開發者談懷舊遊戲如何應對不斷變化的新型市場

本文原作者:Brendan Sinclair 譯者ciel chen

Tribute Games的蒙特利爾工作室在其創立以來6年裏發行了5款遊戲,最新的一款是這個月發行的懷舊平臺冒險遊戲《Flinthook》.有人可能會覺得說Tribute發行了這麼多遊戲應該有一個營銷套路了吧,然而其共同創始人Jean-Francois Major這禮拜告訴GamesIndustry.biz說遊戲市場形勢發展太快了,套路什麼的根本不頂用。

artvogt_alm_01(from gamasutra)

artvogt_alm_01(from gamasutra)

Major說“現在跟我們發行《Mecenary Kings》(2014年)的形勢完全不一樣了,我們發現了這樣一個窘迫的情況——blogs、IGN、GameSpot不再有以前那麼大的影響力了。現在真的有影響力的只有Twitch遊戲主播和Youtube用戶了。當時我們發行《Mercenary Kings》在那些大型網站的時候,能賣掉非常多的遊戲副本,銷量一直挺好,到後來才降了下來;後來我們再在同樣的網站上發行《Flinthook》的時候,一開始基本沒什麼遊戲主播買我們遊戲完,然後現在我們發現用戶基數增加依舊緩慢;只有當有比較名的主播玩我們的遊戲的時候能帶動我們的遊戲銷量。”

不過這不是說《Flinthook》有什麼增添的內容是失敗的。事實上,在其他懷舊風遊戲比如《Full Throttle重製版》、《迪士尼午後合集》以及主機類的《神奇男孩III:龍之陷阱(Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap)》同期發行的情況下,《Flinthook》上了Steam平臺首頁 “受歡迎的新遊戲” 模塊榜首,並維持了整整一個禮拜。

在《Mercenary Kings》發行以後,Steam對其首頁做出了一個重大改變——3年前的時候,在Steam上新發行的遊戲都能保證在主頁上被推薦滿24小時。但是隨着遊戲發行速度加劇,這讓這種保證無法再兌現。於是Steam把“新遊戲”模塊的名字改成“受歡迎的新遊戲”——據Major說:這樣的變化使遊戲工作室在遊戲發行方式上帶來了重大改變。

舉個例子——Tribute沒有爲《Flinthook》在Steam上預定位置,而是鼓勵人們把這款遊戲加入願望單。Major說,是因爲“受歡迎的新遊戲”這個模塊並不會因爲你有沒有預定位置而決定要不要推薦你的遊戲。所以我們不如冒點險拋棄做預訂能得來的銷量好在首發日得到更多的銷量把這款遊戲推到“受歡迎新遊戲”模塊榜首並(希望能)一直保持下去。

儘管《Flinthook》確實呆在榜首一段時間過,不過Major對它沒能呆在榜首多久而感到遺憾。不管怎樣,這個經歷讓Tribute更加堅信通過遊戲主播和Toutube用戶運轉的遊戲市場是在動態變化的,而在商店首頁推薦的遊戲榜單的千變萬化終究還是消減了首發銷量的重要性。

“這真的很奇怪,如今如果首發沒能得到好成績不再意味着遊戲產品的失敗;而是意味着我們必須保持不斷的努力來把遊戲做到更好。”Major這樣說道。

“遊戲產業現在帶給Tribute的是一個拉長陣線的打鼴鼠問題(問題接二連三出現,快到讓人應接不暇,無法解決到位)。這讓工作室最初糾結的類似‘如何聯繫到媒體以及建立和平臺負責人的聯繫’這類的問題都變得微不足道了”

“我們到現在還在探尋到地要如何爲我們的遊戲做好營銷,市場不斷地變化,我們要如何決定我們的聚焦點呢?幾年下來什麼都變了。幾年前行得通的方法照搬到另一款遊戲上已經行不通了,對於未來的新遊戲就更別提了。所以你得爲你下款遊戲想出個營銷方法來獲得儘可能地提高關注度。在這之前我們閒置了思考遊戲營銷方案的時間,後來才意識到——在遊戲市場博弈中起到最少一半決定性因素正是遊戲的營銷策略。”

