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阐述免费玩家在用户留存与盈利方面的重要性

发布时间:2012-12-27 14:29:07 Tags:,,,,

作者:Greg Richardson

众所周知,免费游戏已对游戏产业的发展产生了深远影响。其最初的成功很大程度是取决于无摩擦的覆盖范围。由于移除了预付门槛,游戏的用户规模会扩充10至25倍。现在,任何拥有智能移动设备或能联网PC用户都属于免费游戏的潜在玩家。

然而,为了推动免费游戏的发展,并瞄准更多用户群,我们必须遵循一定的设计原理(有可能是反直觉的):即游戏中的免费玩家其实比大开销者更有价值。免费玩家能够创建粘性社区,通过口口相传去推动游戏病毒性传播,能够最大化地提高游戏的长期用户粘性与盈利。如果你希望避开Zynga等公司近近期所遭遇的麻烦,并像Riot Games等公司一样撞去数十亿美元的收益,你就需要学会善待免费玩家。

如今,大部分免费游戏开发商总是极力避开免费玩家,着眼于少量的大手笔付费用户(游戏邦注:即鲸鱼玩家)。针对鲸鱼玩家设计的游戏致力于在玩家生命周期的早期阶段创建盈利摩擦。其实,这种挑选过程会削减98%以上的新玩家数量,因此,开发者只能将重点放在余下2%的付费玩家身上。但是在这些玩家中,仅有一小部分有意愿且有能力为游戏支付大笔费用。因此,有些游戏的收益将变得很扭曲,即50%的收益是来自付费用户,而这些付费用户仅占总用户数的0.0004%。

随着免费游戏市场的不断进化,以及Facebook平台与智能移动设备上面对鲸鱼玩家的游戏数量不断增加,游戏产业出现了极端尴尬的境地。尽管开发者有能力吸引数十亿潜在玩家,但乐意支付上千美元的鲸鱼玩家数量相对较少。而且,鲸鱼玩家不可能在任何时间投入大量金钱于各种游戏中。结果便是,游戏公司逐渐发现,那些针对鲸鱼玩家的新游戏相比早前的游戏变得更加糟糕了,甚至会对当前游戏的鲸鱼用户带来影响。

免费玩家

事实上,免费玩家对那些想要为股票持有者们创造长久价值的游戏公司来说更具价值。原因如下:

最棒的免费游戏都是受社交性驱动的游戏。这种游戏的娱乐价值便是,要么从本质上推动玩家与玩家间的交流,要么满足玩家的物质需求。通过设计出能够让免费玩家能够长期沉浸于其中的游戏,你便能够创造出一种社交粘性,并最终提高付费用户的留存率。这是一种常识。谁会把自己存储数个月的积蓄砸在好友和邻居都不看好的全新宝马车上呢?

此外,免费玩家是你目前以低成本获取高品质玩家的最优途径。喜爱游戏的免费玩家会以早前的方式对游戏进行病毒式传播:他们会邀请好友尝试他们所喜欢的游戏。所以,比起支付一半的费用去吸引新用户,而后看着他们在一周内相继离开游戏,你应认真设计出免费用户苏喜爱的游戏,如此你便能够大大降低用户获取成本。

而且,有关免费用户的一个有趣现象是:他们在免费游戏上投入的时间越长,他们更有可能转化为付费玩家。那些持续在新游戏上投入一个月时间的免费玩家比起你花钱去获取的玩家更有可能转变成游戏的付费用户。当你的游戏能够迎合更多不同类型以及不同区域玩家的喜好时,你专注于免费玩家而获得的利益优势也将变得更加明显。其实,同比那些具有支付上千美元能力的玩家,世界上有更多玩家乐意为自己喜爱的游戏支付5美元、10美元、甚至是25美元。

长期价值

LOL(from lol.cespc)

LOL(from lol.cespc)

如今市场上最具盈利性的两款免费游戏都避免采用基于鲸鱼玩家的盈利举措。Riot Games的《英雄联盟》与WarGaming.net的《坦克世界》已经决定将游戏设计与盈利举措的重心放在长期的价值创造上,即优先考虑免费玩家。

与追崇鲸鱼玩家的竞争者不同,《英雄联盟》与《坦克世界》致力于将更多玩家转变成付费用户(游戏邦注:有时会达到针对鲸鱼玩家游戏的10倍)。他们不断优化游戏设计并不是为大型消费者服务,而是让玩家能够根据自己在游戏中所投入的时间去决定最终消费,如此便有效地提高了用户留存,取得高效的口口相传结果,并提升了玩家的平均终生价值。

《英雄联盟》与《坦克世界》均决定不强迫玩家在游戏中“消费”。他们优化的定价与推销系统始终是针对小型与中型交易模式,而不是出售高价道具。他们会为免费用户开放大部分的游戏内容,并确保在玩家决定付费时能够最大化地向他们传达游戏价值——这便是一种良性循环。

免费玩家能够降低整个用户获取成本,而付费玩家会有更愿意为游戏付费。所有玩家都能在游戏中与其它用户共同体验,因为整个体验模式中存在大量可以构成多人模式与社交互动性的团队成员与对手。如此便能提高游戏的用户留存;而更高的用户留存也意味着转化率的提升,最终,玩家向游戏掏出了更多钱,游戏也将因此获得更大的利益。

然而,要设计出达到上述所有目标的游戏存在一定难度。首先,开发者英国基于盈利系统去创造真正的游戏乐趣。让玩家成为其他用户眼中树立起独特或仁慈形象具有强大的推动作用,而如果游戏仅在付费时才能体现出乐趣便会挫败他们的兴趣感。不要轻易让免费玩家遭遇失败,如此你便很难推动着他们为游戏掏腰包。

免费游戏具有无限的发展潜能。随着浏览器、智能手机、平板电脑与Facebook的发展,游戏将以迅猛之势覆盖全球大部分用户。而实现这个想法需依靠能够创造真正价值的出色作品,即能够迎合所有用户的游戏,而不只是0.004%的鲸鱼玩家。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:游戏邦

Love your free players to unlock the full potential of free-to-play games

by Greg Richardson

It’s already clear that free-to-play games are having a profound impact on the industry landscape. Their initial success is in large part driven by the frictionless reach being free enables. By removing the need to pay up front, a game can reach an audience that’s as much as 10 to 25 times larger. Anyone who owns a smart mobile device or a PC with an Internet connection is now a prospective player.

