假设你已经发布了自己的游戏，恭喜你，终于让它面世以便人们都能来下载。但你开发了游戏，用户就会如期而至吗？来自巴西Square Enix拉美公司的Sabrina Carmona在最近的Ottawa国际游戏大会（OIGC）上发言分享了开发者如何在发布游戏后其游戏活跃性的看法。
为了证明活动执行的有效性，Sabrina以手机游戏《Puzzle & Dragons》（游戏邦注：首款收益达10亿美元的游戏）为例，该游戏精于使用活动事件保持用户参与度，并将休闲玩家转化为中核玩家（Carmona将这些玩家定义为围绕自己的生活安排游戏玩法的群体）。这些活动事件可以是季节性的（“圣诞节来了！”），限时特价活动（“欲购从速哦！”），周期性（“仅限周二！”）或者融入社交媒体（“分享此贴！”）。每种类型都能很有效地触及玩家心理，令他们产生一种“我最好重返游戏”的想法。
长期用户留存是面向App Store和Google Play发行游戏最重要的元素之一。因为市场上有许多免费游戏，所以你必须想办法让自己的游戏能够在一开始就吸引玩家的注意并让他们沉浸于游戏故事或主题等内容。一种被低估的长期用户留存策略便是通过创造玩家可能在游戏中变成什么的目标而吸引他们留在游戏中。有些游戏尝试着通过带有戏剧性的背景故事，能让玩家产生共鸣的“帮助者”以及在游戏环境中作为新的主导力量的任务去吸引他们的注意。这特别呈现于瞄准像如下成人那样的侧脸游戏/建造游戏。
关于这种类型的用户粘性策略所存在的问题是玩家很少会与“帮助者”进行互动，从而让这种策略只能在一开始发挥作用，而不能作为一种长期策略。在某些情况下这样的帮助者将变成像MS Word在1997所推出的Office Assistant Clippy，并最终将与我们的预期目的相违背。
让我们继续看另外一个优秀的例子，同样是来自Supercell的一款游戏，《Clash of Clans》。这款游戏也发挥了同样的作用，即使是基于一种不同的方法。在游戏一开始将会有一个很贴心的女人告诉你要尽快创建一个大炮。很快地你将遇到其中的一个主要机制，也就是攻击其他玩家并赚取排行点数而在排行榜上进行攀升。在排行榜菜单上有着“最佳部落”和“最佳玩家”的标签，这便是这款游戏最突出之处。在此你将面对的是真实的玩家，而不再是Greg。
与《Clash of Clans》相同的是，《地下城守护者》在战役中引进了袭击机制，让玩家能够快速攻击其他玩家。看下图，左边是我自己在1个小时游戏后的情况，而右边则是游戏世界中最出色的玩家的成绩。其中的区别自然很明显，但却未能创造出目标和长期的吸引力。如此我还会愿意花大量的时间待在右边的地下城中吗？！
多人游戏添加了一种全新的游戏局面，即培养了投资型玩家，他们更愿意生成利益并不愿意轻易退出游戏。举个例子来说吧，在《War Metal: Tyrant》中，宗族中的玩家的ARPU值是普通玩家的20倍，（游戏邦注：即《Tyrant》55%的收益是来自6%的宗族玩家）。你认为哪些玩家更会坚持玩游戏？
((H + C + X) * E) / P = L
(D – (B + J)) / K = H
(A * B) / D = X
((((D – (B + J)) / K) / E) + (((A * B) / D) * E) + C) / P = L
((((180 – (120 + 40)) / 8) * 10) + (((200000 * 5) / 300000) * 10) + 100) / 2 = 91
篇目1，How to Keep People Playing Your Game
by Jennifer June
So you’ve released your game. Congratulations! It’s finally out there for everyone to enjoy and the downloads will roll in. If you build it, they will come. Right? All the way from Brazil, Sabrina Carmona of Square Enix Latin America graced the Ottawa International Game Conference (OIGC) with her presence to talk to industry hopefuls and seasoned veterans alike about what it takes to keep your game alive and kicking after release.
In order to reach the top 10 free apps on the App Store in the US, you need to reach approximately 70,000 downloads/day. As if this weren’t enough of a challenge, most players delete games after downloading them. Carmona’s “first-date” metaphor was very appropriate here: how do you intrigue your date enough for a second-date? How do you make the relationship last? “How do you get lucky?”, she asked the audience with a coy smile.
User Acquisition – Ask them out.
