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Kakao Talk Odds & Ends: Why Games Fail on one of Asia's Biggest Platforms

Kakao Talk Odds & Ends is a feature series that runs on the Latis Games Blog (http://blog.latisglobal.com). Based out of South Korea, I have been analyzing games at the bottom of the Kakao pile to find out where they went wrong and what they do better.

This is a condensed version of the post Kakao Talk Odds & Ends: Birzzle Fever originally posted here: http://ow.ly/wPQaP

Birzzle Fever is a fast-paced match game where players compete to be the best by trying to create high-scoring combo-chains. Players can try to beat solo missions, level up their birds for more rewards, and compete against their friends for the top spot in the leader boards.

Overview:

  • Developer: Enfeel (South Korea)
  • Rank on Kakao Top Grossing: #267
  • Release Date: August 26, 2013
  • Last Update: May 12, 2014
  • Google Play Installs: 500,000 - 1,000,000
  • Supported Languages:  English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Swedish, Traditional Chinese

Pros/Cons Summary

Pros Cons
Familiar gameplay (match-3 genre) Cramped UI, Small Font
Decent engagement loops Frequent crashes
Cute artwork and characters Not enough relevant events
Competitive play Not enough fresh updates
Fast-paced, short sessions Poor localization strategy

 

Where they got it right

Birzzle-Fever-Gameplay

The match-3 genre is an easy pitch in South Korean. This may also be seen as a bit of a downside in an over-saturated market, but the familiarity of the game play makes it accessible and the cute bird cartoons make it easy to engage with for all ages. The short, timed play sessions are perfect for the platform and create the same sense of urgency that Anipang, Kakao's first big game, used to become so successful. The leader boards are built into the Kakao platform, allowing you to invite friends to the game and then compete with them (a standard for the platform these days). This feature meshes well with the competitive nature of Korean culture.

The missions are structured so that players must complete a certain amount to level up. They are just challenging enough to encourage continual play while allowing players to purchase gems and skip over particularly difficult missions or ones they don't want to complete. Overall, I'd say the engagement loops are reasonably strong, but they could be better.

Where it went wrong

Birzzle-Nest-Feature

Given that the game was developed by a Korean developer, they got a lot of the fundamentals right. Unfortunately, they failed to take it to the next level with some basic problems. Granted I was playing the English version on Kakao, but I can tell that they didn't think about localization from the start just by looking at it. The UI is cramped and was likely not designed to be elastic. Their solution to this was to shrink the font to make the words fit, making impossibly small on even a large phone screen. They also forget that English doesn't word wrap the same way Korean does, so in  several spots sentences just break in the middle of a word.

The game crashed quite a bit while I was testing it as well, and this was a frequent complaint in the store comments that doesn't appear to have been addressed.

Finally, and most importantly, the game suffers from a lack of relevant events and updates. To stay on top of the market in Korea, weekly updates and events are generally expected. With dozens of new releases every week, the only way to stay on top and keep your players interested is to come up with new content.

 

What could be changed?

The first thing I noticed that was lacking was the Birzzle Nest feature, where you can level up the six different kinds of birds, which each give you different bonuses in the game such as increased experience, bigger combos, more coins, etc. It almost looks like they designed it to have more birds, but never released them. This would be an easy way to update the game on a consistent basis to keep players engaged. Looking at the charts below, both the Google Play Store and App Store analytics show the same trend, suggesting that players got bored with the game quickly. It appears some kind of burst campaign gave them great initial downloads, but they failed to support that momentum and it dropped off quickly.

 

birzzle-statistics-google-play
The Google Play Store analytics hint that Birzzle Fever failed to keep up with the downloads from a strong initial burst campaign.

 

App Annie Ranks Birzzle Fever
Birzzle Fever had a lot of downloads early on, but tanked quickly due to poor retention strategy.
 
 

 

Major Takeaway lessons

  • Be prepared ahead of time with content that you can update and release quickly.
  • Dont let the momentum of a burst campaign fizzle out, it will be hard to earn back.
  • Design UI's with elasticity so that you don' thave to make compromises when doing localization.
  • Pay attention to comments and critics and fix bugs as quickly as possible.

 

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