In this episode, we will be delving into the latest trends in LiveOps and how game studios are utilizing live events to increase player engagement and revenue. Expert analysts from GameRefinery, a Liftoff Company, will discuss GameRefinery’s new Live Events Tracker tool, which enables game developers to stay ahead of the competition by comparing and analyzing live events across various games and genres.
In the wake of Apple’s groundbreaking App Tracking Transparency framework, it has become more important than ever for game developers to retain their players and find new ways to generate income. Join us as we unravel the remarkable advantages of leveraging live events to captivate players, designing successful events and how to use analytics to enhance your LiveOps strategy effectively.
You can also watch the episode on YouTube:
Topics we will cover in this episode:
- Understanding the App Tracking Transparency framework
- Categorizing Live Events
- Core Loop Supporting Events
- Leaderboard Competitions and Boost Events
- Managing Live Events for Optimal Results
- How can game developers benefit from Live Events Tracker?
[00:00:00] Jon Jordan: Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Games Playbook. Thanks for tuning in for another episode. This podcast is the podcast all about what makes a great mobile game, what is and isn’t working for mobile game designers, and all of the latest trends. I’m your host Jon Jordan and joining me today, we have two familiar faces. We have Erno Kiiski, Chief Game Analyst at GameRefinery by Liftoff. How’s it going, Erno?
[00:00:24] Erno Kiiski: Going great. How are you, Jon?
[00:00:26] Jon: Also, Wilhelm Voutilainen, Chief Game Analyst at GameRefinery by Liftoff. How’s it going, Wilhelm?
[00:00:33] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Very well, thanks for asking.
[00:00:34] Jon: In today’s episode, we are talking about live events, which is something we have spoken about many times before, but we have a particular angle that we are talking about and going to have a bit of a setup in terms of the impact of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency framework and how that impacted live events. The particular context for that is GameRefinery’s Live Events Tracker, which now allows developers to get an idea about what’s going on and the big trends and hopefully get some ideas about their strategies for their live events.
That’s the setup for what we’re talking about today. Let’s start off with an overview. App Tracking Transparency framework, what’s that? More importantly, how’s that impacting live events?
Understanding the App Tracking Transparency framework
[00:01:21] Erno: It’s been a topic that’s been talked to death pretty much because, for the past few years– that’s one of the key igniters of the increased talk on live events and engaging users and monetising your existing users. Naturally, the changes in the UA landscape and acquiring of new users and scaling new games are more challenging than ever. For example, if we look at the top charts now, there are fewer new games. The past few weeks have been very interesting because we have seen big launches, like MONOPOLY GO, which has an IP.
Then last week also, the new game from miHoYo, the company behind Genshin Impact game with the new match Honkai: Star Rail scaled– both games have scaled right away to the very top of the chart. It’s super rare to see those nowadays. It’s tougher than ever to scale new games. Naturally, if we think about that, if it’s tougher, then we have to question what we want to do. If you have your users in your game, you want to keep them in your game. You want to keep them engaged, keep them monetised. The honest answer and way to go is to adopt live events and operate the game even better, bringing more stuff and being better at that.
If we think about live operating, first of all, it’s a big concept, and there are so many areas that it entails. From the charts, we are talking about service-based games. Everything, like the content, updates to mastery; you need to bring levels. That’s part of the live ops. You need to bring new features, you need to bring your playing an RPG, you need to bring new characters, or you name it. That’s a massive part of the live ops. This is for today’s discussion. Our focus is going to be mostly on live events and how different companies look at live events and how they utilize them in different ways.
Categorizing Live Events
[00:03:42] Jon: Good overview. How many types of live events do we have? Do you have a list of how many different types?
[00:03:57] Erno: Yes, it also depends on how you look at it. Based on what you mentioned, our new live event tracker tool is in the GameRefinery service. Then, when we were building that, we had to brainstorm quite a lot on how to divide, how to categorize, how to build a taxonomy for different events that also work, like from genre to genre and so on, because genres differ so much based on what events they are running and so on.
Not an easy task for sure. If we start to think about it on a higher level and how I think about live events, I would first put them in three layers. The first layer is all those events that support your core gameplay loop. You need to have a great core gameplay loop already engaging, but then, you can build some events that support that. We’re going to go to various ways that you can do that, but something that incentivises you to engage more with just the core gameplay loop that is the main core of the game. Play more of the actual game by giving this a shorter period of limited time incentives to play the actual core gameplay of the games.
