分析《Puzzle & Dragons》盈利设计的成功奥秘
GungHo Online Entertainment旗下热门游戏《Puzzle & Dragons》在日本用户超过1600万，在韩国也突破100万。该游戏在4月份收益超过1亿美元，5月份GungHo市值超过了行业巨擘任天堂。无论GungHo究竟是下一个日本游戏开发巨头，或只是短暂的昙花一现，但可以肯定的是他们真的赚了大笔收益，人人都想知道其中奥秘。不幸的是，西方市场对《Puzzle & Dragons》的分析仅着眼于与西方游戏相同的一些子集盈利技巧，但却忽略或者误读了该游戏更为有趣的盈利方式。其成功秘方并不在于GungHo所抓住的心理手段或者盈利技巧，但在于他们围绕这一元素而构建的游戏。《Puzzle & Dragons》是一款平衡而公平的游戏，经常变化，并且极为慷慨。因此可以说，他们就创造了一个让玩家喜欢玩游戏，并且愿意消费的环境。
《Puzzle & Dragons》是一款玩家组建怪物团队，然后匹配谜题方块以推进这些团队走向不同地下城的游戏。进入地下城会消耗精力，而精力会随着时间发展而填充。玩家可以花钱购买5种东西：
Ramin Shokrizade将《Puzzle & Dragons》描述为“假装是技能游戏的金钱游戏”。这种说法有失妥当。应该说《Puzzle & Dragons》是一款可以用金钱游戏的方式来玩的技能游戏。其核心谜题机制比《宝石迷阵》、《Candy Crush Saga》这类标准的“连线消除”游戏更为复杂。玩家在整个屏幕移动方块的时候可以修改整个玩法区域的布局，设置愈加复杂的连击和连环。因此，玩家会更投入这种回合制操作。除此之外，技能高超的玩家还可以设置更大的连击，快速应变。这款游戏中的怪物设计精巧而平衡。低HP的怪物可能有极强的攻击力，而难以进化的怪物却可能在其进化完成后快速融入你的队伍。有些怪物可能看似无用，但只有在与其他怪物结合使用时，你才看得出它强大的爆发力。此外，从“gatcha”获得的怪物和随机掉落的怪物之间也实现了良好的平衡，没有一者拥有绝对优势。付费和非付费玩家都可以获得相似（但仍然独特）的怪物。任何玩家都可以组建与自身技能和玩法风格相匹配的队伍。最后，《Puzzle & Dragons》中的地下城并非完全随机的，但有一系列设定的遭遇战，玩家将面临一些威力恒定，具有可预知攻击力的敌人。这让玩家得以用更大的谜题接近地下城，组建能够攻克特定挑战的团队。
《Puzzle & Dragons》中的游戏世界一直在变化。一周甚至一天、一小时内都可能出现一个新地下城。特殊的“合作型”地下城（例如含有《最终幻想》、《Clash of Clans》元素）会吸引相应游戏的粉丝，同时又可让这款游戏玩家获得新的可探索内容。限时事件则改变玩家获得特定怪物或解琐特定内容的机率。系统会快速添加新怪物、地下城和游戏内容。系统会鼓励和奖励玩家一天内数次“查看”游戏情况。
除了持续添加更新内容以及特殊活动之外，这款游戏还不吝于给予玩家许多免费。特殊活动可以增加强大怪物从gatcha机器中掉落，或者特定怪物从地下城出现的概率。最重要的是，GungHo似乎没有要停止为玩家“发放”高级货币（游戏邦注：即其中的虚拟货币“Magic Stones”，可用于购买游戏中所有内容）的意思，平均每位玩家一个月可获得价值相当于20美元的Magic Stones，而他们对此要做的就只是经常玩游戏而已。这不但可增加玩家的满意度，还可以让所有的付费与非付费玩家更积极融入这个消费圈。
让我们以《魔兽世界》的一个教训进行总结。《魔兽世界》为MMO游戏引进了“Rest”（休息）这一概念，所谓的Rested人物就是那些已经有一阵子不玩游戏，但却渴望回到游戏中的人，他们在游戏头几个小时可以获得200%的XP，之后再退回默认的100% XP。玩家喜欢Rest理念，并且继《魔兽世界》之后几乎所有MMO都采纳了类似的系统。但要知道，Rest刚出炉时它却曾被称为Fatigue(委靡）。玩家在开始游戏时会赢得100% XP，而在几个小时后就变得“委靡”并且受到惩罚，只能获得50% XP。玩家讨厌这种设置。为何要让他们玩自己喜爱的游戏时受罚？Rest、Fatigue本质上是同一个系统，只是名称不同罢了。那么这到底有何不同？“Rest”会奖励那些不玩游戏的用户，而“Fatigue”却惩罚了那些玩得太多的用户。玩家喜欢奖励，讨厌被罚。世界上最具盈利性的免费游戏是以尊重玩家和正强化为基础，而不是苛刻地限制游戏时间来构建盈利模式。所以这些机制可能相似，但其蕴含的理念却是天差地别。玩家会感觉到其中的不同，这种态度会影响他们为游戏付费的意愿。这也正是GungHo可以一路笑着创收的原因所在。（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）
Puzzle & Dragons & Monetization: How Great Game Design Drives GungHo’s Global Hit
by Andrew Vestal
The following blog was, unless otherwise noted, independently written by a member of Gamasutra’s game development community. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Gamasutra or its parent company.
