Sent on October 15th 2021.
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We are in the era of live service games. Ten years of this era, I’m baffled by entrants to gaming who don’t grasp the utmost importance of keeping players in your games for years.
This is the basis for the incumbents of mobile gaming to thrive. It is why Supercell is still so dominant with Clash of Clans, a ten-year-old game.
Many argue that there must be other ways to succeed in gaming. But in the last two years, observing what kind of games brought in the most revenue, all these games have one thing in common: Meaningful long-term goals.
An analogy: you are a mountaineer, trekking an ascent to the highest peak you’ve ever climbed. Through days of toil, you reach the peak. Taking in the triumph, you notice a line of mountains in the distance. The highest of them is something you haven’t imagined climbing until now. It will require effort at a different level, but climbing that mountain is your new objective.
Let’s go back to gaming. We obsess first over Day-1, Day-3, and Day-7 retention numbers. We know that those are important for any game. But gradually, we start focusing on Day-30, 60, 90, and onwards. Supercell is looking at Day-360, 720, 1080.
Why does it matter that players are showing up on Day-1080? You get to start stacking daily active users. The more new players from 2018 that are still returning to the game in 2021, the more returning players you will have from all subsequent years, months and days. Each day when 1,000 new players start, and you get 2% of them to come back on Day-1080, it means that 20 people are being stacked for each of those days.
Meaningful long-term goals are the key to getting players back on Day-1080. I’ll share some examples of how the player, who climbs the first mountain and then sees a new mountain peak on the horizon, wants to keep pushing and reaching higher elevations.
During the pandemic, all the games that did exceptionally well have been ones that provided these meaningful long-term goals.
Pokemon Go is done well. Its core isn’t that people want to walk outside, but in the deep collection mechanics and the meaningful long-term goal of “you got to catch them all.” But there are several mountains along the way. First, you want to own a group of Pokemon that can beat the most challenging Rocket Leaders. You also have the goal of winning your neighborhood gyms.
But they are subsequent. Great game designers who know how to utilize long-term goals surface these goals into the game from early on, giving the player a feel for something that they can’t yet attain, but through some hard work, they’ll finally reach these objectives.
Marvel: Contest of Champions is another game with great long-term player goals. If you haven’t played this game, it’s time to pick it up. It’s a Marvel character collector with one of the deepest metagames, tied to an excellent deep combat mechanic. The game’s foundation, of endless variety in characters, the slow ramp-up of power progression through meaningful player choices, makes for a game that will last for decades at the top of the top-grossing charts.
Clash Royale is a game where the long-term goals feel great for the first six months, but there’s hardly anything to strive for after twelve months. You’ve perfected a deck, and you are collecting more of the same cards to increase the power of your existing deck. The gameplay variety sucks, and there’s no meaningful goal in sight. Sure, you might want to join an even more awesome Clan and take them higher in the leaderboards.
But the leaderboard ranking isn’t that interesting. The activities you are partaking in daily become a grind. Even though a top leaderboard ranking is an objective to work towards, it’s not very meaningful, and the game doesn’t allow you to grow, to become even more clever at the game as you progress. Lacking the element of mastery in the core gameplay poisons the long-term goals.
I often talk about the core gameplay being tied to the metagame and linking back to live ops. All of them need to facilitate the meaningfulness of the player’s long-term goals. That’s how you get players to come back on Day-1080.
All those five-star reviews can’t be wrong 🙂 Get my book, “Long Term Game: How to build a video games company” from Amazon. Available on Kindle, audiobook and paperback.Check it out
📈 Guillaume Verlinden — Growing games and teams
Guillaume Verlinden is the Managing Director of Kolibri Games, a game studio well known for its tycoon games like Idle Miner Tycoon. Guillaume started his career in management consulting and moved to game some eight years ago when he joined Social Point. He quickly grasped what gaming was about and started improving older live games, growing many plateaued games like Monster Legends and Dragon City.
In this episode, with talk about Guillaume’s experiences of leading game teams, how a greenlight process should work, and why growing teams and games can be challenging.
Here are my highlights from the discussion.
What is the crux of growing an “old game” through live ups?
You need to understand what’s the core emotion in your game and double down on it and people will follow you.
And that’s, I think how we managed to accelerate the growth or to reverse some trends. By going to the root emotion in the game and building upon it. I’m very convinced that games that have been successful at something, have a chance to grow again.
How should developers think about understanding their audience and the player community in a better way?
When I started on Monster Legends, we have this conviction that we have to understand better the players and we started to interact directly with players and organized calls.
I was chatting every every single day with the most engaged players from the game. They become even friends and they opened my eyes.
Sometimes you have some concepts and some convictions. I don’t know where they come from. Maybe some gurus of our industry. But when you talk to the players, you just experiment a completely different world.
Listen to the full episode by going here.
🧠 In Case You Missed It
- How To Evaluate Mobile Game Ideas
- Alli Ottarsson — From operator to VC
- How to run a team meeting
- Start a games company on the side
- There’s not enough full-time angel investors in gaming
- Elad Levy — Custom analytics for games
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- Integrate Bitcoin into your games with ZEBEDEE
- Game depth
- and more
📃 Articles worth reading
+ 5 Reasons Why I Became Bullish on Blockchain Gaming — “In my heart, I am a game designer. I spend most of my waking hours thinking about game mechanics and how they will make players feel. I want to make players feel awesome. For me, the potential of blockchain gaming is not about the money, it’s not about the promise of my players getting rich quick, it’s about how ownership can change the way a game makes them feel.”
+ The five most common mistakes founders make in trying to find Product Market Fit — “Hopefully, my founders are pretty clear on the metrics they need to establish PMF. We focus all the time on the report card in the document above — magic, d7 and d30 retention, engagement, channels and organic growth. But I rarely find a later stage seed founder who knows the metrics for PMF.”
+ 50 Questions to Find a Co-Founder and a Startup Idea — “Finding a co-founder can feel like a more intense version of dating. One key difference though is that most people have at least some experience with real-life dating. And there’s certainly tons of self-help books for tips as well as apps that make it easier to meet people. But when it comes to figuring out how to find a co-founder, it’s hard to know where to begin.”
💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about
“Instead of treating events as wins or losses, ask ‘Did I learn something I can apply in the future?’ If not, you must treat it as a loss.” — Naval Ravikant
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