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Space Ape's Live Ops Stack: Engineering Mobile Games for Live Ops from Day 1


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Around half of the $80m revenue generated by Space Ape’s three mid-core build and battle games is attributable to in game events. By adopting a flexible forward looking approach to tools development Space Ape efficiently operates their games with very small non-technical teams maintaining major weekly content update cycles.

In this talk, Space Ape’s senior Live Ops specialists give a demo of their tools and workflows and share the content strategies that have allowed them to grow revenues whilst enabling the studio to focus the majority of its development capacity on creating new games and IP.

Space Ape shipped Transformers:Earth Wars in the Summer pre-baked with the community events tools that had worked so well in their previous game, Rival Kingdoms. However, they soon realised that many of the old tricks did not apply to the game’s gacha collection economy which had more in common with Kabam’s Contest of Champions than the linear economies of most Build and Battle games. In this talk Space Ape’s Live Ops Lead Andrew Munden (formerly Live Ops Lead at Kabam) will share the content strategies that work in gacha collection games as well as how to build a manageable content furnace and balance player fatigue in a sustainable way.

Analytics lead Fred Easy (ex Betfair, Playfish/EA) will share the evolution of his offer targeting technology from it’s belt and braces beginnings to sophisticated value based targeting and the transition to a dynamic in-session machine learning approach.

Game changing content is introduced to Rival Kingdoms every month, with in game events at least every week. Product Manager Mitchell Smallman (formerly Rovio, Next Games) and Steven Hsiao (competitive StarCraft player turned community manager turned Live Ops lead) will demonstrate the content management tools that allow them to keep the game fresh for players without developer support. This will include the tools for configuring competitive events, inserting new content into the game as well as how they measure performance of the changes and optimise on the fly. Learn how these tools enabled them to grow revenue for 6 consecutive months with no marketing spend.

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Space Ape's Live Ops Stack: Engineering Mobile Games for Live Ops from Day 1