Major說遊戲各有各的不同,沒有什麼能當做萬能鑰匙的方法。對於Tribute來說,他們的目標就是集中注意力在幾個能讓他們成功最大化的關鍵性措施上。而現在,這個關鍵性措施就是指儘可能地取得Twitch主播和Youtube用戶的關注。儘管Major期盼這樣的趨勢能在遊戲產業進入到下一種趨勢之前擴大化,但他並不知道接下里獨立遊戲推廣之路會通向何方。不過有這麼一種可能的方向——就是衆籌。

Tribute在衆籌這條路上有一定的經驗——他曾經通過Kickstart爲《Mercenary Kings》做過衆籌,給玩家重現了平臺冒險遊戲2012的黃金時代。儘管衆籌活動很成功,但Tribute並不想再次使用Kickstarter這個平臺。因爲當時工作室爲遊戲衆籌到的金額超出了原定目標7.5萬美元達到11.6萬美元。然而扣除了Kickstarter的費用和獎勵支持者的成本後,真正用在遊戲開發上的費用只有大概5萬美元,而他們當時算上自己的工資估計的項目預算是70萬美元。

“不過那還是值得的,因爲當時衆籌已經是我們唯一的救命稻草了——然而這裏還有很多準備工作要做,而且我認爲Kickstarter能帶給我們的預算還遠不足以啓動得了一個遊戲項目,”Major還補充道:“我不是在跟Kickstarter唱反調,我也覺得有一天我們可能還會借用到這個平臺,不過那個時候我們的目的可能將不再是爲了籌集資金——而是爲了讓更多的人開始談論我們的遊戲,我們要把這個平臺當做我們的品牌大使,藉此讓玩家對這個遊戲有所興奮和期待——畢竟人們對於自己出資支持的遊戲項目(無論這個遊戲將來能不能成大器),他們總是願意拿出來自豪地分享,告訴大家自己是這個項目的支持者。”

迴歸衆籌來達到營銷目的是Tribute將來有可能施行的一個擬定策略,不過其工作室目前有更具體的計劃要做——Major說計劃很簡單,就是要繼續在懷舊遊戲《Mercenary Kings》和《Flithook》上下功夫,讓他們無論何時發行,都要成爲當時最出色的懷舊類遊戲。
Major說:“現在新的遊戲每天都層出不窮,所以我覺得我們得更多地集中注意力在更大型,更有格調的遊戲上。”《Wizorb》(Tribute的第一款遊戲)在2011年表現得非常出色,但我們發現從今天的標準看來,《Curses&Chaos》和《Ninja Senki DX》(小遊戲)的表現並不是那麼令人滿意。它們都是好遊戲,不過很難博取用戶關注,因爲目前市場上有太多格調更高,內容更豐富的遊戲,所以我們我們得把關注點放在這裏。

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In its six years of existence, Montreal-based Tribute Games has released five games, the most recent being this month’s roguelike platformer Flinthook. One might think Tribute would have a marketing routine down after so many projects, but as co-founder Jean-Francois Major told GamesIndustry.biz this week, things move much too quickly for that.

“It’s definitely not the same as when we launched Mercenary Kings [in 2014],” Major said. “We’re learning the hard way that blogs, IGN, GameSpot have less impact than they used to. Now it’s mostly streamers and YouTubers that really influence sales. What’s interesting is with Mercenary Kings, we sold tons of copies at launch because we got featured on those big sites, and then it kind of dropped off. But with Flinthook, we got featured on all those sites again, and now streamers are slowly starting to pick it up, and now we’re seeing our user base grow slowly. Every time there’s a bigger streamer that plays the game, it helps our sales.”

That’s not to say Flinthook flopped by any stretch. In fact, the game made it to the top of Steam’s Popular New Releases module on the front page during a week where retro mindshare was split between releases like Full Throttle Remastered, The Disney Afternoon Collection, and the console launches of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap.

