爲什麼轟動日本的手遊Monster Strike在北美不成功

爲什麼轟動日本的手遊Monster Strike在北美不成功

原文作者:Heidi Kemps 譯者:Megan Shieh

Mixi的《怪物彈珠》是日本手遊巨頭之一。它時常躋身 Android 和 iOS 的手遊收入總額排行榜。它在一個1.27億人的國家擁有超過4000萬的下載量,催生了一個觀看改編動漫的忠實用戶基礎,這些用戶會去《怪物彈珠》的現場主題活動,甚至參加以遊戲中音樂爲專題的音樂會。

但是儘管在本國取得了巨大的成功,對於處於國外市場的《怪物彈珠》,情況並沒有那麼樂觀。中國大陸版於2015年關閉,韓版在去年緊隨其後。雖然《怪物彈珠》繼續在臺灣取得國際性的成功,但Mixi最終決定終止英文版(覆蓋北美和澳大利亞)並表示遊戲將在今年8月前停止服務。

許多長期玩家都在等着這個消息:去年晚些時候,當Mixi決定暫停北美市場時,情況看起來已經不妙。但對於那些自2014年英文版首發以來、一直在玩這款遊戲的人來說,這標誌着一款大型手遊的悲慘結局,其國際發佈的錯誤處理令人震驚。如果不是因爲一些重大失誤,就算不能成爲超級熱門,這個遊戲至少也可能是Mixi的可持續收入來源。

monster strike(from chuapp.com)

monster strike(from chuapp.com)

日本手機遊戲行業分析師Serkan Toto說:“我認爲該遊戲及其核心是爲本國用戶基礎而創造的(gacha貨幣化,高頻率的活動,藝術和聲音等),因此Mixi從一開始就面臨着本土化的巨大挑戰。”

《怪物彈珠》到底做錯了些什麼?下面我們以從小到大的順序,排列出了Mixi所犯的一些錯誤。

北美版內容落後

可以理解的是,英文版《怪物彈珠》的內容會在一定程度上落後於其日本母公司——本地化需要時間和精力來實現,畢竟有些東西需要爲不同的市場量身定製。但在很多時候,北美的遊戲都比日版落後了很多個月。西方玩家們會在粉絲網頁看到日版所有出色的怪獸、活動和界面改進,但卻沒有明確的時間表告訴這些玩家他們會不會,或者什麼時候能在他們的遊戲版本中看到這些升級。

此外,日版的遊戲還與其他著名媒體、組織‘合作’活動,讓玩家有機會獲得專屬怪獸,還可以玩限時地牢。雖然有些‘合作’不會對日本以外的觀衆有效,但像《奧特曼》和《哆啦a夢》,還有《街頭霸王》和超級流行的動漫《新世紀福音戰士》, 如果他們被改編成英文版本,會抓住一些好奇玩家的注意力,或許也可以激發一些休閒玩家更頻繁的參與。

玩家的利用

《怪物彈珠》是日本最賺錢的應用之一。Toto註釋說:“在日本,大家都知道這個遊戲在很大程度上將重心集中在高支出的用戶身上: 據說《怪物彈珠》的ARPU和ARPPU都比《Puzzle & Dragons》高很多倍,這要歸功於Mixi設計其遊戲的‘gacha’(隨機繪製系統)的方式。”

免費遊戲必須讓玩家相信花錢是一件好事,而這有時是一個很難克服的障礙。在《怪物彈珠》中,這點更難實現。這款遊戲的高級貨幣orbs(以下簡稱金幣),主要是爲了從遊戲的隨機“hatcher”(gacha機制的英文名字)中獲得新的專屬怪獸。遊戲的隨機怪獸hatcher中,50金幣可以玩一次,需要花費大概40美元,玩家可以從中得到10個隨機怪獸,但此功能並沒有保證得到的怪獸中至少有一個是珍貴的5星怪獸。當然如果玩家不想花錢,可以節省和保存免費的金幣。但在比率那麼低的情況下,許多西方玩家不願意爲此支付現金。但是5星的怪獸對於清理遊戲中一些較爲堅硬的地牢來說是一個巨大的福利,所以熱切的玩家抓住每一個機會擊敗系統,獲得免費的金幣,而不用花一分錢。

monster strike(from gamasutra)

monster strike(from gamasutra)

