Have you heard this one before?
You spend months and months of hard work putting out a game. First you come up with a great idea. You build a working version and start testing it. Your friends tell you what they like about it, what they hate about it. You listen and make changes, improving and iterating every possible feature.You put out a beta and unearth a catastrophic bug. The office becomes your life. You forget what your friends look like.
Finally, when everything is finished, you launch your baby into the big bad app market. The internet explodes. People love it! Downloads spike, revenues come flooding in and everybody has a party. Your team are all rock stars.
That lasts for about two months.
After that, interest dwindles. People stop playing every day. After a while they're only playing once a week and then not at all. There are no more newspaper features on your addictive new game. Downloads slow to a trickle and then dry up completely. Your boss starts asking you about the next smash hit and the whole process starts again.
There has to be a better way, right?
Enter Live Ops
Live Ops are ways of making the game as it exists more engaging. It isn't about adding new features or changing any of your game's fundamentals. Live Ops are a monetization strategy that focuses on paying attention to the players already in the game.
Let's take an example.
You have created a popular empire builder (congrats!) but now downloads are flagging. A lot of your existing users have been playing every day for months and are clustered at higher levels. Build times are ridiculous and new challenges hard to come by. So your Live Ops team introduces a limited promotion for top level players: a building time reduction and "brand new" collectible building gets introduced. Heavy users are completists. They'll have to get the new buildings and all those users who feel hopelessly behind the top rung will have a chance to catch up.
There are a bunch of ways of keeping your audience engaged that don't involve massive updates.
- Events: 'Find a rare item!' 'Take out a secret new boss!' Pique players' interest with time-limited events.
- Competitions: Monthly, weekly or even daily leader boards to fuel the competitive juices of your players. You can combine leaderboards with events so players have to keep coming back even if they've completed the time-limited task.
- Promotions: Limited sales, targeted and segmented depending on players' purchase history.
- Messaging: Before players give up entirely ping them with an offer - 'Your village needs you! Come back now and get 20% off all these things you missed'.
Live Ops isn't just a way of eking out a few extra cents from old merchandise. It generates serious money. Space Ape makes 50% of their revenue from in-game events alone. They have games more than a year old with steadily climbing revenues, month on month.
The long digital tail
In the old days, movies that failed at the cinema would sink and disappear without a trace. TV shows with low ratings would get pulled before they hit their stride. Things were ephemeral. But then VHS and DVDs became popular. Home entertainment figures became really, really important and those failed movies or shows started having second lives - bombs became cult classics, TV shows got resurrected by the networks that once cancelled them.
The same is true of games. In the digital age, nothing is DOA and nothing has to fade away.
Look at Clash of Clans. It was released way back in August 2012, the same month Medium was launched. In mobile game terms, that is ancient history. If we look at the last two years, it has never left the top 10 highest grossing lists. Not once!
Downloads are not the be all and end all. Over that same period, Clash of Clans has dropped out of the top 50 most downloaded US games several times. Just like any other digital venture long term revenue is driven by focusing on existing users. There will never be enough new users to make up for losing the old ones.
Live Ops is one way to lavish time and attention on your users. Don’t miss out on it. Don't let your users and, by extension, your game fall by the wayside.
Stay tuned for our next post with all the top tips on how to implement Live Ops.