The biggest social platforms today — TikTok, Youtube, Instagram, to name just a few — are heavily driven by creators who generate and share content for friends, family, and the broader community. As games continue to evolve from entertainment into social networks, creators and user-generated content (UGC) will play an equally important role in shaping these emerging platforms.
Content created by fans, hobbyists, and aspiring game developers have already played a major role in games innovation over the last decade. For example, many of the most popular games today began life as player-made modifications to existing games (dubbed ‘mods’). The first-person shooter Counterstrike began life as a mod of the game Half-Life. Esports titles League of Legends and DOTA emerged from mods of Warcraft 3. The last-man-standing battle royale genre, popularized by cultural sensations Fortnite and PUBG, started off as mods of survival game ARMA 2. And UGC-focused platforms like Roblox and Minecraft have shown that communities of creators working together can even create experiences on the scale of entire worlds.
The repeated success of UGC makes it even more strange that the majority of the games industry today has still not fully embraced the role of players as co-creators. AAA industry favorites like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed remain tightly orchestrated experiences crafted by teams of professional developers working together over many years. Few games today are built from the ground-up to include UGC as part of the core game, and fewer still enable players to monetize or own their creations.
Why? Game developers face many challenges in enabling UGC. They need to build creator tools that are tightly integrated with their game and easy for first-time creators to use, yet powerful enough to create standalone experiences. They need to architect business models that empower creators to monetize and own their creations, and then pay them while staying compliant with global financial regulations. And once they’ve built an active community, creator management is hard work, with content moderation, IP protection, and toxicity management becoming critical success factors. While dedicated UGC platforms like Roblox have spent years solving these challenges, most game developers aren’t able to make similar levels of investment.
It’s clear there’s a huge unmet need in empowering game developers to work with their players as co-creators. To this end, I’m excited to announce that Andreessen Horowitz is leading an investment in Overwolf and I’m joining the board. We’re thrilled to partner with founders Uri, Alon, and the entire Overwolf team on a mission to empower creators in the games industry.
Overwolf’s platform makes it possible for any player to become a co-creator of their favorite game. The platform offers a robust development engine, an app store for distribution to over 20M users, and built-in monetization tools including ads and subscriptions. Whereas creators used to build everything from scratch, Overwolf dramatically speeds up and simplifies creation by offering an SDK of key features ranging from in-game overlays to real-time telemetry to patching and analytics. Today, over 87k creators are building on Overwolf and many are already making a living off their creations. The company expects to pay out ~$29M to creators this year.
In turn, game developers can enable player co-creation by integrating Overwolf directly into game clients as a white-label (developer branded) solution. In doing so, players will be able to access an in-game marketplace where they can discover, download, and install approved UGC without ever leaving the game. Overwolf also does the tough work of handling content moderation, compatibility testing, file hosting, and community management. Many of the top AAA game developers such as Ubisoft are already working with Overwolf.
The team at Overwolf is uniquely well-suited for this space. I’ve known CEO/cofounder Uri Marchand for close to a decade. I first met Uri when I was a product lead on the Riot Games API and Overwolf was already hosting many of the most popular League of Legends apps. Uri stood out as an early champion of modding, and had deep empathy with creators as a former modder himself who built apps for World of Warcraft. Over the years, Uri has impressed me with his relentless drive and leadership, and has quietly assembled a world-class team at Overwolf with a shared passion around empowering creators and game developers to make a living around UGC.
As we look out to the future, we believe that creators and UGC will be increasingly important in games as wellsprings of innovation. And with new technologies and business models like web3 on the rise, creator economies will become substantial drivers of industry growth. The Overwolf team is leading the charge here in empowering players as co-creators, and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with them on the next phase of their journey.