As the gaming industry as a whole begins to move more and more into the field of free-to-play games and experiences, one of the most successful companion pieces to emerge alongside this model is the advent of live game events. In short, live events in mobile gaming are somewhat similar to the regular title updates and new content additions that we’ve come to expect today, in following a game’s initial release onto the App Store: the biggest difference being the limited timeframes during which these live events are run, and the exclusive rewards and bonus content that might only be obtainable by participating in them before that specific time runs out.
For instance, in games like 2011’s Modern War, a high-octane MMORPG military combat game on mobile devices, publisher GREE and newly-acquired developer Funzio make sure to wrap their many live events around key gameplay mechanics and resources that are specifically tied to the core game design, so that both players who enjoy PvP experiences or battling against the enemy A.I. can find reason to partake in them. I recently had a chance to reach out to Mike Lu, the Vice President at GREE International where he oversees the development of such games as Modern War, Crime City, and Kingdom Age, and ask him some burning questions about just how live events in mobile games have managed to become so successful for him and his team at GREE.
When asked how GREE first decided to get into the live event business, Lu told me the answer was simple: almost everyone in the Modern War studio is a gamer themselves (“when Diablo III came out in 2012, we shut down the studio on the day of release because we knew everyone would be playing it”). For Lu personally, a long time World of Warcraft player, there was nothing more exciting to him and the rest of WoW’s online game community than when a new dungeon or raiding zone was introduced in a title update, which Lu attests to being his team’s very first experience with such kinds of live game operations. So because these live events were what Lu and company loved about the online PC games they played themselves, it was an easy decision to want to bring that same kind of experience to their own internal games as well.
And in fact, GREE has been doing just that ever since – even incorporating live events into their very first released game, Crime City. However, throughout the years and through gathering important live event data from their counterparts in Japan, GREE has been able to perfect the formula even further, and give us the kind of optimal and timely live event experience that we have now in Modern War. For instance, one essential detail that Lu says he and his team have learned about live events along the way is that “it is important to have variety in terms of events and a certain cadence,” and that it also becomes just as important to cater to the timing of each event in regards to certain factors like “the audience, demo, or playing pattern[s].”
So what exactly does a live event in GREE’s Modern War look like today? Well for one thing, Lu makes sure that there are always several different live events running in the game at any one time, and that each one is available to play for a limited and predetermined time: for GREE, that means never exceeding a period of seven days. Another important aspect of the live event formula in Modern War is that there are multiple tiers of rewards for everyone who participates and plays, such as simpler base rewards that more casual Modern War players can earn quickly, as well as exclusive rewards with more challenging requirements that only a limited number of more hardcore players will be likely to earn after putting in the time, dedication, and skill.
Always staying true to their own gaming roots, Lu says that the aim of each Modern War event is to try and capture that exhilarating feeling of camaraderie and competition that comes with being a part of a squad or a team in an online multiplayer experience. He tells me an anecdote of a particularly challenging fight he remembers called “M’uru” in World of Warcraft, which he and his guild had spent weeks upon weeks trying to defeat, and which embodies the feeling he’s talking about quite well. “Every night 25 to 30 of us would get online and make attempt after attempt. After six or seven tries inevitably we would all be exhausted, but as a member of a group, you NEVER want to be the first person to give up and walk away. You want to march on, not just for yourself, but for your teammates.” It is this precise mindset that GREE is trying to achieve in Modern War’s World Domination live events, where players will want to fight until the very end for the good of themselves, and for the good of their online alliances.
And whatever GREE is doing with their latest batch of live events, it sure seems to be working: especially if their recently released infograph on Modern War’s success with live game events is anything to go by. Following the initial launch of Modern War’s new World Domination events in January 2013, which enable players to form factions and make passes on invading enemy countries, over 330,000 factions have been formed since the beginning of August 2013. There are currently a staggering 1.4 million battles being fought each and every day in accordance with these live events, with the total number of gamer log-ins doubling during these live event periods. What’s more, for all you game developers out there, the inclusion of live events has also seen record-breaking numbers for GREE and Modern War in terms of real-world revenue, with a 600% increase in the average daily spending of players during a live event, and an eye-opening instance of $2.3 million total revenue earned in one single live event weekend.
So naturally, it almost comes as no surprise that the venture into creating live events for your mobile game comes highly recommended by people like Lu, especially if you are in the dominating free-to-play market. To Lu, it’s all simply just a matter of perspective. While most game developers might see the release of their game as the end of that chapter in their careers, Lu and his team instead see the launch of their games like Modern War as only the beginning of the cycle. Lu tells me, “It is on us… to continue to offer players of that game more content to keep them coming back for more.” He goes on to reveal that the continuous pushes for new content, and the constant promise of future live events and other timely features enables a game to greatly exceed the prospects of its digital shelf life: “This is how our titles (including Crime City and Modern War) are consistently able to stay on the top grossing charts and have healthy DAUs (Daily Active Users) despite being 2.5-year-old titles.”
Lu and company are already hard at work on other future live events to ensure that we’ll still be having fun with Modern War for many more years down the road. “Looking forward, we want to continue to see how players will engage with each other in the game and through different new features and gameplay elements, and see how they can work together toward a common goal,” he says. And since the folks at GREE are so open about their own personal histories as gamers, who better to give some additional insights as to what kinds of new live events should be added next than the Modern War players themselves? So if you happen to be a fan of the popular Modern War MMORPG, Lu wants to encourage everyone to head on over to the Modern War forums and tell GREE what you’d like to see show up next in the game.
And if you’re not a fan yet, then what better time to start than now? Showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, Lu promises “the best for Modern War is yet to come, so stay tuned for more!”