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GDC Taipei 2013: Creating International Hits from China



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GDC Taipei 2013: Creating International Hits from China

  1. 1. Creating International Hits from China Charlie Moseley Creative Director, Tap4Fun
  2. 2. Who am I and what is Tap4Fun?
  3. 3. About Me • 32 year old, from Washington D.C. • Gamer since age 5, when I fell in love with Mario and Final Fantasy • In China since 2005, working with Tap4Fun since 2010 • In it for the international hit
  4. 4. About Tap4Fun • 3 years old, from Chengdu China • Focused only on multiplayer strategy games • Nearly 300 “Tappers” & one of the highest grossing mobile developers in China • In the words of our CEO Kevin Yang: “An international company based in China, not just a Chinese company” • Also it for the international hit
  5. 5. What This is About • Sharing our 3+ years of experience, and our rise to notoriety • How to create concepts and develop products • How to market your games to international audiences • Localization, optimization, and experimentation • My perspective as an expat in China • Answers to your questions
  6. 6. Some Background Info
  7. 7. Today: 500k DAU 25+ Million Users 320 Employees
  8. 8. At the beginning, in 2008:
  9. 9. Two Products Twitbird MobileRSS
  10. 10. Then, in 2011: We had a dream.
  11. 11. The Tap4fun Dream: Make great online games that connect the world. (in other words: create international hits)
  12. 12. Product Overview • Build, upgrade, compete with players, and expand your power and influence • Iterative development cycle, male-skewed demographic • Common SLG game themes + one or more unique elements per product
  13. 13. Our Games Island Empire 2011 Galaxy Empire 2011 Global Threat 2013 Galaxy Legend 2013 Spartan Wars 2012 King’s Empire 2012
  14. 14. Spartan Wars Imagery
  15. 15. Spartan Wars Video
  16. 16. Ok, so now you know about Tap4Fun. How do we decide what games to develop?
  17. 17. Creating Concepts
  18. 18. Concept Creation • Simple ideas. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” - Davinci (1977 Apple slogan, too) • SERIOUSLY: SIMPLE IDEAS! • Evaluate team ability and determine your level of risk tolerance • Familiarity + “a hook”
  19. 19. Concept Creation Familiar New & Different Sweet Spot!
  20. 20. Concepts for International Audiences • What ideas are understood and appreciated by world cultures? • What cultural bias to you bring to your concepts? Examples: China & Sanguo, Japan and anime, me and prohibition era concept • What cultural precedent is there for your concept?
  21. 21. Liquor Empire “Build a 1930’s underground empire and reign as! Kingpin over your organized criminal network”
  22. 22. What is the Prohibition Era? • Believing it was a crime against God, in 1920 the United States made alcohol illegal, causing an underground alcohol culture to explode! • At the same time, Mussolini expelled thousands of members of Italian organized crime, who immigrated to NYC and Chicago
  23. 23. Visual Inspiration • Familiar mafia setting! • Unique, old school Prohibition Era setting! • Alcohol-driven game economy! • Historical reference
  24. 24. Why didn’t it work? Onto a concept that did work...
  25. 25. Spartan Wars Example • Our most popular game was a concept I pitched in Feb. 2012: a Spartan-themed game of conquest • The Spartan theme, with Greek mythology, was fresh and suited the SLG gameplay aesthetic • Do people understand Sparta? They do, because of one movie.
  26. 26. That Movie Is...
  27. 27. Spartan Wars Example The movie 300 planted “the seed” that made this theme relatable and familiar. ! It paved the “cultural road” to Spartan Wars.
  28. 28. Spartan Wars Example
  29. 29. The Secret Ingredient
  30. 30. The Secret Ingredient
  31. 31. The Secret Ingredient “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”
  32. 32. Where Concepts Go to Die We kill a lot of concepts. Many of them are great. Don’t worry about it.
  33. 33. Where Concepts Go to Die "We have this culture of celebrating failure," explains Paananen. "When a game does well, of course we have a party. But when we really screw up, for example when we need to kill a product -- and that happens often by the way, this year we've launched two products globally, and killed three -- when we really screw up, we celebrate with champagne. We organize events that are sort of postmortems, and we can discuss it very openly with the team, asking what went wrong, what went right. What did we learn, most importantly, and what are we going to do differently next time?" - Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen
  34. 34. Where Concepts Go to Die Try things. Fail. Try again. Probably, fail again. This is all a part of the process of success.
  35. 35. Monetization with stories!
  36. 36. First, a Disclaimer ● Our ARPU is respectable, but due to strategies like Player Cocktails and targeting emerging markets, we aren’t industry leaders in monetization ● We’re still learning a lot. Along with basically everyone else in the industry. ● To prevent this from getting number or acronym heavy, I will explain the situation with real-life examples
  37. 37. Zynga ● Revolutionized social gaming ● Then suffered a calamitous fall. What happened? ● Focused too heavily on metrics, monetization, and “psyching out” players” ● Platform fell out but they failed to adapt to mobile ● Not fun. And was, in the end, financially ruinous.
  38. 38. Zynga Lesson #1: Focusing too much on monetization can really hurt you.
