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Tammy Levy at GDC 2019: Nature vs. Nurture: Unpacking Player Spending in F2P Games

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Have players committed to spending money in free-to-play games before they even install the game? Are you wasting time trying to get more people to spend money in your game? What monetization metrics should you be focusing on improving instead? In this GDC 2019 talk, Tammy Levy uses several case studies from live Kongregate games to explore how and why some player behaviors are easier and more rewarding to change, while others have a nearly unbreakable ceiling.

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Tammy Levy at GDC 2019: Nature vs. Nurture: Unpacking Player Spending in F2P Games

  1. 1. 1 NATURE VS NURTURE Unpacking Player Spending in F2P Games S A N F R A N C I S C O 2 0 1 9 | # G D C 1 9 Tammy Levy VP OF INSIGHTS & ANALYTICS
  2. 2. 2 WHO AM I? Great question… VP of Insights & Analytics Climbing hobbyist Gaming industry experience EA’s pogo Zynga Kongregate 5 years 60+ published games My micromanager checking on my GDC talk!
  3. 3. 3 KONGREGATE ~200M Mobile Installs since 2013 >10M Monthly Active Users 60 Games Published 120k Games on Kongregate.com
  4. 4. 4 HyperHippo - AdVenture Capitalist, 2015 SOME GAMES WE’VE PUBLISHED Mobile F2P: 6 years, 60 games Synapse - Animation Throwdown, 2016 Juicy Beast - Burrito Bison, 2016 HyperHippo - AdVenture Communist, 2017
  5. 5. 5 WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT TODAY? Another great question… Inspiration to develop what works for YOUR game Agenda Monetization data & insights In-game examples Goal Not a checklist of best-practices… Framework to think about monetization lots of data!
  6. 6. 6
  7. 7. FREE-TO-PLAY MONETIZATION
  8. 8. 8 IN-APP PURCHASES Are still a big deal! ad revenue 70% in-app purchases
  9. 9. 9 “MOST PLAYERS WILL NEVER SPEND IN YOUR GAME.”
  10. 10. 10 “MOST REVENUE WILL COME FROM A (VERY) SMALL PERCENTAGE OF PLAYERS.”
  11. 11. CAN ANYONE BECOME A SPENDER?
  12. 12. % BUYERS BY GENRE % of players who spend, mobile games 12 Midcore 4.5% 2.5% 2.5% 0.5% Idle / Incremental 0.2% 1.5% Casual / Hyper Casual 5% max for most mobile games
  13. 13. 13 % BUYERS ON KONG.COM Top 500 games since 2014 6% max for web games 1% - 3% for most games
  14. 14. ARE SOME PLAYERS MORE LIKELY TO SPEND? Is a spender in one game more likely to spend in another?
  15. 15. SPENDING ACROSS GAMES Players who have spent in one game are more likely to spend in another game 15 Total Spenders Play 2+ Games Spend in 2+ Games 40% 17%
  16. 16. 16 Narrow band of spenders (% buyers) SPENDING PLAYERS MATTER Some players are more likely to spend Please, don’t call them whales!
  17. 17. Successful F2P games focus on Player’s Lifetime Value or Average Revenue Per User GROW LTV! ARPU! But…
  18. 18. 18 ARPUaverage revenue per user ARPPU avg revenue per paying user ARPT
 avg rev per transaction % buyers conversion rate retention % repeat spenders lifetime sessions ARPDAU
 avg rev per daily active user num of transactions KPI LETTER SOUP Which KPIs should you focus on? What do they mean? MAUDAU
  19. 19. 19 KPIKey Performance Indicator
  20. 20. NOT ALL “KPIS” ARE CREATED EQUAL
  21. 21. 21 DETERMINE WHICH KPIS MATTER MOST Goal ➡ strong ARPU Which KPIs have a strong relationship with ARPU? Focus on these!
  22. 22. 22 CORRELATION ANALYSIS You can use excel, R, etc Model relationship between two variables Can x predict or influence y? Calculate R2 0: No relationship between x and y 1: Perfect correlation, x predicts y
  23. 23. 23 WHICH KPIS HAVE A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH ARPU?
