this will be our most exciting endeavor in 2009-not just for our company but for the industry as well.