Then I think about it; the second layer is these events that do not directly support the core gameplay but offer something unique and something new. Usually, they’re indirectly then connected to the rewards. Still, match three gets an event with different event levels, so you’re not playing the main core gameplay, more like progression levels that you usually play. Still, they are different levels that you’re playing.
Let’s say it’s a shooter game, then there’s a separate playing mode that you’re playing, so you’re not playing the usual playing mode, but it gives you something separate. Then that is interconnected, usually through the rewards, but a little bigger. Some game-playing modes, mini-games, and stuff like that. It’s not just an extra incentive to participate and engage in the core gameplay loop, but it gives something extra outside of the core gameplay loop. Then, the third layer is the engaging factors and then comes the third layer, which is naturally the monetisation part.
You need to have these two key engaging factors and key things you participate in as a player. Then naturally, on top of that, you can use different types of monetisation factors and monetisation layers. That can also be thought about in different ways. You can think of direct monetisation, which naturally bundles monetising. Whether it’s the event connected somehow to events or otherwise, it’s your economy. You’re offering something for a limited time, and so on, or then you can think about it as indirect monetisation.
Like I told you about the events that support the core gameplay loop. Let’s say match three that you have a task mission or, say, win streak event, then that’s not directly monetised, but it’s indirectly monetising as it gives this indirect connection to your monetisation features and so on. That’s how I think about it on a high level. Three layers support the core gameplay loop, these side activities, and then on top of those comes the monetisation.
[00:08:17] Wilhelm: Yes. Next, we should go a bit deeper into looking at these three high-level categories. Well, let’s start with the core loop supporting categories. The first one that Erno mentioned. Let’s start with the most common actually that we have seen and that we have been tracking. Tracking almost 80 top-grossing games, so the most coming trend is these task events, there are lots of different versions and implementations of how you can implement those task elements, but they range from these really simple solo missions also cold missions with guilds and random players are pretty common as well, but the idea is always the same.
You either do some solo or some of those cold missions, which are almost always related to playing the game’s core loop. In match three, they can have you playing the levels the match three-levels of the game. In Mid-Core RPG, they can have you, for example, participate in this new mode or collect material. Simple tasks like that incentivise you to do, play the core gameplay, whatever it is in that specific game. As I mentioned, they’re really common. The majority of the games, of the almost 80 games that we are currently tracking, use these task elements. For some examples, one goes super deep into these specific implementation examples. Lily’s Garden is, for example, if we look at match three’s Lily’s Garden is a great example of a game that utilizes a lot of tasks. They have on a day-to-day basis some events going through the weekdays. Almost every week, there’s this one-day to two-day lasting sprint event from Monday to Friday. It’s either always Sunflower Sprint or this Zia Sprint. The idea is to have you play these normal match three levels of the game to grow this flower then, and then when the event ends, you get the rewards based on the number of levels you completed during the event.
Then at the weekends, there are usually these beginner luck tasks. Almost the same idea, but there’s a small initiative or actually, you’re getting more points if you complete the level on your first try. Otherwise, the idea is the same. Every day, there is this simple task event that incentivises you to play the normal levels and progress in the game. Then if you look at a completely different genre, for example, if you go to the RPG genre, Diablo Immortal, they have a bit different implementation. Every day, there’s almost some kind of task event going on, but this is a longer length.
From three days to even two weeks in these non-recurring task events, they don’t record daily as they do in Lily’s Garden. Usually, the idea is really simple again, have you complete tasks, do something in the game, kill several monsters in the game or for example, pretty much always nowadays when they introduce a new mode or new feature to the game, they have a task event linked to that which have you participate in that mode. And there’s almost one of these kinds of elements almost active each day simultaneously.
[00:12:29] Erno: Alright. Some more.
[00:12:34] Jon: Yes, there are lots of categories.
Core Loop Supporting Events
[00:12:35] Erno: Yes, we don’t need to go in-depth on the individual ones, but a given idea on different ways to implement, naturally, like an evolution from the simple task ones. You can do it in any way, but the battle pass is the classic one, acting as a progression vector and retention feature but also for monetization. Naturally, it is also built inside in a way that supports the core gameplay, either by the task systems or the direct exp through the levels and so on. About 70% of the top games nowadays use it across genres.
Interestingly, there’s a lot of variation in the cadence that you can use to battle pass with. There are about 15% of the battle passes that we’ve been seeing or on a weekly basis, then from like 18 to 21 days, about 27% easily. The most common ones are the 22 to 31 days. About the monthly cadence, that’s the common battle pass length. Almost half of them are on that length, but there are also longer battle passes, over a month, once, 12% of the game. There is definitely also one very common way to build this core loop supporting event type.
