Embrace the Evolution: How Publishers can turn Gaming Threats into Opportunities28 Feb 2023
As the gaming industry continues to evolve, publishers are recognizing unique opportunities for growth, while at the same time addressing key threats. In 2022, shifts in both the gaming market and gamer behavior revealed ways that publishers can remain vigilant, while also adapting to the shifting market.
During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, we saw a big boom in gaming activity and purchases. And no wonder, with all the extra hours that long lockdowns created. Still, 2022 saw some natural growth and the trend continues to move in that direction for 2023.
New model, new opportunities
We are witnessing a gradual shift in the gaming market. The free-to-play model and mobile market continue to accelerate, while the buy-to-own model is slowing down. This is a key opportunity for publishers, as Downloadable Content (DLC) is a rapidly-growing revenue stream that can boost publisher profitability – the key here is to walk the fine line between in-app purchases that enhance the gaming experience, and too many DLCs, which can cause players to give a game the dreaded title of ‘pay-to-win’. Publishers must be careful not to alienate their audience in the interest of profit.
Despite the knowledge that DLCs were at high risk of piracy, 2022 was the first year that an effective anti-piracy solution became available. Now that it is, there’s no excuse for unprotected DLCs. Just like in any other online transaction, publishers must ensure the highest levels of protection for users who download content. And that means end-to-end security, and DLC protection against lost revenue, and the continuing battle against malware, phishing, outright theft and hacking.
The battle over emulators
In addition to mobile or console gamers, there is also a significant number who use emulators to play on PCs. This may explain the dip in PC gaming sales in recent years. To protect their market share, publishers are increasingly turning to emulation detection and prevention. This includes Nintendo, who recognized that while their console and PC games were adequately protected, the use of emulators and the amount of piracy rapidly increased on the Switch device. New emulator protection technology has closed those gaps and will protect Nintendo’s valuable assets.
Whether protecting DLCs, preventing emulators or simply implementing anti-cheat or anti-tamper software, publishers know their audience will not accept any disruption in the gaming action. Message boards explode when DLCs get too expensive or anti-cheat technology slows or interrupts the game. The gaming community is infuriated when poor anti-cheat technologies disrupt the gaming experience or kick out genuine players. So, in order to protect their reputation and keep gamers coming back, publishers need to ensure their anti-cheat and anti-tamper solutions run seamlessly and invisibly in the background.
Like, download, play
The game subscription model is also continuing its upward trend. Following the path of music and video entertainment, users are showing a preference for services that give them access to a wide variety of games for a single price. This is perhaps driven by the economic downturn and the general social trend towards as-a-service models instead of owning. And just like in music and video, these games must be end-to-end protected: from the games themselves to user data to the connections that bring players into the environment.
Like most other industries, the gaming world was also impacted by real-world events in 2022. Rising inflation and economic downturns influenced both gamer purchases and publisher developments. It may have felt like the wrong year to develop a new game franchise or innovate on devices, given the uncertainty of the market, the geopolitical climate and the continuing chip shortage. We certainly also saw the impact of the war in Ukraine, the increased activity of Russian hackers, and the general social unrest of the past year. Analysts even suggest that Steam may lose some of its grip on the gaming market, although not to the extent of other gaming models.
And, while 2022 may have felt like ‘The Year of the Metaverse’, it’s possible that the hype was bigger than the reality. That’s not to say that the Metaverse isn’t taking big steps forward – it most certainly is – but perhaps not at the speed and to the extent that promoters of the metaverse may have anticipated. Still, as both companies and consumers continue to get comfortable with a future that includes the metaverse, game publishers must become familiar with this complicated universe, and all of the compounded security threats that exist there.
The 2023 Outlook
In 2023, publishers have plenty of opportunities to monetize games well, both in pay-to-own and subscription models. As long as they use adequate technologies to prevent piracy. Similarly, online multiplayer games can be successful, provide a great experience and curb cheating that spoils the party.
New Smart Advertising Models offer an opportunity to add minimally disruptive advertising to popular games. Think, here, of customized perimeter advertising on game’s football pitches, customized beer brands in an in-game pub, or even or clever ways to get gamer’s attention in-game, and make it a more immersive experience. Think, here, for example, of billboards along a roadway or advertisements around the sports field. This unobtrusive and highly personal type of advertising is proving to be a potentially exciting development in gaming revenue streams. Again, though, this is not something to take lightly. It’s important to use a reputable Smart Advertising Service that does not affect game play and does not hinder the gaming experience.
Companies like Denuvo also continue to evolve from security providers to full-service providers. Its investment in an in-game Smart Advertising product and other services helps to shift the perspective from an isolated focus on security and anti-cheat, to the creation of an ultimately enjoyable – and ultimately secure – complete gaming experience. After all, the best way to ensure consistent growth is to create a pleasant, enjoyable and uninterrupted gaming experience, whether on PC, console or mobile, whether buy-to-own or free-to-play.
In 2023 and beyond, gamer behavior will continue to evolve, and security must evolve right along with it. From identifying and eliminating the biggest threats to revenue protection and gamer experience, to new ways to monetize content, to enabling growth and innovation. The wisest publishers will remain one step ahead of the trends, and will partner with security firms who understand the market and its movements, and offer the highest level of service to maximize monetization of both the games and the IP.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Reinhard Blaukovitsch, Managing Director, Denuvo (Video Games Protection)
Reinhard Blaukovitsch is the founder and Managing Director of Denuvo by Irdeto, the global #1 Application Protection and Anti-Piracy Technology Platform. He is responsible for leading strategy and management of the gaming segment at Irdeto. With a track record of anticipating technology and market trends, Reinhard is dedicated to providing best-in-class solutions for global gaming customers.
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