Hi Everyone. Welcome to another issue of Naavik Digest! If you missed our last one, be sure to check out our breakdown of the takeaways from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s tremendous launch week. This issue, we’re discussing Fall Guys developer Mediatonic’s approach to UGC and how it differs from Fortnite, Roblox, and others.
What Will the Saga Phone Do For Web3?
In this episode, we dive into the frustrations of bringing web3 experiences to mobile platforms and explore a unique solution that Solana has taken: building its own phone, the Saga phone.
Your host, Niko Vuori, speaks with Laura Shen, the marketing lead for Solana Mobile, to learn more about the Saga phone and its significance. We explore the challenges of mobile-unfriendly web3, including app store restrictions, and the importance of making web3 accessible on mobile devices to drive mass market adoption.
Laura shares details on the Saga phone's features, such as the Solana Mobile Stack (SMS) that includes the Seed Vault (a secure crypto hardware wallet) and the dApp Store (a web3 app store). We discuss the categories of dApps launched for the Saga and the $10 million fund dedicated to supporting third-party developers.
Gaming's role in the Saga phone and its potential impact on mass adoption is also discussed. We touch upon the pricing of the Saga phone and its early adopter target audience of crypto-native users, as well as potential plans for cross-chain compatibility.
Fall Guys & The Rise Of Live Service UGC
Written by David Taylor
Two weeks ago, the team at Mediatonic released Fall Guys Creative Construction, the latest season of Fall Guys’ live service roadmap. This UGC update for Fall Guys, which is owned by Epic Games, follows Fortnite Creative's major update back in March, which brought a $350 million increase in UGC monetization and a new toolset with the Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN).
While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fall Guys land in Fortnite Creative in the not-too-distant future, this latest update represents a different kind of UGC, one more tailored to players and intended to bolster the live service content treadmill rather than act as an entirely new platform like UEFN does. I call this Live Service UGC, and this piece further explores how this differs from other implementations of UGC in the industry.
There are several benefits to the approach Mediatonic is using. However, I believe there is an even bigger opportunity when these creation tools are brought to mobile, as Fall Guys clone Eggy Party is proving right now. With that in mind, let’s make sense of why Mediatonic and Epic are launching this update now, and contextualize it within the competitive landscape of UGC and Fall Guys.
The Most Downloaded Game in 2022
Released in August 2020, Fall Guys quickly gained popularity for combining elements of obstacle course races and game shows. It also cleverly rode the battle royale / last-player-standing trend and featured adorable bean-shaped characters competing in a series of wacky challenges. The game's unique and colorful aesthetics, coupled with its simple yet addictive gameplay, contributed to its rapid rise.
As did its launch timing. Arriving in the heart of the pandemic, gamers and non-gamers alike were looking for distractions and ways to socialize in a world of uncertainty and isolation. Fall Guys became a phenomenon, breaking records on platforms like Steam and PlayStation and attracting 1.5 million players within 24 hours of its release and 50 million players two weeks after it went free-to-play last June. The game's success led to collaborations with various franchises, including costumes inspired by popular characters from movies, video games, and television shows.
Fall Guys was the most downloaded free-to-play game in the U.S., Canada, and EU PlayStation Store for 2022, ahead of Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone. A quick glance at the PlayStation and Xbox stores today has the game at #61 and #25, respectively. While the rankings may have slipped since last year, the game is still quite relevant. Furthermore, we have not accounted for player bases on Switch and Epic Game Store, which are harder to discern.
While Fall Guys is still popular, we have seen an increasing number of games that could not sustain themselves as live services despite continued relevancy. This approach with Fall Guys represents a different type of UGC that has taken hold of the gaming world that often goes undiscussed in the excitement of UGC platforms: UGC as a live service.
UGC as a Live Service
There are three buckets of UGC in gaming today:
- UGC Features: Character editors or other tools to customize one’s own experience or expression, like designing your character in Diablo IV.
- Live Service UGC: Tools that allow players to edit and modify levels in the game, which is the approach to UGC that is relevant to Fall Guys.