  24. 24. KPIS BY GENRE Most frequent behavior ranges. There will always be outliers. 24 genre # of games arpu Midcore 12 $1.5 - $5.0 Idle 9 $0.50 - $1.50 Casual & Hyper Casual 16 $0.10 - $0.30
  25. 25. SESSIONS & ARPU Using sessions as a proxy for engagement 25 (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - (0.20) - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 LogofARPU Log of Sessions casual idle midcore
  26. 26. SESSIONS & ARPU Using sessions as a proxy for engagement 26 (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - (0.20) - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 LogofARPU Log of Sessions R2 = 0.46 good
  27. 27. MIN PRICE POINT & ARPU “Just get a player to spend, even if it is a low price-point” 27 (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - (0.60) (0.40) (0.20) - 0.20 0.40 0.60 LogofARPU Log of avg min price-point R2 = 0.31 fair
  28. 28. MAX PRICE POINT & ARPU Give enough options to your players that want to spend! 28 (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - (0.60) (0.40) (0.20) - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 LogofARPU Log of avg max price-point R2 = 0.601 excellent
  29. 29. ARPT & ARPU Aim for higher transaction size 29 (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - (0.60) (0.40) (0.20) - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 LogofARPU Log of avg tx size R2 = 0.503 good
  30. 30. 30 Sessions Matter1 LESSONS 2 Price-Points Matter make a fun game!
  31. 31. 31 ECON 101 LETS TALK PRICING
  32. 32. YOUR GAME, YOUR MONOPOLY You are the only game that offers THAT (virtual) good
  33. 33. 33 HOW SHOULD YOU DECIDE YOUR GAME’S PRICING?
  34. 34. 34 If you decrease your gems price and: Revenue Increases - Purchases go up, quickly - Then gems are elastic Revenue Decreases - Purchases go up, slightly - But, not enough to make up the change in price - Then gems are inelastic ELASTICITY OF GOODS The key to pricing
  35. 35. 35 VIRTUAL GOODS ELASTIC OR INELASTIC?
  36. 36. 36 CASE STUDY LOWERING PRICES Studio: HyperHippo
  37. 37. 37 $7.99 old price $2.99 new price LOWERED PRICE-POINT Similar value proposition
  38. 38. FIRST PURCHASE % SPIKED Even converted legacy players who hadn’t spent! But… 38 Did revenue spike? lowered price
  39. 39. ARPDAU DECLINED but… games are messy ecosystems 39 Revenue Declined lowered price
  40. 40. 40 ✓ Purchases went up ✓ Not enough to compensate the price drop ✓ Revenue decreased VIRTUAL GOODS ARE (MOSTLY) INELASTIC! ELASTICITY OF GOODS Virtual goods: elastic or inelastic?
  41. 41. 41 The team identified this quickly Reacted right away All was good in the capitalist world! GOOD NEWS!
  42. 42. 42 REPEAT SPEND WILL A LOWER PRICE HELP?