  1. 1. Watch the full presentation
  2. 2. Watch the full presentation
  3. 3. Watch the full presentation Watch the full presentation
  4. 4. LIVE OPS MANAGER, ANDREW MUNDEN Watch the full presentation
  5. 5. Introduction Watch the full presentation
  6. 6. Who am I? 2011 2013 2014 Watch the full presentation
  7. 7. Who am I?2015 Watch the full presentation
  8. 8. Live Ops 101 Watch the full presentation
  9. 9. What is Live Ops? A Bit More Detailed... Design, create, and execute events and promotions to maximize revenue and player happiness; while minimizing fatigue and content burn. ● Incredibly Agile ● Scrappy ● Adaptive Broad Definition Do what needs to be done for a live game to be successful. Watch the full presentation
  10. 10. Live Ops Workflow Framework Database Design Validation Ape Work Game Community Watch the full presentation
  11. 11. Live Ops Design ● Frameworks ● Estimated Value ● Design Watch the full presentation
  12. 12. Value Frameworks Framework ● Provide Consistency ● Broad Balancing ● Feeds Into Others Tools Item T Dimensions of Value ● Number of Angles ● Length of Sides ● Symmetry Modifiers Number of Angles = 80% Length of Sides = 20% Symmetry = 50% $1.00 $1.50 $1.00 * (80%+20%+50%) a=b=c Watch the full presentation
  13. 13. EV and Design sum() Watch the full presentation
  14. 14. Events vs. Monetisation Type Event Monetisation Item / Currency Sink High None Item / Currency Tap Low High Generates Gross Bookings Low - High High Engagement High Low Fatigue Low - High Low - High ● Not Mutually Exclusive ● Complimentary Monetisation & Events are Best ● Both Share Strong Similarities with Each Other ● Spending Fatigue != Playing Fatigue; but is still very real! Watch the full presentation
  15. 15. Cadence Watch the full presentation
  16. 16. Space Ape Live Ops Highly Technical Live Operations Planning Board Watch the full presentation
  17. 17. F Live Ops Cadence I II III IV E $ E $ F E $ F E $ F E - Engagement $ - Gross Bookings F - Player Fatigue Event Rating System Month I II III IV IV IVIV I I I III III II IV Adapts and changes dependent on: ● Content Pipeline ● Event & Sales Data ● Player Feedback ● New Features Watch the full presentation
  18. 18. Content Watch the full presentation
  19. 19. What is content? Game elements that can be consumed by players. Examples: ● Characters / Robots ● Consumable Boosts / Potions ● Dialogues / Cutscenes ● Campaign Levels Watch the full presentation
  20. 20. What is content? Consistently Hitting 70%+ Event Participation Watch the full presentation
  21. 21. Content Drives Revenue Watch the full presentation
  22. 22. Content Drives Revenue Force of Nature Malice Event Wyrm's Gambit Birna Event Ascended Alandra Scorched Earth Watch the full presentation
  23. 23. Gacha Rival Kingdoms Transformers Rarities Yes (Now) Yes Duplicate Handling Yes Yes+ More = Better No Yes A Brand No Yes Watch the full presentation
  24. 24. So, about the bots? Watch the full presentation
  25. 25. LIVE OPS: LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT Event Release Bundles Premium Crystal Pool Free Crystal Pool New Bot Bot Crystal Sale 4 Weeks 3 Weeks 2-3 Weeks Watch the full presentation
  26. 26. Questions? Watch the full presentation
  27. 27. HEAD OF ANALYTICS, FRED EASEY Watch the full presentation
  28. 28. A brief history of targeting Nov 2016 Watch the full presentation
  29. 29. V1. The Stone Age: Shop only • IAPs only displayed on shop page • Bulk discount offered for higher spend Watch the full presentation
  30. 30. V1. The Stone Age: Shop only • Multiple price points offered, player will usually see a price they are happy to buy • Bulk-buy discount encourages players to purchase higher value IAPs • Players average transaction size tends to stay around the same level for subsequent transactions • Shop is tucked away in the HUD, players need to actively search for it to find it Watch the full presentation
  31. 31. V1. The Stone Age: Shop only Interesting side-point: the bulk-buy discount for casino games is insane, more like 1000% EV vs 130% EV for non-casino games for top SKU They have much less of a content burn issue from giving more away, as players tend to scale their bets to their balance Watch the full presentation
  32. 32. V2. The Iron Age:Time limited bundles Time-limited bundle of in-game items offered, with much higher EV* than regular shop *EV = estimated value: value of bundle contents compared to normal shop Watch the full presentation
  33. 33. V2. The Iron Age: Time limited bundles Revenue (All Users) DailyRevenue($) Live Event + Themed event bundle generated the highest daily revenues Watch the full presentation
  34. 34. ● Supercell recently added time-limited bundles to Clash Royale ● Very good UI sign-posting ● Triggers on new arenas + special events V2. The Iron Age: Time limited bundles Watch the full presentation
  35. 35. V2. The Iron Age: Time limited bundles 10th Grossing Top Grossing Bundles Launched Watch the full presentation
  36. 36. V2. The Iron Age: Time limited bundles • Limited time to purchase + high EV + high quality art = more players buy than normal shop • Bundle toast “pops” during session, so all players will see it • One danger is players are trained to wait for sales and stop buying from the normal shop • Can lead to content burn issues if bundles are too generous • Relationship between bundle EV and conversion is not linear • Works best when combined with a live event Watch the full presentation
  37. 37. V3. The Steam Age: Timeline bundles • Player sees a rotating group of bundles • Prices are targeted based on the player’s historical spend Watch the full presentation
  38. 38. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Non-spender ($0.00) 20 starter launch autobot 20 builder autobot 20 premium character autobot 10 builder autobot 10 premium character autobot 20 battle 10 small alloy_energon 5 battle low-spender ($4.99-$9.99) 20 premium character autobot 100 battle 20 med alloy_energon 20 builder autobot 10 premium character autobot 20 battle 5 battle mid-spender ($19.99+) 100 builder autobot 100 premium character autobot 100 battle 40 large alloy_energon 40 premium character autobot 20 battle 10 builder autobot 20 premium character autobot 10 premium character autobot high-spender-1 ($39.99+) 100 premium character autobot 40 massive spark 100 battle 40 premium character autobot 100 builder 20 premium character autobot 100 massive alloy_energon 40 massive fuel_cells high-spender-2 ($200+ last 7D) 100 premium character autobot 40 massive spark 100 battle 100 builder autobot 100 massive alloy_energon 100 large fuel_cells V3. The Steam Age: Timeline bundles Watch the full presentation
