Two sides of the same coin: Co-creation in the videogame industry

Value co-creation has started to spread more and more across various industries during the last decade. Media consumers have taken up the role of media producers, as firms give them the opportunity to design, produce or market content. And the game industry is no exception to this phenomenon.

Examples of games such as Spore and Little Big Planet, that rely heavily on user generated content, have introduced a new era for videogames, where the role of co-creative gamer is born (Banks & Potts, 2010). While many benefits may potentially be derived from this new trend, there are also dangers that might lead to utter failure. Two opposite case studies prove that it is not easy to find the keys to success.

Fury was an online game that was released in October 2007. During its development phase, the game looked quite promising. There were a lot of expert gamers that spent hours playing the open beta version, providing the designer company, Auran, with valuable feedback for improvement (Banks & Potts, 2010). In addition, since the game was used by some highly-ranked members of the online gaming community, many players were intrigued to try it out resulting in a form of online word-of-mouth marketing. The developers changed Fury quite a lot, always according to user feedback they were getting. However, in the end this advantage backfired. Upon the game’s release, the reviews were disappointing to say the least. Hardcore gamers, who spent hours providing input to improve the game, accused Auran that they released the game too early and did not take enough time to carefully implement most things discussed in the feedback. As a result, the gaming community turned its back on the project and Fury was shut down shortly after its release.


Co-creation can indeed backfire…

Auran underestimated the consumers’ needs. As many expert gamers pointed out, they did not change some of the key aspects of the game simply because they did not want to. Introducing consumer value creation can disrupt some of the traditional models on which production in a certain industry is based (Banks & Potts, 2010). In this case, the expert producers disregarded the customers’ opinions and insisted on something that turned out to be unacceptable for the market. Nevertheless, there is always a way to find the right balance between company and consumer value creation. And the case of World of Warcraft makes a perfect example of this balance.

Blizzard is one of the largest gaming companies in the world. One of its biggest successes came with the release of the online game World of Warcraft, which is still the largest online game 10 years after its release with more than 10 million subscribers. But how did Blizzard use value co-creation effectively? Apart from the open beta version that was made available prior to the game’s release, the company made available, along with the full version of the game, a free API through which users could customize their user interface (Davidovici-Nora, 2009). Therefore, Blizzard put minimal effort in designing a simple and easy to use UI for casual gamers, while giving the opportunity to more hardcore consumers to enrich that UI according to their specific needs. They achieved this by creating add-ons that provided the original UI with additional functionalities. Users were also able to share their add-ons through the game’s online community. What Blizzard achieved, apart from minimum effort costs in interface design, was to keep the core of the game intact as the developers wanted it (Davidovici-Nora, 2009). But on the other hand, they empowered gamers by allowing them to create tools that would make their experience better.


The opposite side of the coin: co-creation at its best!

The two case studies represent two different models of co-creation. On the one hand there is the use of open beta versions, which give the consumer the role of game tester and provide valuable feedback to the companies. In this more traditional model, co-creation happens before the marketing of the game (Davidovici-Nora, 2009). On the other hand, Blizzard used the API to allow gamers to create value even after the game’s marketing and to “pass on” to them the role of game developer, even to a certain extent. However, it was not this difference that determined the success or failure of the projects. Both cases show that value co-creation can be a powerful ally, but as companies give customers more power over their products, they need to take these newly forged relationships into account more seriously.

Hence, the gaming industry has reached an era where gamers are more useful than ever, as they do not purely consume but they are actively involved in game development. The lesson to be learned is that, as consumers gain more power over product creation, firms need to be ready to abandon some of the more traditional business models in order to make a successful transition into this new era of co-creation.


Banks, John, and Jason Potts. “Co-creating games: a co-evolutionary analysis.” New Media & Society (2010).

Davidovici-Nora, Myriam. “The dynamics of co-creation in the video game industry: The case of world of warcraft.” Communications & Strategies 73 (2009): 43.

Jenkins, Henry. “Why Co-Creation Matters: An Interview with John Banks.” (2014)

“Boss, I’ll work from home this morning”

When you turn off your alarm on your smartphone at 6:30 in the morning, it is straightaway clear that it is a better plan to work from home this morning instead of at the office. There are traffic jams everywhere and even the trains are delayed. It is advised that you leave two hours later instead. In case you do not want to follow this advice, because you have a meeting at 9:00 in the morning, then your smartphone gives the fastest route straightaway, considering going by car or by public transport. Later that day, you have to be at the dentist at a specific time, whereby your smartphone notifies you when you have to get in your car.