在遊戲的早期,可以通過朋友邀請來做這件事:邀請朋友玩遊戲,你會得到一個可以兌換成很多金幣和獎勵的代碼。有了這個你就可以用類似Android模擬器的東西創建許多的“虛擬”賬戶來獲取免費金幣。蘋果最終迫使Mixi移除這項功能,因爲它違反了政策。

當‘邀請朋友’這一功能被移除時,玩家轉向另一種方式來獲取免費的金幣:關聯繫統。通過和在你朋友名單上的玩家玩多人遊戲,你會填滿一個關聯計量器,當它被最大限度地填滿後,你就會得到每日獎勵。英文版中的獎勵是基於日版的遊戲調整的,當和你朋友名單上的玩家一起玩的時候,你會得到更多的金幣獎勵。Mixi甚至提供了一段時間的免費代金券,讓玩家在當天可以玩一個探索遊戲並最大限度地填滿關聯計量器(從而獲得獎勵)。

雖然Mixi認爲“每天一個朋友,每天都有一份關聯獎金”足以阻止玩家作弊,但Mixi錯了。這些“虛假賬戶”再次傾巢而出,玩家們加好友來填滿關聯計量器以獲得成堆的免費金幣,然後每天刪除無數的好友。單純爲了獲得免費金幣而組成的團體:由20名活躍玩家組成的圈子,每月堆積成堆的免費金幣,當最強大的新怪獸出現時,他們會將囤積起來的金幣花掉。最終Mixi停止發行即時關聯券,但在這之前,迫切想要利用該系統的玩家們已經獲得了大量的免費金幣。Mixi並沒有進一步調整關聯獎勵,只是簡單地讓過程變得更困難,而不是將其調整爲更好的業務。當人們習慣得到免費到東西,然後突然發現過程變得更困難的時候,他們並不一定會開始花錢——要麼調整遊戲習慣,要麼就會到其他的地方尋找免費的東西。

一個明智的解決方案:去掉慷慨的關聯獎勵,並保證50個金幣可以獲得一個5星怪物,從而爲玩家提供一些價值,以此吸引玩家花錢。在《怪獸彈珠》的後期,這個方案得到部分實施。去年年底開始出現了一些限制時間的供給,包括5星級怪獸的保證,但不幸的是這一改變來得太晚了,已無法產生影響。

移除在線玩家,破壞玩家信任

“games – as – a – service” (遊戲即爲服務)是一種基於玩家信任的模式。人們願意把錢投入到這些遊戲中,因爲他們相信這些遊戲不會突然地,徹底地一夜之間變成他們不再喜歡的東西。Mixi吃了虧才意識到這一點,這一決定在許多玩家看來註定了英文版《怪獸彈珠》的失敗,因爲它疏遠了玩家基礎,破壞了公司花費一年多時間建立起的信任。

2016年初,Mixi鼓吹與Facebook創意實驗室合作,以幫助推動《怪物彈珠》在西方市場的發展。在這一交易中出現了一個新的、本地化的英文遊戲界面,新的宣傳標語和商標,甚至有一個由Andy Samberg主演的真人版的商業廣告(在我寫這篇文章時,此廣告似乎已經完全從互聯網上消失了)。但在這種營銷攻勢的推動下,一個公告令許多長期玩家倍感震驚:Mixi正在移除co-op play功能。

《怪物彈珠》從根本上說,是一個與他人一起玩的遊戲。Dr. Toto指出:“迫使人們在相鄰的地方玩遊戲的概念,適合人口密集的地區(比如大東京),但在像美國這樣人口較爲分散的地區,卻以失敗告終。”

早期對英文版遊戲的本地化和推廣團隊的採訪表明:他們瞭解在線co-op對這個市場有多麼重要,他們想要確保在遊戲中儘可能地實現它。

然而在某一時刻,Mixi管理層決定改變方向。他們想要強調本地co-op對西方市場的重要性高於一切(其中原因可能會永遠是個謎)。他們從刪除全球co-op開始(這是一種讓玩家尋找並加入隨機遊戲的功能),然後增加了額外的地牢,並表明只有通過本地co-po遊戲才能獲得獎勵(也有許多玩家通過使用不同的設備進行交替賬戶開發的方式利用這個機制)。在新的營銷閃電戰結束後不久,該公司宣佈將不再支持英文版的在線co-op,也沒有多作解釋。

玩家們的反應迅速而憤怒。Mixi從來沒有解釋爲什麼他們放棄了這個功能(此功能仍然保留在最初的日版遊戲中),這讓玩家只能從理論上猜測他們做出如此荒謬的事情的原因。差評和憤怒的帖子開始充斥着應用商店、留言板和Facebook。可能看到廣告或宣傳的新玩家會對遊戲產生興趣,卻不料看到一些譴責該遊戲刪除玩家喜愛的功能的憤怒消息。人們看到這些之後怎麼可能會在一個背叛自己玩家基礎的遊戲中投入時間和金錢呢?