One big change since the launch of Mercenary Kings has come in how Steam curates its storefront. Major said that three years ago, new releases on Steam were guaranteed to be featured in a module on the front page for 24 hours. But the accelerating number of releases made that approach unsustainable, so Steam changed the key module from “New Release” to “Popular New Releases,” which Major said changed the way the studio launches games.

For example, Tribute didn’t put Flinthook up for preorders on the service, instead encouraging people to add the game to their wislists. The reasoning, Major said, is that the Popular New Releases module doesn’t take into account a game’s preorders when determining whether or not it should be featured, so it’s better to risk losing some of those preorder sales in order to have a larger number of day-one sales to push a game to the top of that chart and (hopefully) help it stay there. (A Valve representative did not return a request for confirmation into its methods for selecting games to surface in the Popular New Releases part of the site.)

While Flinthook did top the chart, Major said he was a bit sad it didn’t stay there longer. Regardless, the experience bolsters Tribute’s belief that the dynamics of marketing through streamers and YouTubers and the changes to how storefronts feature games has ultimately lessened the importance of day-one sales.

“It’s really weird, your day one is not necessarily a deal-breaker if you don’t succeed,” Major said. “That’s something we’ve been struggling to grasp and get better at.”

It’s another in a long line of whack-a-mole problems the industry has presented to Tribute. Even as problems the studio initially struggled with (like reaching out to the media or establishing contacts with platform holders) have become almost trivial, new challenges keep popping up.

“Now we’re still trying to figure out how to market our games,” Major said. “It’s been constantly changing. What do we need to focus on? Over the years it’s changed. Stuff you did the previous year on another title might not work, or it definitely won’t work for your next title so you have to figure out the next way to market your game and get it in front of as many eyeballs as you can. That’s the big time-sink we didn’t really account for. Marketing your game is probably 50% of the battle, if not more.”

Every game is different, and Major said there’s no single approach to marketing that will solve every problem. For Tribute, the goal is to focus on a handful of checkmarks that will maximize their game’s success. Right now, that means a lot of work on getting the attention of Twitch streamers and YouTubers. And while he expects that trend to get bigger before the industry moves onto something else, he doesn’t know what the next big avenue for indie game promotion will be beyond that. However, one possibility could be crowdfunding.

Tribute has some experience with crowdfunding, having Kickstarted Mercenary Kings back in the platform’s golden age of 2012. And while the campaign was a success, it didn’t leave Tribute eager to return to the platform. The studio blew past its original campaign goal of $75,000 and raised more than $116,000 for the game. However, after Kickstarter’s cut and the cost of backer rewards, Major said they had about $50,000 to put toward development of a project that he estimated would have had a budget of maybe $700,000 if the team had been paying themselves salaries at that point.

“It was worthwhile because that was kind of our only option, but it was a lot of work and I don’t think the Kickstarter budget was big enough to make a game off of,” Major said, adding, “I’m not really against Kickstarter, and I think someday we’re probably going to go back to it, but we won’t have the same goals in mind. It will probably be more about getting people to start talking about our game, getting them excited about the title and getting brand ambassadors, people that are really vocal about the project they Kickstarted who will want to share and be proud they backed it before it was even a thing.”

A return to crowdfunding for the purposes of marketing is one hypothetical tactic Tribute may turn to in the future, but the studio has more concrete plans in the meantime. Quite simply, Major said the company will keep putting out retro efforts in the Mercenary Kings or Flinthook mold with an aim to make the best game of the genre in whichever year they come out.

“Because there are so many games coming out every day, I think we’re going to focus more on bigger, flashier titles,” Major said. “[Tribute’s first game] Wizorb did pretty well in 2011, but we found out with Curses & Chaos and Ninja Senki DX that [small titles] don’t do as well with today’s standards. They’re good games, but it’s really hard to get any attention because there are so many flashier games, meatier, chunkier games that come out today, so that’s another aspect we’ll try to focus on.”(source:gamesindustry.biz  )