- UGC Games: Modifying the code of the game to create entirely new gameplay or even games. This is the type of UGC we’ve spent a lot of time discussing over the last couple of years and includes UGC game platforms like Roblox and Fortnite Creative as well as mods like GTA 5 Roleplay and Minecraft Java.
To further illustrate the distinction, games on platforms like Roblox are fully contained experiences that often operate their own live service and have nothing to do with one another. In contrast, Fall Guys Creative Construction is simply adding new content to the same game and narrative. I call this Live Service UGC and there are several benefits to this approach.
Reduces the cost of operating a live service: We’ve seen many games shut down recently as a result of live service struggles. This includes MultiVersus, Rumbleverse, and Knockout City. Let’s not also forget the breakthrough indie game Splitgate, which shut down one year after the studio had leveraged its success to raise $100 million at a $1.5 billion valuation.
In order for live service games to be sustainable, they need to achieve and maintain a certain scale, and the existing live service behemoths like Apex Legends, Call of Duty, GTA Online, and Fortnite Battle Royale tend to take up most of the available attention. Easy-to-use UGC tools like Creative Construction find that sweet spot between creation being fun for most players and useful, thereby appealing to a broader audiences. This can make operating a live service cheaper since the creative design and implementation comes free.
As Naavik writer Carson Taylor pointed out, the content treadmill can also lead to developer burnout, and we’ve seen many developers reducing their content update cadence over time to mitigate the sometimes grueling demands of operating live service titles. UGC isn’t just about saving games with unsustainable developer economics, however. Genshin Impact added player-made custom dungeons in March, whereas Battlefield 2042’s Portal enabled players to configure their own custom game modes in anticipation of this being desirable for the player base.
Deepens engagement for a cohort of players: For the more creatively inclined, UGC tools add an additional element far more engaging than simply playing maps. Fall Guys Creative Construction executes this well as players can sink hours going back and forth between map edits and seamlessly testing it out.
Albeit a small proportion of the player base, this cohort of players will likely exhibit a substantial spike in time spent. Additionally, as I discussed with MustardPlayz, streamers and YouTubers love to create maps in collaboration with their audience. With that said, the most popular stream I could find for Fall Guys Creative Mode only had 1.4K views, suggesting it hasn’t captured the attention of any heavy hitters, at least for now.
Brand integrity and moderation: The benefit of live service UGC is that the developer has far more control over what the creator can and cannot change, ensuring that there is a higher floor for the quality of UGC that is exposed to players and ensuring cohesion with the broader player experience.
In contrast, UGC Platforms have to filter a plethora of undesirable content. If you’ve played around in Fortnite Creative mode, you’ve probably come across quite a few maps that are disjointed, confusing, and with a poor user experience. Ideally, the discovery algorithm will never show these to players, but when it does, this can undermine the prestige of the Fortnite IP for less discerning players. On the moderation side, Roblox has had its own set of struggles ensuring that players are not exposed to inappropriate UGC.
Fall Guys Was Not First to the UGC Party
Creative Construction comes a couple years after a popular Fall Guys mobile copycat, Eggy Party, from NetEase launched with a “Workshop” mode. Only available in a select few countries (primarily China), you may not have heard of the game. But according to data.ai, it’s made $81.2 million and has been downloaded 13.6 million times in the last two months. That would put it at #40 in the world in terms of revenue, and 20 times the Stumble Guys revenue run rate. In China, Eggy Party has been first on the iOS mobile game download list over the past couple of months.
There is very little written on Eggy Party, but a key component of its gameplay is the ability for players to create their own maps. The fact that it’s mobile means that players can hop into the editor from moment to moment to create new maps and steadily build out more elaborate maps across several sessions. While 99% of the maps will be virtually unplayable, some cream will rise to the top. That’s the magic of UGC.
As Eggy Party continues its growth into new markets, Fall Guys still does not have a mobile version. Fall Guys has been critiqued for letting Scopely’s Stumble Guys eat its on-the-go lunch in 2021 and capture $60 million-plus in revenue and over 160 million downloads on mobile by October of last year. Ironically, Stumble Guys revenue and traffic peaked on the back of Fall Guys going free-to-play.
