Advance analytics has brought in a wave of new game systems and ideas on how to retain, monetize, socialize users in the game space. With so much data that is being pulled it is very easy for a product manager, designer, producer to get lost in all the feedback that is coming from industry leaders, the business intelligence team and even the CEO who has a bright idea every new quarter as he plays the new trendy games in the app store.
Managing all this can be debilitating, and potentially detrimental to your product as your resources are limited and time stops for nobody.
So what do you actually prioritize?
Much of the noise around this industry is about Day 1 retention and Day 7 Retention and the on-boarding process, which is all very important as these key metrics identify whether your game is fun or not.
This post is not about whether your game is ‘Fun’
This post focuses on the steps after you realized that your game is fun and the macro perspective on how to approach your product during live ops.
In this space, I would have to say that there are 3 major meta system that you need to carefully craft and make sure that they stand strong as pillars in your game, or you’ll end up like Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes with their book of features.
Players are fundamentally driven by levels of need, whether it be reward based, status based, or competitive based all these intrinsic values are where the designer needs to carefully plot out the player behavior on how they will engage and be motivated to thrive in your product.
I’m discussing these points because when it comes to features it almost feels like a push and pull between sacrificing your Revenue numbers for retention or vice versa, and with the many products i have released to date, I’ve come to terms with the these 3 meta systems that will inherently improve your retention and monetization at the same time. (Which can be mind blowing sometimes during liveops as many feel they are constantly fire fighting and keep the flames as low as possible before the actual house comes crumbling down.
Competitive Meta System
The competitive meta system will be fundamentally your most monetizable / engageable system in your game. Having more than 1 of these running at the same time can cannibalize your revenue and carefully crafting an event system to get players pumped for these tournaments on a weekly basis is imperative for the success of your game.
For example: Clash of Clans has a system called
This is the day when clans prepare their defenses, gather information about, and start making plans against the opposing clan.
This design is literally prepares all the players for an incoming event for players to prepare for the tournament. The frequency of these events is relative to the rewards and the degree of difficulty related to the game. The degree of difficulty means how hard it is to get yourself or your guild organized and ready to compete in this tournament.
For example, Clash of Clans, Clan War Leagues happens once a month and the tournament takes place for 8 days against 15 other clans at a chance of the top prize. The requirements are pretty high as this tournament demands the engagement of all your guild members to battle every day for 8 days.
The frequency in which you design your tournament schedule and the rewards you offer needs to be balanced around how much you demand of the players time, and how gratifying the prize is. This is all dependent on your economy balance, and the resources in the game.
I would like to stress the frequency in which you schedule your competitive system because over scheduling doesn’t yield a positive outcome as fatiguing your player based is not recommended.
If you’re thinking liveops on a weekly basis, you ideally want to create a build up to the weekly tournament so players can spend the entire week preparing for it.
Social Meta System
The power of a well integrated social meta system shall not be taken lightly. When implemented correctly, it’s almost like obtaining the holy grail or in marvel terms the infinity gauntlet.
The power of social influence can keep anything more competitive,valuable, desirable a lot longer than if you were playing a stand alone game. If I reference a game like Clash Royal, (For this post, im referencing Supercell products, since its the easiest to understand and pretty much everyone has played their games before) the sum of your total trophy count is the total value of your Guilds Power. This dynamic creates a concept where the guild leader applies pressure to the entire guild to maintain a certain trophy count or they get removed from the Guild.
This Social pressure will keep the bottom feeder playing catch up and the top 1% constantly pushing the guild forward until they break down or rise to the top. This effectively creates a system where retention goes up in all segments in the guild as engagement is necessarily to achieve a common goal no matter where you fall in the guild. You're either trailblazing or playing catch up.
The integration of a social meta system synergizes very well with a any competitive leaderboard where the entire guild is involved. Something I like to call GVG (Guild Vs. Guild) These events should be the focal point of your liveops schedule and can assume that these events will be the biggest revenue makers. But remember event fatigue is a real thing so don’t just setup GVG events back to back to back or players will churn very fast.
Reward Meta System
Surprisingly enough the reward meta system saw a significant make over and experienced a round of innovation back in 2018 with the introductory to the Battle Pass system. A lot of RPG mobile games were implementing a very cheap way to reward users with a cost effective value proposition by conceding potential revenue by gaining retention. What i mean by this is game developers were providing Monthly Pass items that provided players $100 worth of value for $20 but the only way to earn all $100 dollar worth of these items was for them to login everyday for 30 days.
This system was proved to be very effective and cheap way to raise your revenue all while increasing your retention rate.
Than fortnite came along and ripped Dota’s idea of the battle pass where you front the load and advertise all the cool items you can get in the game if you only pay $X, but only for a limited time as the pass expires at a specific date. The value proposition and the exclusivity of the battle pass was the main contributor for the success of this product. The value proposition was to get all these cool skins and $13 worth of Hard Currency for only $10. All players had to do was purchase the bundle pass and play the game. (alot)
You can read about the effectiveness of the battle pass in this post i wrote previously
In summary, a pass system that incentivizes players to play to earn more is a very powerful system that converts players into customers and increase their retention as the objectives become very clear for players from go.
Designing out your main meta pillar systems should ‘in theory’ help prioritize your feature development path and in turn build a more all inclusive experience than piece mealing features to solve one off KPI metrics that you are looking to solve during the liveops phase in products life cycle. The more confident you are in your pillars will make for a better soft launch and global launch.