Take a peek into game design lessons from Playdom, a leading developer of social games. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company and part of Disney Interactive Media, Playdom games are played by over 44 million monthly active users across different social networks, and include games such as Social City, Sorority Life, and Mobsters.
The video below is from June 2010, and recorded at the Silicon Valley Facebook Developers and Social Gaming Meetup, with presentations by Playdom and KISSmetrics.
Steve Meretzky, VP of Game Design at Playdom shares 7 design lessons in building and monetizing social games.
Although your gamification goals may or may not include revenue derived from game play, Meretzky offers ways to increase opportunities for monetizing. Gamification designers interested in strictly user engagement could easily substitute monetization prompts with other user behaviors, such as sharing the site with friends, or completing user surveys/profiles.
Either way, your best results in getting a user to act will come from tapping into the engaged player. An engaged user, in Playdom terms, often exhibits characteristics including 10x more play sessions than a non-paying user, and 10x more friends.
Playdom uses 2 methods of monetizing:
– Offer products/services to the impatient player (for example: in a system that uses a supply of energy which depletes and recharges over time, there is an opportunity to sell energy)
– Sell virtual goods (or soft currency which can be spent on goods)
Meretzky’s 7 Lessons learned by Playdom to increase monetized goods are:
Lesson 1: Engage the player first, then monetize.
Lesson 2: Consistent sales/Time Pattern.
Rather than having an item available consistently in game, create demand by staggering availability across a time pattern. Playdom metrics show that about 1/3 of all sales occur in the first 24 hours and then taper off.
Lesson 3: Gameplay value matters .
Often times the largest motivators are items that improve the user’s play, in particular goods offering a Player vs Player advantage.
Lesson 4: Vanity dives sales.
When dressing up avatars for example, items that look better or cooler, sell better.
Lesson 5: Involve the community
Communicate with your players, offer polls/surveys and act on results. Social Games are a live service, take advantage of that fact
Lesson 6: Current event tie-ins work
Bring “real world” goods and events into the game.
Lesson 7: Shake it up, Baby!
Although A/B testing leads to the “best” of everything (item type, duration, price, etc), repetition can become stale and new is better than best. Shake things up, the user base appreciates it when you do something different.
How do you know your game designs are engaging?
Before launching a new game, Playdom often performs 30-minute company play sessions. If they continue to see large groups of people playing during “off hours”, it’s a good indication that they have a hit.
For smaller companies that don’t have a lot of people internally, use friends and family and you’ll find out quickly if your game is really fun or not.
The presentations from Hiten Shah, CEO and Co-Founder of KISSmetrics and Matthew Davie, Project Lead, Publishing at Playdom are also on the video.
Steve Meretzky’s presentation is at 38:50 in the video. (The complete video including KISSmetrics is approx 1 hour and 36 min in length. )