Tag Archives: Game

monetization-01

Maximize Profits with the Top Freemium Tactics of 2020

The global gaming market is estimated at $152 billion, with 45% derived from mobile games. The mobile game market is constantly evolving, new tactics and even platforms, like Apple Arcade, are being introduced. As a mobile game developer, being dynamic and staying up on the latest trends is of the utmost importance. Staying on top of these trends will help make a more engaging and profitable mobile game.

Keeping this in mind, below are the top freemium tactics of 2020:

RETENTION IS (STILL) KING

Mobile game developers must remember that freemium games begin and end with a good retention strategy that keeps users engaged.

Daily Tasks: Set-up daily tasks that pass the Starbucks Test. One of them can be opening the app on a daily basis. These should be fairly simple to complete and offer a reward, encouraging users to integrate gameplay into their daily lives.

Rewards Pack on User Birthdays: Give users some kind of bonus on their birthday to enrich their personal relationship with the game.

Challenge Dormant Users: After 3 days, give users a special, temporary challenge to reengage them with the app. Temporary promotions can be an effective way to instill a sense of urgency in the call-to-action and trigger users to open the app.

Promotion Before Subscription/Free Trial Ends: Tempt the user to sign-up or to extend their subscription by offering a temporary promotion 24-48 hours before their free trial/subscription ends.

When it comes to measuring retention, check out the model retention rates below from The Tool (Performance-Based Mobile ASO):

  • Day 1 Retention – 40%
  • Day 7 Retention – 20%
  • Day 28 Retention – 10%

Retention can also be tracked hourly instead of daily where Day 1 Retention will be the percentage of users who returned within 24-48 hours from the install. Here’s how it might look in analytics systems such as devtodev (via The Tool):

Retention-Analytics

OUTSTREAM VIDEO ADS

Outstream Video is a new type of video ad unit, referred to sometimes as “native video”, designed for targeting mobile users.

Outstream Video ads do not require placement within a Youtube video. They play with the sound off on mobile screens when more than 70% of the ad is visible. The user can tap the ad to turn the sound on and restart the video from the beginning, or they can continue scrolling. When less than 70% of the ad is visible, the video pauses.

Advertisers such as the Hong Kong tourism board have had great success using Outstream Video ads, delivering 30% incremental reach with a 40% lower cost per completed video and 85% lower CPM.

REWARDED ADS PAY OFF

When it comes to monetizing a mobile game through advertising, rewarded ads remain at the top of the food chain. A recent survey of app publishers asked what their most successful monetization method was. Rewarded Video Ads won with 75% of the vote.

By offering users some kind of in-game reward, such as an extra life, a bonus item, or a new avatar, app developers can improve UI and engagement while encouraging ad views without bothering the user. Rewarded ads remain the ad unit with the highest earning potential.

LOOT BOXES

A loot box is a randomized box of in-game prizes. Users pay for an in-app purchase, but there is no guarantee of whether it will contain gold or pennies, the user has to make the decision to purchase in exchange a random reward. While this tactic is somewhat controversial in Europe where Belgium and the Netherlands have cracked down and labeled it gambling, it remains a popular tactic. Loot boxes are particularly effective for  Whales, wealthy mobile game users who will readily pay to improve their performance in the game.

SELL YOUR DATA

The collection and sale of data is a massive industry. If your app offers the technical means to collect user-generated data such as geolocation, it may be worth it to acquire user consent to license that data.

Applications like Waze & Foursquare receive community-generated data from their users and effectively leverage it to monetize their applications. Waze licenses data to businesses placing location-based ads, whereas Foursquare licenses point of interest geolocation data to Google & Apple for their first party GPS apps Apple Maps & Google Maps.

CONCLUSION

It is important to keep in mind that monetization is the icing on the cake—without an engaging game that hooks users, there will be nothing to monetize. However, making key decisions in the development process with the monetization strategy in mind will *literally* pay off in the long run.

Check out our previous blogs on Mobile Game Monetization for an overview of the fundamentals.

