How Roblox, Sony, Bluehole, Mojang, Bohemia Interactive, Riot Games and EA co-create games with the players.
Any enthusiastic player is a game designer in the depths of his heart. He knows what to change in the game to improve it. Very often, players write about this on forums and in social networks. It is considered polite to answer with something like: "Thank you so much for your attention to our game. We will certainly pass your ideas to the relevant department. "
Let's leave the jokes aside. Devoted player Brendan Greene remade Arma II in a way he thought would be better, and we got PUBG. Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill, inspired by DOTA, created the League of Legends. All the significant breakthroughs in the gaming industry of 2017—the mobile version of the League of Legends, Arena of Valor and PUBG—basically were designed by players, and not by professional game designers.
How to create the perfect Battle Royale?
The apparent consequence of this trend for game developers is to listen to the players. But everything is not as simple as it seems. Sony Online Entertainment was the first to catch the trend for the popularity of PlayerUnknown's Battle Royale mode for Day Z game. They even invited its creator, Brandon Green, to be a consultant to create H1Z1: King of the Kill. After several months of consultations, his contract was not extended because all possible expertise was transferred.
Soon, Brandon Green went to Korea to Bluehole where he became the leading game designer for the Player Unknown's Battleground (PUBG) project. The difference in the relevance of the player games PUBG and H1Z1: King of the Kill is enormous. Apparently, you need to not only listen to the players but to do something more.
The matrix of customer co-creation
Let's look at the matrix of Customer Co-creation, developed by Aric Rindfleisch and Matt O'Hearn https://propellingbrands.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/ohern-rindfleisch-120108.pdf This matrix looks at the various combinations of the process of proposing ideas from users and the perception of these ideas by businesses. As a result, we get four formats for involving the user in product development: Submission, Co-designing, Tinkering, and Collaborative.
Submitting is what comes first when thinking about Customer Co-creation. When a business wants to improve an existing product or release a new one, asking consumers what they want is a great idea! Usually, the activity takes the form of a competition with clear rules and a selection of winners by company representatives.
In 2017, Electronic Arts ran activity, during which players voted for the content of the new update for Sims 4 http://www.player.one/sims-4-fan-stuff-pack-voting-schedule-which-dlc-idea-best -592085. In the activity conditions, there was a disclaimer that accurately attributed the activity to the submitting model and not to co-designing. "While your votes will help us determine what we may include in this stuff, EA will make the final decision." It seems to me that this is typically the same story as of Brendan Greene and Sony Online Entertainment.
Co-designing makes an essential change in the process of selecting ideas. The final decision on the implementation of an idea is on the customers.
In the gaming industry, an example of this approach is the story of the creation of the game DayZ. Dean Hall, an officer from New Zealand, made a mod for Arma II with the central theme of survival in the world captured by the zombies. All of this was not in the original game. In 2012, Dean Hall joined the Bohemia Interactive team to develop DayZ, which subsequently brought the company more than $100 million for six months of sales. I think the relationship between Brendan Greene and the Korean Bluehole was built on the same principle.
Assigning players to senior positions in product development is an extreme idea, but it does not require a radical restructuring of business processes, and it is effective. For example, two years ago, in the game World of Tanks, players and developers had quite different ideas about the current state and the further development of the game. Wargaming solved the problem by appointing video blogger Daniel Paraschin aka Murazor to manage the game balance. Since then, the severity of the problem has significantly decreased.
Tinkering provides complete freedom to users in product changes. The company selects and promotes the best ideas of users. It is exactly what Valve uses in its games and on its Steam platform to distribute game modifications. For example, 90% of the items in Team Fortress 2 were created by players. The role of the game publisher is the development of the game as a platform, the transfer of tools for the development to the game community and the creation of a method for selecting the best modifications and for rewarding authors.
A classic example of the application Tinkering method is the Little Big Planet game by Sony Computer Entertainment. Players have created more than 9,000,000 custom levels. Sony selects the best and makes them available for all players. Thus, the game can support the endless creation of content to keep players in game.
The collaborative is the most complex method for involving customers in the creation of a product. Aric Rindfleisch and Matt O'Hearn, creators of the co-creation matrix, explain the difference between Collaborative and Tinkering. In the first case, the company produces not a product but some source code. Some users modify the code, and other users choose the best variants from the modifications. The company takes the options that are used most and updates the source code. This is how Apache technology is developed and maintained by the open source community under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation.
Collaborative - left. Tinkering - right
In the gaming industry, the elements of the Collaborative approach can be seen in Minecraft. Mojang sells a game constructor with basic functions. Players create content and join servers with the most successful modifications. Roblox platform (https://www.roblox.com/) allows players to develop their own online games and promote them on the Roblox website. Players can even create and sell virtual goods. A total of 15 million games have been created on the platform. The monthly active audience of the platform is 64 million players. According to ComScore, Roblox is the #1 gaming site for children and teenagers.
