Japanese mobile-social gaming giant DeNA recently gave a talk at the 2013 Game Developers Conference about the success of live events, a gameplay feature, in its Japanese RPG card battler Blood Brothers. DeNA also has live events in other games such as card battle game Marvel: War of Heroes, which just received a new raid boss event featuring Deadpool.
We chatted this week with Chris Plummer, DeNA’s general manager of all North American game studios, about the importance of live events in mobile-social games, especially for monetization.
Inside Mobile Apps: At the 2013 Game Developers Conference, DeNA revealed that events were key to the success of Blood Brothers. Is this a feature that’s as successful in other games from DeNA?
Chris Plummer, DeNA general manager of all North American game studios (pictured right): All of our current first-party games host live events on a regular basis and many of our third-party titles do as well. We feel it’s an essential part of operating a compelling live service that delights and entertains our entire audience of always-connected, mobile players.
IMA: What constitutes an event and what are the different types of events that are in DeNA games?
Plummer: The most important factor for an event is for the experience to be entertaining and engaging. You can’t think about running sales or pushing new content live with a fancy name and expect it to delight or perform like an event. Events must be experienced, played and engaged with deeply. Live events should have their own narrative, features or other elements that define the experience and are unique to the event. Similarly, event rewards should include special items or other valuable things that can only be earned by participating in the event. Limited-time exclusivity is another key element to any good event. ‘Experience it now before it’s over!’ The thought of missing out on a cool experience or rare reward is a powerful concept.
Perhaps the most important ingredient of all is the hourly live operation that happens behind the scenes during each and every DeNA event. Our live event teams work nonstop to ensure that everything stays balanced, exciting and that everyone has a good experience regardless of their level or skill. Live event analysis, tuning and operation is an art form all its own and something DeNA is particularly skilled at. A well-tuned, constantly monitored event will deliver so much more fun and perform significantly better than an event operated without a high degree of care and dedication.
IMA: Other developers, such as a direct competitor like GREE, run events in its mobile-social games as well. What differentiates DeNA’s events in its games versus the competition?
Plummer: What separates DeNA’s events from our competitors really boils down to our focus on delighting customers. A lot of talent, passion and energy goes into crafting and refining every one of our events and it shows in the final experience. After each event, we review all the details and challenge ourselves to make the next event even more fun. In this way, our events are always more entertaining, more rewarding and more fun for players. Try them and you’ll see.
IMA: What effect do events have on the monetization of a game?
Plummer: The way we run events is the single most important factor influencing the monetization in our games. These are always-on, live games and important live services for our players. We operate them with that level of importance in order to unlock their full potential.
IMA: What makes an event success? Are you measuring by an increase in retention, average revenue per user, etc.?
Plummer: Ultimately, an event is a success if it delights our players and they eagerly anticipate the next event. Everything else falls into place if players are happy and having a fantastic time. By focusing on our customers, other benefits like increased engagement and monetization come naturally.
IMA: What’s the next evolution for the events gameplay feature in DeNA games in the future, such as raid boss events in the upcoming first-person shooter The Drowning?
Plummer: Events differ by game since each game has its own unique features, content and driving parameters. As such, new event types evolve based on the unique attributes of each game. You may see some similar event types in our games, like our very successful Raid Boss framework, but you will also see new and surprising event types unfolding as new game systems are released or existing games continue to grow.