SI_WiiU_TheLegendOfZeldaBreathOfTheWild

The Masterful Audio of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The original Legend of Zelda came out in 1986 on the NES. Games were evolving from endurance tests to simple narratives in the Socratic tradition. Having recently stunned the world with Super Mario Bros in 1985, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto set-out to create a game with a world. Miyamoto grew up in Japan exploring the fields, woods, and caves of Kyoto. He designed the first Legend of Zelda to be “a miniature garden that players can put inside their drawer.” He combined Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and the Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone to create what would become one of Nintendo’s greatest franchises.

Zelda Creator Shigeru Miyamoto

Zelda Creator Shigeru Miyamoto

31 years and over 18 iterations later, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch to widespread critical acclaim—many publications have declared BOTW to be among the greatest games ever created.

As any game designer knows, audio is vital to providing an audience with feedback. As with every element of the game, Nintendo has taken Zelda’s audio to a new level with Breath of the Wild. Here is our review and breakdown of what makes the audio of BOTW so special:

MUSIC

Nintendo composer Koji Kondo initially intended to use Maurice Ravel’s Bolero as the theme music for the original Legend of Zelda in 1985, but upon learning the copyright was intact, he composed the legendary “Zelda Theme”. Nintendo has always dedicated a large amount of time and care to the music of Zelda, but with BOTW, they’ve taken things to the next level.

Acute Zelda-philes will recognize the integration of electronic and orchestral instrumentation as innovative to the franchise. Music has always been used to give the user feedback regarding the setting— Dungeon Theme, which plays when Link is in a dungeon level.

In music, this technique is called a leitmotif: a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.

In BOTW, music is used to delineate location, themes, characters, and even special enemies! While the combat theme plays fighting most baddies, anyone who has played BOTW will recognize the infamous Guardian Theme and of course the Hinox Theme.

The first time the player hears these songs come on, it is scary and immediately invests you with a bombastic sense of imminent danger.

Music changes by location and by time of day, as demonstrated by the Gerudo Town Day and Night songs.

In the Korok Forest, when entering uncharted territory, the user hears an eerie tune that gradually increases in volume until the user is transported back to the start of the forest, as demonstrated in this video:

Shards of stories are told through musical sequences sung by Kass, dispersing exposition about the world and clues to the puzzles the user must solve.

All told, The Legend of Zelda Soundtrack has about 211 songs! Dedicated players can easily invest hundreds of hours into an open-world RPG, so diversifying the music is vital to keeping players engaged and preventing  the game from feeling repetitive. Big, sweeping orchestral soundtracks like these are saving symphony orchestras, according to the Wall Street Journal.

SOUND DESIGN

Longtime composer and sound supervisor Hajime Wakai oversaw the sound of BOTW. While audio cues for sound effects in the Zelda series traditionally have had a very lo-fi electronic feel, BOTW uses fully orchestrated, live-performed instruments, investing the user with the feeling of watching a live performance. Wakai recorded over 10,000 different sounds for the game. In the Nintendo blog, he explains the many different types of footsteps.

“I mixed various kinds of sand so to get good footsteps. We searched for a combination of materials and how to apply them for the sound of the equipment. Ice boards melt and crack each time they walk and have to be replaced. The studio is full of stinky smells as you continue stepping on the grass. There were various hardships.”

Check out these photos from inside the sound studio:

production-notes10-image01

production-notes10-image02

The intricacies of the sound design are on full display in BOTW, with different sounds for hitting flesh creatures, hitting bone creatures and the very notable sound of the Master Sword clashing against a Guardian:

The sound of BOTW enhance the experience and helps the user FEEL the game. Perhaps no better example of Sound Design doing this is the sound effect made when a user breaks their weapon:

Perhaps the biggest departure from the Zelda series is the use of voices. While Zelda games traditionally only represents dialogue with text and strange grunts, BOTW includes cut-scenes with fully-voiced Zelda, Daruth the Goron, Mipha the Zora, and more. BOTW incentivizes accruing these cut scenes or “Shattered Memories” by having them be collectable. Only after collecting all of the “Shattered Memories” can the user watch the story of the game in full from front to back.

OVERALL

Given the grand scale of BOTW, it’s no surprise that the game overdelivers when it comes to its soundscape. Nintendo’s first major entry into the Zelda series in 6 years is a masterpiece. Game designers take note of what is perhaps the best sound design ever created for a video game.

