By Dmitry Bobrov, chief executive officer of ZiMAD.
Free-to-play games are nothing like they used to be ten years ago. People still enjoy these products and play them a lot, but at the same time, the expectations regarding the projects’ quality and LiveOps continue to grow. It’s no longer enough to release an update every six months. Instead you have to work on your project 24/7, and players should see that.
Alexander Grishin, Head of ZiMAD's Magic Jigsaw Puzzles project, shares how his team has been managing to make the game content diverse, increase the metrics, and keep the fans of the world’s biggest collection of digital puzzles hungry for more content for over ten years.
The team is the key to success
LiveOps strategy represents flexibility and refers to any updates and enhancements including new content, events, minor activities, a special offers system, community and user support, etc.
In 2009, we decided to create a classic puzzle game for iPad. Our product was supposed to be unique because of its convenient interface and a shop with tons of content - i.e. various puzzle packs. The game was presented as a free-to-play product with an opportunity to buy new puzzle collections in the shop.
Naturally, providing players with high-quality LiveOps is impossible without a team of designers, content managers, monetization specialists, product analysts, and support managers. And, of course, you can’t make a game without game designers, developers, artists, and QA engineers because you won’t be able to release regular updates, events, and new content.
However, implementing LiveOps means being on the cutting edge of the mobile industry. You must always ready to be as flexible as possible to adjust to the current situation.
Regular content updates
The major part of the work is generating new content, promoting it in the game, and holding different events and activities. All of these comprise a continuous process and are not independent activities. A successful release requires planning all your actions, such as specific packs, events, and their launch schedule. Even though we try to release one important update per month, we often end up having minor weekly updates. The reason for this rapid pace lies in the significant number of third-party SDKs that require frequent updating.
We analyse the statistics on puzzle packs and separate puzzles and carefully study user reviews and feedback received from all available channels. It goes without saying that we pay special attention to the significant global and national events, holidays, and releases. We usually observe the most notable activity growth during the in-game events, especially over the Christmas season.
Working with IP
ZiMAD has been working with major IPs since 2016, thanks to which we can entertain our players with unique content from Disney, Nickelodeon, National Geographic, Sony Pictures, and other companies. We recently announced our collaboration with the LIFE magazine, and saw a surge of new players who enjoy solving puzzles which feature the world’s legendary photographs. Working with an IP not only increases the number of digital puzzle admirers—it also directly affects the revenue. Moreover, such partnerships help generate new activities both in the game and in the community.
Special offers systems
People love buying on sale, and there’s nothing bad about it as it gives players an opportunity to purchase something they want at a reasonable price. At the same time, this means additional work for your team. So you need to prepare the infrastructure that enables working with special offers on a regular basis. In Magic Jigsaw Puzzles, we have an extended special offers system aimed at converting players into subscribers or paying players. We also run A/B tests every now and then to improve the conversion rate and increase the average spend.
Communication with players
The Magic Jigsaw Puzzles community is many years old, and it definitely requires a lot of work to maintain. Apart from the routine tasks and communicating with players we prepare new content, events, reviews, activities on creating content together with players, questionnaires, external features, content tests and many other things. It’s essential for players to be involved and to know that they can contribute to the development of the project.
So, to sum up…
The main ingredients to successful LiveOps:
• Meta gameplay is crucial
Updating your meta gameplay will improve your game. Players are always looking for new content, new levels, and new events. New players stay if they see that the game is diverse and continually offers unique content.
• A/B Tests
Everything that can be tested and improved must be improved. That’s exactly what makes the game perform well. All game mechanics will perform best only after several evolutionary iterations. When you are unsure about how players will respond to changes, test these new features on a focus group.
• Working with your community
It’s vital to always be in touch with your players and there to address all their questions and concerns in real time. Even if the game crashes a caring community manager is always there to help and a player is more likely to stay in the game. And their loyalty might rise too. And don’t forget about regular activities to engage your community.
ZiMAD is an international company, developer, and publisher of mobile games. The company entered the market in 2009 and has gained an audience of 200M+ users of its products, with titles such as Magic Jigsaw Puzzles, Domino Online and Puzzle Villa. While the team is distributed around the globe, ZiMAD holds its headquarters in Florida, US.