Guest Post: Learning from the past: Patterns in the recent history of game platforms part 1

Editor’s note: Today’s guest post comes to us from Jan Beckers, co-founder and CEO of HitFox, an incubator focused on investing in and acquiring game distribution and user acquisition startups. This article will be the first in a five-part series of articles analyzing game platforms and the patterns that historically repeat itself.

In the middle of the first decade of the new millennium, the browser materialized as an important new gaming platform. Shortly afterward, Facebook, and other social networks, emerged as the crucial gaming platforms of the time. At the start of the current decade, mobile systems, iOS and Android in particular, moved to the center of attention, revolutionizing global communication and the games market along the way.Jan Beckers headshot

These are also the three distinctive eras of the gaming industry that I experienced as an entrepreneur. Going through these phases there was something that became very apparent: each time a new gaming platform emerges, the evolution of the platform and the related business opportunities and traps follow the same basic patterns. Knowing these patterns provides market participants with the ability to anticipate certain developments and make the right business decisions today and be ahead of the competition tomorrow.

In this five-part series, I will provide insight into the most important patterns.

Before we dive deeper into these patterns you should be aware of the following analogy:

A country or a society is just like a platform — without an underlying technology

Both have a set of rules and regulations established and enforced by those in power, the owners. Citizens have to abide by the laws of their country and users have to abide by the terms and policies of a platform such as Facebook. Both platforms and countries can be governed democratically or dictatorially. The open web can be considered governed democratically, make your own judgment about the ways Google, Facebook or Apple run their respective platforms.

Countries and gaming platforms see periods of growth and decline, for instance, in terms of economy, territory and inhabitants. And as the inhabitants of a country flow, so do the users of a platform. At the same time, the platform owners might enter or leave market-areas, adjusting their territory.

Countries and game platforms both have competition, not only within but also across each other. Facebook and Google struggle for domination of the web just as China and the U.S. are up against each other in the global economy right now.

And last but not least: taxes have to be paid in order to maintain the infrastructure. In countries you pay usually 10 to 20 percent  value-added tax — on Facebook and Apple you pay 30 percent Facebook or Apple tax.

In any case one thing remains clear:

It’s not only the history of countries and societies, that repeats itself, but also the history of gaming platforms

Platforms are not simple, one-dimensional systems. Whenever a new platform emerges and reaches a certain scale, a complex ecosystem develops around it.

Each new platform has unique technology standards of its own. The new technology requires specialized knowledge, new assets and new tools for application developers. A new platform also comes with its own policies and rules. And the audience will be newly composed and show unprecedented usage patterns (for instance, the Facebook audience has very different usage patterns than the browser audience). In consequence to all these changes, specific knowledge is required to be successful on the new platform. Since mature organizations tend to be inflexible, they often have problems coping with such changes. This is the entry chance for start-ups and other new organizations. Innovative blogs and media organizations emerge, new conferences and people networks come into existence. A new ecosystem has been created.HitFox game platform patterns part 1 image 1