有趣的探討:有待填補的市場空白,偏casual向的midcore遊戲

原文作者:Om Tandon 譯者:Megan Shieh

在2012年的時候,如果開發者想要開發一款手遊,只有休閒、中核或硬核三種選擇,然而隨着遊戲產業逐漸走向成熟,開發者們的選項也越來越多了。不斷演變的市場環境、消費者習慣和市場力量可能會導致現有市場秩序的混亂。

盤點手遊產業三大巨頭

手遊產業不乏頂尖開發商,但要說巨頭的話就只有三家:Machine Zone、Supercell和King。下面讓我們來分析一下它們的表現。

Machine Zone:在硬核手遊領域佔據主導地位。《雷霆天下》基本上就是現代版的《戰爭遊戲:火力時代》,換湯不換藥,爲了保證該作的成功,MZ在用戶獲取和超級碗廣告方面持續投入了大量資金。

Game of War(from pocketgamer.biz)

Game of War(from pocketgamer.biz)

Supercell:穩坐“中核手遊之王”的寶座,旗下不僅有三款超級熱門手遊《部落戰爭》、《海島奇兵》和《卡通農場》,2016年發佈的《皇室戰爭》更是前途無量。

King:推出了一系列令人印象深刻的三消益智手遊,工作室實現上市,而後被動視暴雪以59億美元的價格收購。但是該公司近幾年收益下滑,玩家基數也呈現出了下降的趨勢。過去兩年來,King一直試圖創造出《糖果粉碎傳奇》系列的接班人,以維持其增長速度。新推出的幾款遊戲在某種程度上取得了成功,然而與《糖果粉碎傳奇》的成就比起來可謂小巫見大巫。

儘管就目前而言,收入和玩家基數的小幅下降並不會對King造成太大影響。但是像King這樣的一線開發商明白,“積極主動”是維持市場地位的最佳方式。Zynga的沒落就是所有開發商的警鐘。

作爲應對方案,該公司決定進軍利潤頗豐的中核遊戲市場,從而豐富旗下產品類型。

但爲什麼是中核而不是硬核呢?

King多年來一直都在製作休閒遊戲,比起硬核遊戲,中核遊戲更符合該公司的經驗和能力。另一個原因是,MZ在硬核遊戲領域佔絕對主導地位,就連開發了《亞瑟王國》和《霍比特人》等早期硬核遊戲的Kabam都無法與之抗衡。

在過去的兩年裏,King一再聲明:

“MAU和DAU逐年下降的主要原因是《糖果粉碎傳奇》以及旗下其他成熟產品的玩家活躍度降低了。”

老生常談了,King知道問題出在哪裏,Zynga也曾面臨過同樣的情況。

但這真的是問題所在嗎?如果我們換個角度看呢?

“由於《糖果粉碎傳奇》的休閒玩家羣體日漸成熟,導致玩家活躍度下降,最終導致了MAU和DAU的逐年下滑。”

前者表示‘日漸老化(成熟)的遊戲’是問題所在,而後者則表示‘日漸老化(成熟)的受衆’纔是問題所在。

我的意思是,業績下滑並不完全由遊戲‘老化’導致,也有可能是因爲休閒玩家逐漸成熟,對遊戲的要求也越來越高了。

休閒化的中核手遊

從最早的三消手游到現在,多數休閒玩家歷經了多年的演變。智能手機用戶從萌新開始,反覆地學習和遊玩千篇一律的傳統機制。接着,多數玩家從最基本的手遊轉向了更吸引人的、沉浸式的體驗。因爲人類善於學習並克服障礙,在克服了一個障礙之後,我們就會渴望更有難度的挑戰和更新鮮的體驗。通常情況下,我們不會一直玩同一款遊戲,就像我們不會天天看同一部電影一樣。

哪些因素導致了休閒玩家走向成熟?

遊戲內容日漸多樣化,App Store裏的遊戲類型也越來越多,克隆遊戲就更不用說了——玩家玩膩一款遊戲以後,可以輕易地找到替代品。

這麼多年過去了,玩家還有什麼沒消過?糖果、果凍、蛋糕、小動物什麼的,能消的東西都消過了,休閒玩家對普遍的三消遊戲機制已經掌握得非常全面。

King和其他三消手遊開發者多年來一直試圖用Boss關卡、各種奇葩任務等‘微創新’元素留住成熟玩家。

從另一方面看,既然現有玩家已經變成熟了,爲什麼不考慮去吸引新用戶?

因爲玩家走向成熟的過程會隨着時間的推移而變短。如果說早期的休閒玩家經過了四年才演變成熟,那麼新的用戶羣體就會更快地完成這個任務。與四年前不同,隨着智能手機的演變和普及,現在的用戶在年紀很小的時候就會開始接觸不同的設備和手遊,因此他們的起點也會比四年前高出許多。

重點是…如果手上已經有大把休閒玩家,誰還會想從頭再來?

