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By spending a fortune for the Finnish Supercell and its goose that lays golden eggs "Clash of Clans", Chinese Tencent itself as the heavyweight "free to play".
When you think of the major players in the video game industry, certain names come immediately to mind: Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Activision, Electronic Arts or Ubisoft. But we rarely think of Tencent, Chinese juggernaut that has made a specialty of the sale of virtual items, either for its web applications or in video games it has. According to the research institute Newzoo, Tencent is nevertheless became in 2015 the first global economic player in terms of revenues from video games. A place that should be strengthened in 2016 following the purchase confirmed last week, for more than $ 8 billion, 84% of the shares of the Finnish studio Supercell. The studio is suddenly valued at $ 10.3 billion (€ 9 billion).
Poof poof ... is taken, because we are not sure that everyone has grasped the scope of the thing: a box installed in Helsinki founded in 2010 and today has 190 employees (probably millionaires in currently, since they are all shareholders), is left with essentially the same valuation that Accor (3700 hotels, 180,000 employees), all because it produced four mobile games.
So yes, we see you all there, you have only one word to mouth "! Bubble" And it's true that it looks like, from a distance, this inflation has values known digital sector at the end of the last millennium. Yet if not morally defensible, the operation conducted by Tencent could be economically quite pragmatic. The gaming sector "free to play" is indeed a jungle, and those at the top of the food chain today have a power out of proportion. Supercell is one of these alpha predators.
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It is the same economic model of free to play directly establishes a huge bonus to leaders. Basically, it is to give free access to an entire game, never force players to pay. This is important, especially for competitive games such as Tencent and Supercell: Players who do not pay should not feel too cheated compared to those raquent and progressing, in fact, much faster. Statistically, suddenly, very few players out their credit card. Depending on the game, they would be between 1% and 2%. And among them there are those called "whales" who are able to spend several hundred euros or more, to climb to the highest level. They represent 10% of the players who pay (between 0.1% and 0.2% of total) but 50% of earnings for publishers of the game then the calculation is simple. The more players, the more revenues are important (hence advertising budgets accordingly). Reasonable success will monetize the production, maintenance and evolution (it is imperative to regularly add content) of the game, but the production cost of sales elements are almost zero, massive success guarantees the jackpot.
That's what happened to Supercell when it launched in August 2012 Clash of Clans . The studio, which was founded in May 2010 in 30 m of offices 2 of Niittykumpu district of Espoo, Finland's second city, was initially launched in games for web browsers and especially Facebook. Before any bazarder and change course mid-2011 to focus solely on games for tablets and smartphones. After dropping two games in development, they finally released their first title in June 2012: the farm management game Hay Day . Then, in the process, one that will bring them to the top.
In Clash of Clans , the player must first build a fortified village, in which it will place defense units, resource extractors (elixir) and buildings to produce military units. With these units, it will be able to attack the villages of other players, while his own village can be regularly attacked, even when it is not connected. But the key aspect of the experience is social: Players can join together in clans, teams and compete in up in the rankings.
To progress, the player is prompted to leave the game several times a day to raise his elixirs and launch his armies. By paying, it can more easily gain access to better buildings and better units. To reach the top of the world rankings, one must have spent tens of thousands of euros. And there are many to try. In 2015, the turnover of Supercell was 2 billion euros to a profit of 822 million. It is estimated that today Clash of Clans refers to studio 750 000 per day, while its new title, Clash Royal , launched in early March, already a hit with over 280 000 in daily revenue. According Supercell, more than 100 million people play every day at one of their games.
Since October 2013, Supercell was controlled by Softbank, a Japanese holding company had spent $ 2.1 billion to acquire a majority stake (51%), before moving to 73% in June 2015. But Softbank is seeking in time to mop his abysmal debt (over 100 billion). He should recover $ 7.4 billion with Supercell (and about $ 8 billion by selling part of its stake in Chinese online store Alibaba).
Tencent, meanwhile, settled for a lease in the role of world leader in free to play (and gaming in general). The operation is however expensive. Nothing like that of 2011, which saw the Chinese take full control of the California studio Riot Games for "only" $ 230 million. League of Legends , released in 2009, then began to emerge, but it is still far from mass phenomenon today where competitions organized by Riot fill the Staple Center in Los Angeles and giant stadiums in South Korea. In August 2015, an estimated 90 million the number of active players a month. League of Legends would thus have grossed over $ 1.6 billion in 2015.
Tencent dominance of the video game do not date much longer. The company, founded in 1998, is primarily an empire of online services ranging from instant messaging (QQ, more than 800 million active users) social network (Qzone, 600 million users) through mobile messaging (WeChat, a billion accounts created 700 million active users). Unlike its Western competitors, Tencent's business model is based micropayment systems for additional services (avatars, stickers, storage, etc.), which have simplified their arrival in the free to play games. One area that the giant began investing in 2004. Today, Tencent has 12% of the other major player in the video game, Activision Blizzard (which bought King, the other leader of the free to play with Mobile Candy Crush , to $ 5.6 billion in February 2016, all in all) and shares in several other important structures (Epic Games, the Korean CJ Games or Pocket Gems).
The big question that remains outstanding after this major operation in playful ecosystem remains that of the future. If current Supercell games are designed to last, it will take at Finnish studio prove that he is able to repeat this kind of performance in the coming years. The current success of Clash Royal suggests he is capable, but far, far away from being an exact science. To believe the official storytelling in fairy tale tunes a dripping hair, there's really no need to worry. Especially for Supercell which, like a priceless jewel that must certainly not corrupt by putting his big paws, is guaranteed a full operational independence. In a joint Softbank and Tencent, Martin Lau, President of Tencent, enthuses: "We are delighted that Supercell join our global network and we guarantee their independence while strengthening benefits. It is important to us that Supercell remains true to its roots by changing nothing in its unique culture. " In a note on the official website of Supercell, Ilkka Paananen, co-founder and CEO, explains why the new owner, it's still class too, and they are super happy.
Beyond superlatives proportional to the amount involved, Ilkka Paananen evokes a meeting with Martin Lau: "In one of our meetings, Martin had just to be ejected from the top 100 Global Clash Royale hack, and it was impossible to bring back the points we had to discuss ... " a difficult story to authenticate (we searched in vain pseudo Lau), but one can easily imagine the businessman in the role of the whale. Except that the thousands of euros balanced to achieve this level were to him a simple advance on investment.
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