People get busier every day and the personal and digital demands are increasing. Systems get integrated more and more, which leads to an optimal ease of use. Those trends can be applied on the travel and traffic industry too. A lot of problem solving traffic applications have been developed, which led to an online overload (Tsekouras, 2015) of applications that can help you on the road. In this blog I provide you with the mechanisms in those traffic applications, and I will provide an analysis of the different applications which are currently popular in the Dutch market.

Travel & Traffic Applications

The aim of travel & traffic applications is to give and advice about how to get from A to B fastest. Nowadays, a lot more functions are possible such as a personal navigation (to avoid traffic jams), a price advice, a sustainable advice etc. To optimize and customize this for each individual, the user needs to put in information in exchange. With this, the users deliver an input for the actual result.

Data Use

Since everyone has different destinations, different travel times, a different budget, and different resources, those traffic applications cannot give a generic travel advice to everyone. The key point of those applications is that travel advices are based on personal data, such as one’s car, one’s agenda, the amount of traffic jams on the highway, and one’s preferred budget. With this, everyone receives an optimal, personal travel advice. Since the user types in the data him/herself, optimal advices are given, instead of a ‘guess’ based on the most likely information. The downside of typing in one’s exact data is that it requires effort, whereas minimal effort is desired. To lower the impact of this downside, most applications can be fully integrated with one’s smartphone and agenda, which decreases effort in turn. However, this raised privacy concerns at the same time (Tsekouras, 2015).


There are endless possibilities that can be integrated in traffic applications. Most traffic applications integrate the following elements:

  • Navigation
  • Real-time traffic notifications
  • Personal schedule
  • Prices (of fuel or public transport)
  • Available parking spots
  • CO2 saving
  • The amount of stop overs
  • Parking

Revenue Models

Most applications have different revenue models, varying from paying for the download to advertisement based. Noteworthy is the fact that a lot of applications are run by the government and some applications are highly subsidized due to the benefit for the whole community.

Market Analysis

In the following table, an analysis of popular traffic applications in the Dutch market is given.



Tsekouras, D. (2015). Lecture 1: Introduction to Value Co-Creation. Customer Centric Digital Commerce, 18 March, 2015.

Tsekouras, D. (2015). Lecture 2: Information Search & Product Recommendations. Customer Centric Digital Commerce, 25 March, 2015

The Perils of User-generated Content and Incomplete Institutional Arrangements

Valve Corporation, the company that touts itself to be “boss-free since 1996” when it was founded may have just found its boss. After an announcement to allow creators of user generated content for the game Skyrim to charge for content on their Steam platform, they were met with great backlash from the community on the platform. A petition on gathered 133,000 signatures in a week and according to CEO Gabe Newell the mods have generated only ten thousand dollars in revenue compared to the million and more it costs for them to address the negative feedback. Users, both players and creators, had their concerns about the dynamics of such a model, leading to removing the feature from Skyrim, refunding purchases, and reconsideration of the whole concept on Valve’s part.

Creative gamers have for long formed a subgroup of “modders”, players and/or developers who design modifications or “mods” to existing games ranging from visual design elements to totally changing the nature of the gameplay. Steam has helped to bring their designs accessible to users on the platform in their Steam Workshop and wanted to extend this relationship to where both could profit.

To roll out the feature they partnered with Bethesda, the company behind the Elder Scrolls series of games and the latest release Skyrim. Skyrim mods placed in the Steam Workshop, could now be available either for free as it has been before, for a price or sold with a pay what you want model. The economics of the model for the parties involved is described by Bethesda to follow industry standards. Valve receives 30% much like iTunes and Google Play Store would. The rest Bethesda split by looking at the earnings of both developers in-house and the external creators. They settled for a 25% cut for the creator and 45% to Bethesda. After all they provide the original game and most of the tools used to create the modifications for the game they argued.

Both Valve’s and Bethesda’s intention according to their statements was to increase the quality of the mods released. If looked at from the perspective of the marketing value system used in the article by Carson et al. the change to a paid model was successful in adapting to a new judiciary environment and political elements involved. The intellectual property rights of derivative content needed to be thought through in a process that took Valve three years.

The social norms involved with purchasing products, compared to using content someone has created for free are quite different. Paying for a product comes with the expectation that it is supported and works according to the description. Valve and Bethesda expected the content to become better as the creators would work to this arrangement. Modders and players disagreed and pointed to many of the institutional arrangements that would not support this. Bad product would be brought to the market as there is a financial incentive rather than an incentive to provide a positive contribution to the community. If anyone could push content to the market, it would be hard to determine the quality of the products within the 24 hour return period Steam allows. Mods can also be downloaded from a multitude of websites, so there is potential for someone to download a mod and sell it as their own on the platform.

