I was able to stop by Gameloft's San Francisco offices while at the conference, and chatted with them about some of their recent releases as well as some of the backlash they've received over them. First was the issue of how they put advertisements into Hero of Sparta II [$4.99], and after an overwhelming amount of negative feedback they decided to take them out. I think it's good when a company goes out on a limb to try something, and then can admit they were wrong about it and make things right in the end.

Next we discussed the reception to Dungeon Hunter 3 [Free], which was pretty mixed. The game itself was actually pretty good, but so drastically different from the previous two entries that I think it alienated the established fan base of the series. Had they positioned it as a spinoff rather than a direct sequel, I think the outcome would have been a lot more favorable. Plus, it's a freemium title, which is the type of thing that will always draw criticism from some folks.

Finally, we talked about their recent release Urban Crime [Free], which was essentially a repackaging of an older Gangstar title into a freemium model. The game has not gone over well with either critics or players, and we didn't have too many good things to say about it in our review either. The combination of outdated visuals, a rehashed game world that many people had already played to death, and tough freemium restrictions was just a recipe for disaster with Urban Crime.

(Left to right: Hero of Sparta II, Dungeon Hunter 3, and Urban Crime)

So what do these three games all have in common? Well, they're all examples of Gameloft trying to find out the best way to sell their brands in a turbulent market like the App Store. Honestly, I think putting ads in Hero of Sparta II and making an old game into a freemium game with Urban Crime were just their way of experimenting to see what works, and although neither of those really went over so well with gamers the negative feedback was actually invaluable to Gameloft moving forward. And as for Dungeon Hunter 3, I think they made a good game but just didn't position it right, which is another lesson learned the hard way.

What I did take away from our meeting is that Gameloft is not going completely freemium with their games from here on out, as some people have been quick to conclude. Part of these experiments is finding the best way to go about selling their future titles, and with nearly all of their development cycles lasting from 10-14 months, it can be hard to keep up with a market that moves as quickly as the App Store. But they assured me that they do have a mixture of the types of premium games that they've built their iOS reputation on still coming down the line, as well as titles that take advantage of the freemium model, which seems to be the prevalent model in the App Store as of late.

To wrap up our meeting, they let me get some hands-on time with their upcoming Unreal Engine title, which is still extremely early in development and doesn't even have a title just yet. I'm sworn to secrecy on most of the nitty gritty details for now, but let me say that I was really impressed with how good the game is shaping up to be, and of course it looks absolutely gorgeous with the Unreal tech under the hood. About all I can say is that it's a fully 3D real-time action game that will have a full storyline to play through. It will be a paid game, but will have some in-app purchase items. Finally, we should be seeing the game in the second quarter of this year, which should be by this summer.

I'm really hoping to be able to share more on the upcoming Unreal game as it gets closer to release, and after meeting with the representatives of Gameloft in person, it's easy to see that they're a passionate bunch who care a lot about putting out products that their customers will enjoy. Their recent missteps really seem like a part of a larger learning experience in a marketplace where traditional rules are pretty much thrown out the window. I'll look forward to seeing how Gameloft adapts and grows on the App Store this year, and if they're able to unlock the key to a happy medium between being profitable and keeping their huge stable of fans happy.

  • Anonymous

    "I think it's good when a company goes out on a limb to try something, and then can admit they were wrong about it and make things right in the end."

    They never fully made things right. Only with one game because it got the most backlash, Brain Challenge 2 which I paid $5 for still has what HoS2 had and is add filled, same with 2 other games. Also they their original Oregon Trails premium app a disaster eith IAP. Now after the latest update, you almost like you have to do IAP if you really want to get ahead. IAP purchasing is fine, and other companies have done a good job with it, but Gameloft obviously has no clue what they're doing with the horrible pricing and ways of their IAP system and they show off as completely incompetant.

    Not only that, but a lot of their games before they went with their cruddy IAP mechanics have not been very good. Their quality of majority of their games has gone down dramatically and they've managed to come up with some of the worst IAP systems out there. They're already a shell of once good company, I don't have much interest in Gameloft games anymore, if any.

  • http://twitter.com/riChchestMat Chris Matchett

    It looks like you let Gameloft get off light. Perhaps you were being polite as you were a guest. Next time invite them to the TA offices (make that a pub if you don't have an office) and give them both barrels.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YXWW7GBVIUTV3F7KVEO5HISKNU Brandon B

      I completely agree, Normally Jared's articles articulate a genuine and unbiased opinion that can be valued. If Jared reads this, I am a big fan, but this article just seemed like spin for Gameloft to say "Hey wait, our bad! Don't leave us just yet."