Game Design Techniques: Significantly Increase Ad Revenue with a Sharp Core Loop

Due to the budgetary, software and hardware limitations of mobile games, developers must hook audiences with a well-built game incorporating layers of psychological strategy. The core of any mobile game is the Core Loop. The Core Loop is the main facet of gameplay. It’s the beating heart upon which all progress is precipitated. In sports games, it’s the matches. In Angry Birds, it’s launching the birds to destroy the pigs. In Candy Crush, it’s the levels. The Core Loop is the obstacle that users willingly take on with the intention of overcoming in exchange for a feeling of accomplishment. While retention techniques can reinforce that feeling and can add to the experience, no game can survive a poor Core Loop. In some cases, a great Core Loop doesn’t need any sort of extravagant retention technique. Flappy Bird, which took 3 hours to make, can accrue $50,000 a day in ad revenue purely off the Core Loop.

THE BASICS

A good Core Loop for a mobile game generally entails a simple, enjoyable, repetitive action which triggers a reward when executed properly. This reward is something in-game which triggers a dopamine rush for the user. The rewards can be anything from gaining points, getting lives, advancing levels, power-ups, unlocking characters and items, and so forth. These rewards are tiered and the dopamine rush should vary depending on the level of accomplishment. For instance, the main action of Fruit Ninja is slicing fruit. Slicing one fruit triggers a dopamine rush, but clearing a level of fruit triggers a larger dopamine rush, and getting on the high score list triggers yet a larger one, etc. Retention tactics can dictate how these rushes are tiered, but the action which produces the rush is the most important thing: the Core Loop.

LOOPING

Rule number one of the Core Loop for mobile games is to actually loop. After one loop completes, another loop begins. The user completes a level and begins at the next level with their score intact, or they fail to complete the level and begin at the start of the same level with their score reset. Even rewards apps for retail stores rely on Core Loop to hook users. Console games are monetized through retail, so they can craft larger budget, more intimate single-player experiences, but mobile games are generally monetized through the Freemium model, which means ad-revenues will make up the bulk of their profits. Ads come at the end of the Core Loop, so the more loops per user, the better. Thus, mobile developers generally invest in simple but rewarding, well-crafted, repetitive gameplay systems.

PROGRESSION AND REPETITION

Pac Man Level 1 Vs. Level 2 via GitHub

While a Core Loop must loop, it also must instill a sense of progression. If the user doesn’t feel like they’re making progress, they will likely quit. Users want the satisfaction of accomplishment, and both satisfaction and accomplishment require a sense of finality. Arcade games are popular on mobile devices because they thrive on repetition. Level 2 of Pac-Man is not much different from Level 1, but it is different, and that minor difference instills a sense of progression; the sense that a new challenge must be conquered with skills accrued in past gameplay experience. Memories unconsciously become technique. In games like the aforementioned Flappy Bird, the goal is simply to get a high score. There are no levels, but a sense of progression is still built purely through how one’s high score builds. If the high score weren’t displayed, Flappy Bird would still have a Core Loop, but nobody would play it since one couldn’t measure one’s progress. It wouldn’t feel like a game. The beauty of high scores is they represent a single player game with a social release, which is also great for social media promotion.

SESSION LENGTH

Session length is a vital aspect of the Core Loop. The Starbucks Test entails that the user should be able to have a meaningful experience with the game in the time it takes the barista to make them coffee. A concise session length will get users coming back often in the empty pockets of their day.

DUAL LOOP

The Dual Loop is an advanced game development technique that can deeply enhance gameplay. At the end of the first loop, the Dual Loop technique offers the user the option to stop their session and enter into a mini-loop which enhances the next loop, which is a continuation of the first. When you play Clash of Clans, you can battle, which is the main loop, but you can also collect resources or build and train your army in between battles. The dual allows the user to add quick 30-second interactions which pass the Starbucks Test and increase their investment in the competition.

One of the best ways to enhance your ability to develop a Core Loop is to play and analyze other games. A well-designed Core Loop can lead to mobile gaming success on minimal budgets, and massive success on larger budgets.