How co-creation is built into the processes of the gaming company
First, we try to combine the co-creation matrix and one of the standard DACI process matrices. Driver: manages the overall project coordination. Approver: takes critical decisions on project development. Contributors: embody the project. Informed: receive information on the project, but they cannot interfere with it.
If we take the situation in which the gaming company does not use co-creation with the players, then the process matrix looks like this: Driver - Company. Approver - Company. Contributor - Company. Informed - Players. DACI - CCCP.
If the company wants to attract players to the production process, even in the most straightforward format (Submitting), it will be a severe test for internal processes. DACI - CCPP. The Contributors role involves two-way communication, in contrast to one-way (Informed). At a minimum, it is necessary to promote the position of the person responsible for the relationship with the gaming community to direct interaction with the product owner, development, and marketing. Submitting is an excellent option to take the first step towards implementing the co-creation process. The truth is that it will not provide explosive growth.
Co-designing is the most suitable format for arranging a revolutionary breakthrough. Sony Online Entertainment used Brendan Greene as a consultant and received quite a good project: King of the Kill. Bluehole put Brendan Greene in the very heart of the process and got a breakthrough PUBG. How did it happen?
Brandon Green - Product Owner PUBG or Approver in the DACI matrix. He has a vision of the product, he is responsible for customer's demands and makes critical decisions. This is an example of the co-designing approach. Players in this process get the role of Approver. DACI - CPPP. Do not forget that Driver is still the company as the initiator of the whole project. There are many subtleties of game design and technical limitations that can not be solved without the expertise of the gaming company.
Co-designing is a great solution when you need to restart the product, continue the product line, and come up with new features and modes. The method works as with indie games and with AAA class projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Inviting a player to the role of the product owner is a simple emergency solution that does not break processes. Make Co-designing a continually working process - a task that gaming companies have not decided. The company that does it first will dominate the market.
In the Tinkering model, the role of the driver is assumed by the players. DACI - PCPP. The players decide what and how to do it and usually provides the company with a finished product or game content. The company chooses the best among all offers. This model is in limited form implementation in the game Little Big Planet and some games of Valve. This is a more or less understandable model for the gaming business. The company acts as an approver or product owner. Players as Drivers provide their diverse expertise in the production of content.
Why is this model used by only a small number of gaming companies? It seems to me because it makes incredible demands on the company's ability to manage the community's motivation. Also, the economy of the game should be designed taking into account the sharing of revenue with the players.
In the Collaborative model, the company acts as a platform developer and does not make specific products. DACI - PPPC. Roblox is the only gaming company operating on this model. For two consecutive years, Roblox has been included in the rating of the fastest-growing companies Inc 5000. The company sells players a single currency ROBUX for all products. Part of the profit is given to the developers.
Roblox main page
I must say that this is a tiny part. In 2017, the company transferred $1 million to developers and plans to bring this figure to 10 million in the foreseeable future http://www.businessinsider.com/roblox-how-teenage-developers-are-making-millions-2017-7 Only the mobile version of ROBLOX, not counting PCs and consoles, earned $140 million in 2017.
This circumstance prevents me right now from calling ROBLOX an example of the correct implementation of the Collaborative model. Is it possible to call this system exploitative? I do not think so. The company does not make children to develop games. Just like Tom Sawyer did not make friends paint the fence. ROBLOX also does not spend money on advertising. Distribution of the game is due to the efforts of the players creating products. This is an infrequent situation on the market. A substantial backlog of payments to creators of content from platform revenues is likely to cause problems with the gaming community.
A culture of the company
Riot Games has a focus on hiring gamers and always put the player’s happiness first. Riot workers play the game daily because it’s important for the company’s culture not only to understand the game but to enjoy it. Riot Games’ design director, Greg Street, said,
“You’ll see people at Riot just playing League. Just getting on their accounts and having a game. That’s super important. If you have a team that loves their product that much, they’re going to want to do the right thing by it.”
At Riot Games, the main stage in the adaptation of new employees is the onboarding process. Judging by the stories of the employees, an essential element of the process is revealing the passion of the new employee to the games. One of the pillars of Riot Games culture is to take play seriously. “Games are an important part of our lives, and we proudly call ourselves gamers.”
I think Riot Games has found a unique way for co-creation with the players. The professionalism of employees is undoubtedly necessary, but it is in second place after being able to be a player. If the gaming company has such a culture, then the construction of matrices and the co-creation processes will no longer matter. The game will be created by the players.