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GungHo Online Entertainment is the current darling of the mobile game industry. Their smash hit Puzzle & Dragons has more than 16 million users in Japan, and just surpassed 1 million in South Korea. The game is generated over $100 million in April, and in May, GungHo’s market capitalization exceeded industry stalwart Nintendo. Whether GungHo is the next big Japanese game developer or just a flash in the pan remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: they are making a lot of money, and everyone wants to know how. Unfortunately, Western analyses of Puzzle & Dragons’ success tend to focus on the small subset of monetization techniques common to Western games, glossing over or misrepresenting the more interesting ways Puzzle & Dragons has achieved its success. The secret “special sauce” is not in GungHo’s psychological prowess or monetization techniques, but in the game they have constructed around it. GungHo’s Puzzle & Dragons is Balanced and Fair, Constantly Changing, and Surprisingly Generous. As a result, they have created an environment where players enjoy playing the game and want to spend money.
Where Does Your Money Go?
Puzzle & Dragons is a game where players form teams of creatures, then match puzzle pieces to advance those teams through different dungeons. Entering dungeons consumes stamina, which refills slowly over time. Players can spend money on 5 things:
Receive a rare and random creature ($5)
Add 5 slots for additional creatures ($1)
Add 5 slots for additional friends ($1)
Refill the stamina bar ($1)
Continue your progress within the current dungeon ($1)
Of these 5 possibilities, continuing within a dungeon is the worst value and the least likely player purchase. Adding a creature to your stable or increasing the number of available creatures/friends are permanent upgrades to the player’s power. A stamina refill, while consumable, offers increased flexibility and the possibility of playing through several additional dungeons. Continuing within a dungeon, on the other hand, is a fleeting benefit that offers only a temporary boost to the current play session. A player will only continue if a rare creature (which they perceive to be worth at least $1) has already dropped and will absolutely be received upon completing the dungeon, or if they know that they can complete the dungeon quickly and safely. Otherwise, whatever killed them will probably just kill them again, and they’ll end up throwing good money after bad. The bulk of GungHo’s money is coming from players spending $5 per pop at the chance – not guarantee – of receiving a powerful creature to add to their arsenal. This mechanic is known as “gatcha,” after “gatchapon,” the random toys dispensed at convenience stores and video arcades from transparent plastic eggs. This technique is extremely popular in Japanese games, to the point that in May 2012 the Japanese Diet passed legislature banning a particularly nefarious variation known as “kompu gacha”. On the face of it, this is madness. When players spend real money in a game, they want to know they’ll be getting an actual advantage in return. Yet GungHo is earning tens of millions of dollars a month selling the possibility–not promise–of an advantage. But because of the game GungHo has constructed around that possibility, millions of players are willing to take that chance.
