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Re-Visiting GDC 2015: Monetization, Retention, Design
by Yevgen Grishenko on 03/20/17 09:25:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Foreword

While the GDC 2017 talks are already availvable in the GDC Vault website, it`s important not to forget and sometimes to revise what was said in the previous years, particularly, GDC 2015.

The overview contains mainly presentations that somehow are related, but not limited, to monetization - directly or indirectly, but which covers information that may be very helpful to know. Some of the presentations are highly recommended to watch not only to GDs and BPMs, but also to game producers. Most of the presentations are free to access, including both slides and video, but several of them have limited access and only slides to this presentations are available for free. But even in this case, they may contain some important information about the industry or particular games, so it worth to check them.

The text in the Limited Access section is description taken from the GDC vault website,  as, unfortunately, I don`t have access to it, but selected several ones that may be interesting including their slides, while the one that is under the “Comment” Free access section is my own mini-review of the presentation to let you some quick understanding what awaits you in particular talk from a third party POV. 

List of presentations

Free access

1.    The Year in F2P Games, Part One: Social/Mobile

2.    The Year in F2P Games, Part Two: Beyond Social/Mobile

3.    Your Freemium Mobile App is Leaving Money on the Table. Here's What You Can Do About It. (Presented by Tapjoy)

4.    Social Impact in Design and Acquisition

5.    Power-ups, Super Suits, and Epic Raids: Deconstructing the Game Experience (Presented by Limelight Networks)

6.    Player Centric Live Ops Monetization (Presented by Fuse Powered Inc)

7.    Meaningful Pay: Monetizing F2P Without "The Pinch"

8.    In It for the Long Hall: How Wooga Boosts Long-Term Retention

9.    Idle Games: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games

10.  Games-as-a-Service: Rebooting a 4-Year-Old Game to the Top Charts

11.  Epic Fail Microtalks: Four Mobile Games, Four Flops and Tons of Lessons Learned

12.  Crossy Road: A Whale of a Time

13.  Clash of Clans: Designing Games That People Will Play For Years

14.  3 Monetization Metrics to Track Every Single Day (Presented by Chartboost)

15.  9 Mobile Game Monetization Questions to Gain a Competitive Edge (And the Answers Too!) (Presented by Chartboost)

16.  Smart Strategies to Acquire, Monetize and Retain Gamers (Presented by Google)

17.  Overcoming Analysis Paralysis: Experimenting with Bears vs. Art

18.  More Science Behind Shaping Player Behavior in Online Games

19.  Metagame Balance

20.  Why Did Players Buy That? The Importance of Anticipated Need Satisfaction

21.  Thinking About People: Designing Games for Social Simulation

22.  Spellbound: Asking Questions About Habit Forming Game Design

 

Limited access

1.    Awesome Video Game Data (2015)

2.    F2P and Cross-Platform: How Top Eleven Became the World's Most Played Sports Game

3.    Flutter Postmortem: Cultivating a Niche for F2P Success

4.    Five Things You Can Do Today to Be a Bit More Agile

5.    Don't Be Afraid of Incentivized Ads!

6.    Creating Successful Game Marketing Campaigns from Your Analytics

7.    Harnessing the Power of Player-Generated Content on Mobile

8.    LiveOps: A Process in the Making

9.    World of Tanks Blitz Postmortem: Building a AAA MMO for Mobile Devices

10.  Why They Buy: Gamers in the World of Perpetual Sales

11.  Perfecting the Recipe for Mobile Success: Restaurant Story 2 Postmortem

 

FREE ACCESS

 

 The Year in F2P Games, Part One: Social/Mobile

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022330/The-Year-in-F2P-Games

Comment: The talk covers some information about the top grossing apps, how the leaders chart changes YOY, what are further possible directions and what to wait in 2016 in the F2P mobile market. While it's not cover topic of monetization at all, it give some overview of match-3, social casino and card collecting games - design solutions that are being used in several projects, evolution path, what works good and what better not to use in new games. The talk may be interested if you don't have any deep knowledge of mentioned genres.