But to catapult the growth for free-to-play games to truly massive audiences, a subtle – and perhaps counter-intuitive – design philosophy is required: Your game’s free players are actually more valuable than its biggest spenders. It is free players who hold the key to creating sticky communities, driving virality through word of mouth, and maximizing the opportunity for long-term engagement and monetization of your game service. If you want to avoid the headwinds that companies such as Zynga have run into in recent months and instead ride the tail winds that are driving Riot Games into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, you must learn to love your free players.

To date, most free-to-play game developers have eschewed free players and instead focused (at times myopically) on a handful of big spenders, known in the industry as whales. Whale-driven games are designed to create monetization friction early in a player’s life cycle. This culling process effectively eliminates 98 percent-plus of the new players in a game so that it can instead focus on diving deeply into the wallets of those remaining 2 percent of players who pay. Among that 2 percent, only a tiny fraction has the desire and ability to spend large sums of the money. So the breakdown in some games can become scarily skewed, with as much as 50 percent of the profits coming from 2 percent of the paying players – or just 0.0004 percent of the total audience.

As the free-to-play game market has evolved and the number of competitive whale-driven games has increased on both Facebook and smart mobile devices, an uncomfortable fact has settled on the industry. Despite the ability to reach billions of potential players, the number of whales with a desire to spend thousands of dollars is relatively tiny. Moreover, whales are not going to be able to spend huge amounts of money across multiple games at any given time. As a result, companies are seeing new whale-driven games perform worse than their predecessors, while also cannibalizing their own whales in existing games.

Contrary to popular belief

The truth is that players who choose not to pay anything are far more valuable to any game company looking to create sustained value for its shareholders. Here’s why:

The best free-to-play games are socially driven. The entertainment value of playing the game is either intrinsic to playing with other players or at the very least materially enhanced. By designing your game to compel free players to stick around for a long period of time, you create social stickiness that will result in a higher retention of your paying users. This is common sense. Who wants to save for months to buy that shiny new BMW if there are no friends or neighbors to admire it?

Moreover, free players are by far your best means of low-cost, high-quality player acquisition. Free players who enjoy the game are viral in the old-fashioned sense: They actually tell their friends to try the game because they enjoyed it. Instead of paying for 50 percent of your new users and then watching them churn out in a week, design your game to ensure free users enjoy it and watch your cost of player acquisition drop dramatically.

And it’s a funny thing about those free users:  the longer they play any free-to-play game, the more likely they are to convert to paying players. The cohort of free players who continue to be actively playing a new game for a month are nearly three times as likely to convert as new users you paid to acquire. The financial advantages of focusing on free players are further enhanced when your game caters to a more diverse demographic and geographic player base. There are simply more players in the world who will happily spend $5, $10, or maybe even $25 on a game they love than there are those who are capable of spending thousands of dollars.

Games that get it right

It’s no surprise then that two most profitable free-to-play games currently in the market have eschewed whale-based monetization. League of Legends from Riot Games and World of Tanks form WarGaming.net decided to focus their game design and monetization efforts with a long-term view of value creation, which prioritized the free players.

Unlike their Moby Dick-obsessed competitors, LoL and WoT are designed to convert a far higher percentage of their players – in some cases ten times as many players as a whale-driven game. Instead of designing the game to optimize for a handful of big spenders, they’ve created economies that allow players to incrementally spend in lockstep with the time they spend in the game, which has resulted in higher retention, effective word-of-mouth virality, and a higher median lifetime value of players.

Both League of Legends and World of Tanks made a conscious decision not to force players into “purchase or else” decisions early in the game. Their pricing and merchandising systems are optimized for consistent small- and medium-sized transactions instead of a handful of big-ticket items. They thoughtfully open the vast majority of the game’s experiences to a free user while making sure value is delivered when a player makes the decision to pay. Thus, a virtuous cycle is born.

Happy free players lower overall acquisition costs, while paying players feel a stronger relative bump for their decision to spend. And all players are compelled to keep playing with one another, as there are plenty of teammates and opponents to fuel the multiplayer and social dynamics of the experience. That leads to higher retention; with higher retention comes higher conversion to paying, higher spending, and ultimately higher profits.

There are challenges in designing games to achieve those goals.  Basing your monetization systems off the game mechanics that generate real fun is the starting place.  Inspiring players to make themselves unique or benevolent in the eyes of fellow players are great incentives — while frustrating them by designing the game to be enjoyable only when you pay is not.  Don’t force failure for free players and make sure the forks you create with opportunities to pay come with a balanced frequency, and not as hard walls.

The opportunity for the free-to-play game space to grow is limitless. With browsers, smart phones, tablets, and Facebook, the digital reach of games is quickly going to reach a number closely approximating the entire population of this planet. The realization of this opportunity is going to be driven by great products that create real value, products that are designed and managed to entertain 100 percent of their players – not just the 0.0004 percent known as whales.(source:venturebeat)


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