Breakout session on Discoverability & Monetization
This breakout session was part of the Workshop on Web games. Minutes taken by John Pallet.
Tom: Tom Greenaway. I lead devrel for Chrome for games. We already have existing platforms like FB instant games, WeChat, etc. Some platforms still evolving, e.g FB. Anecdotally WeChat is profitable for HTML5
... ways the web can take inspiration from closed ecosystems
... one existing effort: schema.org has a markup for games, but the markup is more about describing a game as a piece of information (e.g. a fact)
... that's more like summarizing a Wikipedia article, e.g. directors, programmers, cheat codes - important for describing the game as a piece of knowledge but not great for things like input requirements, other useful metadata missing
... thought exercise: how would slither.io map to useful metadata?
... ideas to seed brainstorming: Game name, developer name, canonical URL, required input methods (e.g. touch, keyboard+mouse, voice, numpad - such as low-end KaiOS phones)
... offline vs. online required, accessibility, multi-player, turn-based or RT, minimum resolution, device fidelity, processing requirements, game genre/category
... idea: average play time (e.g. is this a 5 min commitment or 3 hours?)
@?: What is end game of the metadata?
Tom: Idea is to make the game more visible in aggregationn engines, e.g. Google Search
@?: Also in schema.org?
Tom: Yes, that's at least where the metadata could be specified
@?: Might be nice to discover on other catalogs as well
... Also nice for non-major Search communities to have their own filters prioritized to their own needs
Tom: Wasn't intended for Google Search only
Kasper: Schema.org is a separate entity, not just used for Google
@?: Hard to tell whether it's a good idea to come up with a complete set since communities would have their own requirements
Tom: Are there are other examples of extensibility?
Ted: There can be systems that are designed to be extensible with additional categorization and which can combine additional entologies that exist elsewhere
... community groups are helpful here, as extensions can become normalized and curated
@?: From a W3C perspective does it make sense to attach to an existing CG or create a new one? Since this is distribution, discoverability and monetization
Ted: Could be any group, a WG even
Karen: We can search on the CG site, don't know of one that has all three requirements in one place
@?: Selfishly speaking of monetization
Ted: Capabilities and requirements of platform might affect monetization
Tom: Are you suggesting that the metadata would have a field for how the game is monetized?
@?: What the WG (CG?) worked on was 'how to pay' as a piece of content but it was a minimal amount (that was Stephan Thomas)
Kasper: From a Search engine perspective (which is only part of the problem), comparing news results, video results with other results, see what you'd want to appear ...: Experimented with the video game schema.org type and it didn't really add anything... a few years back it looked like a video, not much value. What could it look like in the future?
Christian: e.g. like Image Search you mean a games page?
Kasper: Making it really clear it's a game is one thing. File size would be good as well, what kind of game is it... hard to categorize since there are so many axes
... genre, design, graphics.
@?: Technical aspects, not just to categorize games but also a way to tap into referrals, e.g. recommendations from peers?
Tom: Would be interesting if a given game could recommend up to three other games that were related... i.e. a developer says 'these three other games are cool' (or inspirations?)
@?: Might result in trading links
Tom: Indie game developer surveys turn into showcase rooms, that was kind of useful
John: Maybe a preview video or animated GIF?
Kasper: Hard to tell if it's a game if it's in an iframe; might be easy to trick the system otherwise; "If it's a game result and I get extra space, then I'll pretend I'm a game" - that's one of the difficulties with these types of schemes
Tom: That's already a problem that pops up with search engines, e.g. pages that say they're news but aren't really news
Kris: Previews are similar to product shots
Tom: Developer needs might be different than user needs
Karen: A mini trailer is useful for users
Kris: It's kind of like an app store
Karen: Could that media fragment also be searched on, would it be part of the schema?
Tom: What about AR/VR games, is that something to consider? To the earlier point there are a lot of dimensions of gaming.
