Looking for Success in All the Wrong Places

Notes on a talk by Robin Scannell, Game Director at Hutch

  • Make a collectible virtual card strategy game called Top Drives
    • Need different cars for different tracks/race styles
  • Game’s soft launch didn’t look like it was going to do much
    • Daily retention among early signups was much worse than past games (20% versus 35% retention for past games 24 hours in)
    • Day 3 was also poor
    • Anticipated some users not “getting” the game
  • Daily retention wound up being the wrong metric to look at
    • Strong year one retention wasn’t visible in soft launch!
  • How do we find a proxy for long-term retainment in a niche product?
    • “Retention density” (stickiness)—How many days of the week are the players that do come back play?
      • Core cohort was playing a lot even early on
    • Community intensity discussing both car culture and the deep strategy of the game itself
      • Game was big enough, with enough layers of strategy, that they unintentionally forced players to talk to each other to learn stuff
    • App store rating higher than past games
    • Average revenue per paying user (ARPPU)
    • Ardent fan growth of high-level players
      • After you’ve completed the single-player campaign, how much are you sticking around for multiplayer, daily challenges, etc.
  • How to grow after launch
    • Flexible tools to allow dynamic, ever-changing content
    • Iterate offers and events daily and weekly
    • Want people to know there’s always something new that they should check out, available only for a limited time
      • Never know what’s coming up next
  • Events
    • Specific scenario with specific restrictions, set of challenges
    • Rewards are scarce (limited time, limited number available… or you can buy it)
    • Lots of events running at any given time
    • Can hide events from some users, and re-run events in the future for new users only
      • Also allows A/B testing events against each other
    • Formats
      • Throwback Thursday (cars at least a decade old)
      • Tri Series events every two weeks (higher prestige; preliminary events in three tiers, winners proceed to next event)
      • Pro circuit knockout tournament
  • Live ops strategy:
    • Always something new
    • High value, few discounts
    • Leverage real world prestige of the cars
  • Update strategy for features
    • Focus on what’s already going will and improve it further
    • Top cohort was so dedicated; how do you get more people into that cohort? (Daily rewards, where you preview what’s coming tomorrow as well)
    • Challenge mode for playing against the AI as a supplement to the multiplayer matches
    • Added “budgets” to multiplayer challenges so that new players can play against veterans on a somewhat even playing field
      • Also increases variety of challenges available to game designers
  • Downloads versus revenue
    • Hot Wheels had 8x the downloads and 2x the early game retention
    • Top Drives made 2.2x the revenue in the first year, and 17x revenue per user
    • Don’t judge these the same way!
    • Look for early signs of high dedication & community
    • Make sure you know how to identify your hardcore users
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