The freemium game model is gaining traction in today’s digital world. Michael Mascioni takes a look at how Endemol’s XARM F.U. mobile game, how it creates new synergies between live sports events and games, and how it is monetized.
Great opportunities for entertainment companies in digital media lie in the organic development of properties that have the capability to develop naturally over time in many different directions, self-promote, and exploit a passionate audience. Endemol has adopted that exact approach with the launch of its groundbreaking mobile game that centres around the new sport of extreme arm wrestling - XARM F.U.
The game, which was introduced in November last year, is designed to be highly realistic and closely mirror the sport, explains Tina Hoover, VP , Social Media & Interactivity at Endemol USA. It draws from videos of actual XARM fights, and characters in the game represent real fighters in the XARM league. The game is squarely aimed at a “hardcore audience of males 18-34 that is more intense about games, and is more willing to spend time and money on games” that meet their interests, she explains. Within the first two weeks, “65,000 people” had played the game.
Hoover notes that Endemol hasn’t simply created a new game with XARM F.U.- it is essentially “creating a whole new sport” through a game. In fact, it’s no coincidence that Endemol is a part owner of the XARM sports league. In this context, Endemol, in partnership with the XARM league, has plans to “launch live XARM events,” and is assessing whether to “televise the fights” or offer them on a “VOD basis via the mobile game,” reports Hoover. The company might, for example, “charge players more for live streams” of the fights or “less for archived versions” of the bouts, she observes.
Hoover points out that this special strategy used with the mobile game illustrates the different strategy Endemol is typically taking with its social media and app properties. XARM F.U. is being offered on a “fremium basis,” allowing players to “play for free” while they’re also “encouraged to spend money” on virtual goods and extra elements, such as “fight videos, more advanced fight moves, stat boosts, and fight customizations,” she explains. Players are charged, for example, 50 cents to “buy a video of one fight round” lasting 1 minute. A key reason Endemol opted to offer XARM F.U. as a mobile game, says Hoover, is that such “hardcore” games typically generate “higher monetization rates”.
Players will also have an opportunity to shape the game. In fact, “early players of the game will have a big impact on the XARM sport and live events,” according to Hoover. Another distinctive element about the game is that it will be highly “stat driven”- real time data about such elements as the fighters’ blood pressure, pulse, punch and kick force, energy, and stamina “will feed into the game and affect the game stats,” adds Hoover.
“This is the first game we know of which will be affected by the stats in a real sport,” she claims. And conversely, the game data will also help “determine aspects of the sport,” for example, by establishing the “most popular fighters” in the game, she says.
The XARM F.U. game is creating key new synergies between real and virtual experiences that have clear implications for TV and interactive producers.