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Plants vs Zombies 1 — How my 3 yr old kid re-ignited my take on this!

This post is about potential "Opportunity Loss" from under-utilizing Plants vs Zombies 1 by the developer/publisher and a different take can probably help its revival, at least to a partial extent.

Rajeev Varma, Blogger

July 31, 2019

7 Min Read

Image result for plants vs zombies FREE

Those who play(ed) games over the last decade might probably know about one of the most popular franchises ever existed — Plants vs Zombies.
I’m one of those guys who still adores the first mobile game version — infamously called PvZ FREE and won’t be ashamed to admit that I still play this game from time to time (of course over a series of installs & un-installs).

The purpose of this post is not to do a typical product tear-down but express more of my personal thoughts on why there has been a great “opportunity loss” for this incredibly potent game and how can it be revived from a different (unexpected take), at least to a partial extent. Also, note that other subsequent versions PvZ 2 & PvZ China are doing much better than this and the scope of this discussion is limited to only the first version!

Fun Fact: This game still garners around 170–180K installs per day, completely organic, even in this cut throat competitive world. I know of some game publishers who’d kill (metaphorically) for that user base, talk about the Zombie impact (of course plants too!).

I won’t go in detail over the game’s basic mechanics, explain about Popcap’s first tower defence game, how its got charm & personality is so addictive appealing to all walks of gamers etc because that’s regular stuff, routine & boring (who wants boring these days, anyway?)

Surprisingly, looking back, I’ve started playing PvZ after my interaction with Clash Royale (CR), which is a bit uncommon, at least for me :)
I could see a clear shift in terms of spending my mobile game time towards PvZ, which cross-subsidized my CR’s time. That’s okay ‘coz I was having a pretty good time, kicking the butts of those Zombies which seemed to be worthy opponents — hats off to those level designers!

But the thing was — this didn’t last long (joy in playing PvZ) for me because I was able to complete the game in hardly 2 1/2 weeks 
Content Consumption — 100%. It’s true there are other mini game modes but that feels mostly cut and dry and not so enticing as the “Adventure” Mode.

So, what happened afterwards? As a predictable Bollywood Romantic movie, I’ve continued with my CR and recently completed 3 yrs, maintaining a stable play pattern, in a stable clan kicking butts again, this time with fellow social players.


I did try to go back to PvZ in between but that always resulted in a same predictable outcome, me un-installing the game once I’m (felt?) done with it.
Whereas I was stuck with CR, over & over again, witnessed all the new dynamic DLCs & Limited Time Events (LTEs) they’ve launched. Played the game with my friends, my brother, seen the high & low tides all these years.

Looking back, a corny analogy might be: PvZ felt like a popular museum — which everyone likes to visit but only do it once in a while and CR is like a mall, there could be the same stuff but you’d visit regularly though — not because you have nothing else to do but something different altogether!

And that’s where a developer shines — Making the most of players’ time, making them feel wanted via social engagement, making them feel competent by a vehement introduction of progression, making them see the variegated content in one of the most entertaining packaged version (Ex: PvP is not a new concept, Real money gaming sectors have been doing it for so long, it’s just a matter of how you present it, coupled with game dynamics ++)

As a product guy, it pains me to see how a game is being under utilized when it could deliver so much & monetize effectively, without being a money grab and place itself in a win-win situation building its loyal base, all along.

Do you know how much a game of this stature can make money, maintaining the status quo of player’s “ever favorite” and staying away from “Pay to win” kind of games? At the very least, tens of thousands (25K+ per day without much effort). If you want me to stretch a mile, imagine how Real Time PvP would position this game (decent design effort is needed, though!)

Besides, this is one of the first popular games which introduced trophy collectibles, in a most obscure way no one can immediately recognize. The latest update seem to have removed this section altogether or placed this section somewhere hidden which I can’t find out easily (equal probability of either case happening!)

All these can be easily touted as potential game-changers for this franchise and I wouldn’t be surprised if this stands toe to toe with CR in today’s world, had this “Opportunity Loss” been mitigated to a significant extent.

Anyways, there’s something that caught my attention when I’ve recently started playing PvZ again (remember the series of installs/un-installs).
This time, my kid accompanied me whenever I start this game during our bed time with resuming the Bonus game, usually.

My 3 yr old kid is already acquainted with the usage of mobile phones & tablets and in fact, I wouldn’t be ashamed in telling she’s the one who taught me how to use “Chromecast” so you can understand how fast paced this generation is (or how backward I am when it comes to using SmartTech).

She quickly noticed I had to collect Sun in order to deploy plants and coins (tap on them) in between whenever some Zombies are destroyed. And she asked me to play the game in Pseduo “Co op” mode, where I deploy plants “strategically” while she collects sun, coins and hammers zombies (in one of those modes). As days progress further, she wanted to control the shoot volume from the plants and annoyed whenever she observed she can’t engage further with the plants once they were deployed. 

Even if we discount the last point above, there’s a fair & decent chance to quickly build a mini game mode which can call up for accelerated coin sink 
(maintaining the same engagement level) within a game in several ways, examples being:

  1. Increase the length of plot area to plant more hero plants as game progresses

  2. Make Hybrids or evolve plants for effective combat based

  3. Introduce/emphasize on Zombie repellant plants (mushroom plant)

  4. Theme or region based arenas (this could be a huge boost as most of PvZ is from developing economies like Brazil, Argentina, India etc — remember the 
    popularity of this from China which ultimately paved way for PvZ China…)

And so on….Of course, there’d be much more to brainstorm, design, validate, re-run to create & maintain the epic status of this game. We all know Content is King. Some do take a stab at it and fail (at least they tried) but some don’t even bother by placing these games in “maintenance mode” and be content with the ad revenue it’s making. Remember, franchises are not forever and even good products need a healthy push to sustain & prolong their shelf life.

We do see so many crappy games consistently making Top charts (although short-lived) just because publishers/developers pump out money to increase their visibility. When those that doesn’t deserve see the limelight do, shouldn’t the ones that truly deserve be given a chance to shine?

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