  39. 39. V3. The Steam Age: Timeline bundles • Much better at upselling than single price-point bundles • No product team curation required after initial setup • The games we launched with timeline bundles generate more than 2x the LTV of the previous game that did not have timeline bundles • Work well in conjunction with time-limited bundles - the revenue will often stack rather than cannibalizing • Same dangers as single price bundles - danger of content burn and cannibalizes shop sales Watch the full presentation
  40. 40. • When we analyzed the data, we saw that mean previous spend is a better predictor than max spend, for predicting next spend amount lifetime_spend max_prev_tiers mode_prev_tiers median_prev_tiers mean+prev+tiers previous_tiers tiers_price lifetime_spend max_prev_tiers mode_prev_tiers median_prev_tiers mean+prev+tiers previous_tiers tiers_price - 0.2 0 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 0.2 - 0.4 - 0.6 - 0.8 - 1 Watch the full presentation
  41. 41. Coming next: The Rocket Age M-L targeted bundles Timeline bundles targeted via machine learning to maximize player LTV $10 Resource Bundle $20 Character Bundle $5 Builder Bundle $100 Character Bundle $40 Battle Bundle $10 Battle Bundle $100 Character Bundle $40 Battle Bundle $10 Battle Bundle Many different types of bundles created by product team (+re-purpose existing ones). Covers all permutations of price + type + EV Watch the full presentation
  42. 42. • Each bundle is scored based on the chance of the player purchasing it • The approach we are working on is separate models for price and type • Price based on previous bundle conversion (nearest-neighbours model) • Type based on what types sell well given specific player conditions (eg the resource bundle is more likely to be purchased by players running low on resources) • All bundles are assigned a % chance of purchase. We then multiply by bundle price to give an estimated return for each bundle and serve the one with highest return • A random element will be included to stop the system from stagnating on specific bundles Coming next: The Rocket Age M-L targeted bundles Watch the full presentation
  43. 43. Questions? Watch the full presentation
  44. 44. Watch the full presentation
  45. 45. PRODUCT MANAGER, MITCHELL SMALLMAN Watch the full presentation
  46. 46. Rival Kingdoms: Trials, Tools, and Tricks in Live Ops Watch the full presentation
  47. 47. A Little Context ● Slide with RK launch stats Watch the full presentation
  48. 48. … but Rival Kingdoms had a problem. ● UA costs for RK were very high, super dark fantasy plus core RTS made it very expensive to market ● This is where many would consider the game in serious trouble, but our ARPPUs were so high it seemed like there was plenty of life left Watch the full presentation
  49. 49. More Trains… or more Track? ? ? Watch the full presentation
  50. 50. The Track In Front Of The Train ● Changed our sales strategy to event currencies (boosters) that provide ease of acquiring new exclusive content during an event ● Diamonds moved as a sink in frequently updated gacha chests, while staying a core loop currency Watch the full presentation
  51. 51. Controlled Currencies ● Introduced “Mithril” in late 2015, Crafting in 2016 ● Currency are capped or distributed only in events ● Raise cap, sell more, change the balance, create new demand ● The key: Tied directly to events and live ops Watch the full presentation
  52. 52. Recipe of of a Successful Elder Game Event Watch the full presentation
  53. 53. A Choice of Spend and Activity ● Should be fun if you spend $0, $5 or $100 ● Should be fun if your alliance has a wide make up of different players with different behaviours ● Should feel achievable to all Watch the full presentation
  54. 54. Social Connection & Competition ● Requires some co-ordination (this is fun) ● Keep in mind, heavy social can exhaust players, it’s harder to turn down your friends than a game developer Watch the full presentation
  55. 55. Our Tools Watch the full presentation
  56. 56. Live Event Config ● Allows us to change the goals, rewards and timings for an entire event ● If we use no new rewards or art, we could create a complete event in a matter of minutes See video for live demo: Watch the full presentation
  57. 57. Live Bundle Tool ● Using standardized SKUs, able to create bundles on the fly ● The answer to the “what if you have a weak event?” problem See video for live demo: Watch the full presentation
  58. 58. Reward Systems ● We’ve also built tools for frequent long term events ● In general, if we do something frequently, we try to put it live See video for live demo: Watch the full presentation
  59. 59. Streaming Art ● Fresh Art = More Excitement = Better revenue ● If we need to pivot an event and offer a new item, we can stream in the art instead of baking into content See video for live demo: Watch the full presentation
  60. 60. The Space Ape VIP Program Watch the full presentation
  61. 61. Not Just Whales ● VIP includes streamers, large Kingdom leaders as well as large spenders ● Increased communication with devs is the primary benefit, not huge in game rewards, works both ways Watch the full presentation
  62. 62. Data Analysis: Day To Day Watch the full presentation
  63. 63. Measure Twice, Cut Once ● See how much each currency has changed after event ● Key segments: progression and spend tier ● What is the distance between segments? Watch the full presentation
  64. 64. Measure Twice, Cut Once ● As your game gets less DAU, averages become less useful ● Frequently look at smaller segments and distribution Watch the full presentation
  65. 65. Questions? Watch the full presentation