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How to Succeed in the West:
Stats, Best Practices and
Common Mistakes for F2P Core Games
David P Chiu
Senior Director of D...
What is Kongregate?
• Open platform for browser-based games
– Flash, Unity, HTML5, Java, etc.
– 96%+ of users already have...
Kongregate is also a mobile publisher of F2P games
Some of Kongregate’s Existing Developer Partners
A little background
• All stats are lifetime, min 6 weeks on platform
• ARPU: average revenue per user
• ARPPU: average re...
$0.00
$1.00
$2.00
$3.00
$4.00
$5.00
$6.00
$7.00
$8.00
$9.00
$10.00
$0 $50 $100 $150 $200 $250 $300 $350 $400 $450 $500
ARP...
Linear Growth x Many Years =
Awesome Business
Asian F2P vs Western F2P Stats
ARPU and ARPPU
ARPU and % Buyers
ARPU and % Repeats
ARPU and % 50+ gameplays
Asian vs Western Style
• Asian games: High ARPPU, tight player funnel
– Monetization caters well to big spenders
• Western...
What works in Asia doesn’t necessarily
work in the West
• Puzzle & Dragons (5/8 – 5/15)
– #1 Top Grossing Game in Japan
– Top ~90-150 Grossing Game in US
• P&D’s US ranking is st...
• MT Card Battle from LocoJoy
– Huge success in China
– But much less successful in the US
Can’t expect a game
to be succe...
What’s popular in Asia isn’t always popular in the West
• Many successful games in Asia based on Romance of the Three King...
Auto-pathing and Auto-Combat
• The last 2 years have seen a flood of auto-pathing/auto-combat games from Asia
• Very popul...
Auto-pathing and Auto-Combat
• If a game has both manual and auto-combat options:
DO show player both options and give abi...
Attitudes Towards
Free-to-Play and Pay-to-Win
Free-to-Play and Pay-to-win
• Free-to-play games have become a dominant model worldwide
• Asian developers and players are...
Free-to-Play and Pay-to-win
• Soften the perception of pay-to-win and avoid sticker shock:
DO hide USD$100+ packages until...
Sticker Stock: Extreme Edition
• Chinese CCG game with VIP system
• Earn VIP points by buying Gold (hard
currency)
• VIP p...
Free-to-Play vs Pay-to-win
• Developer removed 200k Gold for VIP10 text at Kongregate’s request
• And no new complaints ab...
Customer Service Expectations
“The Customer is Always Right”
• Western customer culture is very different compared to Asia
– Consumers feel more entitle...
Community Management and Customer Service
• The more time you invest playing a game, the more emotionally attached you bec...
Communicating during a crisis
Sometimes bad things happen (game does down, major bugs appear) and players will be upset
• ...
After the crisis:
Customer service is a chance to surprise and delight
• Handle things quickly
• Be generous with compensa...
Miscellaneous Best Practices
Timing is everything!
• Specify time zones or set a server time and have it be visible so there is no
confusion leading pl...
Timing is everything!
• Do not schedule maintenance if no one is around afterwards
to make sure everything went well
E.g. ...
You only get one chance to make a first impressions
• Don't flood with fake reviews and comments as players are smart enou...
Keep players busy!
More things to do = more players staying
• Solo and team PvE
• Solo and team PvP
• Asynch raids
• Guild...
Without progress you have nothing
• The foundations of a F2P game are a strong RPG elements and a
sense of progress over t...
Asynchronous > Synchronous
Type % 50 Plays % Buyers ARPPU ARPU
Synchronous 1.4% 0.54% $43 $0.25
Asynchronous 3.6% 0.80% $8...
Best Practices for Optimizing Monetization:
A happy customer is a paying customer
Shopping should be easy and frictionless
• Location, location, location – make the store easy to find!
• Make it easy to f...
Buy Screen
• Bonuses % or/and items provide incentives for buying larger hard currency packages
• Clearly call out bonuses...