直至今日,我們仍然不知道爲什麼Mixi會認爲除去這個功能是個好主意。它完成的唯一一件事就是摧毀了他們和粉絲基礎建立起的信任,相信不管多少營銷支出都無法使之恢復原樣。最終,在線co-op功能恢復了,但它再也無法回到從前。許多玩家已經遷移到日版,或者只是簡單地轉移到不同遊戲,而少量的玩家要麼堅持過了這段時間,要麼再次回到遊戲中,但這是遠遠不夠的。

這就是《怪物彈珠》的結局:一個被一連串糟糕的決定所擊倒的手遊巨頭。這個遊戲在日本沒有凋零的危險,但就目前而言,Mixi全球擴張的雄心似乎受到了嚴重打擊。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Mixi Inc.’s Monster Strike is a mobile juggernaut in Japan. It frequently ranks among the top-grossing mobile apps on both Android and iOS, boasts over 40 million downloads (in a nation of 127 million people), and it has spawned a devoted fanbase who watch an anime adaptation, go to special Monster Strike-themed live events, and even attend concerts featuring the game’s music.
But despite runaway success in its home country, things haven’t been as rosy for Monster Strike abroad. The mainland Chinese version shut down in 2015, followed by the Korean version last year. While Monster Strike continues to see international success in Taiwan, Mixi has finally decided to pull the plug on the English version (which covers North America and Australia), stating that the game will cease service by August of this year.

Many longtime players were waiting for the other shoe to drop: Things already weren’t looking good when Mixi decided to suspend marketing in North America late last year. But for those who’ve played the game since its English inception in 2014, this marks the tragic end of a great mobile game whose international release was stunningly mishandled. Were it not for a few major mistakes, the game could have been, if not a massive mega-hit, at least a sustainable source of side income for Mixi.

“I think the game is, at its core, really made for a domestic user base (gacha monetization, high frequency of events, art and sound, etc.), so Mixi was facing a huge challenge [in localization] from the get-go,” says Japanese mobile game industry analyst Dr. Serkan Toto.

What did Monster Strike do wrong? Here are some of the mistakes Mixi made, from least to most egregious.

Keeping content current

It’s understandable that Monster Strike’s content would lag somewhat behind its parent in Japan — localization takes time and effort to implement, after all, and some things need to be tailored to a different market. But at several points in time, the North American game was many months behind its Japanese counterpart. Players would see news on fansites about all of the cool monsters, events, and interface improvements happening in Japan with no clear timetable of if or when they’d see them in their version of the game.

In addition, the Japanese version of the game received several “collaboration” events with other famous media properties that gave players a chance to obtain exclusive monsters and play limited-time dungeons. While some of these collaborations would not have worked well for an audience outside of Japan, like Ultraman and Doraemon, others, like Street Fighter and the megapopular anime Evangelion, would have grabbed some attention from curious players and perhaps also inspired casual players to engage more regularly had they been adapted for the English version.

Player exploits

Monster Strike is one of Japan’s biggest app money makers. “In Japan, it’s known the game focuses a lot on very high-spending users: both the ARPU and ARPPU of Monster Strike are said to be multiple times higher than that of Puzzle & Dragons, for example. This is thanks to the way Mixi designs its title’s “gacha” (random draw system),” notes Toto.

Free-to-play games have to convince players that spending money is a good thing — which is a pretty tough obstacle to overcome sometimes. In Monster Strike, it was especially tough. The game’s premium currency, orbs, are for — among other things — obtaining new and exclusive monsters from the game’s random “hatcher” — the English name for the gacha mechanic. A 50-orb roll from the game’s random monster hatcher cost almost $40 for 10 monsters, and this didn’t guarantee even one of the game’s treasured 5-star monsters. Of course, players could scrimp and save the free orbs that the game hands out to try for new monsters if they didn’t want to spend money — and with rates that low, many Western players felt reluctant to fork over cash. But the 5-star monsters are a huge boon to clearing some of the game’s tougher dungeons, so eager players took every opportunity they could to beat the system and get free rolls without paying a dime.
Early on in the game’s life, the way to do this was through friend invites — invite a friend to the game, and you’d get a code you could redeem for tons of orbs and bonuses. With this, you could make numerous “dummy” accounts using things like Android emulators to acquire orbs for free rolls. Apple eventually forced Mixi to remove this functionality, as it violated its policies.