@?: We're speculating on AR/VR games... speculating on whether or not we can bet on the web. Discoverability would help here
... i.e. if I'm searching from a phone where the AR game is playable vs. a desktop where it is not
... and how many input form factors could there be in 2 years, inputs are complex. What if a game has only a screen requirement? What if one has a complex input requirement?
Tom: A catalog would be interesting, filtering based on what the device can do would help, e.g. on a touch device
@?: Type of same-play experience might be interesting
John: With videos it's common to filter based on closed captions, accessibility dimensions for games might be useful as well
Bill: Ratings and reviews would be useful
@?: You'd have to trust the developer...
Tom: Existing portals have to determine this from other sources
@?: Trusted game through existing authority... are we talking about something decentralized here?
Tom: Wonder if there's an open canonical system to build trusted reviews
... <bangs head on table>
... If you were looking for a game, pulling up video content of other people playing that game might be really useful. Particularly as we move towards more cloud-based gaming, e.g. everything is small and interactable and easy to obtain... If the results were split, the left side showing someone playing it, the right side letting you play it.... Give users both options. Might be different for AAA games.
Tom: Could imagine any videos about a game, video could have metadata pointing to the URL for that game
@?: Halfway through the video you might want to actually try it out. Having that metadata would make it follow-the-cookie to the game itself.
Ted: Video could even load game assets in the background
@?: Could be tailored to different things, everyone has a chance to create their own experience, what clientele the game is intended for, which market
... Mentioning AAA, are we trying to help them? Or indie developers?
... Because it's inidie, you're already optimized for the web and optimized for a quick experience. Theoretically this would lean towards indie in the beginning. But as cloud gaming gets into it on the AAA side that would introduce those titles to adopt it as well... best of both worlds, maybe.
Tom: Another powerful feature of the web is sharing links, ephemerality
... any thoughts on links/URLs, and games, could do better together? Is there a standard URL structure that would benefit games?
@?: Making the most of chat platforms - expanding links into an interactive display might help, e.g. how you expand a game into a preview
Chris: Could get smarter about that, have opengraph metadata that expands into that so that chats can ensure that it's playable
... deep linking into games, e.g. URLs that go another level in is used fairly extensively for instant games
... could be another extension. Use cases include: Going to a specific server (e.g. the .io type), going to a specific level
Tom: I gave a talk on this, and one use case is that if you have a level editor, transmitting the level you created is useful
... or, teleporting to a specific location in a world you've created. These are all possible with hashtags right now
Tom: Lots of existing monetization concepts on the web. For example... banner ads, interstitials, rewarded ad (i.e. one the user opts into watching in order to receive an in-game reward)
... microtransactions (small $ amounts you spend), subscriptions, sponsorships (i.e. branded objects or experiences)
Coil: Open standard for sending packets of money around. It's a metatag on any web page, if you have a browser that supports it, you can send money to that address
... Coil is building a product where everywhere you browse, we pay a little bit of money to that page. But there are a lot of models that could be adopted
... one large browser vendor suggested paying out tokens
... if you could move money efficiently in small increments, maybe you can pay passively not actively
... might overlap with ads?
Tom: Do we need to be mindful of the user experience? Sometimes on the web, sometimes there are too many ads, could be better balanced for the user. Rewarded video ads have become popular in some cases for this reason, not just the $ value but also that it's not interrupting the user as much.
... other possibilities: cryptocurrencies
... Also: What other markets exist, are there ones we're not thinking about? e.g. offline?
... (correction: offline is a use case not a market)
Karen: Need to think about privacy. Parents get kids a cash purchase card to refill for privacy purposes on XBox. Is there a privacy consideration with monetization?
... kids have online accounts. Purchases show up on their accounts. Another value of the cash purchase card is that it prevents overspending
Tom: Kids break parental controls all the time and rack up large bills.
... e.g. a $3k charge in Fortnite to meet social pressures at school
... privacy is interesting. Having a limit on how much a child can spend would be useful.
