The Secret Gamebasics Masterplan

26 July 2016

As you are probably aware of, it is the mission of Gamebasics to enable football fans worldwide to be the manager of their favourite football club. This mission has been formalized in 2010. But before then it was already rooted in the way Online Soccer Manager (OSM) was initially envisioned. But not all choices that Gamebasics makes to reach this goal will be immediately understood. To shed some light on this, I present you the secret Gamebasics Masterplan.

When I started with OSM in 2001 from my attic room, the commercial internet was still in its infancy. The big IT-bubble had just burst, and many people believed that it was not easy to start a business on the internet. That I chose this specific moment to start with OSM, was because I wanted to leverage the power of the web as a social and accessible medium. The concept of a football manager was not new. There were existing games on the console and PC. But what I missed in these games, was the ability to play against friends and have a less intensive experience that could daily engage people for months or even years.

The Netherlands as home base

Because I was a college student at the time, I did not have a lot of resources. My most important asset was my own time. That is why I decided to develop a Dutch version of the game first. This made it easier to implement payments, because they had to work only for Dutch users. And it would seem more trustworthy to customers. The costs to keep running the game would be naturally constrained by the limited number of people that use a game in Dutch. I was not sure that it would work at all, so starting small was a good choice.

The Dutch version of OSM did very well, and within two years it was a domestic success. Then it was time to remove the superficial constraint of the Dutch language and go beyond the borders. This would be a tough task obviously, so I did not think I could do it alone. Together with an associate I founded Gamebasics in 2004, for the specific purpose of growing OSM in the world.

Taking on the rest of the world

In the second step of the Masterplan, we wanted to achieve international growth. But at first we were distracted by other projects and learning to be enterpreneurs. That’s why the real growth did not start until 2009 and onwards, when we localized the website in multiple languages. We then also added custom payment methods for other countries. It was more difficult that we thought to increase the number of users abroad, because we had to market the game and did not have any experience doing that.

Eventually we managed to grow in e.g. Southern Europe, the Middle East and South-America. We developed a smart turn-key solution to translate the game to multiple languages. We also connected to social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The rise of smartphones worked out very well for us, because they are much more social and accessible than a browser. That is why we did not hesitate to develop mobile apps and transition to a mobile company.

The integration of football rights

From the start of Gamebasics we wanted to use authentic assets, such as clublogos and player portraits. But we could not execute on that ambition, because of legal constraints. We simply did not have the money required to acquire the rights we wanted. However I’ve always believed that football fans want an authentic game experience in the end. On other platforms that are more mature, such as console and PC, you don’t have any significant sports games without rights anymore.

In 2014, when OSM reached the 3 million players mark, our revenue was on the level that we could pro-actively shop for football rights. We did not know if this moment would ever come, but we made sure that we were ready for it when it did. The result is that we negotiated the rights for the German Bundesliga, Serie A teams and the Portuguese, Dutch and Belgian leagues.

We have made a good start, but of course this is just the beginning. Buying all rights in the world is not yet possible for us, it’s simply way too expensive. In the giant world of football we are still a relatively small company. We have the aspiration, but we’ll have to do it step by step. We will expand our rights package when our financial resources allow it.

In the meanwhile, we can learn how to make the most of the licenses we have. It might take many years for us to acquire all the rights we want. So like in the past, we will seek for ways to speed up that process. For example we introduced a new business model in the latest OSM version. With more income we can increase our marketing, which will result in more OSM players which in turn results in more funds, to eventually buy all the football rights.

Everyone wants to be a football manager

It is my firm belief that OSM has the potential to conquer the world as the social, accessible and authentic game experience that it is. We are in the beginning of the last step in the Masterplan. To finalize the plan, a good execution will be essential. You can count on it that everything that Gamebasics does will be focused on that goal.

Our ambitions might be less bombastic than Tesla’s. The world won’t be saved by Gamebasics. But we want to give as many football lovers as possible the daily joy of managing their favourite football teams.

So, in short, this is the Gamebasics Masterplan:

  1. Build a social, accessible and authentic football manager in Dutch with a business model; (check)
  2. With those learnings, expand worldwide and increase revenue; (check)
  3. Use that money to buy all the football rights and become #1 football game; (in progress)

Don’t tell anyone, ok?

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