Weekly Business Report: Nexon’s Internal Restructuring, Ninja’s Leaving Twitch, and More

MMOGames Business Weekly Report is back to take a look at mobile gamer preferences for free to play games in China, the latest news from Nexon, Ninja leaving Twitch, and a few other topics relevant to the business side of making online games.


Automaton Games Shuts Down

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

Automaton Games, the folks who were behind the unreleased 1,000 man Battle Royale Mavericks: Proving Grounds, has shut down and in the process the game has died. In the announcement on their website, they cited a lack of funding as the reason for their sudden closure. Thankfully Improbable, the makers of SpatialOS, have said they will be trying to find places for Automaton employees in their company. Mavericks: Proving Grounds is actually the second SpatialOS game to meet its end in recent months leaving some to speculate that SpatialOS falling out with Unity earlier this year may have played a role. If that’s true, this might only be the beginning of SpatialOS related sunsets. MMOGames staff will be watching and will continue to bring updates in our weekly business report.


Source: MMOGames


Chinese Consumer Preferences

According to recently released research, over half of Chinese consumers prefer free to play or ad monetized games over premium titles. In fact, the research found that 61% of people prefer non-premium games. 85% reported they spend money on mobile games with 3% spending more than $50 (¥330) a month. In contrast, the average spending is just $5.80 a month. Those interviewed between the ages of 26 and 30 had the highest average spending at $10 a month.

The research also showed there is a high level of brand loyalty. 92% of respondents said they stick with a game for more than a week and 87% say they’ve played fewer than 5 different games in the previous month.

One challenge that developers face is how well divided the market’s stores are. In China, 30% of the market is using the App Store, 29% are using Tencent’s MyApp, and 26% use the Huawei app store. In the West we really only have Google Play or the App Store for mobile games.

It would be really interesting to see this same research completed in a few different Western countries to see how our views differ. I would personally much prefer to pay for a game or even pay a subscription for a game over being nickel and dimed to death by an in-game shop.


Source: Games Industry


Nexon Internal Merger Incoming

The last few months have been a wild ride for Nexon. First, their founder and CEO was putting the family’s stake in the business up for sale, worth between 9 to 11 billion dollars. After months of speculation that everyone from Disney to EA were interested in buying, it seems Kim Jung-ju may have simply decided not to sell. Of course, I’m sure a decision like that wasn’t made lightly. Following the release of this rumor, Nexon’s stock dropped resulting in a loss of up to 5%. Now we know that Nexon is reorganizing and merging their two core business units. No jobs are going to be lost in this internal restructuring, but the company is looking at getting rid of projects with low commercial value. They also hope that the restructuring will improve the company’s operating profits and increase its stock value. News of this restructuring started out as a rumor but was quickly confirmed by Nexon. It is set to take place sometime in August.


Source: MMOCulture


Ninja Leaves Twitch for Mixer

Ninja Fortnite

Ninja has announced that he will no longer be streaming on Twitch and is instead switching over to Microsoft’s Mixer platform. The specifics on this particular deal haven’t been released but last year he was making $500,000 a month streaming Fortnite on Twitch and a paid promotion deal with EA for Apex Legends got him $1 million, so it is safe to assume he got a pretty sweet deal. This marks a major shift for Twitch which has been seeing its growth slow over the last year.

Mixer has always been playing third fiddle to Twitch and Youtube but has also seen consistent growth. Last quarter it saw 119 million hours watched, an increase of 37% year on year. Ninja’s move to Mixer might be exactly the sort of push the platform needs to catch up to its two bigger competitors. However, Fortnite’s popularity, especially in streaming, has been on the decline. It is also possible that many of Ninja’s fans wont follow him to this different platform because they prefer Twitch. We can see an example of this in the industry already looking at people who refuse to play a game that hasn’t been released on Steam. Only time will tell how this transition actually goes.


Source: Games Industry



Zynga Eyes China

At one point in time just a few years ago Zynga was dominating the games industry. They were all we ever talked about it seemed like. Of course the days of Facebook games are long gone now, but that doesn’t mean Zynga is gone or that they’ve even slowed down. Zynga has been transitioning to a mobile game developer and having great success with it. They recently released Empires and Puzzles in Japan and Korea, the beginning of their strategy for expansion into the Asian market. Now they’re eyeing China.

In a call with GamesIndustry.biz Zynga COO Matt Bromberg said, “We are beginning to look at China for Empires & Puzzles as well, and as our portfolio continues to develop we have both Star Wars and the Harry Potter game on our slate for the future. When there are big global pieces of IP like that, which we think will resonate across Asia, we’re hopeful that will also help us expand there. We’re trying to take a measured approach to it, and learn as we go and make sure we have the right match of game and personnel on the ground and marketing strategy. When you get those lined up it can be terrific, but it is a complicated market and we’re still in learning mode.”

A complicated market is putting it lightly. Still, if they are successful in their push into China, they’ll be tapping into a mobile games industry with an estimated 586 million gamers.


Source: Games Industry

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Twitch Bought Bebo

Most of us remember Bebo as that other social media platform you were on besides Myspace and Facebook, back in the days before Twitter. It turns out they’re still kicking, much to everyone in this office’s surprise when we saw the news that Twitch bought Bebo.

What interest does Twitch have in a third rate social media platform? None at all actually. Bebo stopped being about social media after bankruptcy and has shifted its focus to being a High School esports company. After the bankruptcy, they rebranded to be a streaming service provider similar to Xsplit, but for esports and they currently, host a High School Fortnite league.

