原作者：Chay Hunter 译者：Willow Wu
Hugo Peyron：Quiz Run。这是我们的第一款游戏，是内部开发的，我们之前没有意识到自主发行也是一个选项。想起来也是挺有意思，我们在这次开发过程中学到的所有事情都和游戏发行密切相关。我们从这次经历中学到了很多，主要是因为Quiz Run确实是一款优秀的游戏，但是它没能成为大热门。设计制作精良，游戏概念新颖，但是不知道为什么它没有受到玩家的热烈欢迎。我们也明白市场不可能因我们而改变。
Hugo Peyron：我们针对Google Play商店写了一个脚本，可以搜刮游戏工作室的邮箱地址（游戏邦注在iOS平台你是没办法这么做的）。结果，我们在不到一天的时间内收集到了3.6万个邮箱地址。我们对不同主题行进行A/B测试，然后给所有人发了一封非常吸引人的Voodoo推广邮件。最终我们收到了500份回应，也找到了一个中意的游戏。
Hugo Peyron：Fight List。它比Quiz Run出色很多，具有独创性，KPI表现真的好太多太多，尤其是留存率。我们把之前学到的UA、盈利技巧应用到Fight List上，立刻就有了效果，收入猛增到之前的100倍。我们学了这么多不同的技术只是为了联系上游戏工作室，而现在反过来了，真是有趣。一切都得到了回报。
Hugo Peyron：我们把所有的游戏都玩了，进行筛选，但同时我们也尝试着保持一种不可知的状态。我们就把玩法不错的游戏列成一张表，主要是通过分析代码。如果游戏的代码写得很糟糕，那也没有必要看下去了。但如果是设计比较不入眼（Fight List就是这种情况），那我们还是会继续，在我们看来这不是非常严重的问题，可以解决。当然前提是游戏要好玩。
Chay Hunter：这个策略挺有意思的。Fight List发行后表现如何？
Hugo Peyron：挺不错的。在法国、意大利和美国都获得了热烈反响。Fight List登顶各个国家的榜单后增长势头依然不减，这个位置维持了好几个月。在法国，Fight List处于榜首的时间前后加起来大概有6个月。那时候真觉得难以置信。我们明白了发行领域才是我们能够大展拳脚的地方。
Chay Hunter：跟我们介绍介绍Fight List的开发团队吧。
Hugo Peyron：开发团队是由两名全职的法国工程师组成的。他们甚至都不是游戏开发者，他们是利用闲暇时间创造了这个小游戏。在我们接手之前，Fight List的设计和内容还有很大的提升空间，而且这还是一个以内容为主的游戏。Fight List原先的名字是Two4Tea。但重点在于我们找到了这些开发者，可以和他们一起重塑整个游戏。这是我们作为发行商更加与时俱进的地方。通过给出实际的建议、进行个人辅导促使他们充分发挥潜力。我们的其中一位发行经理会教导他们如何制作一个成功的休闲游戏。其中涉及到产品、玩法还有设计。
Hugo Peyron：当然，我接着讲另外一个相关的例子。我们用同样的策略发行了Snake VS Block，它在大多数应用商店中仍保持着第一的位置。
关于这个游戏的经历也是跟之前很相似。我们联系上了一个由两人组成的游戏开发团队Bento。他们开发游戏已经七年了，一直没有获得成功。他们甚至有和Ketchapp合作过。我们见了面，花了两周的时间给他们一些反馈。5天之后，他们给出了一个改良版的Snake VS Block。我们对它进行了全面测试，一周之后就发行了这个全新版本的Snake VS Block。
在两周的时间内，他们对市场进行了的深入研究分析，提出各种想法。三周之后，正式版的Snake VS Block华丽诞生了。我们花了两周时间悉心指导，5天后他们就交出了令我们满意的答卷。所以，我们前后总共只花了3个星期来完善这个后来在40多个国家畅销的冠军游戏。我们挑选出有潜力的开发团队，然后进行指导，提升游戏成为大热门的几率。
Hugo Peyron：苹果公司里有几个我们认识的人，他们负责欧洲Apple Store编辑推荐，我们会和他们谈谈，看看要怎么做才能得到推荐。通常是要整合最新的iOS功能。每次我们发行新游戏都会发给他们一份规划图。Paper.io在所有地区都获得了编辑推荐，Snake VS Block也是。老实说，虽然被推荐就能得到10万次下载，但是从长远来看，它的作用是有限的。游戏团队应该重点关注的是用户获取。这就是我们的策略，这就是我们在做的事。Snakes VS Block被推荐后在全球范围内收获了20万下载量。而上个月，这个数字增长到了2000万，全靠UA。
Hugo Peyron：我们之前发现的Snake VS Block单局时间太长了，所以我们进行了A/B测试，看看加快移动速度是否能增加游戏粘性，又或者是降低留存率。移动速度加快，难度也随之增加，但事实上我们发现游戏粘性也增加了。为什么？我的看法是人们想要的是一个休闲的、消遣性的游戏。如果单局的平均时长超过15分钟，那他们想要回到游戏中继续挑战的欲望就会降低。休闲玩家只是想在乘车的路上打发些时间，可能只是一站的时间。如果游戏耗时很长，他们就不会想去点开。这就是为什么《皇室战争》会这么成功。Supercell创造了一款杀时间的休闲游戏，一局对战耗时大概也就3分钟。
In this interview we speak with one of Voodoo’s Publishing Managers, Hugo Peyron, to find out how they grew from a small studio of two engineers into a game publishing powerhouse with successive smash hits on the appstores.
An interview with Voodoo games
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Hugo, could you kick things off by describing a little about Voodoo, yourself, and what drew you into the gaming industry?
