How often do you update new content in your games?
SX: Once a week.
It's interesting to see how long people can keep that going. That's a very open question, I think, in social games right now. How long can one game last, even if it's continuously updated? How long will the users stay? How long till ideas start to get stale? Those kinds of questions.
SX: That's how I see this problem, right? It is very difficult to maintain a habit like running an hour every night. But it's very easy to maintain a habit like brush your teeth every morning for five minutes. So if the game just consumes a very limited amount of your resources, it's pretty easy for you to develop and maintain that habit.
Right now because we are not inserting a lot of learning points into the game itself, so I think the main force asking all those audience keep playing the game is the habit itself; it's the momentum.
I do see Zynga has been doing a lot of stuff, like adding more features, those features require you to learn new game mechanics. So I think we are learning from the traditional world or whatever, trying to make the game itself have more learning points and learning lifespan. So in the future, because we have the advantage of putting the game on the internet and we can update it whenever we want, I think the lifespan wouldn't be a big problem.
I've been kind of looking at it like television. In television -- I don't know exactly how it works in China -- but in America, a television show will get popular and will last for a number of years until slowly, inevitably it sort of goes downhill. There's a lot of differences obviously, it's not a perfect comparison…
SX: That's a perfect analogy. It's a perfect comparison, from my standpoint. It's very similar to Japanese comic books, too -- they update the content once a week. I'm just taking Japanese comic books as an example because I'm more familiar with them.
So basically for them, like years after, they kind of developed a mythology, right? So in every week's content update, at the end of it they always put like a point that's being very attractive, making you so want to read next week's stuff.
Just like 24, right? Just like Big Bang Theory, or whatever; it's very, very similar to that. So there was a mythology you can develop and learn on the way. And after the mythology's developed it's like Hollywood, they can produce tons of sequels.
We're talking about it in terms of narrative media, like films, or comics, or TV, but ultimately, these games are very different; they don't have a lot of story. So where does the comparison break down? What in your games takes the place of storytelling, the cliffhanger?
SX: This is a very interesting point. Honestly, for our future games, so we do want to take a lot of experiments on this. Because when you see FrontierVille, for example, they already kind of encompassed the marriage concept into it, so you are playing the game with a very definite goal.
Not like before like FarmVille, it doesn't have a goal, right? Because nobody tells you "Hey!" like what kind of stuff will happen in the future, and that's the stuff you need to do in order to achieve that. But in FrontierVille, it tells you, "Hey, if you want to get married, here's the stuff you need to do."
It's sort of like it already has a storyline underneath it, but it's just not that strong. But I don't know whether Zynga's going to make it stronger or not, but for us, we're willing to take a try as well for our future games -- to plant a storyline underneath it, to see how the user can get attracted to it.
What about user creativity? A lot of these social games have been very passive and simple, right?
Is the audience able to give more? In terms of their creativity, do you see that that audience is interested in that kind of opportunity, to have that kind of conversation?
SX: You mean like users are very interested in giving their creativity to community, right?
For example, like a decoration part. I think the main difference between Happy Farm to FarmVille is that FarmVille has a decoration opportunity for the users. The users can create like Barack Obama on their farm, right? I was seeing that during the presidential election. That was really creative; that's how the users were trying to express their ideas.
But for a Chinese audience, I don't know, it's needed but it's not like that much needed, I would say, at this point. So the leveling up system -- like the achievement system -- still more important for the Chinese audience. Just like Maslow's pyramid -- you know the self-achievement part? Like what kind of role self-achievement is playing in that tiny community, right?
So for China, I think we still have to kind of create a very simple way so you can know how you level up and become higher up in the hierarchy; you have to be very, very clear. But in the U.S. I think everybody wants to be very different from each other, rather than higher level than each other.