Author: meghjagad

Marketing your game on Youtube.


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In the past 5-6 years, Youtube and content creators have had a huge influence on how well a game does. From people watching walkthroughs to content creators who play video games and upload it on Youtube as their primary source of income and every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos and generate billions of views. These people are your core audience who love games like us. It is important to better understand them and the Youtube community to market your game properly.

So, I have been creating youtube content for over a year and a half now, and as of today, April 2017 I have over 65,000 subscribers and over 30 Million views.

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So, I will be providing some insights as to how to understand your audience and the best practices that usually work and what is the cost associated with it.

Let’s say you are not working for or making the next Uncharted 4 or any other AAA game, and let’s even go further and assume that this is the first game for your studio ever! The most important question is how do you make people notice your game.

1)The best case scenario is your game going viral. But that happens to almost 1 in 10,000 games. So, assuming that doesn’t happen to you, what do you do.

2)The second best scenario is making the youtube creators to start playing your games. This happens quite frequently because the creators are always looking for new games to show their audience. So, go and find the biggest channels that are out there and are playing games similar to yours, and contact them directly, either through twitter or youtube direct message. From what I have observed, Twitter works the best, so make sure you have a social presence there. I have had many companies and message me to try their games and it has worked and I have had conversations with people who have done the same thing. It works if it doesn’t try it on the next biggest channel. Remember this is if you are a relatively new company.

3)The third scenario is to do a paid promotion. If you are going to do that, then obviously you would want your promotion to show on the biggest channels. But wait, that doesn’t always work out. You need to find the channels that play games similar to yours, especially with their friends to get the best bang for your work. You need to do your research properly, you can also ask them about user engagement and how many clicks do they usually get on such paid promotions. On average if the channel is around 3-4 million subscribers, they will charge around 4000$ for paid promotion in one video. This is what I have heard many times.

So, let’s say you find your ideal channel and you are done with the promotion stuff. What guarantees that the person clicks on the link or goes and downloads your game, and if it is a paid game, what will make them buy it. So, let’s take a look at some examples.

1.  Any FPS game

So, if you notice almost every FPS game has some sort of mechanic to show the wow moment. For example, Call of Duty has final kill cam, even Overwatch has play of the game. The reason being it helps the creators to make a montage or “best of” videos which usually generate 2 times or more than 2 times the views than a normal video. I have done that many times in the past and it has always had a significant increase in views which means greater audience reach. So, having that montage factor is important in fps games.

2.  Using a random generator for the gambling effect.

This was made popular by Fifa, where you use the gambling slot machine effect to get a character or a skin. The reason you need this in your game is that content creators like “reacting” and shouting as it generates significantly more views. It is one of the best methods to create views. Here is an example of Fifa pack opening

This video has 36 million views, imagine your game sponsored in this video. Such high numbers are usually for movie trailers and music.

3.  Targeting for mobile.

One big detail that everyone misses out is that almost 60% of the views generated on youtube are from mobile devices. So, if you make a promotion video and put a link which on clicking opens a website that is not optimized for viewing on mobile, you will not be able to convert it into a paid customer. Here are my actual stats based on devices.

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4.  Multiplayer and Ideal playtesters.

As mentioned before, the content creators like exaggerating the emotions, and while excited and shouting take the highest spot, co-op and competitive games make them have their friends join their videos. One thing that you need to know about these creators is that they are your “ideal” playtesters. They want to make sure that the game works and it is perfect so the video is perfect. So, they will try their best to make sure that the game or story you create does not break. So, adding co-op and competitive will help them have a support that can cover up if the experience breaks. Also, seeing friends compete or play together makes the audience to associate it with their own friends and leads to them buying and even asking their friends to buy it. One of the best examples is H1Z1.

 

5. Targeting based on location and other analytics.

So, this is from personal experience, I have tested out different ways to see how the audience engages/ clicks the specific link. Youtube recently announced cards, which allows the user to go to a link or post polls which work on mobile devices as well. So, upon testing, the best result that I personally have found is putting the link or getting the card to popout around 0:30 seconds. The reason that I think is people don’t want to see ads at the start when they are expecting the video and most of them don’t stay for that long. Sometime around 2 minutes, people start losing interest and it maybe switches to a next video.