The Secret to Monetizing Mobile Games: Retention

In the Freemium era, retention is perhaps the most important measurement of a mobile game’s success. While console games are sold in boxes, rely on marketing, and profit primarily from sales (in addition to ongoing online content/purchases), the bulk of mobile games are free and must begin generating revenue after they have been installed. In-app purchases and advertising revenues make up the vast majority of revenue. The average in-app purchase is made 12 days after first launching an app. During that time the user is likely generating revenue primarily through in-game advertising.

The great FTP (Free-To-Play) game monetization expert Nicholas Lovell (a consultant on Angry Birds Go—the very first FTP game from the conception on) breaks down the FTP game design process into a pyramid of three games which play off of each other: Core Loop, Retention, and Superfan games.

FTP Pyramid Via Game Sparks

CORE LOOP: The Core Loop is active gameplay: playing matches in Madden, clearing a level in Candy Crush, catching a Pokemon and battling in Pokemon GO. The Core Loop is the heart of the game. Without an engaging Core Loop, a game has nothing on which to build.

RETENTION: The Retention Game revolves around the Core Loop and is everything that instills the user with a sense of progression toward an overarching goal to keep them  coming back. It is the scoring mechanisms, the levels, the mechanics which establish progression (commonly the game maps), the narrative in Single Player games like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed, the achievement system, and the leaderboards. Retention reinforces positive feelings and a sense of accomplishment from the Core Loop experience. Without an effective Retention game, users will not see any point to the game and will not receive an sense of accomplishment or progression toward a greater goal, and the Core Loop will seem insignificant and fade out.

SUPERFAN: The Superfan gameplay mechanics are catered to those who have developed a significant relationship with the game. They are premium subscriptions, extravagant in-app purchases, add-ons for  game’s die-hard fanatics.  Many mobile games are designed for casual play and no Superfan game, while other high-budget multiplayer games, like Clash of Clans and Pokemon GO, have very established brands and use Superfan methods to capitalize on their fervent fandom.

While having an addictive Core Loop is the most important building block, Retention reinforces positive feelings about the game, instills a sense of progression toward both immediate goals and overarching goals, and ensures users are feeling rewarded by the time they put into gameplay. Core Loop will get them in the door, while Retention will keep them in the house and lubricate their wallet.

Here are four of the best guidelines for developing retention, including specific methods, for mobile games:

SEDUCE THE USER WITH AN INTRODUCTION

In the highly competitive market for mobile games, games must engage from the introduction. Games with bland introductions will not retain users. An investing opening cut scene, an aesthetically appealing title screen and awesome music/SFX will pay off when they seduce users from the outset to play on and enter the Core Loop.

MAKE THE GAMEPLAY ACCESSIBLE

If a game is too easy or too hard, it won’t be worth the user’s time. It’s important to specify a game’s audience, decide what level of gamer they will be, and make it accessible to them.  Tutorials can help introduce game concepts, but when they are too long or restricting, they hurt more than they help. Offering users tips and tricks during loading screens and through push notifications are a clever way of increasing accessibility to new users without infringing on the Core Loop.

REDUCE AVERAGE LENGTH OF SESSION

The STARBUCKS TEST has become common terminology in game developer circles. If the user can’t have a meaningful experience in the time it takes for a barista to make your drink, then the game loop is too long. In mobile games, which are primarily played in the pockets of time where the impatient smartphone owner must wait, it’s vital to have a short Core Loop which the user can complete quickly and come back to throughout the day.

INSTILL A SENSE OF PROGRESSION

While some games, like Flappy Bird, are simple and fun enough to succeed on an arcade level with only high scores, most mobile developers are unable to achieve the same level of competition and must instill a sense of progression in order to retain the user. Whether it’s unlocking new levels or characters or progressing along a game board, the game must congratulate the user frequently in order to reinforce positive feelings about the game. Many games enlist achievement systems in order to give the user tangible goals with rewards outside of the main objectives of the Core Loop.

Read more on Achievement systems here via Gamasutra

Learn more about retention in the YouTube lecture below by Lovell. At 1:11:00, Lovell explains how prototyping the retention game outside of the Core Loop to see if it still feels effective is a great way of testing how effective retention methods.

Ultimately, the two biggest factors which will lead to uninstalls for mobile games are boredom and frustration. The game designer must battle these factors both in the immediacy of the Core Loop and the overarching retention strategies.