Leaderboard Competitions and Boost Events
[00:14:09] Wilhelm: Yes. And then, those two battle pass and task events are the two of the most common core loop supporting ones, but rare ones, to be more specific. For example, solo leaderboard competitions are a great example of some games utilizing these to differ from the competition. The idea is simple to test missions I mentioned earlier, but then it brings the competition element to it. You’re competing in a leaderboard against other players or together with other players against other players.
For example, guilds for the rewards. The idea is almost the same as in task missions, but there’s the complete leaderboard added to it. There can be different ways similar to task events. There are different ways to implement this, all the leaderboard competitions. For example, in some match threes, there’s this race event. While in a normal leaderboard event, the rewards are the players who have collected the most points at the end of the event. In race events, the player who reaches a certain point milestone wins the event instantly. There’s a different idea there.
About 50% of the market is utilizing this. It’s common as well. Then some examples, King’s and Candy Crush Games, utilize these a lot and Royal Match. Compared to other match threes, King’s, Candy Crush Games, and Royal Match, they differ from the competition with these leaderboard competition events.
Also, if you look at the mid-core, the most commonly used game that uses these easily the most is Raid Shadow Legends.
On average, the game has three different tournament events active simultaneously, basically, which are solo leaderboard competitions. It’s actually an interesting way of bringing this non-direct PvP in a more casual format. Interestingly, Raid is also utilizing this while it also has this PvP. Then there’s one more. This is a bit more niche but a huge part of some games’ live ops. These boost events. These are super simple events.
The idea is that they boost something in the game, some aspect of the game for a certain period, such as cold generation in, for example, Forge Games or Battle Pass Procrastion in some games, or Building Generation and Supercell. They use this a lot across their whole portfolio. From Hay Day to these glass games. Also, most Pokémon Go, the most common event type, are these boost events. Almost the whole live stream is based around these boost events.
They run these three-month-long seasons that boost the possibilities of getting these certain Pokémon types. This is used to keep the gameplay fresh and keep the collection aspect fresh. There’s always each month, each season, and these new Pokémons are boosted. Then you have better chances of getting them, or you can get those during that season.
[00:17:56] Jon: Good stuff. Generally, you said you’re tracking these 80 games at the moment. How many of these events are most games doing? Are there any patterns around that?
[00:18:09] Erno: Yes. It depends on the genre to the genre, type to type. I will have mentioned, especially these, the most common ones, like task events. It’s pretty much like 70% to 80% of all the games have at least some utilization of that. Battle Pass, as I mentioned, is about 70% already in. So many big parts of them, like the competitive leaderboard stuff. About 50% of them are using it. These are especially the most common ones.
As I mentioned, if I think about the two categories of events, like the core loop supporting events, they are; usually in terms of resources as well. If you think about the boost event as well as an example, it’s a lower resource type of an event to do than a new mini-game or new gameplay mode with an event loop or new limit time mode and so on. Easily the more common one.
Managing Live Events for Optimal Results
[00:19:25] Jon: Do you think the one thing that always strikes me with these things is it ends up being a temptation as you have more of these events in different games, and then some developers will just have a little bit of an approach, “Let’s try everything.” Then I wonder at what point you get diminishing returns. It won’t be as obvious as if you had ten events; that would be overwhelming in terms of the user experience. I’m curious because no matter how you’re doing these events, the result is retention and engagement of players and, at some level, monetisation. Those things are fixed aspects. People might be playing multiple games, but there’s a certain level at which you can’t, people can’t spend any more or engage anymore, or you start to become much harder after a certain level to get them to play much more if they’re playing like two hours a day. The stage could be quite a lot to get them to play for two and a half hours. Did you get any thoughts on some of that?
[00:20:24] Erno: Yes. It’s actually interesting. I was talking with one developer last week, and we talked about this discussion because it’s a topic that comes up. That was interesting. The day said that very much you cannot because you always have those hardcore players, and you think, “Oh, this is going to be too much.” Then, after all, they’re still chewing out or chewing through the content and so on. To be honest, it’s so important to think about how you implement them.
You don’t just slap things on top of each other, but if we think about the best operators, let’s say, play risks, for example, how they do stuff. One example comes to my mind; I’ve been using it multiple times; I like Township, and how they operate, and they have a lot of different mini-games and other types of events. They have a Battle pass and skilled wars, all that stuff. Everything is very cleverly interconnected.