Balanced and Fair
Ramin Shokrizade characterizes Puzzle & Dragons as “a money game disguised as a skill game.” This is incorrect and unfair. Puzzle & Dragons is a skill game that can be played as a money game. The core puzzle mechanic is more complex and interesting than the standard “match-3″ of Bejeweled or Candy Crush Saga. Players can modify the layout of the entire playfield as they move their piece throughout the screen, setting up increasingly complex combos and chains. As a result, players are more engaged in the turn-to-turn action that makes up the game. Additionally, skilled players are able to quickly set up increasingly large combos, rewarding foresight and agility. Creatures in Puzzle & Dragons are carefully designed and balanced. A creature with low HP may have high Attack. A creature that is difficult to evolve may be easier to slot into your team once the evolution is complete. Some creatures may appear useless, only to reveal their full potential when used synergistically with another creature. Furthermore, “gatcha” and “drop” creatures are carefully balanced against each other such that no one side has an incontrovertible advantage. Similar (but still unique) creatures are available to both paying and non-paying players. Ultimately, any player can to build a team that matches their skill level and playstyle. Finally, Dungeons in Puzzle & Dragons are not fully randomized, but a series of set encounters against known enemies with consistent power and predictable, telegraphed attacks. This allows players to approach dungeons as larger metapuzzles, building a team capable of overcoming the specific challenges found within.
The complexity and balance of creatures, dungeons, team composition and puzzle mechanics results in a game where players can choose their own place on a spectrum of skill, luck, money, and time. A skilled player can play for hundreds of hours without spending a dime. A tight-knit community of hardcore players discusses strategies, and encourages new players to learn what the game has to offer. Meanwhile, a less skilled player can try to purchase more powerful creatures from the gatcha machine. Any “unfairness” comes from an impersonal random number generator, not from the underlying game mechanics.
The world of Puzzle & Dragons is continually in flux. New dungeons are available just for a week, day, or even an hour. Special “collaboration” dungeons with popular games like Final Fantasy or Clash of Clans attract fans of those properties while giving Puzzle & Dragons players new content to explore. Time-limited events change the probability of receiving certain creatures or of unlocking certain content. New creatures, dungeons and game content are added frequently. Players are encouraged and rewarded to “check in” several times a day to see what’s happening.
The greatest driver of continuous player engagement is the asynchronous co-op “Helper” system. When a team of creatures go into a dungeon, they can bring a “Helper” from their Friend List with them. A Helper grants powerful skills and bonuses to the rest of the team, and most dungeons after the first few hours cannot be completed without bringing a Helper along. However, once you’ve taken a Helper into a dungeon, the Helper is unavailable until that player logs in again. This encourages players to login several times a day, and to seek out other players of similar level and engagement. Players enjoy “bringing along” another player’s creature to help them overcome a particularly difficult dungeon. On the flip side, if a useful Helper doesn’t return for several days, most players will clear them out of their Friends list and look for someone more active.
In addition to the constant addition of new content and special events, Puzzle & Dragons is constantly bombarding the player with free rewards. Special events increase the chance for exceptionally powerful creatures to drop from the gatcha machine, or for particularly desirable creatures to appear inside of dungeons. Most crucially, GungHo can’t seem to stop bombarding players the premium currency (“Magic Stones”) used for all in-game purchases. An average player will receive the equivalent of $20 USD /month in Magic Stones just from playing the game normally. This not only increases player satisfaction, it brings all players – paying and not – into the “premium” economy.
The Carrot or the Stick?
Let’s end with a cautionary tale from World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft introduced the concept of “Rest” to MMOs. Rested characters are ones that have not been played for a while; eager to get back in the game, they receive 200% XP for a few hours before returning to the default 100% XP. Players love Rest, and almost every MMO since World of Warcraft has adopted a similar system. But when Rest was first introduced, it was called something different: Fatigue. Players would begin their play session earning 100% XP, but after a few short hours become “Fatigued” and be penalized, receiving a mere 50% XP. Players hated it. Why were they being punished for playing the game they loved? Rest, Fatigue. Same system, different name. So what’s the difference? “Rest” rewards players for not playing, while “Fatigue” punishes players for playing too much. Players love being rewarded, and they hate being punished. The most profitable free-to-play game in the world has succeeded by focusing their economic model on player respect and positive reinforcement, not the overtly cruel timers and obvious withholding that usually defines the genre. So while the mechanics may be similar, the perception is night-and-day. Players can feel the difference, and that attitude makes them more likely to give money to the game. And that’s why GungHo’s laughing – and smiling, and sharing – all the way to the bank.（source：gamasutra）