Mobile Game Monetization Methods for Bartle Types: Think Like an Explorer

The Mystic Media Blog is currently engaged in a series of articles examining each of the Bartle types and how to acquire, retain and monetize them according to their desires. Check out last week’s article on Achievers.

Explorer via Massively OP

The Explorer is one of the most important Bartle types to maintain in a userbase. Explorers are out for the thrill of discovery. They want to test the limits of the game and see as much of the world of the game as possible. Explorers will wander the world to find secrets. If given a level map, they will utilize it to view as much of the world as possible. They enjoy trying out different weapons and characters. For Explorers, the gameplay is simply a mechanism for discovering different worlds and abilities. They are obsessed with Easter eggs and exposing game methods to find hidden areas. They love analyzing gameplay systems and motion systems, and executing plans designed to see if they can outsmart the designer and find parts of the map which the designers hadn’t expected users to find. The savvy game designer will know his game inside out and give Explorers props when they reach rare areas of the level.

Explorers’ role in the Bartle Type ecosystem is very important. They make for easy prey for Killers, but also, the secrets which they discover generally trickle down into Achievers, much to the benefit of Achievers who will go on to use these secrets to better their status.

Check out this awesome video on balancing Bartle Types by Extra Credits:

Retaining Explorers depends on the size of the world, but even a simple 2D scroller can have several lo-fi backgrounds which will prove incentives for explorers to see all the different backgrounds. A game board is a major opportunity to show off your world and offer explorers a tangible visual for the amount of work it will take to fully see the world. Explorers love to play as different characters and with different gear to see how the game experience changes. If you really want to appeal to this archetype, creating parts of a map only accessible with certain gear or characters will drive them wild.

The beauty of thinking about Explorers as an audience is that it will force the game designer to enrich their game. Making different levels available for purchase can drive Explorers to reach for their wallet. The savvy game designer may create an area which is only reachable when the user has made an in-app purchase of new gear or a tune-up. The Explorer wants to have the most full understanding of the game, so having unlockable and purchasable characters with different music and sound effects can entice the Explorer to buy.

But perhaps the best way to monetize an Explorer is not by forcing them to buy, but by sectioning their gameplay off with rewarded ads. Rewarded ads give the user a certain amount of in-app points or game money which can go toward an in-app purchase. Explorers are willing to spend hours exploring a map without a tangible goal – thus, rewarded video ads are a great way of rewarding their inquisitive behavior while offering a preview of some of the goods available for purchase.

A properly edited trailer will preview the game world in a way that leaves enough to the imagination of the user that it instills the desire to explore, regardless of whether they are Explorers or not.

Next week, we’ll take a look at Killers and the best methods for attaining, retaining and monetizing them.

Money in the Mind: How Bartle Types Can Help You Effectively Monetize Your Mobile Game

As a mobile game developer, understanding demographics is equally as important as understanding gamer psychology. Due to the emergence of the Freemium model, profits depend less on acquiring downloads, but on retaining your user base. The key to retention is to understand not only who your game appeals to, but what they are looking for in their gaming experience and how to creatively capitalize on their desires with an effective monetization strategy.

Richard Bartle is a video game writer, professor, and researcher best known for creating MUD1, Multi-User Dungeon, the first and oldest virtual world in existence. One of the major pioneers of the MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) industry, Bartle penned a paper called “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs” which has become one of the fundamental reference texts for analyzing player psychology.

Bartle classified behavior into an axis which evaluated their tendency to act vs. interact, with players vs. the world.

Character Theory Chart (Via Wikipedia)

The Bartle Types break down into four categories:

Achievers

Achievers seek to achieve a high status within the game. They favor acting upon the world. They put the most value in points-gathering and make it their mission to rise in levels. They will work diligently to overcome obstacles presented by the game and generally take on the challenges laid before them. Achievers can also seek social fulfillment, deriving pleasure from public knowledge of their achievements (online leaderboards, statistics, unlockables etc.). They are drawn to RPGs, arcade games, anything where they can attain a high score or achieve goals.