Sure. My name’s Hugo and I’m currently a Publishing Manager at Voodoo. I met the co-founders, Alex and Laurent, 4 years ago when the company was still a small startup. I was actually completing a 6-month internship for them at the time. We immediately got on very well and after finishing the internship I was sad to leave them, but I wanted to go travelling.
After going abroad and working a few similar roles in gaming, I finally came back at Voodoo. We were around 10 employees at the time. Our first project was a game called Bool which simply did not work. Nonetheless, we persevered in the industry and released Paper.io – our first major smash hit. It picked up a lot of traction worldwide and since that point we have released a string of #1 hits.
So how did that experience with Bool influence your strategy going forward?
Our strategy changed mainly as a result of the things we were forced to learn and become good at very quickly. To survive at that time, we had to really fine-tune and develop our knowledge of user acquisition, and on extracting the most value out of each user. Firstly, buying users as cheaply as possible. Secondly, extracting those with the most value for our ad-based model. In those first three years, we worked tirelessly on honing our UA optimization and monetization strategy. It was essential for us, just to survive with this average game.
What was Voodoo’s first major release?
It was Quiz Run. It was our first game and it was a game that we created internally, before publishing had really occurred to us as an option. It’s quite interesting because everything we learned during this development process was closely linked to the publishing aspect of the business. We learnt a lot from this experience, mainly because Quiz Run was quite a good game, but it wasn’t a smash hit. It was well developed and the concept was quite new, but for whatever reason it just wasn’t a hit and we knew that it would never change the world for us.
And it was at this point that you decided to tackle game publishing?
Yes, exactly. It quickly became clear to us that taking the publishing route was the next logical step for the business. We were really, really good at user acquisition and monetization and we knew that we had to apply these skills in more than just our own games. We had two games out by that point, but as anyone in the industry knows, developing mobile games from scratch is a painstaking process. We were aware of this and we knew that our real knowledge and skillset was in the business side of things; user acquisition and monetization, and that’s something that you can really leverage and use on several games at any given time.
Was the shift into publishing a difficult one?
Honestly, it was great. It was when things really started making sense, to me at least. When I first joined Voodoo, I didn’t know how to code. I didn’t know how to design. I didn’t know anything about the product, and very little about the industry.