Making the shopping experience interesting
• First time buyer/ Starter packages
• Seed players with some paid/hard currenc...
Make sure players can spend
as much as they want
• The longer someone plays your game the more likely they are to buy and
...
Make it easy for community to build
Chat, forums, player-to-player
messages are all great
Real relationships build when
pe...
Guilds are awesome
• 100% of our top games have guilds
• Guild members spend 10-20x more than non-guild members
• Strong c...
The Value of Developer Activity
Keep feeding your players
• Regular updates, new features, and events yield greater
engage...
The Value of Developer Activity
Hot New Games
Badges added
Custom User Items
New zone, XL, etc.
Equips, Guild bonuses
Hall...
The Value of Developer Activity
Front Page
Badges
Item promotion
New Version
Revenue
Fantasy Online
Asian MMO
The Value of Developer Activity
Front page
Badges added
Expansion
Labor day event
Expansion
Christmas update
Expansion
Eas...
Remember: Commitment Matters
Type of Player % Buyers Avg Trx ARPPU ARPU % Players % of Rev
Non-Repeats 0.03% 2.1 $24.69 $0...
THANK YOU
For a copy of the presentation or questions, email
davidchiu@gamestop.com
For more talks & data visit developers...
How to Succeed in the West: Stats, Best Practices and Common Mistakes for F2P Core Games (Kongregate F2P Monetization Pres...
How to Succeed in the West: Stats, Best Practices and Common Mistakes for F2P Core Games (Kongregate F2P Monetization Pres...
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How to Succeed in the West: Stats, Best Practices and Common Mistakes for F2P Core Games (Kongregate F2P Monetization Presentation, Chinajoy WMGC 2014)

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As a platform for free-to-play browser games for core gamers, Kongregate has a unique perspective and a wealth of data on what types of mechanics and characteristics of F2P games are most effective at maximizing player retention, monetization and satisfaction. David will begin by looking at the retention and monetization metrics of free-to-play games by Asian & Western developers. He will then share the best practices and game mechanics that Asian developers can learn from their Western counterparts, highlight common mistakes that Asian developers make in bringing their games to a Western audience, and cover specific DO’s and DON’Ts regarding game themes, gameplay mechanics, community management/customer support and pricing with specific examples. Asian developers will walk away with a better understanding of the Western market, how to avoid costly mistakes and how to maximize success in Western markets.

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How to Succeed in the West: Stats, Best Practices and Common Mistakes for F2P Core Games (Kongregate F2P Monetization Presentation, Chinajoy WMGC 2014)

  1. 1. How to Succeed in the West: Stats, Best Practices and Common Mistakes for F2P Core Games David P Chiu Senior Director of Developer Relations & Business Development Kongregate, A GameStop Company
  2. 2. What is Kongregate? • Open platform for browser-based games – Flash, Unity, HTML5, Java, etc. – 96%+ of users already have Unity installed • 21M+ monthly unique visitors worldwide • Core gamers – 85% male, average age of 22 • MMOs, RPGs, CCGs/TCGs, TD, shooters, etc. • Platform level virtual currency “Kreds” for F2P games • Acquired by GameStop July 2010
  3. 3. Kongregate is also a mobile publisher of F2P games
  4. 4. Some of Kongregate’s Existing Developer Partners
  5. 5. A little background • All stats are lifetime, min 6 weeks on platform • ARPU: average revenue per user • ARPPU: average revenue per paying user • Player: a Kongregate registered user who loaded the game page at least once • Plays = Sessions: our preferred method to measure retention
  6. 6. $0.00 $1.00 $2.00 $3.00 $4.00 $5.00 $6.00 $7.00 $8.00 $9.00 $10.00 $0 $50 $100 $150 $200 $250 $300 $350 $400 $450 $500 ARPU(USD$) ARPPU (USD$) ARPU & ARPPU
  7. 7. Linear Growth x Many Years = Awesome Business
  8. 8. Asian F2P vs Western F2P Stats
  9. 9. ARPU and ARPPU
  10. 10. ARPU and % Buyers
  11. 11. ARPU and % Repeats
  12. 12. ARPU and % 50+ gameplays
  13. 13. Asian vs Western Style • Asian games: High ARPPU, tight player funnel – Monetization caters well to big spenders • Western games: Lower ARPPU, wide player funnel – Monetization focuses more on initial retention and broad conversion to paid at lower prices • Some common mistakes by Asian developers when bringing their games to the West can contribute to the lower retention and conversion rates • What are common pitfalls to avoid and best practices to adopt?