 

The Year in F2P Games, Part Two: Beyond Social/Mobile

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022332/The-Year-in-F2P-Games

Comment: Unlike the Part One, Part Two is more focused on monetization aspect of F2P games. The presentation includes mobile, console and PC games overview, mainly such whales like League of Legends, HearthStone, Crossy Road and some others. It does not dive deeply in monetization design techniques, but still provides some interesting data about “microgames” like Flappy Bird and Crossy Road. But like the first presentation it may be interesting mainly to ones who do not have deep knowledge in the field.

 

Your Freemium Mobile App is Leaving Money on the Table. Here's What You Can Do About It. (Presented by Tapjoy)

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022380/Your-Freemium-Mobile-App-is

Comment: Highly marketing-driven talk, but nevertheless it contains presentation of CRM system that seems very suitable and convenient to manage all Live Ops that are related to IAP and item sales strategy. It also provides several numbers (day and number of IAP purchases and their relation to LTV of a user) that sounds intriguing and worth to be at least checked in games.

 

Social Impact in Design and Acquisition

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022255/Social-Impact-in-Design-and

Comment: Very interesting and recommended presentations about why social elements in games matter and how users may influence other user to pay.

 

Power-ups, Super Suits, and Epic Raids: Deconstructing the Game Experience (Presented by Limelight Networks)

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022213/Power-ups-Super-Suits-and

Comment: The presentation does not talk about F2P games, more about games in general and what game experience may make a game successful. No deep insights, but nice to watch as some decisions and solutions that speaker talks about may be applicable in mobile games as well.

 

Player Centric Live Ops Monetization (Presented by Fuse Powered Inc)

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022202/Player-Centric-Live-Ops-Monetization

Comment: Nice presentation that builds solid framework of BPM Live Ops ways to sell content. Highly recommend to watch to beginners in the field, not only to the beginner BPMs but designers as well. The talk covers both IAP and advertising solutions (like incentivized videos) and ways they can be placed in the game. It does not cover any deep and sophisticated solutions, but nevertheless gives some very trustworthy basis on which principles one may build its monetization strategy.

 

Meaningful Pay: Monetizing F2P Without "The Pinch"

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022151/Meaningful-Pay-Monetizing-F2P-Without

Comment: Psychology-backed presentation which describes ways to built F2P monetization without abusing user experience by “squeezing” from them the very last dollars, but rather enhancing this experience. It's recommended to watch to everyone who deals with monetization, to designers - to try to find ways to create ways to monetize a game in more soft and player-centric ways, and to BPMs to try to design more suitable to users` needs offers.

 

In It for the Long Hall: How Wooga Boosts Long-Term Retention

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022070/In-It-for-the-Long

Comment: Very nice presentation from Wooga, built around Long Term retention as main revenue-generating success factor. It's divided into two parts - the first one about game design features that are crucial to built long-lasting game involvement from a player side, the second one - is about narrative writing challenges and how they may be resolved. Almost nothing is being said about monetization, except of several numbers regarding different user cohorts spending behavior (influence of social pressure). Recommended to be watched by the beginners in game design and monetization fields.

 

Idle Games: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022065/Idle-Games-The-Mechanics-and

Comment: Deconstruction of “idle games” as a genre, from a company that actually is one of the pioneers in it - Kongregate. The presentation covers topics from game design to monetization. Must see to everyone who is interested in idle games, and recommended to watch to ones who would like to use some idle games mechanics in other genres (actually, some solutions indeed may be and should be used).

 

Games-as-a-Service: Rebooting a 4-Year-Old Game to the Top Charts

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022006/Games-as-a-Service-Rebooting

Comment: Is it possible to revive a 4-year old game? According to this presentation - yes. It almost does not cover design and monetization, just some small remarks, and thus designers and BPMs may not be very interested to watch it. Maybe producers, GMs and other decision-makers may try to use some tips from the presentation in their projects, but nothing deep and sophisticated solutions were presented.

