Scuti is revealing a new way to monetize games today. The company lets gamers earn rewards while playing games and then use those rewards to buy real-world goods from a store embedded inside the game.
The creators of Scuti (pronounced Scoot – E) — game veterans Nicholas Longano, Kym Nelson, and others — believe that monetization is broken in games, as they say it annoys gamers. The popular forms of monetization in games today will slow gamers down by forcing them to grind. It puts paywalls in front of them, makes them watch video ads they don’t care about, or fools them into buying goods that don’t really have much value.
Scuti is expected to launch this summer, and it’s another part of what I call the Leisure Economy, where one day we will all get paid to play games in exchange for our engagement.
“In-game advertising hasn’t evolved in the last decade or more,” said Nelson, chief strategy officer at Scuti, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s intrusive. It’s disruptive. There is trickery to it. It really turns users off.”
CEO Longano, who was one of the founders of in-game ad firm Massive (sold to Microsoft in 2006), started Scuti in early 2019 to benefit not only gamers but developers, publishers, brands, and e-commerce companies. He heard his son and friends talking about how it would be cool to buy something from within a game.”
“It all boils down to one thing,” Longano said in an interview. “Listen to the players. How do you do something that enhances the player experience?”
How it works
Game developers add the Scuti button to a game and then let Scuti handle the rest. Scuti runs the store, purchasing, supply chain management, fulfillment, data, analytics, upselling, merchandising, promotions, and more. Gamers can hit the Scuti button and spend what they earn in-game on real-world merchandise, like a pair of shoes for gamers. Scuti shows them the stuff that the gamers say they like.
Scuti creates a button in a corner of the game lobby or main menu, and it is passive, so that it doesn’t consume resources during gameplay. Players must opt-in to access the store and rewards, which are dubbed Scutis. The gamer can shop and stay inside the game’s lobby or main menu while doing so. The ads within the store are compliant with the Internet Advertising Bureau.
The rewards give the players recognition for being engaged with a game, or basically rewarding them for something they love to do. Game developers can choose how the Scuti button should be integrated. Game developers get half the proceeds, and that means the game will monetize better.
“This is enhancing the game experience,” said Jim Veevaert, senior adviser, in an interview.
Brands can seek merchandise directly to gamers, who are hard to reach because they don’t watch much TV or tolerate advertisements. Scuti vets the store merchandise to make sure that it’s something that gamers would like. When the gamer views merchandise in the store, the pages rotate, showing more merchandise if the player doesn’t see something they like right away.
“One nice thing about Scuti is it never interrupts gameplay,” Nelson said. “We are a platform that people will want to engage with.”
Scuti claims that a survey by Powell Consulting (working with Scuti) found that 90% of console, PC, and mobile players (both premium and free-to-play gamers) said they would shop using Scuti. Players can earn Scutis within the game or by doing things like watching a movie trailer. 10,000 of Scuti currency is worth $1.
“One of the developers asked us if a player could use in-game rewards to purchase products and we are exploring that option,” Nelson said.
And Scuti will take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning, figuring out product interest and buying intent. Then it can curate offers for the players appropriately.
Scuti is in closed beta testing now and it is expected to launch this summer. So far, about six developers with 40 million customers are testing product sales through Scuti, which uses the Unity game engine. Scuti will start with mobile and PC games, then move on to support for Unreal Engine, HTML5, consoles, esports platforms, and influencer profiles.
A deep bench
Longano, a 20-year game veteran who helped launch World of Warcraft, has built a strong team. Nelson was at IGN for a decade and stayed on after Fox acquired it. Then she helped build the sales organization at Twitch. Last year, she left Twitch to join Scuti. Jim Veevaert is senior adviser. He previously worked building games at Vivendi, Valve, Microsoft, IGT, and Zynga. And Jamy Nigri, head of business development, previously worked at PUBG, Wargaming, and Jagex.
Nelson said the team is trying to integrate Scuti into the top titles from a variety of publishers and developers. Scuti has 16 employees and it is privately funded.
There are rivals out there, such as Salad, which rewards gamers with a currency they can use to buy goods in a store in exchange for allowing Salad to use their computing power to mine for cryptocurrency.
Longano said that his company insists that anyone selling goods in a store must provide gamers with rewards and also sell goods at the same price that it sells them for elsewhere.
“Vendors must provide gamer rewards if they want to be listed in our store,” Longano said.
Players opt-in for the Scuti marketplace, and they customize the brands and products for what they want to be in the store. So they won’t be served products that are irrelevant to them, Nelson said.