7/07/2015

How Basic UX faults may kill your F2P Revenue



  Don't want to read? Listen here instead.

With the new Minions movie coming out ~10th July, the IP is perhaps more valuable than ever. It
wasn't therfore a huge surprise, when EA teamed up with Illumination to create a F2P title based on same yellow creatures, presented at this years E3 - plus the game has been soft launched in Canada and Australia since late April - so theres that.

Huge IP, extensive soft launch, big studio - everything is lined up for a F2P success right?

The game uses the classic builder with a silly twist via the storyline and a well-known time gate mechanic to drive the retention and monetization, much like its competitors in the top grossing scene; Simpson's Tapped Out, Family Guy, Hay Day, Town ship etc etc.

But here is how faulty UX kicks players out of the engagement zone, and into a repetitive loop of unnecessary input mechanics.

*This is not meant as some bashing-crusade against Minion's Paradise and its design choices - this is rather used as an clear example of how you're UX faults may ultimately have your players leave your game out of frustration - and you might not even know why*

When interacting with a producing structure, the game smoothly zooms in and enables its UI. This is where your minions then produce collectable/ressource X that is then used to exchange for soft currency and basic level and game progression - easy enough - you know this. The zoom in itself is not an issue, the problem occurs after the interaction.

So, I'm done placing some minions at a collection of Bamboo stems, and I want to move on with the next structure to keep my Coconut per Minute up, racking up some tropical ressources before bed and I realise...



...it takes from my side to get away from the Bamboo collecting area. 

Players have to manually zoom out, pinching the screen of the phone, like someone picking up a coin off the floor wearing oven mittens. Not that easy. I zoom out and get the overview of my tropical island, press the needed structure, and we're back to the game zooming in for me. A very non-scientific experiment of several play sessions, I averaging the standard 2-3 minutes per sessions, had me count +100 pinch-to-zoom-out gestures.

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For you non-mobile players, it would be like selecting one of your buildings in WarCraft 3, the game zooming all the way in on it, but forcing you to mouse-wheel zoom out, if you wanted to do anything else in the game.
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This becomes very tedious, very fast - and it doesn't feel like a casual grind, it very much feels like a unnecessary interaction keeping me from enjoying the gameplay.


Throughout their soft launch, I expect Illumination and EA have gathered around the analytics, looking for reasons that Minion's Paradise is not performing as well as they had hoped - doing the needed meta systems changes, but the metrics causing the problem is probably not there. 

The game has seen one visit to the Top 50 downloads in Canada, and two 1-day visits to the Top 50 Grossing. Obviously User Acquisition kicks in after Global launch and the game will surely make a significant amount of revenue - but it will not make as much as it easily could.

The reason is not found within the conventional metrics. When setting up analytics, looking at metrics for our game, we get valuable information on how players do in the tutorial, the first few sessions after that, and the milestones where players are most likely to be converted into paying players, or at least staying players - and sometimes its the most obvious things that can cause that your game won't be launched another time.




Granted, it can be tough to spot these things, but take a step back, do what seem to be dumb tests sometimes. Make a chart of the amount of inputs from a tester - just count them. It might seem silly, but it all boils down to looking at your basic design and go...

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No, I don't think 80% of the player's input 
should be pinch-to-zoom.
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Think about what an interaction gives the player. Just for a second. A tap might give you access to a structure or a menu, or deploying an army that will feast on the bodies of your soon-to-be-dead enemies. Think about your input and see if its meaningful - could that mechanic be bypassed and still provide the player with the feeling of control. A pinch-to-zoom, in relations to Minion's Paradise, could easily be replaced by something meaningful. An X in the top corner of the UI, a tap outside the UI.

I cannot say how much the poor input mechanics will hurt EA and Illumination after global launch, but right off the bat, with the current interaction, I predict the game will not see long term revenue like its competitors, Simpson's Tapped Out, Family Guy, Hay Day. Minion's Paradise very intentionally want to see revenue, piggyback riding the launch of the movie, but the take away is that basic UX faults can kill your retention and your revenue.

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