Looking at the remediable efficiency criteria, the modders did not find the joint profit allocation of the new model to be fair based on their effort and time utilized. The interdependence of many mods could lead to great user dissatisfaction, although pushing the new model forward to users efficiently. Players would be required to purchase mods that the mod they intended to download for free for was based on.

The backlash did not only bring about negative comments, but potential arrangements Valve could implement to ensure only good quality user generated content is sold. Many favoured a tiered rating and review system to be implemented, so that only modders whose content has been downloaded often and reviewed positively could sell their mods.

The institutional arrangements Valve attempted to implement were not detailed enough to cover for situations the users had thought of. Now that they have a dump truck of emails to go through, hopefully in that pile they will find the right mix of arrangements to cover the concerns of the community.

Stephen J. Carson, Timothy M. Devinney, Grahame R. Dowling and George John Source: Journal of Marketing,Vol. 63, Fundamental Issues and Directions for Marketing (1999)

Screenshot from Steam’s announcement.

Sustaining success: Lessons from South Korea’s OhmyNews

CCoDEt7WMAAjHMc.png largeIf you are one of the billions of people who use social media regularly, then it is most likely that you are familiar with the image on the left. It was diffused very fast throughout the internet, simply because it describes something strange, yet very real. These, and many other companies simply endorse the exchange between customer groups, while they just play the role of coordinator-facilitator. Companies with similar business models, realize that people hold in their hands valuable tangible or intangible property and that they just need the appropriate incentive in order to share it and create value, both for the company and for other people.

Eastern countries have surprised repeatedly the western business world with their creativity. OhmyNews is a company that comes from South Korea and it is an example of customer empowerment. OhmyNews is an online newspaper that was established by Oh Yeon Ho on February 22, 2000, while in 2004 an international website was created. Similarly to the companies of the image, OhmyNews has just 70 Journalists who produce less than 20% of the content, simply because this is a citizens’ job. As one of the most influential news websites in South Korea, the company operates on the principle “every citizen in the world is a reporter”. They allow the citizens to play the role of news hunters by promoting direct democracy at the same time. Specifically, company’s editors screen citizens’ articles before posting them on the website to ensure content integrity without exercising censorship. Consequently, OhmyNews is a representative example of a company that crowdsource almost 80% of its content.

Large news providers hire thousands of journalists around the world in order to support timely and effective news capturing. On the other hand, costs rise along with employees, something that forces them to introduce multiple revenue sources. For OhmyNews this should not represent a dilemma since its model allows access to the most specialized and diversified news with minor costs. However, there is another part of the story that is far from a fairytale.

The international site is inactive since 2010 because 70 employees were overloaded with information from around the world that they could not manage. The company was also struggling financially for a long period, with revenues that were falling dramatically month by month. The founder stated that the website was not a profit seeking move at the beginning, but like every organization, the company had to find a way to finance its expenses. It was clear to the executives that the existing model leads to failure with rapid pace. Thus, in 2009 OhmyNews started to make plans for a new and sustainable business model. The transformation was a great challenge. Back in the days most of their revenues (70%) were generated by advertisements. Now many local portals entered the game and absorb more than 90% of the advertisement revenues, something that does not leave room for fast growth towards this direction to OhmyNews. They introduced two new models that account about 50% of their revenues. The first is the “tip” model which allows readers to donate a tip for a story they like, while the biggest portion of the “tip” is given as reward to news contributors. The second is called “100,000 club” and consists of 100,000 members that pay €7 per month to attend live or recorded lectures organized by the company itself. Thanks to its passionate supporters the South Korean site is still running, but this time more sustainable.

What prevented the company leaders from taking advantage of the huge success of their business? Obviously, innovation and customer involvement do not guarantee success. OhmyNews-international experienced firsthand what a tremendous customer involvement means when you are unprepared. Furthermore, when your service is free, it is necessary to find other sources of income that could be sustainable in the long run. The lesson: Innovation does not last forever, it needs to be continuous. Even disrupters can be disrupted when they do not find new ways to adapt their business model into new situations.

Joyce, Mary, (2007). The Citizen Journalism Web Site ‘OhmyNews’ and the 2002 South Korean Presidential Election. Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2007-15 (Last accessed: 2/5/2015) (Last accessed: 2/5/2015) (Last accessed: 2/5/2015) (Last accessed: 2/5/2015)

Increasing sales? Focus on word of mouth marketing is not enough!