When the invites were removed, players turned to another means for free orbs: the affinity system. By playing multiplayer games with others on your friends list, you would fill up an affinity gauge, which would give you a daily reward when it maxed out. The rewards in the game’s English version were adjusted from the Japanese version, giving out far more orbs as a reward for playing with people on your friends list. Mixi even gave out free vouchers for a period that would allow players to play a quest and max out affinity (and get rewards) for that day instantly.
While Mixi figured that “one affinity bonus per friend per day” would be good enough to stop exploits, it was wrong. The dummy accounts came back in full force, with people friending, getting affinity, and then defriending numerous players daily to earn piles of free orbs. Groups developed for the sole purpose of farming free orbs with each other: an active circle of 20 players would rake in piles of free orbs each month, which they would hoard to spend when the most powerful new monsters were introduced. Eventually Mixi stopped distributing the instant affinity vouchers, but not before giving out a large amount of free currency to players eager to exploit the system — but without making any further adjustments to affinity rewards, simply making the process harder rather than adjusting it to something better for business. When people are used to getting things for free and suddenly find it more difficult, they’re not necessarily likely to start spending — they’ll either adjust their playing habits or take their freeloading elsewhere.

A smart solution — which was partially implemented later in Monster Strike’s life — would have been to eliminate generous affinity rewards and guarantee a 5-star monster for a 50-orb roll and thus provide some guaranteed value to players in exchange for spending. There were a few limited-time offers that included a guaranteed 5-star monster starting from late last year, but unfortunately, this change came too late to make an impact.

Removing online player, torpedoing player trust

Games-as-a-service is a model that thrives on player trust. People are willing to put money into these games because they trust that the game won’t suddenly and radically change overnight into something they no longer enjoy. Mixi learned this the hard way with a decision that, in the eyes of many players, doomed the English version of Monster Strike by alienating its player base and destroying the trust that the company had spent over a year building.

Early in 2016, Mixi trumpeted a partnership with Facebook Creative Labs to help promote Monster Strike in the West. With this deal came a new, localized interface for the English game, a new tagline and logo, even a live-action commercial meant to go viral featuring Andy Samberg (which seems to have completely vanished from the internet as of this writing). But with this marketing push came an announcement that shocked many of the game’s longtime players: Mixi was removing online co-op play.

Monster Strike was, fundamentally, a game that thrived when played with other people.”Forcing people to play a game next to each other is a concept that works well in densely populated areas like Greater Tokyo but fails in regions of the world that are further spread out like the US,” notes Dr. Toto. Early interviews with the localization and promotion team of the English version suggested that they knew how important having online co-op was to this market, and they made sure to implement it in the game as best they could.

However, at some point, Mixi management decided to change course. They wanted — for reasons that may forever remain a mystery — to emphasize the importance of local co-op play to the English market above all else. They started by removing global co-op, a feature that let players look for and join random games, then added additional dungeon clear bonuses that could only be obtained through local co-op play (which many players exploited by making alternate accounts on separate devices). Then, not long after the new marketing blitz, the company announced that support for online co-op would be dropped for the English version with little explanation as to why.

The reaction from players was swift and angry. Mixi never explained why they were dropping the feature (which remained in the original Japanese version of the game), leaving players to theorize why they would do such an absurdly stupid thing. Bad reviews and angry posts began flooding app stores, message boards, and Facebook. New players who might have seen advertisements or promotion would take an interest in the game, only to take note of waves of angry messages decrying removal of a feature players loved. How could anyone look at those reactions and decide they wanted to invest time and money in a game that would betray its own player base?

To this day, we still don’t know why Mixi over thought killing this feature was a good idea. The only thing it accomplished was destroying the trust of their established fanbase — trust no amount of marketing spend could ever hope to bring back. Eventually, online co-op play was restored, but it never recovered — many players had migrated to the Japanese version or simply moved on to different titles, and the small amount of players that either stuck through it or came back to the game weren’t enough to keep the lights on.

Such is how Monster Strike ends: a mobile juggernaut felled by a string of poor decisions. The game’s in no danger of dying off in Japan, but for now, it seems like Mixi’s grand ambitions of global expansion have been struck a severe blow.(Source: venturebeat.com