Latin American social gaming company Vostu is taking to the airwaves with new in-game radio stations for its two most popular social games, MiniFazenda and MegaCity. The service — the first of its kind in social games — is now available for players on Facebook and Orkut.
The in-game radio is the result of four months of rapid development, testing, licensing, and a highly successful beta period Vostu Co-Founder and Chief Scientist Mario Schlosser tells us. The idea was born after the Vostu team started to realize how much of a premium on-screen real estate was at.
“The way social games work and how they become a good business is not by having one breakout hit, but by understanding how to make users move between your games to keep churn on your userbase low,” explains Schlosser. “[We were implementing] chat and messaging between games and we suddenly realized that anything we jam into these games takes away from the real estate on the screen. But one channel that’s totally underexploited is the audio channel. All social games seem to have this ridiculously cheesy elevator ‘muzak’ running in the background, so we thought, why don’t we do something with that channel?”
Audio-visual content had already proven to be a big hit with MegaCity players after a spring campaign with with Brazilian singer/actress Ivete Sangalo, so the plan quickly came together to create an in-game radio station with continuous content and music.
The in-game stations are updated with three new hours of custom content every day that plays on a loop, meaning the overwhelming majority of players will be able to tune in and hear something new every day. While most of the in-game radio content is Brazilian country and pop music, 20% to 30% of the airtime is devoted to in game statistics, tips, trivia, anecdotes, and the most popular feature so far, audio-visual quests.
The quests are an extension of a fairly standard social game mechanic; instead of being given explicit instructions on what to do and how to do it, players in MegaCity and MiniFazenda will now encounter quests that will require players to tune in, with half the instructions being seen on screen and the other half only revealed by the DJ.
About 25% of users in the beta test completed an audio-visual quest, but according to Schlosser the new content quickly began to take on a life of its own. “You had to be a specially selected test user to see the radio when you were playing the game,” he says. “But even though only a small number of users could learn about the audio-visual quests, all of their friends also participated in them and got the rewards — the people who had access to the radio went out and told their friends about the quests.”
According to Vostu, 95% of players in the beta test reported that the in-game radio made playing the game better. While new features added to social games typically start off with a trickle of new users, 35% of players started listening to the in-game radio right away — a high number according to Schlosser. Even more importantly, players who listened to the in-game radio played for 30 percent longer on average.
“The biggest goal we have for the radio is increasing engagement,” says Schlosser. “One of the most sticky things we generally see in the games is the login behavior people have. You’re not building your day around the games, you’re building the gameplay around your day, so you have people that play at 8 o’clock in the morning before they go to work and 8 o’clock at night when they come back from work. People have these patterns and they stick to them, so increasing session times is tremendously hard. This was an incredibly powerful thing when we realized it made people stick around longer in the game. We realized we had to get it out as soon as we could.”
Vostu already has plans to incorporate it into both of the new social games it has slated for release in the first quarter of 2012, rolling it out after the games have launched in order not to overwhelm players with new features. That said, in-game radio won’t be coming to GolMania, or Vostu’s upcoming female-focused casual-social game though, as players don’t tend to play those kinds of games for long enough at a time to make a service like in-game radio worthwhile according to Schlosser.
While the company didn’t reveal exactly how many users MegaCity and MiniFazenda have on Orkut, the developer did tell us the game are about 10 times as popular Orkut as they are on Facebook. According to AppData, MegaCity currently has 940,000 MAU and MiniFazenda 300,000 MAU on Facebook. Schlosser reveals that, overall, Vostu has between 18 to 20 million MAU. It currently enjoys 46 million registered users on Orkut, Facebook, MSN, Google+ and its own proprietary platform.