The coming wave of co-op games

(This was originally published as a section in today’s Monetizing Media newsletter. Sign up here.)

Co-op games…a core argument in my virtual worlds series is that it has become mainstream for people to turn to the virtual worlds of games as spaces to build new relationships and deepen existing ones. People bond when they share an intense, high stakes experience together and games can simulate that type of experience.

A lot of games have been designed for core gamers eager for competition against each other without appreciating the psychological effect of different design decisions though. Many games unintentionally encourage toxic behavior by not understanding the social dynamics they’ve created.

Humans are tribal and I expect mainstream consumers spending more time in virtual worlds will crave environments that offer a sense of belonging and collaboration against a common adversary more than individual competition. Project Horseshoe has spearheaded interesting research on game design tactics here, and top talent is pursuing this path.

EA’s chief design officer Patrick Söderlund left to found the ambitious Embark Studios in Stockholm with this vision and (Korean games giant) Nexon has acquired a majority stake while it is still in development. In LA, top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz just led a $5M seed round in Elodie Games, a new co-op game studio by two former Riot devs. Co-operative gameplay is also part of forthcoming virtual world experiences that have raised substantial VC funding, like Klang Games in Berlin.