Gaming

ngmoco’s “We Rule” Gamername Exchange

ngmoco:) recently launched a new mobile social game for iPhone called “We Rule”. It relies on a freemium revenue model allowing users the option to accelerate their in-game success purchasing “mojo”. Mojo is We Rule’s in-game virtual currency that allows users to instantly perform actions – rather than waiting a specified period of time – that result in gaining coins, a secondary form of in-game currency that is used to purchase new items. ngmoco used a similar revenue model (centered around saving time) in their last game, Eliminate Pro.

We Rule has a built-in social layer, which is actually pretty good for users that have already found their friends. However, finding friends and other gamers isn’t easy. As Canadians join the “We Rule” beta, many gamers are left looking to find other users and have turned to forum sites and paid sites to exchange data (gamernames, current levels, businesses owned and open) on becoming in-game friends to help one another outperform the competition.

Better than turning to forums, which require signing up (and sometimes associated fees), feel free to use the comments section below to list your information to exchange with others.

This is the preferred format for exchange:
Plus+ ID: sook
Level: 14
Open Businesses: 16

Gamers: Please feel free to check back in and leave a new comment (or exchange request) as you find your number of customers decreasing.

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Product Management for Mobile Gaming

As an aspiring tech CEO, I have been told numerous times that being an “A+” Product Manager will provide the experience, understanding and discipline to become a great CEO and to lead an accomplished company.

I often provide strategy and product development guidance to some of our portfolio companies; however, I wanted a more immersive experience and to be part of the excitement of startup life. So over the last several months, I increased my assistance to a particular portfolio company in the Toronto area, which I believe is well positioned in the marketplace. Strategy discussions with management of this company led to a conversation to bring me on-board as Product Manager of a new mobile social game at the idea stage. Eager to help the company succeed and to gain additional experience, I undertook a more formal responsibility on evenings and weekends as Product Manager. It was a perfect fit for both the company (lacked product management capabilities) and my career ambitions.

As part of the team, I faced my first challenge: Figure out the best way to manage the development team and the product. I evaluated several methods of product development and eventually settled on SCRUM since it is ideal for agile development with rapid iterations and incremental updates — perfect for an iPhone game.

ScrumLargeLabelled

For product managers that are new to SCRUM, be sure to check out the SCRUM Reference Card (great overview) and beginners SCRUM Guide (fairly basic). These were helpful resources in my quest to better understand this product development process.

It was my next goal to conceive of a process to coordinate everyone’s collective efforts on the team to come up with ideas and potential features for the game and to convert that list into the Initial Release Plan and Product Backlog for the game. I created a spreadsheet in Google Docs and shared it with the team. I wanted to be a very transparent Product Manager and show the team everything that I saw — idea list, resource planning, timeline estimates, business value associations to product features, etc… I did this because I believe that transparency will help the team better understand my points of view and decision-making rationale.

Since I am continuing to learn, I invite you to have a look at the Initial Release and Version planning spreadsheets that I created to manage the product development process. Naturally, I stripped out any game-specific information, removed the names of people involved and altered values so that it would no longer represent our plan in any fashion. Other small changes to this public version include:

  • For the idea list tab, each item should be a minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 16 hours only; tasks less than 4 hours should be placed on each developers Scratch Pad and aggregated into an item on the list; tasks greater than 16 hours should be broken down into components (if possible) to fit within the 4 – 16 hours window for ideal planning purposes.
  • Each developer would have his or her own “Scratch Pad” (the demo version only shows 2).
  • The only tab that was completely removed was the method by which we determine business value for each product feature.
  • The “Product Backlog” tab is dynamically driven from the “Idea List” tab and broken-down into version and sprint for each assessment; a tip for collecting the unique “Groups” is to export the long list of Groups from the “Idea List” into Excel and create a Pivot Table, then select the grouping and extract the unique elements to import back into Google Docs.
  • In the “Product Backlog” tab, you should determine your own complexity factor for the project  (a guide to determining this factor can be found in the SCRUM Guide linked above).

I would love to hear your questions, comments and (hopefully) suggestions to further improve what I have already created in hopes of making this effort more successful. If you would like a copy of my example spreadsheet, please let me know and leave me your email address in the comments section below; I’ll make sure to get you a copy either on Google Docs or as an export to MS Excel.

My next post will discuss putting this plan into action.

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Reward Systems that Drive Engagement (via Amy Jo Kim)

Amy Jo Kim, CEO of Shufflebrain, gave a talk at Game Developers Conference 2010 and focused on the web-meets-gaming world (called metagame design). This is the practice of applying game-like reward and feedback systems to non-game applications for the purpose of driving loyalty and engagement. This slide deck (embedded below) focuses on three levels of metagame design: points tables, feedback and rewards, and viral outreach. She also reviews the pros and cons of metagame reward systems like levels, badges, leaderboards, spotlights, and quality ratings. AJK was kind enough to post those slides online for the community — thank you!

