"Its initial performances were easily predictable: a strong debut rapidly stabilizing into a tale that would last for years. We were ready to work on another project"
- Product lead and senior producer Dominic Allaire on the slow burn of Hitman Sniper.
Square Enix Montreal's Hitman Sniper recently hit the 10 million player mark after four years on the iOS app store, standing out among a sea of free-to-play titles by marketing itself as a "premium" title.
But what does that mean? Mobile games often need constant updates and enticing features to keep players around, but Hitman Sniper took a different approach.
In an interview published by Pocket Gamer, product lead and senior producer for Hitman Sniper Dominic Allaire reflects on the iOS title, discussing the lessons he learned while running live operations during initial launch.
Running live ops when there were no in-house experts to rely on was tricky at first. "I discovered that live ops is just a way to dynamically operate a live product based on the analysis of players' behaviour," explained Allaire. Eventually, he learned that he needed three things:
- Creative/analytical experts who know the product "inside out".
- Business intelligence hooks integrated into the game so that developers can analyze everything.
- A backend that allows developers to update the game dynamically.
The last tip is what differentiates live ops with regular DLC. Developers need to be able to iterate without requiring new builds. "By understanding player behavior and by quickly adapting our strategy, we managed to constantly improve our acquisition and monetization year after year."
Understanding how to handle live ops was just the beginning of the learning process, as Allaire admitted that implementing customer support and updates were also a foreign concept.
"To be honest, when we launched Hitman Sniper consumer support was not part of our DNA. Only with time did we realize that nurturing our consumer relationship meant more than just transforming bad reviews into 5 out of 5 stars," he noted. "It means engagement and fidelity."
Just as important however, is making sure the player continues to come back. How did Hitman Sniper manage to retain an active player base four years after launching?
To learn more about Allaire's strategy on sustaining active players, be sure to read the full article over on Pocket Gamer's website.