The explosion of Eggy Party raises an important question for Fall Guys. With the introduction of Creative Construction, is now the time to go mobile?
Fall Guys Is Here to Stay
Fall Guys is an IP worth cultivating across as many platforms as possible. While empowering players to create their own obstacle courses will not dramatically increase the player base for Fall Guys, a mobile version could. The success and expansion of Eggy Party suggests that there is still demand for a Fall Guys mobile game, and with the Apple vs. Epic trial wrapping up, I wonder if Epic will look more favorably at reentering the mobile market.
Additionally, as Epic’s other big IP, Rocket League, continues to activate in Fortnite Creative, I would not be surprised if we started seeing Fall Guys appear there as well. Obstacle course games have thousands of concurrent users in Fortnite Creative currently, making it a good fit when the time comes.
Lastly, its game show narrative and cute Fall Guys characters would fit well into a linear storyline. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Fall Guys movie or Netflix series announced in the next few years, so long as Fall Guys remains relevant (and there isn’t a Stumble Guys or Eggy Party movie first). In the meantime, giving existing players opportunities to engage with the IP in novel ways, like obstacle course creation, will only deepen their love and excitement for future transmedia Fall Guys products.
Content Worth Consuming
How Strauss Zelnick Stays Fit and Lives Life Differently (The Aarthi and Sriram Show): “It’s rare to have a successful business leader on our show and spend all of it not talking about what they work on. Strauss Zelnick’s work is filled with household names — he is the CEO behind some of the leading games franchises, including NBA 2K, WWE 2K, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead, and more. However, what makes Strauss one of a kind is his approach to fitness and life itself. From his insane daily workout routines to how he structures his career and passions, Strauss is someone we can all learn from.” Link
The Invisible Arcade (Konvoy Ventures): “Cloud gaming continues to attract attention as it provides unparalleled access to video game content. There are still a number of technical challenges around user experience (particularly latency and input lag); however, over 20 years of work has gone into solving these issues given how substantial the opportunity is to expand gaming’s reach. We expect the winners in this space will own the entire stack of distribution, cloud infrastructure, and content. At the moment, Microsoft is actively taking the early lead and remains the most likely winner if the technical barriers are overcome.” Link
The Overlooked Keys to Launching and Sustaining Games-As-A-Service (Yane An): “Over time, many gamers have become familiar with predatory pay-to-win mechanics and loot box gambling. Many players have grown weary of companies that favor high-spending players, or 'whales,' over their free-to-play audience. Meanwhile companies undergo crunch cycles to release an unfinished product that doesn't live up to the hype, and players can't help but feel that it's just another case of game studios squeezing cash from players without the quality gaming experience to justify it. So what is the optimal way to release a live service game in this era, where players question the longevity of GaaS titles, and quality experiences don’t necessarily live long before getting shuttered? This article is intended to spotlight the keys to seemingly obvious strategies which most GaaS titles miss or could improve with implementing.” Link
Our Vision for All Ages (Roblox CEO David Baszucki): “At Roblox, we are building an immersive platform for communication and connection, with safety and civility at its foundation, that simulates the real world. In real life, people visit places designed for all ages every day, from theme parks to city parks. Older age groups enter environments that require some form of age verification, from nightclubs to some concerts or movies. On Roblox, we want to recreate these dynamics of real life in virtual space. Just like in real life, the key is establishing appropriate expectations for people on Roblox based on the different experiences. While we are used to how this happens in the real world, it takes a whole new round of intention and effort to create these processes digitally. We are excited to pave the way for this new digital world that is both safe and civil.” Link
- Esports Insider: Digital Marketing Manager (London, U.K. / Remote)
- MY.GAMES: Production Director (Remote)
You can view our entire job board — all of the open roles, as well as the ability to post new roles — below. We've made the job board free for a limited period, so as to help the industry during this period of layoffs. Every job post garners ~50K impressions over the 45-day time period.