The Future of Gaming Is Purveying Sin, Says VC Tim Chang
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its “formalization of key human behaviors and addictions,” Chang said. Social games are an innate part of how people act, from children during Valentine’s Day trying to figure out who got the most or best cards, to getting a date or a job as an adult. All of these are social games, and gaming has done a lot to “formalize and drive those compulsion loops,” Chang said.
The surprising key to addicting people to games, Chang said, is hell. Every level of hell in Dante’s epic poem, The Inferno, is another way to appeal to a consumer and get them to buy things. But, “how do you embody the seven deadly sins?” Chang asked the crowd as he went through the list. “Lust is an easy one, it fuels most of the social Web,” he said. Anger matches well with player-versus-player fighting games, he said, and pride explains why people buy premium subscription services to get more out of a free game, especially if there are limited supplies. Making money through ads is no longer a viable option, so online and social games have to appeal to people’s vanity so they will buy things like improvements to their online avatar. “Virtual goods is the new ads of 2009,” Chang said.
Even with these kinds of motivations, there needs to be more on offer to make money in the age of cloud software and micro-transactions, Chang said. Rather than just porting a game from one platform to another and judging each platform’s success independently, Chang said, mobile, online, and other platforms should serve as legs for an overall game so that customers might play a game on a computer and check their friends’ stats for the game on their smartphone, and thus make the product available all the time. This is the multi-platform model that is becoming a major trend in gaming.
Lastly, being a game developer is no longer just a matter of making a good game. “The power of old publishing is crumbling really fast,” Chang said. Nowadays, a game maker must think as a behavioral psychologist, a social economist, and, as Chang put it, a “purveyor of sin.” Success now, in gaming and other forms of digital media, comes less from the idea that “content is king,” but from making that content so pervasive and versatile that people will use it on every format and platform. As Chang put it, “Distribution is God.”