  43. 43. REPEAT PURCHASE RATE Overall Portfolio 2nd Purchase % 43 50% Kong Portfolio
  44. 44. PORTFOLIO VS 1ST PURCHASE $ Compare overall portfolio & first purchase price-point 44 Kong Portfolio $50+$26-50$11-25$5-10$1-4 50%
  45. 45. REPEAT PURCHASE RATE Lower price-point, lower repeat rate! 45 Kong Portfolio $50+$26-50$11-25$5-10$1-4 51% lower repeat rate 50% 46%
  46. 46. REPEAT PURCHASE RATE Most players’ first purchase is in the $5-10 range 46 Kong Portfolio $50+$26-50$11-25$5-10$1-4 51% in line with portfolio 50% 46% 50%
  47. 47. REPEAT PURCHASE RATE Higher price-point, higher repeat-rate! 47 Kong Portfolio $50+$26-50$11-25$5-10$1-4 51%50% 46% 50% 60% 62% 70%
  48. 48. 48 REPEAT PURCHASE Lower purchase price-point will not impact it! Lower price-points Do not increase repeat spend! Our “sweet spot" $5 - $25 price range Find YOUR game’s sweet spot
  49. 49. FIRST PURCHASE SETS EXPECTATIONS Most players will spend less on their second purchase 49 Price-Points: 2nd vs 1st Purchase lower same higher 48% spenders 32% 28%
  50. 50. 50 $7.99 old price $2.99 new price LOWERED PRICE-POINT Similar value proposition
  51. 51. HIGHER TRANSACTIONS For players that converted with the lower price-point 51 Transactions based on First Purchase other $7.99 special $2.99 special higher lifetime transactions
  52. 52. LOWER ARPPU For players that converted with the lower price-point 52 ARPPU based on First Purchase other $7.99 special $2.99 special highest ARPPU lowest ARPPU
  53. 53. 53 PRICE ANCHORING Don’t set too low of a bar Your game, your monopoly Price comparison ➡ within the game Price Anchoring First price ➡ perception of future prices Anchoring First piece of info ➡ future decisions
  54. 54. 54 THEN… INCREASE ALL THE PRICES?
  55. 55. 55 CAREFUL BALANCE!
  56. 56. 56 PRICING MATTERS Don’t under-price your game! Correlations with ARPU - min tx size ✓ max tx size ✓ avg tx size (ARPT) Games are (mostly) inelastic Watch out for price anchoring
  57. 57. 57 WHICH KPIS HAVE A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH ARPU?
  58. 58. KPIS BY GENRE Most frequent behavior ranges. There will always be outliers. 58 genre # of games arpu % buyers Midcore 12 $1.5 - $5.0 2.5% - 4.5% Idle 9 $0.50 - $1.50 0.5% - 2.5% Casual & Hyper Casual 16 $0.10 - $0.30 0.3% - 1.5%
  59. 59. % BUYERS & ARPU Get more players to spend, get higher ARPUs! 59 (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - (4.50) (4.00) (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - LogofARPU Log of % buyers R2 = 0.89 excellent
  60. 60. (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - (4.50) (4.00) (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - LogofARPU Log of % buyers % BUYERS & ARPU Get more players to spend, get higher ARPUs! 60 R2 = 0.89 excellent WOW, that’s super strong!!!
  61. 61. 61 Sessions Matter LESSONS Price-Points Matter 3 Maximizing % buyers is important 1 2
  62. 62. 62 WHICH KPIS HAVE A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH ARPU?
  63. 63. KPIS BY GENRE Most frequent behavior ranges. There will always be outliers. 63 genre # of games arpu % buyers arppu Midcore 12 $1.5 - $5.0 2.5% - 4.5% $50 - $200 Idle 9 $0.50 - $1.50 0.5% - 2.5% $30 - $60 Casual & Hyper Casual 16 $0.10 - $0.30 0.3% - 1.5% $5 - $30
  64. 64. ARPPU & ARPU Avg. Revenue Per Paying User & Avg. Revenue Per User 64 (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - 0.50 - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60 1.80 LogofARPU Log of ARPPU R2 = 0.69 excellent
  65. 65. 65 ARPPU MATTERS DOES THIS VARY BY GENRE?
  66. 66. 66 MIDCORE: ARPPU ~ ARPU Very strong correlation, high investment per payer really matters (1.80) (1.60) (1.40) (1.20) (1.00) (0.80) (0.60) (0.40) (0.20) - 0.20 - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60 1.80 LogofARPU Log of ARPPU R2 = 0.75 excellent
  67. 67. 67 IDLE: ARPPU ~ ARPU Strong investment per payer also matters (1.40) (1.20) (1.00) (0.80) (0.60) (0.40) (0.20) - - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 LogofARPU Log of ARPPU R2 = 0.64 excellent
  68. 68. 68 CASUAL: ARPPU ~ ARPU Not as high correlation but strong investment per payer also matters (3.50) (3.00) (2.50) (2.00) (1.50) (1.00) (0.50) - - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 LogofARPU Log of ARPPU R2 = 0.37 good
  69. 69. 69 Sessions matter LESSONS Price-points matter Maximizing % buyers is important 1 2 ARPPU matters and varies by genre4 3
  70. 70. 70 WHICH KPIS HAVE A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH % BUYERS & ARPPU?