 

Epic Fail Microtalks: Four Mobile Games, Four Flops and Tons of Lessons Learned

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021960/Epic-Fail-Microtalks-Four-Mobile

Comment: A story how decisions make lead to a game failure. Almost no mentions about design and monetization, may be interesting more to a decision-makers.

 

Crossy Road: A Whale of a Time

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021897/Crossy-Road-A-Whale-of

Comment: Success story of a Crossy Road. The presentation reveals numbers and way that was passed to create such phenomenon. Though presentation does not reveal nothing extraordinary (except real revenue numbers of the game) it may be a clear example that there is a room for innovative decisions on the market. The presentation may be interested to anyone who involved in video games creation as some motivation video, but it's not a manual to “create-the-next-hit”.

 

Clash of Clans: Designing Games That People Will Play For Years

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021858/Clash-of-Clans-Designing-Games

Comment: The talk about vision and values that has team of CoC developers. If you are looking for some design and monetization insights - it`s not the right place. The only astonishing number that was revealed in this video - 2 year retention of the game is 10%.

 

3 Monetization Metrics to Track Every Single Day (Presented by Chartboost)

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021748/3-Monetization-Metrics-to-Track

Comment: Basic overview of engagement, retention and CSR. May be interesting to very beginners in the field only.

 

9 Mobile Game Monetization Questions to Gain a Competitive Edge (And the Answers Too!) (Presented by Chartboost)

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021751/9-Mobile-Game-Monetization-Questions

Comment: Marketing-driven presentation, but gives some interesting data about UA costs, users` purchasing behavior, geographical preferences and money distribution.

 

Smart Strategies to Acquire, Monetize and Retain Gamers (Presented by Google)

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022494/Smart-Strategies-to-Acquire-Monetize

Comment: Marketing presentation of Google mobile ads/analytics solutions for mobile apps.

 

Overcoming Analysis Paralysis: Experimenting with Bears vs. Art

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022184/Overcoming-Analysis-Paralysis-Experimenting-with

Comment: Great presentation about experimenting with a soft-launched game to reach target KPIs. It has data, description of added and changed features, and nice advices to other developers how to treat games. Though, of course, many of them are project-specific and cannot be applied directly, but it`s recommended to all who involved in games creation.

 

More Science Behind Shaping Player Behavior in Online Games

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022160/More-Science-Behind-Shaping-Player

Comment: Though the presentation is very specific, about players who use abusive language and are “toxic” in online games that have social interactions, it`s very interesting to listen how their behavior may be shaped to decrease their negative influence on “positive” players. It may be especially interesting to those who involved in projects where social interactions are crucial and intense.

 

Metagame Balance

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022155/Metagame

Comment: Balance is a cornerstone of any game and it`s almost always a problem how to come up with the right solution. The speaker presents a way which may be used to analyze balance of a characters in a fighting game and it's very theme-specific. But even in this case designers may benefit from this talk as it seems that method described may be applicable in various game genres.

 

Why Did Players Buy That? The Importance of Anticipated Need Satisfaction

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022369/Why-Did-Players-Buy-That

Comment: Another great presentation from Immersive and Scott Rigby, backed by psychology. While it does not talk about game design directly, especially about F2P, it touches important topic of what can drive a user to purchase a certain game and this approach may and should be used in creating marketing assets, as well as it may be applicable to game creation. Highly recommended to watch by designers, BPMs, and marketing specialists.

 

Thinking About People: Designing Games for Social Simulation

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022334/Thinking-About-People-Designing-Games

Comment: Very specific talk, though interesting. Social elements usually give strong positive advantage to F2P games and, in most cases, are necessary for success. The game does not talk about F2P, mostly about PC projects, but framework that the speaker presents (autonomous social simulations vs. tailored) may be adapted to F2P projects as well. The presentation may be interested mainly for designers and game creation enthusiasts.