Carmona described three types of user acquisition: organic, paid, and extra. Organic growth can be described as acquiring users based on methods that cost little to no money to execute, such as a stunning app icon, intriguing screenshots, a good video or trailer, an interesting game description, good reviews and fitting keywords. If executed properly, you can gain some serious traffic while giving your wallet a break. Alternatively, paid methods, such as burst campaigns, cross-promotions and email marketing can become expensive, but are often well worth it.
And then, there’s that extra effort. This, explains Carmona, is where you can truly make your game shine and distinguish itself from all of the other games out there. Doing something out of the norm with social media (outside the realm of Facebook and Twitter), having a unique press release or getting on some key app review sites can really give your game the extra love that it needs and well, deserves.
User Engagement – Get a second date.
Now that you’ve got yourself some players, you have to figure out how to keep them interested. Figuring out who is playing your game through analytics is one of the most important aspects of effective user engagement. “Who is playing your game? How do we cater to them?” asked Carmona. It is this information that will prove to be vitally important in your user engagement methods, such as events and updates.
To demonstrate effective execution of events, Sabrina referenced mobile game legend Puzzles and Dragons, which was the first mobile game to hit $1 billion in revenue. The game has mastered the use of events to keep users engaged and to turn casual gamers into mid-core gamers (Carmona defines these players as those who schedule gameplay around their lives). Events can be seasonal (“Christmas is here!”), limited time offers (“You better hurry!”), scheduled (“Only on Tuesdays!”) or involve social media (“Share this post!”). Each type is extremely effective in tapping into that user psychology, that voice inside that says, “I better open this game again.”
Updates are also extremely effective in enticing your user base to come back to your game, explains Carmona. A common mistake is putting all of your awesome content out at once, so don’t give it up so easily; make them crave it. Leak out your new content and new features slowly to build excitement among your players.
User Retention – Keep them wanting more.
Two of the best ways to keep your users coming back to your game are through push notifications and heeding user feedback. The “smart” way to do push notifications, according to Carmona, is by targeting niched casual players of your game so as not to annoy your loyal players that you’ve already won over.
Providing an effective support service can go a really long way as well, though it is necessary to prioritize users who are spending money when dealing with high volumes of user feedback. Always make sure to keep any complaints contained (especially over social media) with fervent apologies and reassurance. When users provide feedback, say thank you! And when they come up with a good idea for your game, implement it!
User Monetization – Get lucky.
And now the age old question in mobile games: how do you get your users to pay? Carmona explained that mastering the art of sales seduction is paramount when it comes to ringing in those sought after microtransactions.
One way to accomplish this is by effectively conveying the value of purchase; users need to feel like they are truly gaining something from the transaction that will make their lives easier. A great way to achieve this is by timing the opportunities to buy by offering your players a power-up or item right when it might come in particularly handy. Of course, you must always teach your players how to spend their money (a tutorial must-have).
So even though you’ve proven how awesome you are by finally getting your game out there (really awesome by the way), you might want to implement a few of these tips and tricks to make sure that your mobile game stays relevant in that oh-so-saturated market. Keep enough people coming back for more, and you just may be on your way to hitting that 70,000/day mark. See you in the top 10!
篇目2，How to keep players playing – Long-term Retention
by Mikkel Faurholm
Long-term retention is one of the most important factors of releasing to the AppStore and Google Play. With that many F2P titles a game needs to initially hook the player and make the engaged about whatever the story/theme might be. A very underestimated long-term retention strategy is to engage player by creating a vision of what the player might become if some time, and possibly some money, is put into the game. Some games tries to engage through a dramatic back story and a ‘helper’ that the player hopefully sympathizes with and take on the task as the new ruler in this playful environment. This is especially present in the strategy/builders targeting adults like the ones listed below.
The problem with this type of engagement strategy is that the player seldom interacts with the ‘helper’, leaving this working only as an initial hook and not long-term. At some point this helper becomes like Office Assistant Clippy from MS Word in 1997 and it actually ends up working against the intended purpose.
To heighten the likelihood of engaging a player long term, the game needs to create a vision for the player. Visualize the goal, what the player can become, and what awesome features are ahead. People are terrible at creating these visions themselves. Most people cannot see passed what it in front of them right now. It is the same reason that rearranging furniture will help you sell your house. The furniture are still not going to be there when the buyer moves in, but by rearranging your furniture you’ve successfully created a vision that the buyer can process. enough real estate though.
