Thursday, September 5, 2013

Casual Connect 2013: The 5 Most Common Mistakes in Free-to-Play and How to Avoid Them

by Chris Williams, VP/GM, Big Fish
·         Abstract: This talk covers the 5 common mistakes made in terms of development, engagement, monetization, analytics, and notifications, as well as the best practices to avoid them.
·         Development mistake – Plan 2-3 weeks of live beta before launch, and update every 4-6 weeks.
o    Best practice – perform a 3 month live beta with server functionality for rapid pre-launch iteration.
o    Do rapid updates to logic, difficulty, economy (payouts, daily bonuses, starting balances), and tournaments. Do hundreds of server changes with minimal client updates.
o    Operate your game as a host of your users and their friends at an event. Communicate and moderate the game on a daily basis. It’s not a monthly cadence.
·         Engagement mistake – Design your game content for users who are playing 2-3 times per day.
o    Best practice – Be prepared for your most active users to play much more frequently.
o    Dedicated users will be playing between 20 to 30 times a day. Include enough content and evergreen mechanics that will survive content burn. Always have an evergreen loop, which does not have to be the primary loop.
·         Monetization mistake – Add virtual currency and virtual items and expect users to spend money.
o    Fairway Solitaire is the world’s leading F2P iOS solitaire game. It has virtual currency and sells customized cards, and made a total of $0.
o    Best practice – Clearly communicate the gameplay value of the virtual item to the player. Users need to find an emotional value in their in-app purchases.
o    From most practical to most emotion, the types of items you can sell are…
§  Return on investment
§  Time and convenience
§  Pride and status
§  Luck and probability
§  Rare and scarce
·         Analytics mistake – Focus on just a few standard high level metrics to measure game performance, such as average revenue per user and daily active users.
o    Best practice – establish custom metrics that accurately reflect the health of your game. Pay attention to things like number of boosts used per game.
·         Notifications mistake – Be cautious with how often you message your users to avoid irritating them.
o    Best practice – Message your users daily with exciting, relevant, and targeted information. If they turn off notifications, the next time they log in, remind them of the things they’ve missed while away so that they will want to turn back their notifications on.

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