  71. 71. SESSIONS & % BUYERS The more time a player spends in a game, the likelier the are to invest in the game 71 (3.30) (3.10) (2.90) (2.70) (2.50) (2.30) (2.10) (1.90) (1.70) - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 Logof%buyers Log of Sessions R2 = 0.56 excellent
  72. 72. % REPEAT SPENDER & ARPPU Enable steady investment from players who want to spend 72 - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60 1.80 (1.10) (1.05) (1.00) (0.95) (0.90) (0.85) (0.80) (0.75) (0.70) (0.65) (0.60) LogofARPPU Log of 2nd purchase % R2 = 0.45 good
  73. 73. KPIS BY GENRE Most frequent behavior ranges. There will always be outliers. 73 genre # of games arpu % buyers arppu repeat purchase % Midcore 12 $1.5 - $5.0 2.5% - 4.5% $50 - $200 35% - 70% Idle 9 $0.50 - $1.50 0.5% - 2.5% $30 - $60 30% - 55% Casual & Hyper Casual 16 $0.10 - $0.30 0.3% - 1.5% $5 - $30 15% - 40%
  74. 74. 74 Sessions matter LESSONS Price-points matter Maximizing % buyers is important 1 2 ARPPU matters and varies by genre 3 5 Keep % repeat spending in mind 4
  75. 75. 75 BEST-IN-CLASS REPEAT SPEND Studio: Synapse Games
  76. 76. 76 SYNAPSE’S CCGS Iteration: take what’s working, improve what isn’t 2015 Spellstone 2016 Animation Throwdown 2013 Tyrant Unleashed
  77. 77. 77 TYRANT UNLEASHED First mobile game from Synapse. Very niche. 73% 59% 51% 45%
  78. 78. 78 SPELLSTONE Expand audience reach with a more approachable theme 67% 51% 42% 35%
  79. 79. 79 ANIMATION THROWDOWN Strong monetization even if, with a bigger audience, metrics take a small hit 62% 44% 33% 27% Balance Reach and Monetization
  80. 80. 80 LIVE SERVICING STRATEGY Taking what has worked
  81. 81. 81 Oct 11 Oct 18 Oct 25 Nov 1 Nov 8 Nov 15 Previous Trait Bonus Current Trait Bonus Next Trait Bonus Guild Event Challenges Other Events or Bonuses LIVE OPS CALENDAR Well defined cadence of events.
  82. 82. 82 THE STRUCTURE OF A CARD Traits don’t have stats… Are they useless? attack & health skills traits
  83. 83. 83 LIMITED TIME BONUSES Grant a specific bonus or penalty based on a trait Leach: healing skill Gas: attack skill
  84. 84. 84 LIMITED TIME BONUSES Puzzle solving, the right combination will give you a more powerful deck
  85. 85. 85 Nov 8 Nov 15 Nov 22 Nov 29 Dec 6 Dec 13 Previous Trait Bonus Current Trait Bonus Next Trait Bonus Guild Event PvP Event LIVE OPS CALENDAR Well defined cadence of events.
  86. 86. 86 LIMITED TIME BOXES Exclusive cards that match the “active” trait
  87. 87. 87 LIMITED TIME BOXES Exclusive cards that match the “active” trait
  88. 88. BOX ENGAGEMENT The most committed players regularly engage with the boxes 88 % DAU Buying Boxes
  89. 89. STEADY GEM SINK Cadence of new boxes keeps spending players engaged 89 Gems Spent per Engaged Player new box new box new box new box new box new box
  90. 90. “DEEP” GEM SINK High spending players, spend a lot of gems in boxes! 90 Gems per Big Spender 2x Gems
  91. 91. GEMS SPENT IN BOXES 70-80% of gems spent come from regular spenders 91 Gems Spent by Purchase “History” 2+ IAP Purchases
  92. 92. 92 LIVE OPS STRATEGY Tied to the core design of the game Spending players will want to spend Regular and deep content updates Result Strong “depth” of spend Measure Repeat purchase % Purchase satisfaction If it is worth it!
