Why User Generated Content is the Future of Games
Hear from @SebPark cofounder of Infinite Canvas, Clutch Gaming, and former VP of eSports for the Houston Rockets
Sebastian Park believes user-generated content (UGC) will drive the next frontier in gaming. He’s betting on this belief with the new startup he cofounded, Infinite Canvas: a user-generated content publisher.
Let’s use the McKinsey SCR (situation-complication-resolution) framework to characterize his thesis on UGC gaming. Or at least my interpretation of his thesis.
Three significant societal macro trends are driving UGC content development.
Trend #1: Dramatic reduction in the creator-to-consumer ratio
Trend #2: Large vector to small vector game development (I’m describing Seb’s trend using my terminology)
Trend #3: It’s now cool to be a creator
In the past, distribution had an outsize impact on the success of a game’s launch. However, increasingly today, with the massive rise of UGC content, discovery becomes critical: finding and helping further develop great content.
New kinds of publishers like Infinite Canvas will be able to find and help content creators scale their creations and help live operate the games so that creators can continue to develop new game content.
Watch the complete discussion with Seb directly below:
Sebastian Park. Cofounder at Infinite Canvas, Venture Partner at BITKRAFT Ventures.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the trends discussed:
Trend #1: Dramatic Reduction in Creator to Consumer Ratio
Sebastian suggests that the creator-to-consumer ratio, meaning the ratio of people making content to those consuming that content, has been dramatically falling.
Before the Internet, it was challenging to be a creator. Based on Seb’s research, shortly after the advent of the Internet, that ratio was around 100K to 1.
More recently, with the democratization of tools (e.g., YouTube) and ease of access, the ratio is now decreasing to be more like 10K to 1.
Sebastian suggests this trend will continue to increase and manifest in other content creation areas like game development.
Warcraft 3 Map Editor, Roblox, and Fortnite Creative are early examples of platforms enabling more people to become UGC game content creators.
Trend #2: Large Vector to Small Vector Development
Sebastian references how early mobile game development was really challenging:
It was really hard to make games 15 years ago… we were going from Facebook over to mobile and you need to know basically. linear algebra for a lot of the physics engine stuff. You need to understand, not only objective C but also the interplay of graphics engines and everything coming together. If you built for Android, there was no way it was gonna work on iOS and vice versa.
However, Sebastian argues the situation today has been changing to become dramatically easier:
Everything was boxed in itself. And since then, we've even seen it at the high level with Unity and Unreal being far more accessible to people who don't necessarily have a PhD in like that type of computational math. Right. And so we're starting to see that it can get easier and easier. And that's where we're seeing the explosion of creativity on the user generated.
Today with platforms like Roblox that manage a lot of the infrastructure and services, the effort, cost, and time (the development vector) to build a game has shifted. It no longer takes years, a big team, and a huge expense to build a game. We have shifted to small vector development in which small teams or individuals can get something up and running quickly and cheaply.
This overall phenomenon I call large vector to small vector development.
Trend #3: It’s Becoming Cool to be a Creator
Sebastian also suggests that culture has changed. More people are increasingly viewing the ability to create content on various UGC platforms as a viable career choice:
The most sought after job in America, like 30 years ago was like astronaut or some type of preprofessional pathway. Right. And today it's more creator. It's YouTube. Kids are like, “I wanna be a YouTuber. I want to be a maker of things.” That jump is really cool because it's also demonstrative of what you're starting to see inside of the top universities in the United States where people who are graduating from Stanford aren't saying: “I'm gonna go work at Goldman Sachs or Google.” They're often saying instead, “Hey, I wanna take my shot on creating something, building a company, doing something interesting.”
Opportunities in UGC Gaming:
There are three primary forms of UGC content creation for creators in gaming today:
Games on Creator platforms: Games developed by creators on UGC game platforms like Roblox.
Game Mods: New game modes or alterations created by modding tools provided by game developers or third parties. Defense of the Ancients from Warcraft 3 is a great example here.
In-game items: Tradeable or sellable items that are created by in-game creators. Cosmetics in gaming worlds like Second Life are a good example here.
Sebastian believes of these opportunity areas, the biggest opportunity will be in helping creators publish and live service on creator platforms and trying to better commercialize mods in new ways or as a new standalone game of some kind.
From my own experience, I have heard anecdotally about a number of Roblox creators who get tied up just servicing a game that scaled but wants to go back to focus on new games. The ability to hand over live ops to an external entity could be a very viable option in this kind of environment.
Good UGC Examples:
I asked Sebastian if he could recommend any good examples of dope-ass UGC creators we should be aware of. He recommends checking out these two:
Anna Reloux (@Anareloux): A UGC clothing creator for Roblox.
Piggy game on Roblox: A “murder mystery, run from someone type of game.” It had 17 chapters of very esoteric storytelling that was very compelling.
Links and Follow-up:
Very coincidentally I interviewed one of the co-founders of the company that Anna Reloux works at, Full Flower Studio, @TheMyzta about building on Roblox. You can check out that video below.
Making Hit Roblox Games with TheMyzta:
For anyone interested in publishing for Roblox, I also interviewed Joe Ferencz from Gamefam (the first professional games publisher for Roblox) back in March of this year.
Game Publishing on Roblox:
Finally, in March of 2020 we interviewed Matt Curtis from Roblox to talk about secrets to success on the platform here below:
And don’t forget UGC content upstarts like Manticore whom we interview here. I gotchu!
Let’s see how big UGC game content development becomes. You can’t really argue, however, that the best games today have come from mods and have been informed by cultural influences from the creator community.
Stay tuned for more interesting discussions with Seb Park in the future.
Find him at @SebPark on Twitter!