4 Ways Mobile Game Developers in Asia Drive Player Happiness

Developer Stories

Insights & Best Practices

May 2, 2017


min read

[avatar user="nobuko" size="thumbnail" align="left"]Nobuko Oshima, Sr. Business Development, Japan[/avatar]Mobile games in Asia are visibly different from their Western counterparts. The art, game design and even marketing creatives can be a world apart. But the differences don't stop there: customer interactions are treated with utmost seriousness in countries like Japan, South Korea and China, with developers offering players benefits that are rarely seen in Western games.Mid-core games such as the massive puzzle RPG Puzzle n' Dragons?or the more recently released, growing hit RPG Final Fantasy Brave Exvius?offer the best examples of customer service typical of games developed in Asia, with success levels to match. Japanese players, for instance, have been found to engage as much as three times more with gaming apps than their U.S. counterparts, and spend up to four times more.Whether or not U.S. devs are interested in launching games abroad, a closer look at how developerss in Asia interact with players can offer tips for increasing retention?and, by extension, monetization.

Reward players for downtime

Rewarding users for unplanned maintenance and bug fixes is a mechanic typical to games in Asia. All users are greeted with a message stating the downtime, the developer's apologies and the reward to collect. Developers want to ?show in some way or form that [players] are important and deserve our attention," says Frances Han. Han is user acquisition director atGumi, the company behind Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, which garnered?more than 5 million downloads in its first 30 days. Developers launching in Asia will want to be especially attentive to these rewards.?It's more of a tradition and a must now, as users now expect compensation in these cases. For developers, the practice is a retention tool and a sign to users the developer cares about them and not only about sales," says Serkan Toto, founder of the mobile game consultancy Kantan Games.

Reward players for community milestones

Another common tactic of developers in Asia is setting milestone rewards, like free premium currency if their game reaches a certain number of Likes on Facebook. ?The more people work together towards a common goal, the bigger the benefits they will all receive," says Han. This simultaneously strengthens the sense of community and helps bring in new players.Messaging about rewards for successful campaigns can be distributed to the entire player base via push notifications and the like, helping bring back lapsed players and increasing the retention stat that's vital to mid-core and hardcore games.

Pre-registration to unlock exclusive items in-game

Pre-registration began trending in Japan a couple years ago and quickly became a standard practice. There are now multiple platforms?designed to market to and sign up prospective players, in return for the promise of exclusive items and a way for fans to talk to developers. This trend is also happening in the West with services like PreLaunch.me, which bears a resemblance to the Japanese platforms.

Gamers who sign up early are more likely to stick around longer than those who come in later. ?These players tend to be the most loyal of all the types of players who sign up for any given app," David McCarthy of Japanese developer Cybird?told Pocket Gamer.?The heavy social component required of games developed in Asia is also assisted by a pre-registration campaign, which can seed in the several thousand engaged users necessary to properly launch a multiplayer game.

Get players excited for purchases

There's nothing like the lure of a shop decorated with countless shiny trinkets to pull customers in. For mobile games in Asia's markets, it's no different: users entering the game are greeted with popups filled with sparkling items and offers.?The Japanese are still the best at this; when we work with Japanese companies we go to market with a year's worth of live ops events already in the plans," attests Mediatonic?CEO David Bailey in a Develop interview.

But planning ahead isn't all: the famous gacha mechanic often plays a role in enticing players to make purchases. Gacha is the practice of offering random rewards for currency purchases, and that even extends to real-money purchases. In the case of a game like FFBE, developers will hype and advertise a weekly promotion a week ahead of time to get players excited for new characters: but once the promotion starts, players must rely on luck of the draw to get the advertised character, driving up revenue.?Over the last years, gacha has evolved dramatically, and I would estimate there are over ten variations of the mechanic now," says Toto, who has covered the variations in depth on his blog.The interactions between developers in Asia and their customers offer much to teach Western developers. The trend is a customer-centric model that supports retention, engagement and monetization through constant communication?a combination that will surely help games anywhere in the world.