There are some great examples of games where this vision is presented effectively and feasible to the player – and then there are some examples of games absolutely failing at doing so.
Let’s start with the good
Supercell’s Hay Day introduces your neighbor, Greg, in the very beginning of the game, and while Greg just like in the examples above, seem like a nice and helpful fellow, he is sure to annoy the hay out of you by the time the first boat arrives. But Hay Day and at the time friendly Greg does one very clever thing before releasing the player out into the wonderful life as a farmer – show you Greg’s farm. Instantly the player is introduced to what is possible within the game, what the player has in store. This is a brilliant way to engage a player long term, wanting the same as his/her dear neighbor.
Mooving on to another great example, surprisingly also from Supercell. you guessed it. Clash of Clans. Clash of Clans ultimately does the same thing, though in a different way. Here you have the same initial hook through the very nice lady telling you quickly build a cannon before it is to late. (A monetization strategy which is most likely going to have a post of its own)
But quickly you are introduced to one of the main mechanics, namely attacking other player and earning ranking points to climb the leaderboard. In the leaderboards menu, there are the ‘top clans’ and ‘top players’ tabs that the player can investigate – and this is the brilliant part. Here you are introduced to real players, not a Greg, who’s village look like this:
Compared to the initial village any player starts out with, the one above looks pretty damn cool. Creating the vision!
Ok, before this turns into a post about how Supercell can’t do anything wrong, let’s have a look at some of the games that failed to do this, and paid for it.
Similarly to Clash of Clans, Dungeon Keeper introduces raiding in the campaign and attacking other player fairly quick, enabling the long-term engage, the carrot at the end of the dungeon, through other player’s awesomeness. The Screenshot on the left is myself after ~1 hour of gameplay. The one on the right is the leading player in the world. The difference is there surely, but not creating that vision and the long term engage. Do I want to spend hours and hours to get the dungeon on the right? not likely!
Another common misconception is that the end game, the final boss, should be concealed and not spoiled to the players. This might be how the players of video games in the 80s and 90s would want it to be, but it isn’t the case with the casual gamer. If a player cannot see where his/her time is going, the next free game might seem just as interesting, ’cause who knows whats around the corner. Games targeting the casual player needs to show whats around that corner. SO essential in order to create that vision.
Why do you think you are able to scroll all the way to the end of Candy Land in Candy Crush Saga?
People have no need for unlocking worlds like in the classic platformers. Show players the entire path to the end product and they are much more likely to keep on playing and maybe even throw in a dime or two to get there.
Engage your player, through gameplay, through fun mechanics and social features. But remember to keep them engaged by painting that picture for them, show them whats behind the next corner and create that vision.
What do you think? What makes you play the game over and over again? Is the ‘long-term vision’ important to you in a F2P game?
篇目3，How Multiplayer and Events unlock higher retention and monetization in mobile games
by Gabriel Cornish
With competition in the mobile games market rising, success has become unstable; obtaining a place at the top of the charts no longer guarantees months of high revenue. With the steady influx of new, high-quality games being created, even the most popular games are seeing large portions of their player base leave, and faster than ever before. As a result, retention rates have sunk for all but the most successful games, dragging monetization rates and lifetime value down with them.
A proven method for increasing retention rates on mobile games is multiplayer features. Single player games are starting to lose steam in today’s market due to their limitations: their gameplay is either repeated ad nauseum or finite based on content length. Most mobile single player games only retain a player long enough to beat the game or grow tired of it’s core gameplay mechanic. Multiplayer provides the player with a feature that stimulates a desire for gameplay by making it more competitive and social. Some mobile games have seen multiplayer add another 50-100 hours to the game’s lifespan.
Multiplayer brings a social atmosphere that takes gameplay to a new level of intensity and excitement. With the teamwork and competition brought into the game, players are inclined to play more intensely, more often, and for longer sessions. Furthermore, players have incentive to introduce their peers to the game to compete against them, creating a free, high quality acquisition channel. Social gaming brings together strangers over a common interest, creating new connections and forming a community around the game.
Multiplayer adds a new dimension of gameplay that establishes invested players, who are more likely to generate revenue and are less prone to quitting. For example, in War Metal: Tyrant, players who are in clans have an ARPU 20 times higher than those who aren’t, with 55% of Tyrant’s revenue coming from the 6% of players that are in clans. And which players do you think play more and stick with the game?