 

Spellbound: Asking Questions About Habit Forming Game Design

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022259/Spellbound-Asking-Questions-About-Habit

Comment: Very abstract talk, with no real games examples. Sometimes F2P games are being accused of creating addictions or harming users by creating habits that consume time and money and this presentation is aimed on overview of all these statements and countering with them. It's unlikely to give you some design or monetization advices, but more likely gives some kind of better and deep understanding of F2P games philosophy.

 

LIMITED ACCESS

 

Awesome Video Game Data (2015)

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021828/Awesome-Video-Game-Data

EEDAR co-founder Geoffrey Zatkin presents a tour de force romp through video game industry data, patterns and trends, covering everything from next generation consoles to the maturation of mobile games to the diversification of monetization methodologies and everything in-between. Guaranteed to raise your game industry IQ. Attendees will gain a better understanding of recent macro and micro trends of the video game industry - not anecdotal, but trends based on actual objectively quantifiable data. A broad range of timely industry topics will be presented.

 

F2P and Cross-Platform: How Top Eleven Became the World's Most Played Sports Game

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021968/F2P-and-Cross-Platform-How

Top Eleven is the most played online sports game in the world, with more than 100M unique registered users across the web, Android and iOS devices. Nordeus' mission is to provide a seamless gaming experience to millions of people, regardless of the devices they're using, which is why they make online games that are free and accessible. In this talk, Nordeus' CMO will talk about how they became the UK's #1 top-grossing app, and how they've been able to keep up the momentum.

 

Flutter Postmortem: Cultivating a Niche for F2P Success

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021985/Flutter-Postmortem-Cultivating-a-Niche

Runaway's butterfly raising game "Flutter" has gone from strength to strength over its two-year life cycle, steadily increasing all KPIs to become a highly profitable product on a small install base. This talk aims to dispel the myth that you need a mega-hit to create a meaningful business, instead showing a path to success built around caring for a small, dedicated group of fans who want to belong to something special.

 

Five Things You Can Do Today to Be a Bit More Agile
Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021983/Five-Things-You-Can-Do

We all want to be more agile. We want a process that helps us deliver an awesome game without getting in our way, but need to drag the rest of IT and the business along with us. Changing to an agile process is an intensive cultural change. How do you stop the nightmare of yesteryear and sneak agile into your shop, right under the noses of the waterfall guardian trolls? We have five ways to be more agile without officially changing your process, or getting forced to respawn.

 

Effective LiveOps Strategies

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021948/Effective-LiveOps

The benefits of operating a free-to-play "game-as-a-service" are well known: elastic pricing, a direct relationship with your players, longer lifespan, and an opportunity to fine-tune after launch. But to fully realize these benefits, you need to plan your live operations strategy as carefully as you plan your game. This talk will cover two important aspects of LiveOps: in-game events and player offers. You'll learn why they matter, when to use them, how to design and plan them, and how to use analytics to tune and tweak them.

 

Don't Be Afraid of Incentivized Ads!

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021940/Don-t-Be-Afraid-of

This session will explore the world of incentivized ads in mobile games, and how this content helps players learn to value and ultimately spend in-game currency. Drawing from the speaker's robust experience analyzing the performance of incentivized ads, and working with a variety of ad networks, the session will also dive into player behavior, engagement and monetization based on the effects of an incentivized ad strategy.

 

Creating Successful Game Marketing Campaigns from Your Analytics

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021891/Creating-Successful-Game-Marketing-Campaigns

In this lecture Neil McClarty, marketing director at Jagex Games Studio, discusses how to practically take the next step of using your data and analysis to work for you through targeted and coordinated CRM campaigns. Neil discusses the challenges faced managing the countless number of communication channels for RuneScape, one of world's largest free-to-play MMOs, and how the team tackled the problem through the development of a bespoke eCRM platform. Covering the good, the bad and the ugly, learn the key questions when planning out your campaigns and the harsh lessons learned firsthand, whether it is dealing with your high-spending whales or your first-time payers.

