Virtual economy services firm Live Gamer is partnering with THQ to provide microtransaction and other services in the company's upcoming freemium games for PC. One such game is Company of Heroes Online, which will launch later this year, with other projects on platforms like Facebook to follow. The Live Gamer integration into THQ games will include support for the Elements platform originally developed by Live Gamer acquisition TwoFish.
"This is the year of core gaming free-to-play initiative. The market has been building for the past four years now. The first wave was Asian imports, the second wave was social, and now we have the incumbents entering the market. Broadband users are familiar with the model, publishers are familiar with the model. It's a perform storm for microtransactions," said Live Gamer President and co-founder Andrew Schneider.
Schneider says the THQ deal indicates an ongoing shift from packaged goods to online is picking up momentum in the game industry. He says that many publishers are now concluding that trying to build in-house virtual economy service systems themselves is expensive and can badly slow time-to-markets. Instead, businesses transitioning into online publishing and virtual goods would rather partner with third-party providers like Live Gamer so they can focus on creativity and product development.
"I would say [there's] a strong interest in online games for a variety of reasons," said Schneider, when asked about factors driving the move from packaged goods to online. "One factor is attributable to piracy, one factor is attributable to the cost of retail distribution, another factor is the desire to have a direct consumer relationship. An online game lets you launch and iterate a game quickly. … You need a new business model, you need to be an industry in transition."
Live Gamer was founded in 2007 with intent to provide legitimate, secure secondary marketplaces where users could buy and sell virtual goods to each other in online games. The company's business expanded dramatically last year with the acquisition of TwoFish and Korea's N-Cash payment system. Now Live Gamer's focus is on providing full suites of virtual economy services to clients, ranging from fraud prevention to virtual storefronts to e-wallet technology.
As of this writing, Live Gamer's virtual economy services platform supports over 90 publishers whose online games reach over 84 million gamers in 23 countries. Live Gamer, working in partnership with DFC Intelligence, has estimated that the world market for virtual goods will reach $7 billion by 2015. Publishers partnering with Live Gamer include Armchair Revolution, Sony Online Entertainment, and NHN USA.
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