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Metaboli forms global all-you-can-eat games channel

By on October 7, 2008
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Last month marked the creation of a global subscription service for games when Turner injected its US-based Gametap subscription service into Metaboli, a predominantly-European service.

The Metaboli homepageTurner injected Gametap in return for substantial equity in the merged company. Unconfirmed rumours suggest that Turner is putting some cash into the merged entity too.

This seems like a hugely sensible deal. On a practical level there are huge advantages:

  • In a globalised Internet world, the distinction between territories was crazy. Now New Metaboli can negotiate distribution deals globally with major publishers to get the best content
  • Officially, UK users had to use Metaboli’s service, even though they could find, read about and register for Gametap in the US. It just doesn’t work when corporations put artificial barriers like this in front of consumers in a global age. Now the merged company can direct the user to the local site for them, rather than choosing between turning them down, redirecting them to a rival or signing up someone from a territory where technically they don’t have the rights to the game
  • Higher profile: GameTap is hugely visible to US publishers and consumers; Metaboli is successful in France and other European territories although it appears to be struggling a little in the UK. Hopefully, this deal will raise the visibility of the merged entity, leading to more publishers signing up and more consumers subscribing.
  • All the normal economies of scale: Efficiencies in techonology, CRM, back-office and so on will all be there. But the companies will keep their separate headquarters for the forseeable future: let’s hope they work towards a unified billing and CRM system and a single technology platform.

There are some disadvantages. I was very hopeful that GameTap’s strategy of commissioning “flagship” entertainment such as TellTale’s Sam and Max games marked the emergence of a new beast in gaming: a subscription gaming channel analagous to HBO’s role in the television world. But Pierre Gaudet, CEO of Metaboli, told Variety that he wasn’t particularly interested in commissioning original gaming content.

Which I think is a mistake. While the battle of whether content or distribution has more value in the media world will rage for ever, the truth is that both matter. By having unique, exclusive content, subscribers flock to your service; by having lots of subscribers, third-party content providers want you to distribute their content. It is a virtuous circle and Gametap was beginning to make headway in this direction.

By killing that model, Metaboli are nailing their colours firmly to the distribution mast. I can see that advantage of doing what you do well, but in the end, consumers will subscribe to get access to good-quality content, and Metaboli should be doing everything in its power to secure that content.

So I very much hope that, over time, M. Gaudet changes his mind.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com