 

Harnessing the Power of Player-Generated Content on Mobile

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022033/Harnessing-the-Power-of-Player

Players of PC games have always been empowered to join the community and create: be it levels, quests or mods. Where has this been on mobile? Mobile players have an equal desire to create and share, but up to this point can mostly satisfy it only through passive activities like sharing and rating screenshots, asynchronous multiplayer PvP, and rigid base design. Pocket Gems' newest product, Episode, has opened all of its creation tools to the public, inviting players to create interactive animated stories and share them with the community. This talk will cover some of the mistakes we made along the way, tools and techniques we've developed, lessons we've learned, and how to apply these to the mobile industry as a whole.

 

LiveOps: A Process in the Making

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022126/LiveOps-A-Process-in-the

"Games as a Service" and LiveOps continue to grow as buzzwords in the industry. But what they actually mean for developers still remains vague and how to successfully pull them off with a small staff seems unreal. Working as a team, small studies can be successful in Live Operations using a process that encourages flexibility and quick changes with minimal impact on the project's longer-term goals. This talk provides insight and advice on how to become a small LiveOps-first studio using analytics, player behavior and studio process to create a high-quality player experience.

 

World of Tanks Blitz Postmortem: Building a AAA MMO for Mobile Devices

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022376/World-of-Tanks-Blitz-Postmortem

This session will describe the decisions made during the development of World of Tanks Blitz. It covers some of the technical decisions that were made and how they influenced the project. The talk will show how it is sometimes important to make risky decisions, so you can point the project in the right direction. The lecture will show some of the processes being used, and it will cover details of communication and interaction between engine developers and client developers. A few words will be dedicated to technical processes. Vitaliy will explain how different instruments were used to always keep the trunk of engine and game stable. Almost. Based on our real life situations during this project, you'll see how we iterated to find better solutions in many fields of game development.

 

Why They Buy: Gamers in the World of Perpetual Sales

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022373/Why-They-Buy-Gamers-in

In January of 2014, Ethan surveyed over 1,500 gamers about their game buying habits, and how they have changed in the world of perpetual Steam sales and plentiful bundles. In this talk, he will present the analyzed results of this study. At the end of the session, Ethan will release the anonymous results of this 50-question survey to the public.

 

The Lemming Thinking: F2P Business Model Reviewed

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022495/The-Lemming-Thinking-F2P-Business

If you ever wanted to listen to a CEO of one of the first and major free-to-play publishers telling you not to further pursue the free-to-play business model, then you should attend this lecture. If you want to understand why, you should also strain your ears. Looking back at more than 10 years of publishing free-to-play games, Carsten will outline that offering games for free can get developers into unforeseen trouble. An understanding of the business model becomes vital, and all who blindly follow the person in front might fall off the cliff. So stop your lemming thinking and start being the thinking lemming.

 

Perfecting the Recipe for Mobile Success: Restaurant Story 2 Postmortem

Slides: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022190/Perfecting-the-Recipe-for-Mobile

Not all simulation games are created equal. Sometimes highly creative features, art and proven game mechanics that work for one game may not translate to another. " Perfecting the Recipe for Mobile Success: Restaurant Story 2 Postmortem" will walk through the development and launch of Storm8's Restaurant Story 2 the 3D sequel to the mobile social gaming leader's fan favorite, Restaurant Story. The session will take a deep dive into the soft launch strategies and ongoing iteration that Storm8 employed to increase retention and engagement for the game. Chief creative officer, Tim LeTouneau, will tackle what worked and what didn't, highlighting his team's critical learnings in art design and creative game mechanics for other developers to avoid.

 


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