So it is really no wonder, now that you know all the details why Twitch took an interest in Bebo. The acquisition reported cost under $25 million and Discord was also bidding on the company. Based on Linkedin profiles of ex-Bebo employees it looks like all of this took place sometime this month. You can see the former CEO of Bebo now lists his job as Senior Director of Product, Esports at Twitch. With the acquisition Twitch picked up the 10 person staff that make up Bebo as well as the IP of Bebo, the social network company turned esports streaming company.

So, what is next for Bebo’s team and the Bebo platform? Only time will tell for sure, but right now it looks like they’re going to be working together on Twitch Rivals. As the company prepares to face competition from other streaming services in the near future.


Source: TechCrunch

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Play of the Fortnight: Success of the Overwatch BCRF Charity Event

As we mentioned earlier this week, Blizzard launched a charity event in honor of Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF.org). Players can pick up the Pink Mercy skin, and all proceeds go to charity. Blizzard also released a Pink Mercy t-shirt, and there are tons of sprays to unlock by participating in the event.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Pink Mercy

In this Play of the Fortnight, we’re going to talk about the Overwatch BCRF charity event, and how successful it has been so far.

Charity Streamers Raise Awareness and Donations

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - QueenE Stream

The first charity streamer for this event was Overwatch streamer QueenE. She’s a ranked player with a peak of 4211 (Grandmaster). QueenE is one of the streamers players can watch to earn their in-game sprays and player icon. She kicked off the stream on day one of the event, on Tuesday, May 8th, and streamed for eight hours raising funds for BCRF.

During this time, she went from averaging in the hundreds of viewers to over a whopping 50,000. Her goal was to raise around $500 for BCRF during her charity stream, but in total, donations and bits (which viewers on Twitch use to “cheer” for a streamer, giving them one US cent per bit) totaled over $20,000. This is a massive contribution from one streamer of many (and of course all of the community members who watched and chose to cheer or donate).

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - QueenE Donations

There’s a running total on Reddit of how much streamers have raised. It’s being updated as quickly as possible, so if you’re interested, check out the thread by Redditor binhvinhmai.

Twitch is a Great Platform for Charity Engagement

Twitch is an excellent platform to expose online communities to charities. Streamers are incredibly effective influencers, and can spread a message to a wide audience. Bits are also a great engagement tool, as viewers can earn them for free from watching ads or completing surveys, and cheer small amounts that all add up to a large donation at the end of a charity stream.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Pink Mercy

Blizzard, also, has taken a step towards exposing its huge community to an important charity. There will always be some people who will be reluctant to donate to a charity. However, a beautiful skin for a popular hero, plus exclusive, time-limited merchandise, goes a long way towards incentivizing charitable donations.

One Redditor, Acoustibot, picked up the skin for $18.99 (CAD). They admitted, “I can’t say with 100% certainty that I would have donated $18.99 if there was a ‘Donate $18.99 to Charity’ button without the Mercy skin as an incentive.” And this isn’t something people should feel bad about. Lots of people make their own donations to charities of their choice. The cost of the skin might have seemed high for “just” a charity donation, but with a memorable in-game item to go with it, it can justify the cost.

The Overwatch Community’s Thoughts

It’s not all been positive, of course. There are many players asking why BCRF was the specific charity chosen. This is a bit of a controversial topic, as some people feel that breast cancer gets an undue amount of attention from companies raising money for charity. This has generated some really positive discussions, however. The community has begun asking if there’s any way for the players to influence what charities are chosen, showing that they would be open to having an event like this happen in the future.

We would love to see Blizzard do an annual charity event. It’s probably not something they would do regularly, especially since they’ve pledged to donate a minimum of $250,000 to BCRF themselves. However, this event has proven that players are open to it, and there’s been an amazing amount of money raised already.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Pink Mercy

Some players did think the skin was too expensive, regardless of the fact that the funds went to charity. One common concern raised was that if the skin was a little cheaper, more players would end up purchasing it, meaning more money would go to the good cause in the end. There’s definitely something to be said about price points in games like this. With microtransactions in general, lower prices often mean more people buying items. It’ll be interesting to see whether Blizzard changes this in the future. They’ll of course have to balance that with the community’s expectations. If the next charity skin is cheaper, will players ask if the charity is less valued?

How to Take Part and Unlock the Sprays

If you want to take part in the event, it’s really easy. You can buy the Pink Mercy skin for you or your friends (you must be on each other’s friends lists for seven days) any time between now and May 21st. You can also buy the exclusive Pink Mercy t-shirt on the Blizzard gear store between May 5th and May 21st. All proceeds from either of these purchases goes to BCRF.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Sprays

There are several sprays and two player icons to unlock during the event as well. The first icon you can get by simply logging in before May 21st. There are then three additional tiers. The first tier, containing one spray, is unlocked after watching two cumulative hours of one of the participating streamers, at any time that they are streaming Overwatch. The next is after four, and includes the other player icon and a spray. The final tier includes the last two sprays, and is unlocked after watching six cumulative hours of any of the charity streamers.

Make sure you connect your Twitch account to your Blizzard account before watching the streamers. You can do so on your Twitch connections page. You can find a list of the participating streamers on Blizzard’s blog post.

Closing Thoughts

We’re really excited to see Blizzard doing such an engaging event for an amazing charity. It’s even more exciting that they’ve been so successful already, and that the community seems receptive to doing similar events in the future. Pink Mercy is also absolutely gorgeous, so that’s an added bonus.

The event has opened up some really constructive conversations in the community as well. Some players will always be unhappy with these kinds of events. For the most part, however, players have given suggestions on areas for Blizzard to improve. The fact that the community has opened discussions about what charities we could all support going forward is really great.

What other charities would you like to see Blizzard do events for in the future? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to suggest a skin that might go along with it!

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