It’s not just a feature or event on top of each other that are their entities. They are a little bit interconnected, which gives more reason to participate, for example, in their mini-games as it’s connected to their battle pass system. It’s bound to their guild, and guild force system, and the ecosystem works more holistically than just slapping everything, every possible imaginable event, on top of each other.
[00:22:09] Wilhelm: Yes, I think that connecting events and having these overarching things in the game, especially if the live Ops is, and let’s say you have a more complex game, you have added lots of features, and there’s lots of events going on and lots of stuff. Having these interconnections and stuff like that can make it way less overwhelming. Some games utilize this, what we like to call these overarching events. That’s a great way. We think about, for example, top shooters and free fire; they have massive events going on simultaneously.
Lots of content and everything, but there’s always basically all the events connected with the same team. Let’s say there’s this Christmas event that consists of multiple, let’s say there’s task events, there is the side game blame mode, which has limited time PvP modes, but they’re all interconnected. They’re all also for the player, and it’s much simpler because there’s this cool event calendar that shows everything, and everything is easy to find. That’s for more casual players, that’s manageable, but there’s lots of content for the more hardcore players.
[00:23:24] Erno: Yes. Especially also on the casual side, more and more common, well, in slots, it’s been a very commonly used feature for now, for a long time, already became popular like two years ago. Still, these seasonal collectable albums in some form mean that you are collecting some items; usually, the event lasts for two to three months. As an example, June’s Journey, a Hidden Objectives game, has many of these core loop-supporting events and this site gameplay mode, all that stuff.
Then they introduced this new event type called Memoirs, a three-month-long collectable album. How you collect these memoirs into the collectable album is actually playing all the other events. The whole system is like a glue between the events and gives this connection from event to event, rather than just having this Gazillion individual small events.
[00:24:27] Jon: No, exactly. It has to be; you can’t just have events for their own sake. It has to be, and you must create some framework or scaffolding around why people are playing these events. Which is it, I guess that again, that goes back to these games becoming much more complex in terms of all the resources you can collect, and then the live events have to have meaning around, which means the things you’re collecting have to have meaning either in the call game or something around that.Collecting stuff in a game like June’s Journey makes sense because it’s a hidden object game. You’re looking at objects all the time. Collecting things like that makes sense, which maybe wouldn’t in other games. In terms of the live event tracker, what are your hopes around how that will help developers get a feel for what’s going on and help them think about their strategies?
How can game developers benefit from Live Events Tracker?
[00:25:22] Erno: Yes. The idea is because, as game finders, we’ve been tracking games for a long time, but our focus has been mainly on features and feature design. We have always had this kind of event data as well, we have different implementations and so on, but cadence has been more not on a daily basis. If we think about these events nowadays, how many there are, how many things are happening daily, and how long the different events are, and what are the cadences?
Do they have frameworks? Are there patterns in how they’re running specific recurring events, for example, and so on? It’s basically this research tool that gives you a fast pass to try to understand your competitors, understand and get ideas on what kind of events they are running, and then, even more importantly, when they start to run a new thing. They added a new event type. Okay, how do they run it? Is it active all the time?
Is it a daily event, is it a two to three-day event, and then it comes from every Wednesday to Thursday, for example, and so on? Then naturally, you can benchmark that against the performance estimate and then analyze the competition. That is the key value proposition of the tool. Going even deeper, going on a day-to-day basis, going on an event level when you’re analyzing your competition, that okay, what are they doing, what kind of things they are doing? Are there any interesting implementations on our different categories and so on?
[00:27:21] Wilhelm: What I personally really like about the tool is that it helps you to understand the reasons behind this, let’s say, for example, daily revenue spikes in these super complex games with lots of going on, and then there’s massive revenue by. Easy; for example, Star Wars Galaxy Of Heroes is a great example. If you look at the lineup striker, you can see that every time there’s a massive revenue spike, okay, this event, they’ve offered this panel with it, worked really well. There was a huge revenue spike compared to this other event, and you can see these things. That’s a massive value in that.
[00:28:03] Jon: Sounds good. Let’s take away from the episode, then go and check out the live event tracker and make sense of what’s going on with all these big spikes. Thank you.
Thanks, Erno, and gratitude, Wilhelm, for your expertise today. Thanks to you for listening or watching the podcast, whoever you are consuming. In every episode, we look at the mobile game sector and all the dynamic stuff going on there. I hope you’re finding this useful, and I hope you will come back next time. Thanks for listening. See you next time.