Multiplayer itself can be further improved through live events such as tournaments. Tournaments foster a competitive atmosphere bracketed by a time limit. The immediacy of the competition increases in-app purchase likelihood and enhances gameplay to provide a more rewarding experience. The break in monotony becomes a refreshing experience for gamers and also can work together with seasonal content to keep the game feeling fresh. Real and virtual prizes can be set for the winners of the tournament, giving a strong incentive to participate and play more matches, especially if the tournament is based on number of wins rather than high score.
As you can see, developers should aim for quadrant I on the chart if they’re looking to maximize their user loyalty. In this quadrant we see the highest amount of 90-day retention and the frequency of use. What multiplayer and tournaments end up doing is taking a regular arcade game, which is most likely located in Quadrants II-IV in the shown graph, and transforming it into a social turn-based game found in Quadrant I. As shown in the graph, Quadrant I is the most ideal place to be, with both a high frequency of use and a high retention rate for its games, and is the home of popular apps such as Temple Run and Angry Birds. There is no doubt that multiplayer and tournaments significantly help a game reach that stage.
篇目4，Exploring New Content and Player Retention Theory
by Alexander Engel
In one of my other lives, I am a writer. Many nights I sit down on my laptop and bang away at the keyboard, writing about video games and whatever else comes to mind. Sometimes I’ll be up late at night writing, annoying my wife with the clacking, when I’ll have a burst of inspiration and start clacking even faster, much to her dismay. I got on this topic today and, since our players like when we go into the details of how we make games, I decided to share it with our players.
The question I was thinking about was, how do you compare the benefits of retaining new players versus creating content for older players? Please note that the rest of the blog post is theory-crafting, and doesn’t necessarily reflect how we (or any other game company) operates.
The answer is surprising difficult. The root of the question lies in how long the game remains enjoyable for our players. I took some time to think about this and came up with a simple equation to figure out how many days of playing an average player will take to exhaust all of the content in the game, at which point they have nothing left to do and will churn out:
((H + C + X) * E) / P = L
Where H are the hours of content produced per week, C is the content already in the game, and X are the hours of player-to-player content engaged in per week. Multiplied by the number of weeks the game has been out (E) and divided by the average playtime per day in hours (P) you can come up with a rough idea of how many average days it will take for content to be exhausted for the average player. Finding those variables, however, is where the difficulty comes in.
To find the amount of content per week, we need to look at a couple of other variables: Bandwidth (D), which are the amount of hours per week the team can dedicate to the game; Bugfixing (B), which are the amount of hours per week the team dedicates to bugfixing per week; Project Hours (J), the number of hours the team dedicates to projects per week (performance, other platforms, metrics, shop, etc.); And how many hours of bandwidth it takes to produce a single hour of game content (K). Put that way, the formula for H becomes:
(D – (B + J)) / K = H
To find the amount of player to player activity an average player engages in per week, the formula is a bit simpler. You take the total number of players engaged in PtP per week (A), multiply it by the average amount of time they spend on PtP per week (B), and divide that by the total number of players that logged in that week (D). You end up with this formula for X:
(A * B) / D = X
So to test this formula,let’s assign some variables to each. I have taken the liberty to assign completely random numbers to this formula, which do not reflect our actual work or time spent in any way.Instead,pretend that they are for an imaginary game called Space Cowboys that I magicked into creation last night.
After being broken out, our final formula looks like this:
((((D – (B + J)) / K) / E) + (((A * B) / D) * E) + C) / P = L
Remember, this imaginary game was released 180 days ago and is called Space Cowboys. We have been tracking our Space Cowboys player numbers, and we can plug them into our formula. With these completely arbitrary numbers we can get a result:
((((180 – (120 + 40)) / 8) * 10) + (((200000 * 5) / 300000) * 10) + 100) / 2 = 91
Yes, I know my math and formulas are messy and not ideal.
So the final result is that, on average, after our arbitrary game has been out for ten weeks, our arbitrary players will exhaust all content after 91 days of gameplay. This assumes an average playtime of 2 hours per day and 5 hours of new content published per week, with ? of our players engaging in PtP play for an average of 5 hours per week, and 300,000 weekly players. This also assumes that we stop making content after 10 weeks and that players stop doing PtP after ten weeks.
But wait, there’s more! We forgot something vitally important: Not all players will play indefinitely until all content is exhausted. Instead, many players will become fatigued and churn out at some point in the game. In fact, for the vast majority of games, a huge percentage churn out after signing up and never play the game at all. So for our imaginary game, let’s set up some imaginary churn rates for an imaginary 1,000,000 players that signed up on Day 0, our launch day.