在休閒遊戲和中核遊戲之間,存在着大量成熟的、經驗豐富的休閒玩家!

這些人想要從休閒遊戲過渡到更有難度的玩法,但是他們又覺得中核遊戲太難、太麻煩、太費腦、太有負擔。對於這些人來說,等待計時器、基地建設、部隊訓練、經濟管理、組建部落、策略操作等傳統中核遊戲的玩法,想想都頭大。他們覺得休閒遊戲太淺薄,但又覺得中核遊戲太複雜,這樣一來,這個羣體就成爲了一塊有待填補的市場空白。

於是Supercell帶着《皇室戰爭》出現了,與Supercell的其它三款熱門遊戲相比,本作的入門難度低了很多,玩法也不同,這是因爲:

和King一樣,Supercell的玩家基數已經達到了臨界值,現有玩家也越來越成熟了。如果現在開發一款中核遊戲的話,基本上是在和自己旗下的其他同類作品搶生意,這麼做毫無意義。

2) 中核手遊市場的競爭日益激烈,許多一線開發商都鎖定了這塊肥肉。尤其現在King還和暴雪聯手了,Supercell必須做出行動。

像《皇室衝突》這樣的遊戲通過將中核手遊休閒化,爲那些成熟的休閒玩家降低了門檻。

因此,雖然King和其他競爭者都盯上了利潤頗豐的中核市場,但Supercell搶先一步用《皇室戰爭》開創了先河,甚至可以說Supercell開創了一個可以將成熟休閒玩家引向中核體驗的遊戲類型。

我認爲,遊戲進化的下一個階段不再僅僅是迎合玩家的胃口,還得通過降低入門障礙和逐步引入先進機制來將現有玩家基礎培養得更成熟。

結語

手遊玩家和遊戲產業已經不再處於初級階段,而下一代手遊玩家(4-8歲的兒童已經開始在玩無限跑酷和益智三消了)的進化速度肯定比早期、甚至當代的手遊玩家更短。

在不久的將來,用戶獲取(UA)成本仍將困擾着開發者。但是我認爲,用戶成熟度(User Maturity,簡稱UM)是一個同樣重要的問題,率先破解這個問題的開發商將有可能鑄造下一個手遊傳奇。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

In 2012 if you were planning to develop a mobile game, life was simple just choose from 3 genres Casual, Mid-Core or Hard-Core, come 2016 it seems this is no longer the case.

You may wonder, really? What’s the need of newer genres? What’s wrong with the existing textbook trinity?

Before we go any further down the road with the statement above let’s try to see what evolving circumstances, consumer patterns and market forces might be leading to disruption of the existing order.

Sizing up mobile gaming Titans

There are many top Devs. in mobile gaming, but when it comes to titans there are only 3, Machine Zone, Supercell, King.com, Let’s see how are they faring

Machine Zone : continues to dominate and grow with release of it’s second title ‘Mobile Strike’ clone of GoW in a modern setting, pulling on all it’s strings from aggressive user acquisition to super bowl advertising campaign,

MachineZone’s ultra aggressive UA strategy, monetisation tech. and deep player analytics seems to be constantly eluding other developers who fail to breed a stallion that can compete with MZ in the Hard Core gaming space

There were many cloned attempts by other devs. to parallel GoW, in 2015, but MZ is still holding the fort…at least for now.

Supercell: With it’s hat trick of 3 top grossing established hits ( CoC, BB, Hayday) and constant soft launch testing is sitting tightly on the mid-core throne, and with Clash Royale it seems future is going to be even brighter.

King.Com Has delivered an array of graphically impressive match 3 puzzle games,tried to repeat the success of Candy crush saga with Candy crush soda saga, gone public and undergone acquisition at whopping 5+ BillionUSD evaluation…

…But the fact remains it has shown marks of slowing down marginal fall in revenue, and shrinking player base, King has been under scrutiny by the pundits, for past 2 years as being unable to find a new successor to CCS and sustain it’s growth rate, it’s new games have met some success, but nothing matching the original franchise,

King is hard at work finding a worthy successor to it’s flagship Candy Crush Saga genre & arrest year on year shrinking casual player base.

Even though the marginal fall in revenue and player base is not a major bump for King at the moment, but a top dev. like King knows being proactive is the best way to stay at the top. Zynga’s debacle has taught Devs. to be wary.

Obvious Solution? KING is looking at diversifying and enter the lucrative Mid-core market.

But why mid-core and not hard-core? King’s experience historically has been with casual games, so is it better to naturally progress towards mid-core, rather than hard-core, right?

The other strong compelling reason is many Devs. are now wary of competing in Hard-Core space with MachineZone even Kabam whose hard-core games originally brought the gameplay on mobile which GoW & Mobile Strike are built on, recently let go off the reigns of it’s Hard-Core franchise ( kingdom of Camelot, Hobbit etc.) and is solely focussing on games like Marvel Contest of champions or what can be called Casualized Mid-core.