      I just got the feeling they got to him on this one. Seriously, two paragraphs to tell me there is a new story driven, 3D real-time action Unreal Engine Game coming in the summer. It's just a carrot on the stick to keep Gameloft from fading from memory.

      Gameloft simply needs to understand that experimenting can have great rewards if they work out but can also bring great risk of alienating their devoted fans.

      The truth of the matter is that simple market research will show there are enough ad-based and freemium titles out there to gauge the success of a move to this area. A little of that research will show that consumers (and Gameloft fans) are not completely adversed to ads or freemium models of well developed games. However consumers will not adapt well to be force fed into adopting that style of game with some of their favorite titles.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      There's really not much reason for us to play hard ball with Gameloft. A few years ago they were a top iOS publisher/developer but now it seems like many other developers are pumping out way better games. If Gameloft keeps going down this weird experimental free to play road, and gamers slowly become more and more disinterested, I'm not sure it's any real loss. There's no shortage of other games for us to cover, and other (better) games for iOS gamers to play.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/YXWW7GBVIUTV3F7KVEO5HISKNU Brandon B

        Eli it pains me to rebut your comments as you are part of the reason I visit this site everyday. I can agree with the justification of your point but I still don't think it means you need not to ask the hard questions.

        If I go back and read the article again, there is actually very little substance at all. One could say we have to take your word for it that the interview took place as for each item discussed is summarized with the author's words not Gameloft. Based on the author's knowledge of IOS gaming world there is no reason he could not write this same exact article without visiting Gameloft at all.

        Even down to the new game info... it's a safe bet to say the Gameloft is going to release a 3D Unreal Engine game in 2012. We already know they bought the licenses.

        I guess my point is that we look to you guys to get the goods that we don't know. More to it, Gameloft is still a large publisher/developer with a large fan base and that fan base wants to understand what's going on in Gameloft's words.

        However, maybe I didn't give TA enough credit. Does the author have any direct quotes from Gameloft in response to what was discussed? What was their opinion to the negative feedback from consumers? Where is Gameloft in this article?

        Can you update / edit the article with anything from Gameloft?

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        The problem is Gameloft never speaks candidly about anything. They never have, and they likely never will. Everything we ever get from them is highly sanitized through several layers of PR filters. Asking them "hard questions" results in nothing other than them not answering or giving a typical PR-spin non-answer.

        It's not like dealing with a typical game developer. In these sorts of situations, you're talking to someone who only ever seems to have a bullet list of talking points they're even willing to discuss. Outside of that, you're wasting your breath even asking. This is a big reason why we've stopped covering a lot of Gameloft stuff, it's just easier to work with other developers.

  • http://twitter.com/electricfoo ELECTRICFOO

    no on wanna talk abt Order & Chaos? 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BJWI274MKLHTLRWV357M4AASXQ AndyR

    Come on TA really, could you have let Gameloft off the hook any gentler, are they investors or shareholders in TA? Gameloft is a prime example of pure, unabashed GREED! Their newest games are simply a twisted regurgitation of a once creative development company who decided they would transition to a perceived cash cow in freemium crap! "DH3 was a pretty decent game..." are you kidding me??? HORRIBLE crap! Sorry Gameloft, I'm willing to give you one last opportunity for my hard earned cash, as are a great many gamers. You are in your death-throws, go back to developing innovative, fun, premium games and you may just get yourself out of bankruptcy court!

  • http://RolePlayFTW.com Huy Ngo

    I will always choose to look for good games with little to no Freemium
    purchases.  Many Freemium titles that I have tried restlessly bombard
    me with ads / purchase this or that banners.  Almost feels like that dirty car salesman is constantly trying to upsell to you.  Sure that dirty car salesman is trying to make an extra buck, doesn't mean I want to be subjected to the pressure..

  • daniel so

    it's hard for bigger game companies to make drastic shifts in business model strategy. In that regard,  indies have an advantage in the mobile field cuz things shift so quickly in the mobile space and they can keep pace. I applaud gameloft for at least trying, but they need to find a better way to experiment without pissing off users. 

  • Baby Landlord

    I thought tin tin was good.