  39. 39. Punch Quest ● “Pummel your way through dungeons full of monsters and branching path choices”. Simple side-scroller with brilliant design. ● Critics said…
  40. 40. Punch Quest! Touch Arcade: 100%. “Punch Quest needs to be on every device you own”. ! Gamezebo: 100%. “Fist Place Trophy.”
  41. 41. Punch Quest ● Time: first 2 months of release through Christmas 2012. iPhone, US. ● Lots of great press ● Phenomenal chart performance in downloads ● Looks good, right?
  42. 42. Punch Quest Download Ranks Grossing Ranks
  43. 43. Punch Quest ● Punch Quest gave away too much. Pocketgamer said “Almost no one is paying” ● Is that even a problem? Rocketcat Games is 4 people. ● Other small F2P teams have won every award and still monetized:
  44. 44. Punch Quest Lesson #2: design for monetization from the beginning if that matters to you.
  45. 45. Data Analysis ● “Dive into the data” to find out exactly what’s happening ● Tap4Fun’s ocean of lost data & our corrected path ● MathWorks’ MATLAX (Matrix Lab) ● Brian Devlin and our advanced analytics + internal tools ● Monetization Funnel
  46. 46. Monetization Funnel
  47. 47. Monetization Funnel Carefully check each step of the funnel, from acquisition to LTV and identify and fix problems. Always improve each link of the chain. ! Endgame = High LTV
  48. 48. Data Analysis Lesson #3: “dive into data” & iterate your way to successful monetization. ! Follow the chain and eat the acronym soup: CPI, DAU, ARPU, LTV.
  49. 49. Marketing Your App
  50. 50. Why is this necessary? Island Empire vs Galaxy Legend
  51. 51. Marketing Island Empire ● Our first release, after a 4-month bootstrapped development cycle ● Zero marketing or promotion upon release ● 10k+ organic users within the first week alone ● User acquisition costs incredibly low: Free App a Day $10k (40k installs) Island Empire 2011
  52. 52. Marketing Galaxy Legend ● Our sixth release, after an 18-month development cycle ● Limited marketing and promotion upon release ● Positive initial conversion rates, high user acquisition costs ($1.75/user on Android, $2.75 iOS) ● Tough competition and slow organic growth - user acquisition becomes a necessity Galaxy Legend 2013
  53. 53. Marketing Becomes a Necessity ● Each niche of gaming has varying levels of competition and opportunity. Our niche is crowded. ● Other crowded niches: card & gambling games ● Proliferating third-party marketing services worldwide with different specialities ● Attention-deficit market conditions lead to skyrocketing UAC (up to $20/user in certain regions and platforms) ● Would Clash of Clans be Clash of Clans without marketing? Consider the quality of CoC.
  54. 54. Marketing Spartan Wars ● Before 2012 public launch we began key marketing tests in over a dozen markets and collecting data: retention metrics, cost per user, revenue data ● Identify what works, what fails, and optimize ● Spartan Wars & Russia ● Seasonal considerations & weekends: Christmas and holidays
  55. 55. Marketing Spartan Wars Download Ranks
  56. 56. Developed vs Emerging Markets ● Highest value users: US, UK, Japan, Korea ● High revenue but tough competition versus low revenue and weak competition ● Price difference between iOS and Android platforms ● Cultural differences and finding surprises: Island Empire and Arabic-speaking countries "Why would you want to go into the US when competition is so great and user acquisition costs so much? You need an incredible product. Most international game developers approach emerging markets in some way, but you really need somebody on the ground or somebody with experience that can make sure your translation is 100% accurate, and secondly, someone who can identify the marketing channels important to that region"."In the US market you have major companies that will help you market your product, at a great cost. In places like the Middle East or Southeast Asia, where do you go? You either have to know someone with that knowledge or learn it through trial and error. User acquisition in SE Asia or the Middle East might be $.50 where it's $3-5 in the US" - Eugene Konash, Tap4Fun Marketing
  57. 57. Localizing Your Game ● Which countries do you localize in? ● Investment & development costs ● Experimental campaigns in emerging markets: data analysis ● Tap4Fun & Arabic: Cultural sensitivity with Spartan Wars (Persians) ● How Tap4Fun has localized, and our latest efforts with moderators ● The importance of support
  58. 58. Worldwide Support ● 12 localizations for Spartan Wars: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Traditional & Simplified Chinese ● Up to 4,000+ tickets per day shared among multi-lingual support team ● Constantly hiring language majors for internal support team ● Why this is important: the kind of players who create support inquiries & support whales
  59. 59. “Player Cocktails” ● What we learned from Global Threat: placing players from the same region together for World Chat ● What we’re doing now: creating cocktails of high and low value players from different regions speaking the same languages. The cost advantage: filling a server with 10k US users is expensive. ● Examples: UK & India, France & North Africa, Russia & Ukraine, UAW & Egypt ● Creating an ecosystem of “predators and prey”. Non-paying users supported by paying users. Balancing revenue & retention.
  60. 60. “Player Cocktails”
  61. 61. In Closing We love making friends and creating new partnerships. Say hi! ! We also publish games and provide help with concepting, design, development, optimization, marketing, and more.
  62. 62. We love making friends and creating new partnerships. Say hi! We also publish games and provide help with concepting, design, development, optimization, marketing, and more. Charlie email: twitter: @justcharlie