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Interview: The Secrets Of Wooga's Social Game Success
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Interview: The Secrets Of Wooga's Social Game Success

September 16, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

But it seems like all the monetization options you're discussion are more a way of removing limitations from the game, right?

HS: Yep.

What about gameplay mechanics? Like, say, Battlefield Heroes sells people improved guns that you can't access for free. There are tiers of things that you can't access in the game if you're a free player. Are you against that idea?

HS: Not necessarily. I think the pioneer in this field is Nexon. So Nexon was with a lot of free-to-play stuff before Facebook. And I heard that they made quite a lot of money just with the ability to select a lot of troops. So if you're free-to-play, you could move your guys one-by-one. If you paid a little bit, you could have this box. And I heard that they made a lot of money on that.

In Korea, or in the West as well?

HS: Korea.

Because I get the impression that things are more mercenary in the Asian markets.

HS: It can be.

Some things... I was talking about the abilities or powers for the character. Something which I'm pretty interested right now is that there can be some things that are not restricting, but they're going to give you a greater power.

So there's trolls you can whack in Magic Land. So what if you would have a better sword, you can whack them in one, instead of four. These are things I'm investigating, and we might do something like that.

And you know, you've seen it working in other games, so why not in social games? I don't know what is the level the user wants to pay for that; let's see. But it's something I'm pretty interested in myself, because I'm also looking for new ways. I don't accept where we are at right now -- I want to get even higher.

What about things like product, like a number of products launched? Do you have targets that you have to hit? And is that your responsibility to determine the number of games that are coming out, the calendar?

HS: No, that's really not service model thinking; I think that's a product-driven company. I was in such an organization doing mobile games for telecom operators. So there was a one year schedule, 16 games out, not a single one less, has to come out this date, no matter the quality, it just comes out.

So at Wooga we do a game one-by-one, and we launch it when it's good enough. And when we think it is good enough, if the team lead thinks it's "no," we don't launch it. So if the team thinks it's not good enough, we don't launch it. So we don't have really any hard deadlines.

For Magic Land we thought we would launch it a little bit earlier. Then we announced that we got a new VC round. The new investors were like, "Hey, let's make a game that is so good at the start that you could beat a Zynga game." So it was like hey, the game was pretty good, already, three months ago, and like hey, let's develop two months more, three months more, and launch an even better game.

I'm not giving this just as a marketing speech. So we don't have hard deadlines -- we're launching games when they're good enough. And I think that's a very nice environment to work at.

So we have very little crunch time, none of this "work weekends" -- I haven't worked on a weekend. I know some of our server guys have done it when a game has gone down, but no one in my teams has worked weekends. So I think it's very good. It's a healthy balance of working and free time.

And I think one of the reasons why Wooga is so successful is that we have this balance; it's not crunching for six months. We hate anybody to do that. So we do games that are fun, period. And you can do good, fun games without six months of crunch time. So I think we have a really good balance in that, and that's why. I joined the company September last year. One guy has left. And that was because his girlfriend moved away.

Have you abandoned any products? Cancelled products?

HS: Nope. So obviously I've been in the company just one year, so I don't know what happened before I joined. But to my knowledge, no, everything that has been put into production and gotten a first playable, we launched. We have done changes in some games, before they launched. We discovered in the first playable they didn't work; it wasn't fun.

So we sat down together with the team lead, said "What do we do?", drastically changed the game. But it has been the same game after, but the mechanic we have changed. So for example we change the game loop -- going from some mechanic to another mechanic. But no games have been cancelled, which is good. It's very bad for morale. People see these games as their babies, so we want to do everything we possibly can to avoid the situation happening.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

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E McNeill
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Interesting stuff, but I hope I misunderstand this part:

"Because you know, if you have an ethical game designer, he doesn't want to bother the user to monetize ever. He wants to make the best game ever and leave him bread and water."

Bevan Bennett
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The pronoun is somewhat ambiguous... I parse it as "He (the designer) wants to make the best game ever and leave him (the designer) bread and water.", meaning that the ethical designer designs solely for the game's sake and doesn't give any thought (in the design) to his own reward or livelihood.

Christian Nutt
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Yep, that's what he meant.

E McNeill
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I figured that was the case. What I was "hoping I misunderstood" was the implication: that Wooga considers its designers to be something other than "ethical". To me, that would be pretty worrisome.

Kathleen Lilly
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I am glad that monetization is continually discussed in these articles and forums, and that all games treat it a bit differently. I tend to prefer games that allow me to work my way through without feeling cheated if I don't put in a bunch of cash. For example, speeding up progression (and removing the grind) makes more sense to me than having a clear advantage over another player by gaining access to abilities that aren't otherwise available.

I agree with Raoul on usability. I love the fact that design teams place such a high priority on making the game fun immediately...and not just after a few hours.

Leo Gura
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Every great "hardcore" game I've ever played has been fun immediately. That's not specific to social games (in fact, for me, quite the opposite).

Chris Daniel
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"But it seems like all the monetization options you're discussion are more a way of removing limitations from the game, right?

HS: Yep."

That's todays "free-to-play" philosophy in a nutshell:

Ship a broken game and let the user pay for the fixing.

At least he is honest.

But as a game designer I have to I better do not say what I just wanted to say.

Christopher Lee
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I've heard a lot about the iteration, iteration, iteration model of games on FB. Just wanted to say I tried to release a title on the iOS that way, didn't work out so well. What you're saying about making sure the "game loop" or to put it in another sense the "core gameplay" is solid even before the iterative launch I think is very crucial to gaining initial traction.

Michael Joseph
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This interview is quite revealing.

If only we could get McDonalds scientists and engineers to be so forthcoming about their alchemical processes.