Metagame Design – Presentation Transcript

  1. MetaGame Design Reward Systems that Drive Engagement Amy Jo Kim CEO, Shufflebrian
  2. What is a Metagame?
  3. Using out-of-game info or resources to affect in-game decisions Gaming definition
  4. Layering an rewards system onto an existing activity
  5. Metagames are Everywhere
  6. Collecting Complete Collections — Gain Status, Access, $$
  7. Behavior Chart Collect Stickers – Earn Privilege or Prize
  8. Karate Develop Skill – Earn Rank, Prestige, Powers
  9. Scouting Complete Tasks – Earn Badges, Rank, Prestige, Powers
  10. Frequent Flyer Programs Spend Money – Earn Points – Redeem for Flights
  11. Arcade Spend Money – Earn Points – Redeem for Items
  12. Text RPG Complete Missions – Earn Points – Redeem for Items
  13. Contest/Raffle Take Action – MAYBE Win Item
  14. Contest/Raffle Take Action – Maybe Win Item
  15. Tournament Play Sport – Enter Tournaments – Earn Ranking/Trophies Leagues & Teams are part of this
  16. Tournament Play Sport – Enter Tournaments – Earn Ranking/Trophies
  17. So how do you design a Metagame?
  18. Metagame Design Framework Viral Outreach Feedback & Rewards Points
  19. Metagame Engagement Loop Post updates, give gifts, send taunts Get feedback, earn rewards Take actions, earn points
  20. Act React Customize Create Earn Spend Step 1: Assign points to actions Viral Outreach Feedback & Rewards Points
  21. Which ACTIONS earn points?
  22. Which REACTIONS earn points?
  23. 3 Types of points
    • Experience Points (XP) – earned directly via players’ actions – track & reward socially/economically useful player actions
    • Skill Points (Score, Rank) – earned via interacting with the system – based on mastery of the activity or game
    • Influence Points (Rating, Reputation) – earned via the actions of other players – proxy for quality/reputation/influence – track & reward socially valuable contributions & actions
  24. Is your points system tracking skill, experience, or both?
  25. Is your points system assigning ratings to people or objects?
  26. Can you Spend your points?
  27. Levels Leaderboards Roles Reputation Missions Challenges Achievements Collections Step 2: Add Feedback & Rewards Viral Outreach Feedback & Rewards Points
  28. Levels are shorthand for participation and achievement
  29. Leaderboards identify, motivate and reward your most devoted players
  30. Social Leaderboards drive competition and enable missions
  31. Leaderboards can cause problems – don’t be afraid to remove/hide/change
  32. Missions tell players what to do next
  33. Mission-driven engagement loop Post updates, give gifts, send taunts Get feedback, earn rewards Accept Mission Update Mission List Take actions, earn points
  34. Reputation and Ratings track quality/skill + motivate contributions
  35. Achievements provide short-term goals + sense of progression
  36. Motivate newbies with easy-to-earn rewards
  37. Motivate power-users with scarce resources
  38. Motivate contributors with a rating system
  39. Updates Gifts Sharing Invites Step 3: Grow through Viral Outreach Viral Outreach Points Feedback & Rewards
  40. What are the ‘social moments’ in your game?
  41. Competition Bragging, Taunting, Challenging
  42. Cooperation Sharing, Helping, Gifting
  43. Self-Expression Check out my character/outfit/farm/page
  44. Case Study: Farmville
  45. XP + coins earned by completing tasks
  46. Customize your character
  47. purchase seeds
  48. Plant & Harvest Crops
  49. Help Neighbors
  50. Design & Develop Your Farm
  51. Buy exclusive items with $$$
  52. Tutorial introduces pts, levels, rewards
  53. Earn coins, level up, buy more stuff
  54. Leaderboards facilitate social interactions
  55. Achievements come early & often
  56. Achievements displayed as collections
  57. Achievements displayed as collections
  58. Help your neighbors, then brag about it
  59. Many opportunities for self-expression
  60. Gifting pulls people into the game
  61. Case Study: Stack Overflow Technical Q&A site w/crowd-sourced moderation
  62. Ask/answer good questions to build Reputation
  63. Leaderboards for Reputation score
  64. Earn badges by performing basic site tasks
  65. Question: why no viral outreach?
  66. 5 Tips for Designing a Compelling Metagame:
    • Create a coherent experience that unfolds over time
    • Define a points system (XP, social pts, redeemable pts) that supports your purpose and audience
    • Introduce feedback and rewards that motivate newbies, enthusiasts, and contributors
    • Design rewards that players will be eager to share
    • Use “game pacing” to grant rewards over time

See Amy Jo Kim’s profile on GDC 2010.

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Understanding Social Game Player Dynamics

Understanding the behavior of players of social games has been an expensive lesson to learn by many companies, often picking up bite-sided pieces of insight through extensive A/B testing and internal metrics over time. Many companies have also tried to better understand the viral invitation process and successful virality of social games both on and off the Facebook platform. An academic paper entitled “Diffusion Dynamics of Games on Online Social Networks” was recently written by Xiao Wei and Jiang Yang from the University of Michigan, Ricardo Matsumura de Araújo from the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil and Manu Rekhi, VP of strategy, marketing, business and corporate development for Lolapps.

The paper analyses the viral spread of an application and how/why are these processes occurring. SocialTimes.com did a great post that summarizes the academic paper. Alternatively, you can view the entire paper here.

Some of the key findings are summarized below:

  • On average, each inviter has invited 26 friends while the median number is 10
  • Just 10% of users account for 50% of successful invites
  • Around 90% of users share their locale information
  • Around 40% of users share their friend list
  • Only 1% of users share their relationship status
  • Invited users remain in the game longer: over 50% kept on playing for more than a day and 20% of all invited users were still playing 80 days later.
  • Around 80% of non-invited players leave the game within the first day
  • Overall, they find that invitation strategy is more important than demographics in determining invitation success rate

To determine how to create a profitable social game, please explore my previous blog post on the importance of Customer Acquisition Costs for startups.

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