ZeptoLab CEO Misha Lyalin談遊戲定義和產品探尋方向

本文原作者:James Batchelor 譯者ciel chen

確實,有一件很多開發者無疑都希望避免的事:當遊戲創作不再是純粹的藝術。畢竟他們的遊戲終究是要發行的,並且大多數情況下,他們發行的遊戲都得賺到夠多的錢以資助他們下一款遊戲的研發。

這個真相在手遊行業體現得更加突出,可以說手遊市場是開發者所面臨的競爭最激烈的市場。儘管這將使開發者不再能夠全身心投入到一個基於激情的項目中,但不管哪家工作室,他們都希望能吸引到發行商,能接軌最廣大的用戶,這就要求他們得去了解更多遊戲發行中與商業相關的內容。

ZeptoLab的董事長兼CEO Misha Lyalin這樣告訴GamesIndustry.biz:“商業變得越來越以數據爲導向:用戶保留量、ARPDAU(每付費用戶平均收益)等等之類的數據,這些都是在遊戲通過審覈進入初始階段時我們用來判斷其有沒有潛能的標準。很簡單,把遊戲直接給你的朋友家人玩來進行判斷——這就是我們想要的。我們真的不喜歡那些只給了個遊戲標題然後說‘那,這是我的遊戲,我玩過了,是我喜歡的。’這已經過時了。現在開發者需要的是盡其一切可能快地掌握對一些數據的理解。”

但對於一個在事業的起步階段,夢想着把遊戲帶給數以百萬計用戶的開發者新人來說,像MAU(月活躍用戶數)、ARPDAU(每付費用戶平均收益)這類的數值就已經非常可怕了吧?何況像LTV(生命週期,用戶在生命週期內爲某遊戲創造的收入總計)、FTUE(初次用戶體驗)等這樣的縮略詞就更別提了。

Lyalin承認:“對某些開發者來說——他們確實是希望自己開發出來的東西能夠讓這個世界喜歡。不過現在開發者必須有所改變。我們現在也已經在做出改變了。”

Cut The Rope(from gamesindustry.biz)

Cut The Rope(from gamesindustry.biz)

“當我們發行《割繩子》的時候,我們也曾經一樣:我們希望這款遊戲能在發行後讓人們喜歡上它。但是現在我們已經做出了改變,這也是開發者要做出的改變——以後在正式發行遊戲以前得做遊戲的試發行來考察蒐集得來的所有數據指標。開發者必須適應這樣的改變,沒別的辦法,這就是現實。”

ZeptoLab工作室近來決定將其成功所獲成果投入到其他開發者身上,幫助帶領他們的遊戲進入手遊市場。該公司的發行部門到目前爲止一直保持很低調,但最近卻發表了聲明說公司將開放接受一切開發者提交的遊戲代理髮行申請——甚至承諾將保證對每一個申請進行進行反饋。

ZeptoLab並不是實行這項業務的唯一工作室。不論是手遊還是PC/主機遊戲領域裏,都有數不清的獨立遊戲發行商在這個業務中蒸蒸日上地崛起,不過ZeptoLab依舊有信心能夠脫穎而出並向其他開發者伸出援手。

“想在手遊領域發行遊戲就得有經驗;而開發者如果想讓自己的遊戲被髮行,就得掌握一些發行商想要的內容。”

“有難度,而且難度相當大。我們肯定沒法保證能夠把所有好遊戲作品都找來(因爲競爭超激烈)。但是我們存在一定的競爭優勢,以及我們開發遊戲的方法對於第三方開發者是由潛在利好的。所以我們在日益激烈的競爭中依舊感到自己足夠強大。”

ZeptoLab在《割繩子》遊戲的發行裏學習了很多在手遊市場發行的經驗。如今它有信心能夠幫助其他工作室進行遊戲的發行

但是如果開發者想要獲得ZeptoLab的青睞,這就得迴歸最重要的數據指標——不過這些數據規模可能沒你想的那麼大。

Lyalin解釋道“我們對某類數據和某類反映的影響會比較深刻——如果一名開發者可以從親密的朋友們那裏或者一個小圈子的人們那裏得來某種反饋,又或者可以把遊戲發行在一兩個特定市場中,這樣我們就可以對一些初步數據進行考察——我覺得這些都是有所助益的。”

ZeptoLab不會像大部分發行商那樣專門成立一個發行部門,它們對代理遊戲的挑選講究到了難以置信的程度——也因此它只在遊戲大會和交易展上和開發者談論發行事宜。儘管該公司開放接受所有的遊戲代理申請,但它目前每年最多就發行兩款遊戲。

