为什么轰动日本的手游Monster Strike在北美不成功

来源:游戏邦 2017-08-14 09:54:25

为什么轰动日本的手游Monster Strike在北美不成功

Mixi的《怪物弹珠》是日本手游巨头之一。它时常跻身 Android 和 iOS 的手游收入总额排行榜。它在一个1.27亿人的国家拥有超过4000万的下载量,催生了一个观看改编动漫的忠实用户基础,这些用户会去《怪物弹珠》的现场主题活动,甚至参加以游戏中音乐为专题的音乐会。

但是尽管在本国取得了巨大的成功,对于处于国外市场的《怪物弹珠》,情况并没有那么乐观。中国大陆版于2015年关闭,韩版在去年紧随其后。虽然《怪物弹珠》继续在台湾取得国际性的成功,但Mixi最终决定终止英文版(覆盖北美和澳大利亚)并表示游戏将在今年8月前停止服务。

许多长期玩家都在等着这个消息:去年晚些时候,当Mixi决定暂停北美市场时,情况看起来已经不妙。但对于那些自2014年英文版首发以来、一直在玩这款游戏的人来说,这标志着一款大型手游的悲惨结局,其国际发布的错误处理令人震惊。如果不是因为一些重大失误,就算不能成为超级热门,这个游戏至少也可能是Mixi的可持续收入来源。

monster strike(from chuapp.com)

日本手机游戏行业分析师Serkan Toto说:“我认为该游戏及其核心是为本国用户基础而创造的(gacha货币化,高频率的活动,艺术和声音等),因此Mixi从一开始就面临着本土化的巨大挑战。”

《怪物弹珠》到底做错了些什么?下面我们以从小到大的顺序,排列出了Mixi所犯的一些错误。

北美版内容落后

可以理解的是,英文版《怪物弹珠》的内容会在一定程度上落后于其日本母公司——本地化需要时间和精力来实现,毕竟有些东西需要为不同的市场量身定制。但在很多时候,北美的游戏都比日版落后了很多个月。西方玩家们会在粉丝网页看到日版所有出色的怪兽、活动和界面改进,但却没有明确的时间表告诉这些玩家他们会不会,或者什么时候能在他们的游戏版本中看到这些升级。

此外,日版的游戏还与其他著名媒体、组织‘合作’活动,让玩家有机会获得专属怪兽,还可以玩限时地牢。虽然有些‘合作’不会对日本以外的观众有效,但像《奥特曼》和《哆啦a梦》,还有《街头霸王》和超级流行的动漫《新世纪福音战士》, 如果他们被改编成英文版本,会抓住一些好奇玩家的注意力,或许也可以激发一些休闲玩家更频繁的参与。

玩家的利用

《怪物弹珠》是日本最赚钱的应用之一。Toto注释说:“在日本,大家都知道这个游戏在很大程度上将重心集中在高支出的用户身上: 据说《怪物弹珠》的ARPU和ARPPU都比《Puzzle & Dragons》高很多倍,这要归功于Mixi设计其游戏的‘gacha’(随机绘制系统)的方式。”

免费游戏必须让玩家相信花钱是一件好事,而这有时是一个很难克服的障碍。在《怪物弹珠》中,这点更难实现。这款游戏的高级货币orbs(以下简称金币),主要是为了从游戏的随机“hatcher”(gacha机制的英文名字)中获得新的专属怪兽。游戏的随机怪兽hatcher中,50金币可以玩一次,需要花费大概40美元,玩家可以从中得到10个随机怪兽,但此功能并没有保证得到的怪兽中至少有一个是珍贵的5星怪兽。当然如果玩家不想花钱,可以节省和保存免费的金币。但在比率那么低的情况下,许多西方玩家不愿意为此支付现金。但是5星的怪兽对于清理游戏中一些较为坚硬的地牢来说是一个巨大的福利,所以热切的玩家抓住每一个机会击败系统,获得免费的金币,而不用花一分钱。

monster strike(from gamasutra)

在游戏的早期,可以通过朋友邀请来做这件事:邀请朋友玩游戏,你会得到一个可以兑换成很多金币和奖励的代码。有了这个你就可以用类似Android模拟器的东西创建许多的“虚拟”账户来获取免费金币。苹果最终迫使Mixi移除这项功能,因为它违反了政策。

当‘邀请朋友’这一功能被移除时,玩家转向另一种方式来获取免费的金币:关联系统。通过和在你朋友名单上的玩家玩多人游戏,你会填满一个关联计量器,当它被最大限度地填满后,你就会得到每日奖励。英文版中的奖励是基于日版的游戏调整的,当和你朋友名单上的玩家一起玩的时候,你会得到更多的金币奖励。Mixi甚至提供了一段时间的免费代金券,让玩家在当天可以玩一个探索游戏并最大限度地填满关联计量器(从而获得奖励)。

虽然Mixi认为“每天一个朋友,每天都有一份关联奖金”足以阻止玩家作弊,但Mixi错了。这些“虚假账户”再次倾巢而出,玩家们加好友来填满关联计量器以获得成堆的免费金币,然后每天删除无数的好友。单纯为了获得免费金币而组成的团体:由20名活跃玩家组成的圈子,每月堆积成堆的免费金币,当最强大的新怪兽出现时,他们会将囤积起来的金币花掉。最终Mixi停止发行即时关联券,但在这之前,迫切想要利用该系统的玩家们已经获得了大量的免费金币。Mixi并没有进一步调整关联奖励,只是简单地让过程变得更困难,而不是将其调整为更好的业务。当人们习惯得到免费到东西,然后突然发现过程变得更困难的时候,他们并不一定会开始花钱——要么调整游戏习惯,要么就会到其他的地方寻找免费的东西。

