Most requests and proposals I have seen have been written from the perspective of improving things for the player. They fail to recognize that this is not a free game. It is a business which has the ultimate goal of turning a profit. They also fail to understand that any changes, modifications, or updates will cost this business time, money, and resources and therefore must present a higher profit opportunity than it presents cost.
In order to find solutions which will help facilitate not only the experience of the players but also the profitability of the game for Scopely, we first must look at 2 items. 1. What are the drivers to profits in the mobile freemium market? 2. What patterns of player behavior will result in these profit driving actions?
THE GOAL: REVENUE, OPPORTUNITY, AND CHANGING MARKET
In the mobile gaming market, there are several types of consumers and transactions which give rise to revenue. The market has historically been driven by a very small segment commonly referred to as “whales”. In 2016 research found that .16% of players accounted for 50% of in game purchasing. This historically led to developers catering to and emphasizing retention of this market segment, however more recent research done by deltaDNA in 2018 found that the trend is shifting. Casual spending is up. The average revenue per daily active user has soared. It is up just shy of 200% in strategy games. As spending on microtransactions becomes more accepted, more players are opening up their wallets. This is not to say that whales are still not a critical element! Their spending is still a significant source of revenue. However, the trend does demand a shift in mentality to fully monetize a growing market. This expansion will help to create stability and longevity if leveraged correctly. Relying on a small minority to bring in a vast majority of revenue is risky business. By focusing on bringing in a ton of fish rather than a single whale, Scopely will help ensure sustained profitability and longevity. Where in the past, game lifespan was relatively short now there is opportunity to expand and focus on existing games rather than the more costly option of constant development. Another benefit in the shift of focus is that fish help to keep whales around and fed. We will get into strategies, ideas, and these market segments inner dynamics shortly.
Scopely currently employs several different revenue generation strategies including in game currency, random chance purchasing, in game items, subscriptions, and advertising. The goal is to increase the percentage of players and volume of use of these revenue generators. Everything proposed here will facilitate this goal. Another consideration specific to this game is the future expansion of TWD fan base. AMC is now expanding its TWD series from 2 shows to a third coming in the spring and possibly a fourth next year. They are also is releasing 3 big screen movies. This presents an opportunity for Scopely to capture a new set of TWD fans. In order to capture this market over other TWD games it will need to improve user reviews, boost positive PR, and increase marketing. To turn these new users into spenders, Scopely needs to not only entice them to download but retain players to grow them into a revenue generating consumer.
PLAYER TYPES AND DYNAMICS:
Let’s look now at the types of players and how they work together and the dynamics as a new player progresses through the game. The new player will complete the tutorial. It is engaging, fast, and makes the player want to continue. This is an area Scopely does very well. Upon finishing the tutorial, the player will then be prompted to join a faction. The faction suggested and that will accept these new players usually consist of other new players, “hooks”, and maybe one or 2 “bait” players.
• Revenue Generation: None
• Marketing: Word of mouth but likely to only bring in other “bait” players
• In game role: "Bait are the f2p players who aren’t serious about progressing. They are there solely to socialize in gc. They won’t spend much time on the game and generate 0 revenue, not even contributing by engaging with advertising. They are important to the game though. They are the familiar face, the initial community to engage the new player. They facilitate in introducing the new player to the social elements and community. This social aspect is very important to RTS. It is why many continue to play now despite the expressed dissatisfaction. These players also are very vocal in GC. They will be the first to celebrate or complain. When a new player interacts with GC for the first time, they will see these players either complaining how they can’t grow, never get any good toons, etc. OR they see them celebrate a new toon, new reward, new achievement. These are your in-game promoters or downers. Several proposals will show how to ensure these players are consistent promoters and keep new players excited as the level up.
• Revenue Generation:
• Advertising: main source of tapjoy participants and watches videos for coins
• Marketing: Word Of mouth. Likely to bring other bait and casual spenders
• In Game Role: F2P frequent players. These players will grind for rewards. They will utilize advertising rewards to obtain currency but will not spend. They often lead the smaller factions or join mid-level to high level factions. They are the ones who initially teach new players and give them inspiration and enthusiasm for game play. They demonstrate the benefit of dedication to the game for growth and show you can move forward without spending. This gets new players engaged and excited as they often start out swearing not to spend. By growing and fostering game engagement with new players they link them to mid-level factions, where players are first exposed to spending.
• Revenue Generation: Advertising, Subscription, low level microtransactions (>$20 a month)
• Marketing: will attract other fish, hooks, dolphins, and possibly a whale
• In game Role: These players won’t spend much but will make up the largest segment of spenders. Their spending is very limited, but they do not want to spend the same time grinding as the “hook” players. In order to keep up and be able to contribute to the faction community, they may buy the subscription and purchase cans or other game items to further themselves and their faction in events. They are an introduction to the cultural acceptability of spending to the new player. They will be in the middle level factions.
• Revenue Generation: Subscription, Microtransaction ($20 - $300 a month)
• Marketing: Attracts fish, dolphins, and whales
• In game Role: These players are in High-Mid tier factions. They have shiny new toons, perform and contribute in events, and are the segment growing fastest. They have the potential to make up the highest revenue generation and are the ones who really get the new players hooked on spending. They are the ones who normalize spending to get ahead. They don’t have the budgets of whales but have the competitive drive. They are either highly dedicated to their faction and will spend to ensure faction success or want to be at the top and will spend to further themselves. They often will “swim” together like pods of real dolphins but value the "bait players knowledge and dedication as well. They are crucial to the creation and retention of whales providing competition to entertain the whales, progressively increasing spending to keep up with the whales and eventually becoming a whale themselves, and turn new players into new dolphins through a culture norm of spending and helping teach players how to utilize purchases and toons to compete with the top. Note that those whose budget restricts them to dolphin status will go back to being fish, slow game engagement, or leave the game if their competitive drive is not rewarded by their spending.
Revenue Generation: Subscription, microtransaction (<$300 a month) Marketing: Bring in whales and dolphins
In game Role: These players love to be top, they love shiny new toys, and will spend for the bragging rights of having the latest and greatest. They are highly competitive and want to smash everything. These players are in the top factions and are what most players desire to be. Their budgets are not highly restricted, and they will spend until they get what is desired. They form tight communities and will put pressure on each other to spend and maintain value within the faction. Note they will get bored and move to other games and activities if they are not “fed”. They need to smash but also feel a level of threat from the dolphins to motivate spending. It won’t be fun if they can easily run over everyone. They will also need the dolphin pool for recruiting. No matter how great the game, some will retire or have real life issues where they must step away for a time. In order to fill the holes, they bring up dolphins. The dolphins then likely become new whales.
THE CURRENT ISSUES:
The lack of balance and reward is leading to a lack of player retention, decreased spending, and decreased conversion of new players to spenders. (see illustration).
In summary, if scopely wishes to continue to profit from this game and leverage the new market upcoming, all players will play a vital role. They need to keep the “bait” vocally singing praises and giving excitement to new players. They need to "hooks to be able to compete and demonstrate that active engagement yields reward in order to motivate people to continue to actively play past first week. They need fish to introduce spending and to drive a diverse revenue stream in a changing market. They need dolphins to normalize spending and entertain the whales. And they want whales for big fast money. To generate maximum profitability, Scopely must rebalance the game to accommodate all players.
I wi make suggestions for this in a later post. For now, it’s time for me to go back to the grind