I’ve worked with a lot of different studios and when we map out the game features of their specific product one thing that always gets left out is the actually viral design. Many game designers or even producers don’t see the relevance or importance of viral design.
This is probably due to the negative connotations its associated with viral marketing campaigns and the entire facebook social gaming era that totally destroyed your wall with in-game invite posts.
All that said, really effective viral game design, can be just as appreciated as a great game design cycle or monetization cycle.
As an example, although considered an extremely traditional form, the most recent one would be how Game Zone Inc. actually hired, the #1 Searched model in 2014, Kate Upton to star in their “Game of War” game application. This was unheard of for a mobile company to spend this so much on marketing budget, especially something so traditional versus all the mobile companies salivating over their KPI data that they only purchase users that yield a positive return.
These days executives / management are more keen on knowing the KPI (Key Performance Indicator) on each of their games and whether the game is performing enough to justify marketing spend, continuous game improvement, or to shut the game down completely.
Each company also sets certain KPI Benchmarks that a game has to achieve to justify marketing spend (User acquisition) and take the appropriate steps to tune out the game.
User Acquisition is usually the decision of the marketing and management, leaving the actual developers a bit powerless regarding the potential of the actual game. KPI’s itself doesn’t really tell the entire tale of the health of the game so Viral Design is a method game designers use to keep their game afloat.
This is where we discuss the difference between,
Game Zone actually had a creative promotional strategy to effectively perform the actual function of a marketing campaign.
Which is to actually create interest.
Im pretty sure other mobile companies, with deep pockets are going to follow suit and break the bank with their version of Kate Upton / Social Freemium game advertisement “big boobs”, “Hey, look at me! i can afford Kate Upton, for my social game ad placement” but it probably won’t have as much impact as it the original, leaving the marketing team to actually think of something “creative” to attract more organic users, or the User acquisition team will end up with all the marketing budget and that’s no fun.
Unfortunately, with this viral marketing campaign, im pretty sure Ms. Upton was against having her face plastered all over the net with Game of War Banners leading to those really ugly Game of War Banner designs everywhere on the internet.
Organic Users are unique users who have downloaded your game through unpaid distribution.
Purchased Users are unique users who have downloaded your game as a result of marketing and promotion.
Before digging into the calculations of the invite rate, there is a commonly used marketing concept called the K – Factor that is used in Viral Marketing technique. To summarize, k-factor of 1 is in a “steady” state of neither growth nor decline, while a k-factor greater than 1 indicates exponential growth and a k-factor less than 1 indicates exponential decline.Basically, what the K – Factor states is that if you can achieve a status with your game where K => 1 than you’re going to be experiencing a steady or exponential growth to your game without even spending a dime of marketing on your game.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful for the marketing team? You don’t have to do anything and all these people are going to be downloading your game. But unfortunately, this is a feature that gets forgotten due to the other “important” feature demands of the “Actual” game, and designer don’t realize the impact this will have on the bottom line of their game.
So how does a game designer take this equation and implement it into their game?
Lets take a look at the K – Factor equation:
I = Invite: The number of outside links you can generate from your current users.
This can be any form but the most common ones are as below:
- Bragging Rights
- Item Unlocking
- Level Clearing
- Monster Killing
- Friend Killing
- etc. etc. etc..
- Asking for help?
- Asking a question, for your friends to answers?
- Providing Incentives
By getting users to spread links to download your game to the www, you are effectively increasing your “I” in the K Factor equation.
C = Conversion: The rate you convert your invite users to download the game.
Therefore, the quality of your invite strategy will directly effect your conversion rate. So based on your “I” strategy, how many did you effectively convert them to play your game?
If my Invite technique was to share my current city status on Facebook, the question for designer is how many of the person who shared the status to friends would take interest in this specific post and decide that they want their own city as well and play the game. Farmville, fortunately exploited this equation when Facebook went open platform and cluttered everyone’s walls to obtain new users. A lot of hate from Zynga’s technique, but rather genius with respect to the viral design stand point to get users into their game.
So, let’s think about the effectiveness of this viral marketing campaign, if you plug it into the K Factor equation.If a user posts a game invite onto their wall, they are effectively inviting all their friends to play Farmville. Thus, if you can calculate the avg. number of friends a facebook user has;
- Reportedly, in 2011 the avg, facebook user had 200 + friends.
Which means “I” equates 200 with just 1 post. What was the avg. number of wall post did a user perform during the peak of farmville? and multiply by 200…. That a pretty big number.
Even if the Conversion rate was 1%, K = 2 which would means, it would experience exponential growth.Which explains why, a lot of the Facebook games had massive amounts of users into their game up until Facebook developed a posting filter (ignore) feature, since these exploitation techniques were causing a negative experience to a lot of users.
But nonetheless, bravo for the companies that took advantage of this marketing technique to get users into their game.