  14. 14. What works in Asia doesn’t necessarily work in the West
  15. 15. • Puzzle & Dragons (5/8 – 5/15) – #1 Top Grossing Game in Japan – Top ~90-150 Grossing Game in US • P&D’s US ranking is still great but not as good relative to success in Japan What’s popular in Asia isn’t always popular in the West
  16. 16. • MT Card Battle from LocoJoy – Huge success in China – But much less successful in the US Can’t expect a game to be successful in the West just because it was successful in Asia What’s popular in Asia isn’t always popular in the West
  17. 17. What’s popular in Asia isn’t always popular in the West • Many successful games in Asia based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West • But Westerners are not familiar with these classical Chinese novels and themes • Less likely to play Asian-themed game (compared to a medieval themed game) • Also have trouble remembering Chinese names for characters and locations • Hard to follow the game story or even play the game DO consider how universal the game theme is and if it will appeal to Westerners
  18. 18. Auto-pathing and Auto-Combat • The last 2 years have seen a flood of auto-pathing/auto-combat games from Asia • Very popular game mechanics in Chinese MMOs • Convenient feature that speeds up the game • Reduces fatigue from grinding • But unpopular with Western gamers • Like interactivity, control and choice • Want to play a game, not watch a game play itself • Feel all auto-pathing/auto-combat games are the same
  19. 19. Auto-pathing and Auto-Combat • If a game has both manual and auto-combat options: DO show player both options and give ability to set the default (or default to manual combat) DON’T set the default to auto-combat
  20. 20. Attitudes Towards Free-to-Play and Pay-to-Win
  21. 21. Free-to-Play and Pay-to-win • Free-to-play games have become a dominant model worldwide • Asian developers and players are used to paying for power • But some Western developers and gamers still don’t like it • Some Western players avoid games they feel are “pay-to-win” or in which (big) spenders have too big of an advantage over free players – So avoid appearing outright as a pay-to-win game
  22. 22. Free-to-Play and Pay-to-win • Soften the perception of pay-to-win and avoid sticker shock: DO hide USD$100+ packages until after first purchase DON’T scare away potential players/buyers with high prices (Ex. “$400 packages?!?!”)
  23. 23. Sticker Stock: Extreme Edition • Chinese CCG game with VIP system • Earn VIP points by buying Gold (hard currency) • VIP points unlock VIP levels with increasing VIP bonuses • At launch, the developer stated outright that 200k gold is needed to unlock VIP10 • Players quickly calculated that it would cost USD$4,000 to unlock VIP10 • Players flooded game’s Comments Section • Even those that liked the game complained
  24. 24. Free-to-Play vs Pay-to-win • Developer removed 200k Gold for VIP10 text at Kongregate’s request • And no new complaints about the USD $4,000 cost of VIP10 DO be careful with messaging and placement of big ticket items in the shop DON’T come across as the extremely greedy, money-grubbing developer
  25. 25. Customer Service Expectations
  26. 26. “The Customer is Always Right” • Western customer culture is very different compared to Asia – Consumers feel more entitled, have higher expectations of customer service – Also more empowered (ability to get refunds, issue chargebacks, organize boycotts) • Need good community management and customer service teams to keep players satisfied
  27. 27. Community Management and Customer Service • The more time you invest playing a game, the more emotionally attached you become • Emotional investment can potentially lead to financial investment as well • Player less likely to spend in with inactive developer  Will the game get updated? Will bugs get fixed? Does the developer even care? • Creating positive community and showing good customer service  Players are more confident that their investment of time and money will not be wasted • Show the players that you are care about them (and not just making money) • Be visible – engage in chat, forums, etc • Be responsive – reply to common complaints/bugs/questions, purchase issues, etc. • Be informative – give advance notice for maintenance and changes
  28. 28. Communicating during a crisis Sometimes bad things happen (game does down, major bugs appear) and players will be upset • Effective crisis management can help calm the storm a little • Be open, transparent and honest • Post in the game forum to apologize and assure players that you are aware of the problem and are working on it • Don’t be silent! Players will think that you don’t care about them or the game. • Provide updates regularly even when you have nothing new to report (better than nothing) “We are still working to get the game back up ASAP. Sorry but please bear with us” • If you are unsure about when the issue can be fixed, avoid giving specific timelines • Don’t forget to express regret and acknowledge players’ frustration •  “We know that this sucks as those in the middle of a Clan War will lose valuable time and gold from the downtime. We are sorry and we are working as fast as we can.”
