Friday, October 22, 2010

User-Generated Content and THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER.

Remember Shaylyn Hamm? Author of The Aesthetics of Unique Video Game Characters?

Refresh your memory here:
"...My research suggests that it is possible to create distinctive and unique characters that have a generally broad appeal among different ages, genders, and gamer types. The characters I created have body types, features, and ages that do not follow the ideal of what is typically marketed in the video game industry, yet they were well received by the majority of people who have reviewed them. My feedback also suggests that there is a desire among many gamers to see more varied female characters in games, and perhaps when more of such characters are introduced into mainstream games, the perception and role of females may become less limited. This is an area of study that is very relevant to modern gaming, as female characters are found in nearly every game, and they are found by many people, both male and female to be lacking of interest and personality. For further research, I would like to see similar tests by myself and other artists, with characters designed to fit and explore a variety of video games in a variety of genres and styles..."
Well, Ms. Hamm just became one of my personal heroines because not only did she write an AMAZING thesis but she was a winner of the first ever Team Fortress 2 Polycount Pack,

Members of the Polycount Community were given 5 weeks to come up with a SET of items for one of the 9 different TF2 classes. These sets had to be within the same theme, and fit well within the TF2 universe. In total, some 70 sets were completed and entered (read: thats at least 210 items!) It’s no wonder they had their work cut out for them when choosing the first ever pack.
Now, why is winning a user-mod contest important to me? Especially when the winning design isn't even a girl, you ask?

Because, ladies and gentleman, two weeks ago these mod-packs were released for purchase in a user-generated virtual marketplace by Valve.

And.... (From Gamasutra) :

Her Winning Submission

"When Valve Software announced the results of Polycount's Team Fortress 2 item-modding contest, the winners were just excited that their creations would be in the popular mulitplayer shooter.

But with the recent introduction of the game's user-created virtual item marketplace, the Mann Co. Store, the winners' items went on sale to the Team Fortress 2 community -- and a 25 percent revenue share to the modders led to a surprising payoff.

Today, Valve said that community content creators Rob Laro, Shawn Spetch, Steven Skidmore, Spencer Kern and Shaylyn Hamm took home initial royalty payments ranging from $39,000 to $47,000 each from the first round of Team Fortress 2 content creation. And these are just the checks from the first two weeks of operation.

Kern told Gamasutra, "By having [user-generated content] implemented in the way that Steam has it, where people are getting monetary gains for the items they put in, it rewards people who put in the good items, who listen to the community and put in the stuff that everyone wants to see in the game. ... It'll bring out the quality artists to do the work."

He added, "It was completely mind-blowing, the size of the return that we're getting on these things."

Skidmore said, ,I feel like this is going to open up a whole new level for everyone in general that plays these games who has an interest [in game design]. .. It'll ultimately be better for the industry, attaching the community to the game developer.'"

This is fantastic evidence of the potential for revenue generation from user-generated content that can be applied much further afield as entertainment franchises seek out new ways to interact with fans, as well as examples for developing properties to establish strong conversations with fans early-on in their development. Suffice it to say I will be citing this campaign in pretty much everything I create from here on out when talking about User-Generated Content, and I will not be alone.


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  2. I think it might set a dangerous precedent in the other direction as well though - If game companies see amateurs making obscene amounts on royalties, how long before they cut them out of the mix by releasing their own skins and items and mods instead?

    As an example, StubHub was initially awesome for sellers of all Major League Baseball tickets, until teams saw how much fans were REALLY willing to pay for some tickets. As a result, you now have some teams that will withhold selling certain blocks of tickets until a week before, for really jacked-up prices, or teams setting up their own auction houses for tickets.

  3. That argument is a little like arguing, why should I make a delicious cake for a party if I might have to share it?

    While obviously, the sheer scope of these profits given to the submitting developers are exciting, I mean that's a years salary for most people for any one of them. The fact is, Valve profits from this far more both quantitatively and in the good-will and aspirational aspects to their fan base.

    Giving talented fans of an I.P. channels to get their names out and to become their patron is a very intelligent long-term strategy for Valve and it literally costs them the price of an e-commerce website. While you might not see 25% cuts on every user-generated-content marketplace, you will see returns on that scale for these campaigns when done artfully.

    While closed-minded I.P. holders may not treat fans as well as they might, they won't see the ongoing benefits of the strength of an interconnected fanbase, and they won't be able to draw from it in the same way, to the project's detriment.

    Some I.P.s may not lend themselves as handily to this type of model as Team Fortress 2 and that's all right too. But the fact is this– this pays off in the short and the long term.

  4. I think that if more artists get money for doing artistic work, then the industry will have more creative people working in it...We'll have a greater diversity of ideas being executed, and that will encourage people to work on more new ideas instead of repeating the same things over and over. Ultimately, I think the state of game creation as a whole will improve.

  5. Video Games, being the youngest creative industry, has the virtue of being the most open to this kind of creation, and is a great place to find examples like this that translate to film, publishing, and many, many others.

    I agree completely, John, the same thing that is going on in the gaming industry is echoing throughout other creative industries and I think the state of the Entertainment Industries will improve.