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Youtube also provides data about the location of the views, and you can use that to find out where your core audience lives and maybe release special events for your content targeted towards the specific audience. Other analytics include the age and sex of the people that watch the videos, so you can use it to proper target your audience.

6. Where to find people

Assuming that Youtube is a fairly new community for you, there are some places such as Famebit.com and Grapevine.com which help you connect and match with your ideal channel. You can also find a lot of analytics for the channels that you are looking for on socialblade.com

 

So, to summarize, you should try it out with the second method and get the channels to play it without doing a paid promotion, because that has had the biggest impact on the sales, for example, H1Z1, Rocket League, Early Minecraft, Ark. Also, make sure that the game has that moment which allows the creators to make a story, it really helps.

 

Indirect Control in Game Design


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While designing games, we make use of indirect control to avoid unnecessary texts on the screen or to make the player feel that he/she is making the decisions on their own. But most of the times it just ends up being a shiny object in the distance or shiny object nearby, which to me is an easy way out.

So, let’s say you are playing a game which has 5 levels where the difficulty increases with every level. Instead of meaningfully increasing the difficulty, I have seen designers just get rid of these hints. This makes the level difficult but not challenging. This is one of the reasons why I never felt that issue going through Uncharted 4 : A thief’s end.

As the story progresses, you come across challenging puzzles in the game, but it was never because of lack of information provided to the user. One of the reasons was using visual concepts and minimal UI that makes the user feel that he/she is allowed to do whatever the user wants. Some of the best examples were the use of frame within a frame to direct the user to the next location or an AI companion who used to sigh or give some hints which in no way felt pushing the limits or breaking the immersion.

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So, I have made my friends playthrough this entire game because I wanted to see how some of my naive friends react and make decisions. The observations were that they always felt that the game allowed them to do anything and they were smart enough to figure it out. It is amazing how well designed this game is.

 

Why negative word of mouth matters


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So, last year the game industry was struck by Pokemon Go. Yes, that game! Remember when you used to go out with your friends to just catch a Rattata or a Pidgey or go crazy if you spot a Charizard. From its launch in July, by the end of September the game went from active 27 million users to 700,000 users (https://goo.gl/TBT4Xe). So, what happened? Did the game change too much? You hear people say that they changed the key features, they did not add new content, but if you were to install the app now, you will notice that they added everything the user wanted. Sure, 2nd generation is still not available but they are adding new content. And to be completely honest more than half of the people who played it in July and August didn’t even complete the game or they don’t even know the new generations of Pokemon. So why do they need new content?

Before I analyze the reason for its failure let’s take a look at other game.hq720.jpg

Monument Valley! You might have heard about this game, if you have not, then ask someone who has. Their reaction will be it is so innovative, beautiful, amazing, etc. Sure, you cannot compare monument valley to Pokemon Go, they are at the opposite sides of the spectrum. Sure, I agree with that, but if you were to go now and ask someone who has played Pokemon Go, their reaction will be it is such a bad game, no new content, old, stale and people frown upon the game now. Your reaction will be “Wow! You still play this game?”.

Now, going back to the previous question. Why do people need more content in Pokemon Go and are okay with paying 3.99$ and not asking for more. The reason is they fell into the trap of bad word of mouth. Adding to that, they even did not communicate well with the audience and did not even own up to their errors which were really bad moves on their part. One solution would be to provide a date for the release of new content or giving away free stuff in games.

Another examples of Negative word of mouth are Assassin’s Creed franchise, and No Mans Sky. Sure, they look great, they have good features, but the second you get the reaction of “Why would you play that game” from your friends or people you follow on Twitch or Youtube, which leads to the downfall of the game. That is one of the reasons why companies invest so much in publicity and marketing on Twitch and Youtube.

Now, on the flip side, some games are known for being really bad and make their way to being famous and generating a lot of revenue such as Goat Simulator, but that is not a fun way to create experience as a game designer.