  29. 29. After the crisis: Customer service is a chance to surprise and delight • Handle things quickly • Be generous with compensation • Poor compensation can make things worse • But don’t do something unless you’re willing to do it for everybody • Don’t forget to express regret – an apology goes a long way • Canned messages or short replies can come across cold or corporate • E.g. “It was fixed. You can play now.”  No sympathy • Example of poor compensation making players angrier:
  30. 30. Miscellaneous Best Practices
  31. 31. Timing is everything! • Specify time zones or set a server time and have it be visible so there is no confusion leading players to miss events/sales • Bar on top of Wartune’s loading screen clearly lists the server time, the next event’s start time and a countdown to it • If all players are in the same server (not split into US vs EU servers), then have at least 2 instances of an event so players in different time zones can join • Daylight Saving Time – be aware of when changes occur and make adjustments as needed so you don’t start events 1 hour early or late
  32. 32. Timing is everything! • Do not schedule maintenance if no one is around afterwards to make sure everything went well E.g. Chinese MMO dev does maintenance 5-7pm China time but everyone leaves work before maintenance is done • Maintenance fails and game is down for 12+ hrs • Big drop in daily revenue • Players unhappy with extremely long maintenance and lack of response from developer
  33. 33. You only get one chance to make a first impressions • Don't flood with fake reviews and comments as players are smart enough to know • Don't use art assets and sound effects/music from popular games  Players will notice and rate down your game • Make sure that your game has a good translator
  34. 34. Keep players busy! More things to do = more players staying • Solo and team PvE • Solo and team PvP • Asynch raids • Guild battles • World boss raids • Farming • Town Building • Weapon/Gear Synthesizing & Upgrading • Astral Collecting and Combining • Etc. It is important to pace the introduction of new features/gameplay modes to not overwhelm players with a long and intimidating tutorial.
  35. 35. Without progress you have nothing • The foundations of a F2P game are a strong RPG elements and a sense of progress over time • Building up account, leveling up, adding/improves skills and stats, etc • Surprisingly it’s more important than multiplayer Type % 50+ Plays % Buyers ARPPU ARPU Multiplayer RPG 2.6% 0.75% $69 $0.51 Multiplayer Non-RPG 1.0% 0.45% $9 $0.05 Single-player RPG 1.8% 1.29% $12 $0.10 Single-Player Non-RPG 0.2% 0.53% $4 $0.02 Deep RPG mechanics and multiplayer matter: • 25x ARPU for Multiplayer RPG vs Single Player non-RPG!