Over past two years King has repeatedly stated:

“The sequential and year over year decreases in MAUs and DAUs were due to decreased activity, primarily in Candy Crush Saga as well as in our other mature games.”

(Reads an excerpt of the company’s earnings report.)

Nothing new there, King knows the problem, Zynga faced this too.

But are we sure that is the CRUX of what is happening? what if we rephrase the statement.

“The sequential and year over year decreases in MAUs and DAUs are due to decreased activity primarily in Candy Crush Saga due to maturing CASUAL PLAYER BASE?”

The former blames the aging (maturing) games, the latter aging (maturing) audience.

What we are then proposing is, that decline is not solely a function of King games to engage casual players, but to engage maturing & progressively demanding engagement curve of casual players.
Shifting the blame (in part) from maturing games to maturing target audience should not come as a surprise, King partly understands the shift (having reached the critical mass), just probably not very vocal about stating it

Casualised Mid-core- What is it?

Masses of Casual game players have come a long way, since the early days of mobile matching candies. For over 4 years now smart phone users who have been new to games have come to terms with learning and playing the same old mechanics.

Needless to say a majority of Player who started with the infamous ‘Fart Button’ app (early days of Mobile games) moved on to discovering more engaging and immersive adventures. Something similar is happening to current crop of  casual players in the market, As human beings we are quick to learn and get over obstacles, craving progressively increasing challenges and newer experiences.

Surely you are still not playing the same games? (bar exceptions) watching the same movies? you were watching 4 years back (no matter how much you enjoyed them). You have evolved and matured as an player.

What lead to such maturity in casual gaming space?

Greater increasing choice in terms of gaming content released and genre on Appstore today, not to mention easy substitutes via insane cloning.

Evolving player maturity curve and mastery of banal mechanics. 4+ years of matching candies, jelly, cakes and what not!

King milking the same match 3 cow with small twists.

King & other match 3 developers have been trying to keep their maturing players engaged by adding  more intricate features, boss battles, finishing order queues etc.

A counter argument might be, even if existing player base has matured, what about finding new users (Which is also on decline btw.)

New user acquisition is a strong KPI, There is still one problem…the player maturity curve itself will become shorter with passing time, if it took older base of players 4 years to get over the curve the newer base will do it much faster as they have been exposed to smart phones much before the current generation, thanks to extensive smart phone penetration & increasing usage over the past 4 years, casual player starting today do not start with ‘fart App’ they have more choice and challenge to devour plus the fact they have been longer exposed to mobile ecosystem.
The important bit is…We are sitting on a huge mass of casual players, ripe for the picking … Who want to cross over!

In between traditional genres now exists a massive pool of matured veteran casual player base!

This mass wants to make a transition to more intricate gameplay but arewary of high entry barriers, grinding, wait timers, base building, troop training , managing economies, social pressure of clans, cognitive load of making strategy that conventional mid-core games need. All of which casual players hate.  there is a gap to be filled.

These players find the climb of casual games too SHALLOW, but mid-core too STEEP!

Question is not only, how to fill such a gap? but how do you  Intentionally mature players from casual to mid-core?

Enter: Supercell with Clash Royale

Why is Supercell tinkering with making a game which is so much easier to pick up, high on rich engagement and is not kit-bashing it’s existing game mechanics?

Several reasons:

1) Like King Supercell is also reaching it’s critical mass of players, existing user base is maturing. Why create more conventional Mid-Core games and cannibalize your own existing games.
2) There is increased threat from competitors, top devs. eyeing the lucrative mid-core market, with King & Activison alliance being the latest.

Games like Clash Royale are lowering the barrier of entry for masses of maturing casual players by casualising mid-core genre itself.

So while King &  other competitors might be eyeing the lucrative mid-core pie , supercell might just have turned the tables by appealing to maturing casual players and creating a genre that can cross over and MATURE players from casual to mid-core experience.

While it’s early to say , the proof lies in the pudding, I have written earlier too as to how , some developers are tearing down the conventional mid-core game design in an article where I (ironically) compared CoC against Rival kingdoms, surfacing how Rival Kingdoms eased and erased base building, troop training, on boarding , grinding all in favour of battle first approach over base building, lowering the banal barriers to entry.

Clash Royale seems to have ticked all those boxes and more.

Who knows, next stage of game evolution will not just be about catering to player preferences alone ,but MATURING existing player base (via lowering barriers & slow introduction of advanced mechanics)

Conclusion
Mobile gamers and gaming is no longer in it’s nascent stage, and the next gen. of mobile gamers (4 to 8 years old, are already guzzling down infinite runners and match making puzzlers day by day) They will have a a shorter maturity curve, then their predecessors

In coming future while the problem of expensive User Acquisition(UA) will keep staring developers in the face. I think solving the problem of User Maturity (UM) will be an equally worthy challenge and the developers who crack it, will be able to capture a significant portion of lucrative mobile gaming pie.  (Source:linkedin.com