“我們現在所追尋的就是我們對自己有的期望:趣味、品質和創新。我們希望所代理髮行的遊戲是能讓我們爲之驕傲自豪的,我們希望所代理髮行的遊戲能讓玩家享受到跟在《割繩子》中一樣的愉悅——這就是我們之所以講究的原因。”

“我們有意將代理髮行的遊戲看做自己的遊戲,但如果是這樣的話,我們就沒辦法發行很多的遊戲了,因爲我們人手有限。”

像很多類似King、Zynga這樣的龍頭手遊企業一樣,ZeptoLab也希望能尋到一款遊戲成爲下一款最受歡迎的mid-core遊戲。一個又一個手遊公司都想逃離出過度擁擠的休閒遊戲領域,於是“Mid-core”這個詞就被這些公司用爛了,然而他們又對這個詞都有着各自不同的具體定義。

“對於我們來說,一款mid-core遊戲就是容易上手但想玩得精則相對困難的F2P遊戲,並且它要具備讓用戶長期停留的潛力。”

“我們要的不是針對非常小衆目標用戶的遊戲。我們需要的是更廣大的用戶羣、更容易上手的玩法、長期用戶留存潛力以及F2P的遊戲機制——這是我們對mid-core遊戲的定義。”

由於像《部落戰爭》、《戰爭遊戲》和《雷霆天下》這些遊戲到現在已經在手遊熱門榜榜首上呆了好幾年了,所以開發者現在寄希望於多人在線遊戲讓他們在手遊市場能有所建樹是情有可原的。不過Lyalin相信這並非必要條件,儘管它確實能給開發者提供最好的契機來彙集、以及更重要的是保留住最大程度上的用戶量。

“多人競技並不是遊戲成功的必要元素。但是人們是喜歡社交的——他們喜歡和其他人進行交互。倘若說現代發展史對我們有什麼啓示的話,那就是人們在類似Facebook這類的網站中變得越發喜歡社交了。這在遊戲中也有相同的體現,所以多人競技是一個蠻重要的概念——對core games來說更是如此。休閒遊戲倒未必,但對於core和mid-core遊戲而言,多人競技這個內容要素確實是有關鍵性作用的。”

目前已經有許多的遊戲代理申請向ZeptoLab提交了, ZeptoLab堅持履行了對每個開發者的申請進行回覆的承諾。Lyalin說這多虧了許多公司員工能出力一起檢閱這些他們收到的申請。然而鑑於所有的申請者都能收到回覆,Lyalin強調說只有那些盡了最大努力的申請能得到他們所期盼的較全面反饋。

“顯然如果提交的代理申請是比較不成熟的,那我們的反饋也就會相對較短,不過如果你提交的遊戲代理申請是一個可玩版本的遊戲,我們將會給你一個全面的檢閱和回覆——無論發不發行這款遊戲我們都會這樣做的。”Lyalin說。

他還說,關於爲所有申請代理的開發者提供反饋這件事,ZeptoLab鼓勵那些被拒絕的申請者希望他們能在未來繼續做申請的努力:“如果你得到的反饋是‘不行,這個遊戲對我們來說不合適’或者說你沒有得到任何反饋,那麼你要再次和這家發行商合作的機會就比較小了。如果你較早地和發行商建立建立聯繫、那麼也許下次再來的時候,由於記住了需要改進的內容,因此提交的申請質量會有所提高。通過這樣的方式,我們和合作夥伴分享開發和發行遊戲的知識,並且希望他們能在未來還能找到我們一起尋求合作的機會。”

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

It’s a truth many developers no doubt wish to avoid: the creation of games is not a purely artistic affair. Ultimately, their games need to be released and, in the vast majority of cases, that release needs to generate enough revenue to fund their next project.

This is particularly true on mobile, arguably the most competitive market any games developer faces. And while there will be the rare exception who can afford to pour their heart and soul into a passion project, any studio that hopes to attract a publisher and reach the broadest audience needs to understand the more commercial aspects of launching a game.

“Business has become very number-oriented: retention, ARPPU, and things like that,” ZeptoLab chairman and CEO Misha Lyalin tells GamesIndustry.biz.

“It’s something we can work on once a game goes through our process but the initial phase has to show potential. It’s easy to measure just by giving the game to your friends and family to play – that’s what we’re looking for. We don’t really like people who just submit a title, saying ‘here’s my game, I played it, I like it’. That’s something that has been left in the past. Now developers need to gain an understanding about numbers as soon as they humanly can.”