  36. 36. Asynchronous > Synchronous Type % 50 Plays % Buyers ARPPU ARPU Synchronous 1.4% 0.54% $43 $0.25 Asynchronous 3.6% 0.80% $88 $0.66 Both 2.9% 1.07% $51 $0.55 Single-Player 0.8% 0.85% $7 $0.05 • Multiplayer keeps players engaged and busy in the long run • But not all types of multiplayer are created equal • Top games have both synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer (more is better) • Asynchronous is better than synchronous because it allows players to play at their own pace and convenience
  37. 37. Best Practices for Optimizing Monetization: A happy customer is a paying customer
  38. 38. Shopping should be easy and frictionless • Location, location, location – make the store easy to find! • Make it easy to find the right item – Meaningful categories and item descriptions – No massive scroll bars • Mix soft currency and hard currency items • BUT – don’t try to sell too hard, too fast. First few sessions should focus on fun & giving players reasons to come back to play and get hooked.
  39. 39. Buy Screen • Bonuses % or/and items provide incentives for buying larger hard currency packages • Clearly call out bonuses of larger packages! • Make all packages visible in one page • Hide $100+ packages until after first purchase
  40. 40. Making the shopping experience interesting • First time buyer/ Starter packages • Seed players with some paid/hard currency and guide “intro purchase” • Deals/events to get people into the habit of spending regularly • Offer items that enhance the gameplay experience (not just speedups) • Intro the right items at the right time – Lvl 1 players should not be shown the lvl 100+ holy sword that’s on sale for $100) • Keep them coming back – keep store fresh by adding new items, unlocking items as players level up and featuring seasonal and time-limited items
  41. 41. Make sure players can spend as much as they want • The longer someone plays your game the more likely they are to buy and the less price sensitive they become • Give committed players the ability to spend at $1,000+ if they want • Have lots of items that are appealing and useful to a committed player and price them higher (if possible) than items meant for early/mid-game play. [Higher means $30-100, not $1000] • If you make a fun game, someone may want to spend an infinite amount. • Don’t create a situation where spending is capped by availability or utility. • Again, remember to make it easy for players to buy!
  42. 42. Make it easy for community to build Chat, forums, player-to-player messages are all great Real relationships build when people interact. The more ways they can do it, the better.
  43. 43. Guilds are awesome • 100% of our top games have guilds • Guild members spend 10-20x more than non-guild members • Strong correlation as guilds improve retention and monetization with late stage players Some reasons they make a difference • Social incentives to return  I want to see my friends • Social pressures to return  I don’t want to disappoint them • Improves the psychology of purchases  I’m doing it for the team, not me • Upends the dynamics of pay-to-win  can set up a symbiotic relationship between buyers and non-buyers where both add value to the same group
  44. 44. The Value of Developer Activity Keep feeding your players • Regular updates, new features, and events yield greater engagement and reduced fatigue. • Sales and specials can offer significant jumps in revenue.
  45. 45. The Value of Developer Activity Hot New Games Badges added Custom User Items New zone, XL, etc. Equips, Guild bonuses Halloween, sale Christmas event Guild wars FantasyOnlineRevenue
  46. 46. The Value of Developer Activity Front Page Badges Item promotion New Version Revenue Fantasy Online Asian MMO
  47. 47. The Value of Developer Activity Front page Badges added Expansion Labor day event Expansion Christmas update Expansion Easter event Expansion Expansion New Server Revenue Fantasy Online Dream World Asian MMO
  48. 48. Remember: Commitment Matters Type of Player % Buyers Avg Trx ARPPU ARPU % Players % of Rev Non-Repeats 0.03% 2.1 $24.69 $0.01 43% 0% Repeats (2-9 plays) 0.40% 1.85 $19.61 $0.08 40% 3% Regs (10-49 plays) 4.68% 2.61 $21.35 $1.00 10% 12% Committed (50+ plays) 16.53% 7.03 $96.92 $16.02 7% 84% DO apply these learnings and best practices into your own game DON’T make the mistakes other Asian F2P developers have made in Western markets
  49. 49. THANK YOU For a copy of the presentation or questions, email davidchiu@gamestop.com For more talks & data visit developers.kongregate.com For web games contact us at apps@kongregate.com If you’re interested in mobile publishing it’s davidchiu@gamestop.com Follow us on Twitter: @EmilyG & @KongregateDevs

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