What you must first change your mindset to monetize your Live Game
In this article, I would like to explain some of the mindset changes that are necessary when designing a long-running game. In particular, I will focus on what I have found to be misunderstandings in designing monetization for long-running games in my discussions with game developers in the US and Europe.
Players buy time
Let me explain the most important thing first. The monetization of long-running games is basically buying “time.
On the first day of distribution, I heard people say, “I was going to play the game until I cleared it, but I didn’t have enough stamina and was required to pay for it. I often hear people say, “What a terrible game! However, that is to be expected. We want people to play long-running games for 15 to 30 minutes a day, every day; games that can be cleared in a day will be uninstalled after a week because there is nothing to play.
If you are a game developer, you understand how difficult it is to create 10 hours worth of content in 3 months. But from the player’s point of view, if they have to wait 3 months, they usually forget about it. So you set a limit and make the time players have to wait as short as possible.
On the other hand, it is too much to play every day and not catch up to the front of the pack. It is a good idea to allow new players to catch up to the leader after 1-3 months of play and challenge the end content.
Now, here comes the business part. If it is a monthly subscription game, you can provide the service according to the principles so far. However, if you are providing a F2P style service, you need to take a different perspective. Even if you prepare content that can be played for 3 months at launch, there are players out there who would like to shorten that content to 3 days, even if they have to pay for it. Those players will almost certainly be gone after 3 months, but if they are willing to spend more than the typical lifetime value during the 3 days, we are willing to allow it.
Monetization of long-running games should be designed with this point in mind.
Gacha is free to spin
The most misunderstood element of Japanese-style smartphone games is “Gacha”. “Gacha” is the “you don’t know how much it will cost to get what you want.” This is true in one sense, but wrong in another.
What is important here is that “what you want” is not essential to playing the game. New characters are added every month and every week in Japan, but the number of players who have all of them is infinitesimally small. But the game can still be played well enough.
Japanese-style smartphone games let you play Gacha for free every once in a spin. It might be a reward for completing a quest for the first time, a daily mission, an event reward, or an apology for interrupting gameplay for maintenance. In any case, just by continuing to play, $100 worth of money is surely paid out by the management every month. That is enough to get enough characters to play the game.
Also, the hard-to-get characters may have high maximum parameters, but they are also designed to be difficult to grow. In fact, it is often the case that “it is actually stronger to develop the easy-to-obtain characters well.”
Competing against each other is not important. In fact, it may be evil.
The first thing that comes to mind as the element that attracts players the longest in end content is the PvP element. However, in Japan, long-running games with PvP elements are rare. This is because PvP can be a mechanism that discourages weak players from playing the game.
End content should be a mechanism to keep players playing for a long time, and it is meaningless if players leave the game because of this mechanism. PvP should not forget that the majority of participants will lose and feel bad. In a battle royale game, the player who survives to the end gets the best of it, but many other players may want to smash their desks. Think about it calmly. Would you be willing to smash a desk to keep playing that game for years? There are a lot of players who want a fun, leisurely, long-running game, and making the game for those players is better suited to long-term management.