It was a strange situation and I knew I had to find something to do. Based on what we’d learnt from our first two titles, I pitched the idea of publishing and everyone was on board. We were all excited by the idea. It seemed like a great opportunity.
How did it go to begin with?
At first, terribly. When I started the publishing arm we did the classic sourcing like cold calling studios. I started calling people all over France – all day, every day. I would get to the office each morning and call absolutely anyone that I thought would be interested in working with us. After while I realised I could only make 10 or so cold calls a day. It just wasn’t going quick enough. We needed to contact way more than that to find the absolute best of the best. So, we decided on a more drastic approach; one that would help us source studios across the world, not just in France.
Sounds interesting. What did you do?
We created a script that scraped the Google Play store, where you could find the studios’ emails at the time (you couldn’t find them on the iOS app store). That gave us about 36,000 emails in less than a day. We ran A/B tests on different emails, different subject lines mainly. Then we emailed everyone with the best working headlines. After that we got about 500 responses and from that we got one game.
Which game did you find?
We found Fight List. It was a much better game than Quiz Run, with a unique concept and much, much better KPIs – especially the retention. Then we just applied what we’d learnt about user acquisition and monetization and there was an immediate spark which multiplied our revenue by 100x. It’s funny really; all these different techniques just to get in touch with gaming studios. Now they’re getting in touch with us. Everything paid off.
You mentioned you had 500 responses. How did you narrow this figure down and make your final selection?
We screened and played all the games, but at the same time tried to remain agnostic. From this we created a shortlist of studios where we thought the quality of gameplay was sufficient, mostly by analyzing the code. It they were poorly coded then there really wasn’t much point. But if the design was poor, as was the case with Fight List, that wasn’t as important – that was something we could work with – if the gameplay was good.
It took us a total of 3 weeks to produce a game that has since reached number 1 in more than 40 countries.
We also asked them to integrate our analytics tool and share access so that we could review some core KPIs, and from that we would analyze the retention and error logs. And purely on that we chose the game. Any game with high retention we would consider for launch.
That’s an interesting tactic. How did Fight List do after launch?
Pretty well, actually. It was a major hit in France, Italy and the US. After reaching top game in each country, it stayed up in the top positions of the charts for a while longer – a good couple months. In France, it stayed top overall for about 6 months. It was ridiculous. At that point, we really understood that our ‘A game’ was in publishing.
Who were the developers behind the Fight List?
The developers were two French engineers who were working full time. They weren’t even game developers, yet in their spare hours they created this small game. Before we got involved the design and content left a lot to be desired – and this was a content based game! They’re called Two4Tea. I think what’s very important here is that we found these guys and we re-worked the whole game with them. That’s where we’re more modern as a publisher. We take studios, and we push them to reach their full potential by giving them practical advice and personal tutoring. One of our publishing managers will coach them on how to make a successful casual game. That will be coaching on the product, gameplay, and design.
Can you give another example of a game you published?
Sure, I can give you a relevant one right now. We used the same tactics to release Snake VS Block, which right now is a big hit game at position #1 in most of the app stores.
In this case, it was a very similar process. We found a studio made up of just two guys, called Bento. They had been making games for 7 years and up until this point they were never successful. They’d even worked with Ketchapp. Then we met them and gave them some feedback over a 2-week period. 5 days after that they had refined Snake VS Block. We tested it thoroughly and launched the new, improved version one week after that.
What kind of feedback did you give?
It was a mixture of consultancy and coaching. I organized a call with them where they analyzed the market. What’s working? It’s arcade games with very simple gameplay. Something that isn’t too stressful. Something that is ‘snackable’ and enjoyable in short sessions. Something that is endless.
We integrate GameAnalytics in every single one of our games.
