Free-to-play games have high rates of customer churn. Players are fickle and the slightest annoyance leads to uninstall your game and send it back to the App store/Play store hell.
So, developers need to hook the player during the first session, First-time User Experience (FTUE) is the first critical step of your monetization strategy. In this article, we will analyze the First-time user experience of Captain Tsubasa: Dream Team and how we could improve it.
Captain Tsubasa: Dream Team
Captain Tsubasa: Dream Team is a gacha mobile game inspired by the notorious manga and anime. In november 2019, the game surpassed 150 million downloads.
The game begins with a spectacular cinematic introducing every star player from each team. The star players use their special ability like the "Tiger shot" or the "Eiffel attack".
This epic staging creates value for each star player and thus desire. It also introduces a rarity and power rankings between the players (the players showed are the most valuable among their team). This is a really efficient introduction for a gacha game because it subtly sets goals like collecting a specific player or an entire team.
The tutorial banner
Then the remaining download of the game starts and a tutorial banner appears and explain the game depth (like the upgrade system). This is really confusing for the player because it already shows an advanced state of the game before he knows anything about the core gameplay. It also increases the cognitive load if the player tries to retain those information and it could be frustrating because the reading will be interrupted as soon as the download is over.
We could just show artworks and lore in order to increase the player's desire for a star player like in the earlier cinematic. Then, if the player has finished the tutorial and launches the app for the second time, we provide tutorial/reminder content.
The gameplay phase
In a few minutes, the game tries to teach every strategy option using long texts instead of pictures or in-game situations. It results in an inconsistent pacing slowdown for an epic soccer match and an incomplete learning because the player won't and can't digest so much information.
For each mechanic, ask yourself: As a player do I really need those information now to enjoy the game? In this case, Do I really need to know there are three type of critical ?
There is no need to rush the tutorial, we can divide the learning phase in several parts and let the player self explore. During the FTUE, you must prove that your game is immediately fun and not that you need hours to reach amusement.
The main menu
When the soccer match is over, the player is brought to the main menu.
As we can see, for a first look, there are so many information. The player will try to understand and retain these and It could lead to a cognitive/choice overload and thus discouragement.
We should hide some advanced features like the special event banner to let the player focus on the primary ones. However, the player should be reassured that the game has every promised option like the online mode. This is a balance between guiding the player and teasing features.
The gacha screen
The player is now brought to the transfers (gacha) screen. He tries the gacha mechanic in order to get his first soccer player. It's never mentioned that he can only get a 3-stars or 4-stars soccer player (maximal is 5-stars). If he's not satisfied with the soccer player he got, he can discard it and try again.
The problem is, the player doesn't know the available soccer players. So, the player may think "Maybe I could have a 5-stars player ?" and try it over and over until he reluctantly keeps one.
First, this is deceptive. The player could try a countless times to get a 5-stars player he will never have. Second, if the player has an infinite number of tries, why can't he chooses a soccer player among a list ? It would increase the player empowerment and engagement. Instead of starting with the best soccer player he got, He could start with his favorite.
Captain Tsubasa: Dream Team provided a sufficient FTUE: triumphing and rewarding experience, core gameplay and economy are explained, goals are set, etc.
However, each tutorial part seems to be separated and doesn't create an homogenous experience. As designers, we have to think about the whole session and how every FTUE's part are linked: "What's the player's game knowledge at this moment ? What's the player's mindset after a thrilling cinematic ?".
As players become more exigent and competition bigger, we should be more rigorous and meticulous.