But to a new developer, a start-up with dreams of getting their games into the hands of millions, are metrics like MAU, ARPDAU – not to mention other acronyms like LTV, FTUE and so on – incredibly intimidating?

“To some, yes,” Lyalin admits. “Some people develop something and hope that the world will love it. But developers now have to change. We have changed.

“When we released Cut The Rope, we were exactly the same: we were making games and hoping that people would like them when they were released. But we have changed, and developers have to change as well. Now you need to do soft-launches and look through all the metrics you gather before you fully launch your game. Developers need to adapt to this, it’s the reality. There’s no other way around it.”

ZeptoLab is the latest mobile studio to decide to channel its own success into helping other developers bring their games to market. The firm’s publishing arm has kept a low profile so far, but recently announced it was open to any and all submissions – even promising a guaranteed response to every single applicant.

The Cut The Rope studio is not alone in this. There are countless indie publishers on the rise, in both the mobile and PC/console spaces, but ZeptoLab is confident it has what it takes to stand out and aid its fellow developers.

“People that publish in the mobile space have to have experience,” Lyalin says. “And if developers want to have their game published, they have to have something companies will want.

“It’s tough, it’s definitely tough. We’re definitely not guaranteed to find all the good titles [because of all the competition]. But we have certain competitive advantages, and the way we approach our games and development is potentially beneficial to third-party developers as well. So we feel strong as the competition grows.”

rope
ZeptoLab learned a lot about the mobile market from the release of Cut The Rope. Now it feels confident enough to help publish other studios’ games
But if developers want to win over ZeptoLab, it comes back to those all-important numbers – although perhaps not on the scale you might think.

“We’re impressed by some sort of numbers, some sort of reaction to the game,” Lyalin explains. “If a developer can gauge certain feedback from close friends, a small circle of people or maybe launch the game somewhere – in one or two markets, so we can see some preliminary numbers – I think all that helps.”

Unlike most developers that open a publishing arm, ZeptoLab is being incredibly selective – hence its decision to only discuss its publishing operations with developers at conferences and trade shows until recently. Even though the firm is open to all submissions, it intends to release a maximum of two titles per year.

“We’re looking for the same things we expect from our games: fun, quality and innovation,” says Lyalin. “We’re just looking for games we’d be proud to say were published by ZeptoLab. We’re looking for something our players would enjoy as much as they have our own games. So that’s why we’re being very selective.

“It’s our intent to treat them as internal titles. If we do that, we just don’t have that many people to be able to do so many games.”

Like King, Zynga and many of the leading mobile firms, ZeptoLab hopes to find the next big mid-core hit. ‘Mid-core’ is a term bandied about by many a company trying to step away from the impossibly crowded casual market, but everyone has their own definition as to what this actually means.

“For us, a mid-core game is a free-to-play title that is easy to pick up and play, but relatively hard to master,” Lyalin says. “The long-term retention potential [needs to be] there.

“We’re not looking for titles that are targeted at a very niche audience. Broader audience, easier to pick up and play, long term retention with free-to-play mechanics – that’s what we would define as mid-core.”

With the likes of Clash of Clans, Game of War and Mobile Strike dominating the Top Grossing charts for years now, developers could be forgiven for thinking multiplayer games are the only titles that can establish themselves in the market now. Lyalin believes that it’s not essential, but it can give developers the best chance of gathering, and more importantly retaining, the largest audience.

“You don’t have to have multiplayer to succeed,” he says. “But people are social – they like to interact with other people. If recent history has shown us anything, it’s that people are becoming more social on the net with things like Facebook. It’s the same thing with games, so multiplayer is an important concept – especially for core games. Maybe not for casual, but for core and mid-core games, it’s vital.”

Submissions are already rolling in at ZeptoLab, but the publisher has so far stood by its promise to respond to every single developer. Lyalin says this is made possible by the number of people at the company willing to chip in and help to review the games, they receive. However, while a response is promised to all applicants, the CEO stresses that those who have put in the most effort can expect the more comprehensive feedback.

“Obviously, if the submission is at an early stage, the reply will be fairly short,” he says. “But if you submit a game that’s playable, we’ll give you a full review – regardless of whether we publish it or not.

He goes on to say that by offering feedback to all developers, ZeptoLab hopes to encourage those it rejects to come back in future: “If you hear just ‘no, the game doesn’t work for us’ or you don’t hear anything, the chances of going to this publisher [again are minimal]. If you establish lines of communication earlier, maybe next time you’ll come in and you’ll remember some of the things you were told, so the quality of submission will improve. That way, we pass some knowledge to the partner and hopefully that comes back to us later.”(source:games industry.biz )