@?: Challenge on the open web for monetization is that if you don't know who your user is there are many things you can't do, whereas in an app you can do a lot of live ops and promotions based on user behavior. Open web prevents that unless users log in. Users have resistance to that for good reasons
Christian: Things like countries can be inferred
@?: Sure but game state is something you'd potentially lose... it's something that could be useful. One of the topics from gamers was 'we'd like to have story!' but you can't have a long, evolved story if it restarts every time you reopen the browser
... If you do these types of monetization, how much churn does that introduce for users
Christian: Removing ads increases retention for sure. It's something we'd love to do and we're waiting for a monetization strategy that lets us do that.
... would be nice to take everything out and the user doesn't have an interruption
Chris: Rewarded ads actually leads to increased retention
@?: Also the point of privacy - if you're getting an ad, especially a rewarded one where it's connected to the game experience - does increase retention
Tom: Is that because the interstitial is removed?
Chris: No, it's vs. no-ads. If you go from no ads to rewarded ads, you become more invested into the game.
@?: We are missing a monetization strategy: BUYING THE GAME. Is this still a thing?
Tom: Would love ideas on how to make this work again
Christian: Pay to remove ads would be great
@?: Works in AAA games, right?
Tom: With premium as a purchase API vs. microtransactions in native games, this is part of where you set it up in a store. But on the web, the same API would be used either way (Payment Request API)... open to discuss how to implement a specific premium API
@?: Not downloading anything so this is almost like a subscription
Tom: Could have an API where when you go to a web page, instead of the web page saying you can buy this thing, maybe the user agent (browser) can do that, but it also might not work.
Chris: Trend with AAA games is that they're moving away from purchasing, towards subscription or free-to-play. Leveraging free-to-play game mechanics, starting to leverage microtransactionns
... MMOs, Battle Royale games are heading in this direction
Karen: Linking a tangible product purchase, is anyone linking physical purchases to in-game rewards (e.g. buy McD Happy Meal, get tokens in game?)
@?: We did that with one of our games, merch in stores would unlock stores
... My kids would buy a lot of happy meals if in-game credits were available for buying happy meals
... Thinking that indie developers have a lot of success, e.g. Switch opening up to new audiences, people are willing to pay a few $$$ for buying a game and not doing monetization in other ways
Tom: This might be a 'gold rush' opportunity where people who bought the hardware might want to justify their investment but the developer value dies off as supply increases
@?: iOS # of games in app store is a good example of this... super-hard to make money.
... easier to be noticed in the Switch market right now but eventually it'll become another over-saturated platform
Tom: Game developers can charge more initially because there's a supply/demand imbalance. VR games were like that.
@?: Switch also has a high bar for development, though... more criteria to dampen the supply and prevent oversaturation
Chris: Interesting that we talk about discovery on the web being a challenge but it's true everywhere, there are almost too many games
... one of the biggest levers for monetization is re-discovery, getting back into games
... might be nice if payments API looked at this
... ad systems might already address this, getting users back into games?
Tom: Some developers at GDC mentioned this, folks would discover their games and then had trouble re-finding it again, couldn't search for it. Recently Played games would be an interesting UX
@?: Same argument on long-term gameplay, would want a place where they prefer people to come back to. Might be why people pay for CDs or on-device games, they have something tangible that they own
... Might make them more inclined to pay for the games. But what would pay for that?
... Rediscoverability and monetization are related. Why would I pay for something when I'm not sure if I can find it again?
Ted: Making things discoverable, a change to the metadata might trigger rediscovery (e.g. "this has been updated", or "this has had the price cut")
@?: Lifecycle: like DLCs... game launches, users go through all content, usage drops off... DLC comes out, users get engaged again... this is a cycle to consider
Ted: And how do you distribute the metadata saying an update is available
Christian: This could be a point where you own the game
@?: Also thinking about mobile in that way, i.e. talking with Android and Apple and making snapshots of websites more prominent and then displaying 'here's an update' and having that tap into the Play store, for example. Microsoft was prioritizing for the discovery of PWAs at one point
... Could be an extension that parses the same metadata