They analysed the market intensely for 2 weeks, throwing ideas back and forth. And that led to a published version of Snake VS Block in a 3-week turnaround. 2 weeks of intense coaching, after which it was made in 5 days by them. That’s a total of 3 weeks for a game that has reached number 1 in more than 40 countries. We identify people who have potential, then we coach them so that they have the best chance of releasing a hit.
How do you increase exposure in the initial phase of launching a game?
We have a few contacts at Apple who manage featuring in Europe and we’ll speak with them and see what we need to do to get a feature. Usually it’s to do with integrating the latest iOS features. Each time we release a game we send them a roadmap. Paper.io was featured worldwide, so was Snake VS Block. But to be honest, featuring will give you around 100K downloads. In the long run, it’s not that useful. Studios should really focus on user acquisition. That’s what we do, that’s our strategy. For example, with Snakes VS Block we had a feature which got us around 200K downloads worldwide. In comparison, last month we did 20 million downloads – all from UA.
Do you push a lot of cross-promotion in your network of games?
We don’t focus on cross-promotion currently, mainly because the space that you use for cross-promotion is then unavailable to an advertiser, and usually cross-promotion will work on the first interstitial, and that’s the most valuable one. We calculate how much money are we losing when we use that space to cross-promote. I personally don’t think that using the first interstitial to cross-promote is the best solution. It’s the old-school solution. That’s why in September this year we’re going to start building our own in house cross-promotion SDK.
Can you share some information about how you use GameAnalytics at Voodoo?
Sure. We integrate GameAnalytics in every single one of our games. For us, the most important thing it does is to help us check the retention of potential partners. We look for the highest numbers possible. If a game has low retention we will kill it. We kill about 19 out of 20 games that we test.
We have a rule that every single feature we add must have a positive effect on the core KPIs…
So, I’d say a key benefit of using GameAnalytics is that we can quickly see if a game is or isn’t worth our time and coaching. It takes us a few seconds to set up; it’s just a line of code, yet it’s huge timesaver. When you’re in the production phase of a game retention is king. For every single version of a game, if the retention doesn’t show any increase then we won’t launch. GameAnalytics gives us a clear and accurate insight into that.
What other KPIs do you think are important to track? And do different team members check different metrics?
When it comes to other things that we check, it’s the number of sessions played. We also use funnels, where we’ll check for example the number of people who play 50 sessions, or 100 sessions – which is linked to retention but not exactly. We have a rule that every single feature we add must have a positive effect on the core KPIs, so with every update to the game we closely review the player analytics to benchmark performance and learn whether our efforts have led to positive results. Every single person in the team uses it. Me: a product manager, designers, developers. Everyone feels a lot of ownership over whether a game is successful or not. And everyone is checking GameAnalytics daily to see what we can improve.
Can you give any practical examples of design changes you’ve made to gameplay based on analytics data?
In Snake VS Block we found that session length was too long, so we A/B tested to see whether a faster pace would make the game more ‘sticky’ or cause retention to diminish. In fact, we found that making the game more difficult made the game ‘stickier’. Why? My explanation is that people want a ‘snackable’ game. If something takes longer than 15 minutes, that’s going to dissuade them from coming back for another challenge. Casual gamers just want to play whilst on their commute. It could just be for just one bus stop. If the game takes longer than that, they won’t open it. That’s why for example Clash Royale is so successful. They made just a small ‘snackable’ game where you can enjoy the whole experience in around 3 minutes.
For any developers reading this, are you open to being contacted with more games in the production phase?
Definitely. When a company reaches out to us we’ll organise a Skype call for about an hour, where we give an overview of what we do, our processes, how we work, our philosophy – and lots of really useful tips on how to make a successful casual mobile game. After that we stay in contact with each studio via Skype and have weekly calls, giving them tips on how they can change and improve their game. We also usually help them with the design; we have 3 in-house designers and we’re always on the lookout for great new games to keep them busy!
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Well, as we speak the team is working with game studios in about 30 different countries, on more than 60 titles. We expect to release 4-5 hits by the end of year.
I like the confidence.
Wait and see （source：gamesindustry.biz ）