Coolblue is an online retailer in the Netherlands and Belgium. They started in 1999 and now have 332 specialized webshops and 7 physical shops in the Benelux. This makes Coolblue one of Netherlands biggest webshops. And they are doing quite good when looking at their awards: Best webshop in the Netherlands in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and second place in 2014. Looking at their social media platforms they are performing well with an online fan base of more than 204.000 fans. In 2013, Coolblue was the highest entering company in the Best Social Media Award with a 3th place. In 2014 they even came closer with becoming NL’s best social media with a second place. On social media they perform outstanding, having great word of mouth marketing and looking at their growth in revenue with last year growth of 45% a TV campaign is an interesting step. In January 2015, Coolblue launched their first TV campaign. But why does Coolblue need a TV campaign while they have such good functioning social media platforms and became huge with word of mouth marketing?

In today’s world it is almost impossible to think about living without social media. Everybody knows or at least has some vague idea about what social media are, and at the same time almost everybody is involved in it daily. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on are examples that will most likely ring a bell for practically everybody. If we look at Coolblue, they use their Facebook page in such a way that we can all watch and follow the company. Mostly it is used at keeping customers up to date and informed about new product, but they also use it to amuse their audience with entertaining content. With people who liked Coolblue’s social media content they want to use e-Word of mouth marketing to create more brand recognition. Brand recognition is a problem for Coolblue, which they can’t solve with word of mouth behavior only. Coolblue’s CEO Pieter said:’’ Untill now we have been growing for years with word of mouth marketing, but now it’s time to grow even faster with our new tv campaign. Then they can experience our service and products, and most of the time our customers are so impressed word of mouth behavior will follow automatically.’’ Also when we take a look at Google trend with Coolblue (blue) and their biggest competitors, (red) & Wehkamp (yellow), we see that Coolblue is still way less popular.


If we look at their social media strategy nowadays their focus on social media platforms are on (professional) fans, and sometimes even a focus group within this fan base (Example: People who love cats). These fans are people who know Coolblue, already bought a product at Coolblue and experienced their service & delivery propositions. These fans show word of mouth behavior, but clearly it is not enough to become as big as their competitors if we look at brand recognition. Looking at this Coolblue case, word of mouth marketing (online & offline combined) can grow a company with cheap marketing. But if you want to become de biggest, you still have to invest in old fashioned marketing to increase brand recognition at the mass.


Will Popcorn Time survive the war?

In one of my previous post I elaborated on the success of user-generated products/ services and concluded that user-generated products outperform designer generated products on almost every performance metric within the first 3 years (Nishikawa et al., 2012).

Popcorn Time is a good example of such success stories. This platform is an illegal video streaming service that gained allots popularity in a really short time. By the end of 2014 it was known that approximately 1.3 million devices in the Netherlands had the software installed and that this amount was rising by around 15000 on a daily basis. It’s a software on which you can search for the film or series that you want and thereafter stream it while it’s downloading. As it appears, the team behind Popcorn Time consists of a set of developers who work partly together on developing the software.
Another success criterion of this application is that they are trying to guarantee the security and privacy issues of the customers. This is also one of the main discussed topics we had during the lectures. They use the so called “Kebrum”, which ensures that their users can stream videos anonymous without being tracked. They claim that they are constantly working on updates to keep their identity and the identity of the users private.
Additional features as chrome cast are also part of the things that Popcorn Time offers. Moreover, almost all the series and movies have optional subtitles.

Popcorn Time places great emphasis on the value co-creation of their system. This last is seen on every description and facts that has to do with the platform. The next picture is just an example of how they describe themselves on the “about” section of the software. popcorn time about They want to make it very clear that they are an open source project.

They are still having massive competition with streaming services like Netflix, but it’s clear that the huge supply from the illegal platform are way above the legal streaming service. The interface is considered as almost identical of the one from Netflix. The next picture shows their interface and how they integrated the ratings from IMDb into their platform. screen tracers

Although this goods point, there are still many risks, for example that the software is taken out  from the net or that the Kebrum leaks all the ip-address from the users. The original Popcorn Time couldn’t handle the amount of risk they were facing and closed the application and then made it an open source in 2014. Since then there are different versions of the application f which the most popular is the Popcorn Time. There is also the Time4Popcorn, Flixtor and Zona: the Russian version. There are people in Germany who received penalties for using the software. The legal (property right) organizations in the Netherlands are not so advanced yet and to our known are not following the users (community). Mostly they are doing research behind the “big boys”, the Popcorn Team.

Now that we have read how good and how bad the Popcorn Time is and what are its potentials. Do you think that this platform will survive the war against the law? Do you think that competition from example Netflix will be able to keep on the track with the Popcorn Time platform?


Nishikawa, H., Schreier, M., & Ogawa, S. (2012). User-generated versus designer-generated products: A performance assessment at Muji, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 30, 160–167.