The biggest obstacle for social mobile games (aside from discovery) is the rise of user acquisition costs, especially considering the low amount of player retention these titles often have. Gameface.me, a new San Francisco-based startup, believes it can raise retention rates by utilizing its new technology to make games more personal experiences.
According to Gameface.me’s data, if a title manages to become popular enough to draw in a large audience for a day, the title will only retain 50 percent of its users on Day 2. The numbers will continue to decline, and by Day 30, only 15 percent of users are expected to stay around.
Gameface.me believes it can improve these numbers by creating a “personalization layer” in games, creating immediate emotion connection to the content within titles using the technology. These personalization layers are crafted by taking players’ friends’ profile pictures and mapping their faces onto in-game characters’ bodies. The personalization is added to by crafting Timeline posts that are customized to users: In the case of ZombieFace (a game where players kill zombies wearing their friends’ faces), the game generates a post saying something like “Scott killed Mike!”
According to COO Scott Foe: “The human brain evolved to understand stories about people and their interconnecting relationships. It’s not just about images and faces. It’s about relationships, personalization and how these things impact you.”
The company’s technology makes use of Facebook’s Graph API, taking things like user backgrounds, relationships, photos and interests and factoring all of this information into gameplay. A user might be more likely to save their significant other than a casual acquaintance, and will probably be more likely to attack an ex. The technology will continue to learn as users play games, too; the example given to us was that a person who’s repeatedly sought out and killed in ZombieFace might become a boss character rather quickly.
Gameface.me’s data shows this kind of personalization is working. With ZombieFace, a sample group of 15,000 installs showed 65 percent retention on Day 2 and 20 percent retention by the end of a month. The company also saw similar results with NomNomFace, another title that involves users feeding bobble-headed representations of their friends, making the characters gain or lose weight depending on the food they eat.
Although the games we were shown incorporated characters designed to look like bobblehead figurines, Gameface.me’s founders tell us the technology isn’t limited to one visual style. CTO Richard Au points to a study saying people can recognize faces in images as small as 20 pixels by 20 pixels, but also says, “There’s room for all sorts of art styles. There’s an option to leverage each one of these, but they’re all personalized. The current direction delivers an engaging experience quickly. The time’s not right to go for photorealism.”
The company believes that — with the right funding —it can build, launch and run an entire family of games that will allow it to bring in roughly 3 million users within a year or two. Eventually, Gameface.me’s founders believe they’ll be able to use their technology to personalize entertainment on an even bigger scale, like allowing characters to become personalized in TV shows and movies on users’ home screens.
Gameface.me is planning to make its technology available for other developers, but doesn’t have any plans to do so immediately because it wants to be the first group to take advantage of the advantages provided. As of right now, the company is seeking funding and has several free-to-play titles in the works, including ZombieFace, NomNomFace and PuppetFace (a bobblehead dancing app).