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So, to summarize, negative word of mouth has a huge impact on your sales and one of the best way to deal with the situation is to own up to it. The true fans of the game with appreciate it and will help you reduce it

 

Why game designers should learn from this game model


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In the past couple of years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of games that use randomness in the game. Let me explain, if you have played any mobile, console or pc game in the past few years, you might have opened up a chest or a box or loot to get some skin for a gun or a character or some emote. There is one thing common between these games, the use of randomness or luck for the person playing the game. Now before I further explain this model, let’s take a look at some of the games that use this new model that might be what your game needs to go viral.

 

The most common ones are FPS games, with so called “skins ” for your guns. Now to get these skins, you need to use some kind of money system within the game, let me remind you this is not even remotely connected to real world currency. Now when you start the game, this fake currency is really easy to get, but as you play further it gets really difficult to get those. Also these skins are “random”, based on luck.

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Valve’s CS GO is one of the most famous for making these skins and selling these. If you wanna know how much Valve makes by these virtual skins, check this out.

http://www.hltv.org/blog/11798-how-much-money-valve-is-making-from-csgo

Now, the two key things that you can learn here are the “random” and the “fake currency”. The reason behind doing that is basic human psychology. The use of both of these is a huge powerful techniques that people are starting to realize.

 

Randomness – Ever figure why people who gamble get so easily addicted, why while playing tetris you worry about what block will come next. Games with randomness increase the chances of people playing it again. The reason is our mind tries to identify patterns, that is what it is programmed for, and when we don’t know what will come next, our mind is not able to process it and tries to find patterns and thus it wants us to play more.

Virtual Money – Our mind performs many tasks even while we are playing the game. Sure you are enjoying the game with all the randomness. But if I were to tell you that you can play it again for $1, your brain will trigger a “Nope!” realizing that it is not worth it. So, this is where the virtual money comes into play. Let’s say you can buy 3 skins for $3 and another scenario where you can buy 3 skins for 500 gems where (500 gems will be equal to $3), more people will go for 500 gems. Why is that?

The reason is, in the first scenario, you only get 3 things for 3$ whereas in the second option it converts to 500 things. Even though the goal is same, it masks of the effect of the trigger that you get when you use direct money.

 

THE NEXT LEVEL

Now, these games have been there for a while and are usually for consoles or PC, so there is cost of maintaining, the time taken in releasing updates, the hassles in paying via consoles and the most important of them all, not everyone plays that, not everyone has consoles. So some genius person came with this amazing model that I believe is the new “Farmville”. (http://www.onlinemarketing-trends.com/2011/02/top-5-farmville-economics-statistics.html)

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So, last year a game called Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle was released, you might have surely heard of Dragon Ball Z! but what you might not know that this game has been downloaded over 100 million times! in ONE year. They might be doing something right. There are a few more examples, which as of today have been released such as Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, Naruto Ninja Blazing, Pokemon Duel ( Released one day before this post )

 

 

Now, what is the reason for all of this, you might be wondering. The reason is all of these games were developed by different companies but look at how strikingly similar they are.

The top bar includes stamina and the two fake currencies, your level, then it is four tabs for all the “free gifts” that you get by logging in every day. Play/ Quest mode where you can actually play. The bottom bar includes other stuff such as getting more characters, shop etc.

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Now, the reason why I like this model is the seamless use of gameplay + randomness + fake money. Not only do they have gems / stones they have one more currency to purchase other stuff. Instead of skins, you have characters based on your luck that you can get using those “Gems”. With this being on iOS and Android, it becomes easier to dispatch updates, reduce the load on artists, constant updates which means that the lifetime of these games will be lot longer than console games. Add in co-op and competitive gameplay and you have a complete package.

WHY WE WILL SEE MORE OF THESE GAMES

With the audience being larger than the consoles and the reduced stress on the developers, developers will soon start to realize that this is indeed the new “Farmville”.

THINGS TO REMEMBER.

Currently, if you have IP like Nintendo or Disney, this is a goldmine for them and I do hope they make the most of out it, just because it has been proven to be successful. As for us, it might not be that useful right now, but maybe after many iterations we can find a way to properly utilize this game model in our favor.

THE MAIN QUESTION

So, why should we learn from this model. Well, for years game companies have been struggling with micro transactions and increasing the game price over 60$ without being hated by the gaming community. This model, being freemium, does it more effortlessly than other games that have being doing it in the past. It is also more rewarding in terms of content. If you haven’t played any of these yet, I highly encourage you to do so.