  93. 93. 93 WHICH KPIS HAVE A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH % BUYERS & ARPPU?
  94. 94. LIFETIME TRANSACTIONS & ARPPU Higher ARPT + a lot of transactions => Win! 94 - 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60 1.80 (0.40) (0.30) (0.20) (0.10) - 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 LogofARPPU Log of avg num of tx R2 = 0.72 excellent
  95. 95. 95 Sessions matter LESSONS Price-points matter Maximizing % buyers is important 1 2 ARPPU matters and varies by genre 3 Keep % repeat spending in mind 4 6 Increase the number of transactions 5
  96. 96. 96 CASE STUDY INCREASING TRANSACTIONS Studio: Synpase
  97. 97. 97 TIER BOXES New design for event boxes! Tiers guarantee cards Buy more ➡ go up tiers Higher tier ➡ higher price Higher tier ➡ better value! Reduce Randomness!
  98. 98. 98 TIER BOXES Similar idea to the old gacha boxes, reduced risk for players rewards available
  99. 99. 99 TIER BOXES Similar idea to the old gacha boxes, reduced risk for players best card
  100. 100. INCREASED ENGAGEMENT Breadth: More players engaged with Tier Boxes 100 % DAU Buying Boxes testing regular cadence Similar System More Approachable regular boxes tier boxes
  101. 101. LOWER GEM SPEND Then… Is the system viable? 101 Gems Spent per Engaged Player testing regular cadence
  102. 102. INCREASED GEM SPEND Found the right balance and system that scales up 102 Overall Gems Spent testing regular cadence Lower Starting Price Much Higher Engagement
  103. 103. INCREASED CONVERSION Didn’t you say we shouldn’t focus on this too much?! 103 % First Time Buyer testing regular cadence Breadth: Higher Engagement
  104. 104. INCREASED AVG TRANSACTIONS Win, win: players also increased how many times they purchase! 104 Avg Transactions per Spender testing regular cadence Breadth: Higher Engagement Depth: Increased IAP Transactions
  105. 105. 105 LIVE OPS STRATEGY There is always room for improvement Spending players will want to spend Results You can increase both If it is worth it! Iterate and test different approaches Find the balance Between breadth and depth Without underpricing
  106. 106. TO SUMMARIZE
  107. 107. 107 SOME PLAYERS ARE MORE LIKELY TO SPEND % BUYERS NARROW BAND image credit DeltaDNA Blog
  108. 108. 108 WHEN OPTIMIZING MONETIZATION GO DEEPER, THINK BEYOND % BUYERS image credit DeltaDNA Blog
  109. 109. 109 KPIS TO WATCH % buyers (still matters) ARPPU % repeat spenders Number of transactions
  110. 110. 110 KEY TAKEAWAYS If you don’t remember anything else Depth Spending players will want to spend Provide the content to go deeper Pricing Don’t underprice your game Sessions It all starts with a fun engaging game!
  111. 111. 111 THANK YOU and to everyone that made this talk possible @KongregateDevs blog.kongregate.com @woodstockfencer Product Specialists Marketing Managers kongregate.com/pages/jobs
  112. 112. 112 ACRONYM DICTIONARY F2P = Free to Play KPI = Key Performance Indicator IAP = In-App Purchases CCG = Card Collecting Game LTV = Lifetime Value ARPU = Average Revenue Per User ARPDAU = Average Revenue Per Daily Active User ARPPU = Average Revenue Per Paying User ARPT = Average Revenue Per Transaction DAU = Daily Active User MAU = Monthly Active User

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