Metrics versus intuition has been a common point of discussion in the social game world ever since social games entered the scene. For Bejeweled Blitz
maker PopCap, metrics are important, but “not the most important thing,” said Bejeweled
franchise business director Giordano Bruno Contestabile, during a GDC China talk.
“Fun is the most important thing,” says Contestabile, but the designers also monitor metrics every day, in order to reinforce whether something is fun, or even visible to players. But metrics don't trump all.
“If it comes down to follow the metrics or doing what we think is fun, we'll go with fun,” he says. The Bejeweled Blitz
team calls itself metrics-focused, not metrics driven.
Contestabile says Popcap is “not a very motentization-driven company originally,” which led them into some traps when it came to thinking about how to charge. “You should never underestimate how much players want to spend,” he says.
“We allowed players to spend more money if they want to, but we don't force them,” he says. “We've always been a bit fearful, saying well, people are going to think we're going to break the game, they'll think we're after their money. ... But the lesson is, the players want to spend.”
People don't like to pay if the perception is some sort of pay-to-play scheme, but “they win if you give them fun in exchange,” he says. If people pay for something because it's fun, the team gets get zero complaints about it. “If the game is fun, people respect [the purchase],” he adds, and keep playing.
Engagement is the result of a fun game, not something metrics-driven. “Making a game fun comes first, and then everything else comes from that,” he says. “That's the secret of making a game that has staying power.”
But you can't stick with something forever, even if you think it's fun. The stats don't lie at that point. “Sometimes we launch something, and it's not fun, nobody likes it, and then you have to kill it, and go to the next one, rather than sticking with it,” Contestabile concluded. “Never be afraid to kill your babies. It's very difficult to turn around a game. You can sometimes turn it around, but it's a lot of work.”
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