Socializers

Socializers make the most of the game’s communicative facilities. They favor interacting with other players. They seek a social experience. Socializers are drawn to multi-player and online gaming. Their social tendencies may also cause them to engage with the games’ storylines, especially in open world games such as the Legend of Zelda and Grand Theft Auto.

Killers

Killers seek to utilize the tools offered by the game to cause distress and assert their dominance over other players and elements of the game. They favor acting on players and thrive on imposing themselves on others. They may seek to gather points and rise in levels, but only to better assert their dominance over others. Killers care less about storylines than they do about action and are drawn to shooters, sports games, and online RPGs with combat.

Explorers

Explorers seek to learn as much as they can about the world before them. They favor interacting with the world. They enjoy exploring both worlds and the mechanisms of the game. They are interested in testing all of the characters, wearing different gear, playing different game modes and levels, etc. The more complex, the more a game will appeal to explorers.

In his book Designing New Worlds, Bartle has gone on to add a third axis of implicit/explicit, leading to a total of 8 player types. While players generally skew toward one player type, any given user has a variety of desires and appealing to each Bartle archetype will ensure the game will provide an emotionally fulfilling experience to a wide audience.

While Bartle Types are vital in effective game development, the template can be used or abused if not taken with a dose of creativity and common sense. Learn from the master in this lecture on how to properly and improperly utilize the Bartle Type Theory:

You can learn what type of player you are and take your own Bartle Test here.

Mobile Game Developers Rejoice: Apple Increases App Store Size Limit to 4 GB

Apple recently announced they would increase the size limit of mobile app packages on the Apple App Store from 2 GB to 4 GB.

They experimented first by releasing Disney Infinity: Toy Box 2.0 for free in late January. Disney Infinity Toy Box 2.0 is a gaming app developed using Metal. The app is similar to Minecraft in the way it allows players to create their own world using pre-made characters. It weighs in at a massive 3.8 GB when downloaded from the App Store. The additional space is utilized in the expansion of their cast of characters. Disney Infinity Toy Box 2.0 features not only Disney characters, but many superheroes from the Marvel universe, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Incredibles.

Check out this awesome iOS preview of the game:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm7iF5l-ZcA

Although the app is available for free on iTunes, in-app purchases start at $0.99 and reach as high as $59.99. Only three characters are available for free. These free characters rotate, giving users a taste of what they are missing, as well as reason to keep checking the app. The rest of the characters can be purchased in stores like Best Buy, Walmart, etc. It is sure to be a profitable endeavor given the pre-existing fan-bases of the many characters in the mobile game.

The Apple App Store’s increased app size limit will most certainly bring about an influx of large-scale apps like the Disney Infinity Toy Box, although one thing hasn’t changed: apps which are being downloaded by a cellular network still have a 100 MB size limit. Apps above 100 MB must be downloaded using a Wi-Fi network.

While there are obvious advantages to giving users the ability to download an app wherever they have cellular service, large-scale apps are often less dependent on impulse downloads. Many developers will no doubt be excited to put the new limit to work via higher quality graphics and longer games.

The move seems consistent with Apple’s strategy of making the development process easier for app developers. Last year, Apple released Swift (for information on Swift, check out our previous post: Swift Execution: Apple’s New Programming Language Shakes Up Tech Community) and  Metal, a low-level, low-overhead graphics API which we wrote about when it debuted with iOS 8 in our post Bite the Apple: Maximize iOS 8 to Vanquish Your Competition. Both releases, along with the increased app size limit, seem to be power moves dedicated to drawing more developers to the iOS platform.

As we detailed in App Store Optimization Part 5: Key Differences Between Apple Vs. Google Play App Stores, the main difference between the Apple App Store and Google Play is Apple’s emphasis on curation. Although good ASO processes for the Apple App Store are shrouded in secrecy, it’s known that Apple focuses on promoting discovery through curation. Apple requires all apps to be approved by their team of curators before allowing them to be displayed in the App Store. Increasing the app size limit gives developers the freedom to create more intricate, high-production value games for the Apple App Store curators to promote.

If there’s one broad conclusion to be drawn from the move, it’s that mobile gaming is evolving, and Apple wants to spearhead the movement.

Mystic Media is an iOS and Android app development, web design, and strategic marketing firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact us today by clicking here or by phone at 801.994.6815