Day 0 – Retention Rate: 100% – Players: 1,000,000
Day 1 – Retention Rate: 75% – Players: 750,000
Day 15 – Retention Rate: 50% – Players: 500,000
Day 30 – Retention Rate: 40% – Players: 400,000
Day 90 – Retention Rate: 25% – Players: 250,000
So what our first formula established was the average time for players to run out of content. What we also have to determine are how many of our imaginary players will even be playing by the time they hit that wall. Using the numbers above, we can expect that at day 90, we will have 250,000 players playing our game. At that time, the average player will have run out of content, meaning that 125,000 of those players will have nothing to do. The other 125,000 will have something new to do, but how much will vary.
Put together, the chart of “Engaged Players,” i.e. the players who have not churned out and still have content to do, begins to look something like this for our numbers:
So by Day 180, we could expect Space Cowboys to have 100,000 remaining players, except since we stopped making content on Week 10, and since they stopped playing PtP, they all exhausted the available content and now we have no one left who wants to play our game. Looking at the graph, we really start to see the effects as early as Day 90, since by then many players will have churned out, and others will have completed content. We could have changed this if we’d either built more content, increased the retention of our players, or acquired new players.
So we need to add something more to the table: The incoming numbers of new players who start out, effectively, at Day 0 every time we acquire them and have them start playing our game. To show this, I added two more player cohorts into the mix, with a cohort of 500,000 players acquired on Launch Day + 15 and another cohort of 250,000 players acquired on Launch day + 30. That changes the mix substantially, because we have the cohort of 500,000 players effectively starting at Day 0 on Day 15 of our initial batch of 1,000,000 players, and another cohort of 250,000 players starting at Day 0 on Day 30 of our initial batch, and day 15 of our second cohort. The end result is this:
Still pretty grim. By day 180, even though we increased the total number of players by 75%, we end up with only a tiny fraction still playing the game. So what can we do, as a game developer, to stop that? Well, we could change our retention rate. If we found a way to boost our retention rate by 5% at every step, we would have a boost in players playing our game before they exhaust content:
By days 15 and 30, we would have around 100,000 more players playing Space Cowboys. Not too bad for boosting our retention rate up 5%. However, we still end up churning out players by Day 180 because they ran out of content. If we changed that and doubled our content, pushing our exhaustion date out to 180 days, yet kept our retention rate the same, we would see a greater improvement:
By Day 180, we have almost tripled the number of players still playing. The total number of players, however is still low. This brings up a limitation of my graph, because I only extended it out to Day 180. We’ll see a long tail of players that will continue playing after day 180 which should be substantially longer than the Base or Retention model. This model seems like a slam dunk, but the biggest problem here is that content is expensive. Doubling our content in the game would require many, many hours of work and a much larger team. Our numbers above posited that 8 hours of development work was needed for one hour of content. That means for doubling the existing content in the game – from 100 hours of Space Cowboys to 200 hours of Space Cowboys – we would need 800 hours of development time. That time would go to new art, new engineering work, new design, implementation, QA testing, and regression to make sure we didn’t break any of our existing game content too badly.
I’d like to note here that creating more content isn’t a faucet that you can just turn on and off. Not everyone at Disruptor Beam can equally apply their skills everywhere. I am not too good at creating game systems or coding, and some of our engineers would probably run away screaming if I asked them to take support tickets. Hiring people to do additional work also takes plenty of time. From the hiring process, to interviews, resumes, and other legal work, it can take some time to find a candidate. After that comes the lead time before they can begin, and then they have to be trained before they can dig into the issues. That lead time may vary from a few weeks to a few months, so even doubling team size may not show benefits until (sometimes) several months later.
Anyway, back to Space Cowboys. The final numbers comparing the approaches look like this:
We have to balance increasing the stickiness of a game, meaning the rate at which players are retained, especially during those beginning days, and the rate at which we produce content. At some point, most of your original players have churned out, but you also have the opportunity to reacquire them through further updates, expansions, and changes. Keep in mind that while creating content is very expensive, acquiring customers can also be quite expensive. We have to balance the cost of each with the benefit it provides.
Balancing new players, retention, and new content is part of what separates a successful online game company from an unsuccessful one. Here at Disruptor Beam, we’re excited to take on this challenge for our players, so they can keep having fun within Westeros.
篇目5，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.