User-created Content in LittleBigPlanet Could Pay
LittleBigPlanet might be the next big way to earn your fortune online according to this story on the PS3 Fanboy site. It quotes comments from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe president David Reeves in which he said, “What we’re trying to do with LittleBigPlanet is almost iTunes meets eBay in the sense that once an individual or a developer has qualified by producing certain levels or certain add-ons, they will then be able in the future to exchange these and make money out of them.” A few more details came out as he added, “Even if you charge less than one euro, it doesn’t take many downloads if you’ve got a really strong LittleBigPlanet level for people to be able to make money. It’s a great way for people to show others what they can do.” And on that note he clearly holds high expectations as he optimistically proclaimed, “it’s feasible that you might well see the first LittleBigPlanet millionaire!”
Before you start planning how to spend that money, a follow up story on Eurogamer cited an unidentified representative of Sony Europe who told them: “SCEE and Media Molecule can guarantee that all consumer-generated content will be free at launch. We know how important this is to the LBP community and what we want most is for people to enjoy playing, creating, and sharing their content.” They also explained Reeves earlier remarks saying, “Obviously, we’re also excited about the future and David was talking about how user-generated content could potentially evolve in the long term. Any decisions that are taken to evolve LBP in the future will include the community and focus purely on enhancing the user experience.”
Tie both sets of comments together and the result looks to be along the same lines as the revenue-sharing plans for user-created videos emerging across a number of Internet sites. This past September Scott Kirsner of CinemaTech posted a chart he’d assembled of video sites around the web and their plans for putting money back in the pockets of the creators. The sheer number of different approaches to monetizing the content illustrates how immature this part of the online economy remains. They do, though, fall into two basic categories: pay-to-play and ad-supported. References to eBay and iTunes in the remarks made by Reeves point to the former, which no doubt triggered the response from SCEE assuring that all content will be free at launch…but they didn’t rule it out either. It’s alternative, in-game advertising, isn’t impossible, but it’s potential intrusion into the LBP experience makes it seem like a less-likely candidate for any eventual monetization plan.
Regardless of the long-term direction, you need only look to the biggest player in online video, YouTube, for reassurance that free content won’t be going anywhere. Last year they finally launched their partner program. While the Google acquisition definitely played a part in the timing, more importantly, the community had developed — based on free content — to the critical mass that supports the model. Likewise, out of the gate, as the SCEE response points to, the number one priority for LBP will be nurturing the community. When, or for that matter if, it builds to the appropriate scale, then everything starts to work together. A combination of great creators, whose content genuinely warrants some compensation, will have filtered to the top, and a large enough audience will exist to make small amounts multiply into real rewards.
In the interim a number of questions remain to be answered (if indeed there is to be a revenue sharing plan). Things like: what will a LBP store look like? How does the LBP economy set its valuation? And the big one, how will the community receive the idea of paying for the creative skill and effort that goes into the content in a game where they could conceivably make it themselves? What’s your take? How would you feel about a micropayment, like say the $.99 of a song on iTunes, for a fantastic level versus a pretty good level for free?