一个明智的解决方案:去掉慷慨的关联奖励,并保证50个金币可以获得一个5星怪物,从而为玩家提供一些价值,以此吸引玩家花钱。在《怪兽弹珠》的后期,这个方案得到部分实施。去年年底开始出现了一些限制时间的供给,包括5星级怪兽的保证,但不幸的是这一改变来得太晚了,已无法产生影响。

移除在线玩家,破坏玩家信任

“games – as – a – service” (游戏即为服务)是一种基于玩家信任的模式。人们愿意把钱投入到这些游戏中,因为他们相信这些游戏不会突然地,彻底地一夜之间变成他们不再喜欢的东西。Mixi吃了亏才意识到这一点,这一决定在许多玩家看来注定了英文版《怪兽弹珠》的失败,因为它疏远了玩家基础,破坏了公司花费一年多时间建立起的信任。

2016年初,Mixi鼓吹与Facebook创意实验室合作,以帮助推动《怪物弹珠》在西方市场的发展。在这一交易中出现了一个新的、本地化的英文游戏界面,新的宣传标语和商标,甚至有一个由Andy Samberg主演的真人版的商业广告(在我写这篇文章时,此广告似乎已经完全从互联网上消失了)。但在这种营销攻势的推动下,一个公告令许多长期玩家倍感震惊:Mixi正在移除co-op play功能。

《怪物弹珠》从根本上说,是一个与他人一起玩的游戏。Dr. Toto指出:“迫使人们在相邻的地方玩游戏的概念,适合人口密集的地区(比如大东京),但在像美国这样人口较为分散的地区,却以失败告终。”

早期对英文版游戏的本地化和推广团队的采访表明:他们了解在线co-op对这个市场有多么重要,他们想要确保在游戏中尽可能地实现它。

然而在某一时刻,Mixi管理层决定改变方向。他们想要强调本地co-op对西方市场的重要性高于一切(其中原因可能会永远是个谜)。他们从删除全球co-op开始(这是一种让玩家寻找并加入随机游戏的功能),然后增加了额外的地牢,并表明只有通过本地co-po游戏才能获得奖励(也有许多玩家通过使用不同的设备进行交替账户开发的方式利用这个机制)。在新的营销闪电战结束后不久,该公司宣布将不再支持英文版的在线co-op,也没有多作解释。

玩家们的反应迅速而愤怒。Mixi从来没有解释为什么他们放弃了这个功能(此功能仍然保留在最初的日版游戏中),这让玩家只能从理论上猜测他们做出如此荒谬的事情的原因。差评和愤怒的帖子开始充斥着应用商店、留言板和Facebook。可能看到广告或宣传的新玩家会对游戏产生兴趣,却不料看到一些谴责该游戏删除玩家喜爱的功能的愤怒消息。人们看到这些之后怎么可能会在一个背叛自己玩家基础的游戏中投入时间和金钱呢?

直至今日,我们仍然不知道为什么Mixi会认为除去这个功能是个好主意。它完成的唯一一件事就是摧毁了他们和粉丝基础建立起的信任,相信不管多少营销支出都无法使之恢复原样。最终,在线co-op功能恢复了,但它再也无法回到从前。许多玩家已经迁移到日版,或者只是简单地转移到不同游戏,而少量的玩家要么坚持过了这段时间,要么再次回到游戏中,但这是远远不够的。

这就是《怪物弹珠》的结局:一个被一连串糟糕的决定所击倒的手游巨头。这个游戏在日本没有凋零的危险,但就目前而言,Mixi全球扩张的雄心似乎受到了严重打击。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Mixi Inc.’s Monster Strike is a mobile juggernaut in Japan. It frequently ranks among the top-grossing mobile apps on both Android and iOS, boasts over 40 million downloads (in a nation of 127 million people), and it has spawned a devoted fanbase who watch an anime adaptation, go to special Monster Strike-themed live events, and even attend concerts featuring the game’s music.

But despite runaway success in its home country, things haven’t been as rosy for Monster Strike abroad. The mainland Chinese version shut down in 2015, followed by the Korean version last year. While Monster Strike continues to see international success in Taiwan, Mixi has finally decided to pull the plug on the English version (which covers North America and Australia), stating that the game will cease service by August of this year.

Many longtime players were waiting for the other shoe to drop: Things already weren’t looking good when Mixi decided to suspend marketing in North America late last year. But for those who’ve played the game since its English inception in 2014, this marks the tragic end of a great mobile game whose international release was stunningly mishandled. Were it not for a few major mistakes, the game could have been, if not a massive mega-hit, at least a sustainable source of side income for Mixi.

“I think the game is, at its core, really made for a domestic user base (gacha monetization, high frequency of events, art and sound, etc.), so Mixi was facing a huge challenge [in localization] from the get-go,” says Japanese mobile game industry analyst Dr. Serkan Toto.

What did Monster Strike do wrong? Here are some of the mistakes Mixi made, from least to most egregious.

Keeping content current

It’s understandable that Monster Strike’s content would lag somewhat behind its parent in Japan — localization takes time and effort to implement, after all, and some things need to be tailored to a different market. But at several points in time, the North American game was many months behind its Japanese counterpart. Players would see news on fansites about all of the cool monsters, events, and interface improvements happening in Japan with no clear timetable of if or when they’d see them in their version of the game.

In addition, the Japanese version of the game received several “collaboration” events with other famous media properties that gave players a chance to obtain exclusive monsters and play limited-time dungeons. While some of these collaborations would not have worked well for an audience outside of Japan, like Ultraman and Doraemon, others, like Street Fighter and the megapopular anime Evangelion, would have grabbed some attention from curious players and perhaps also inspired casual players to engage more regularly had they been adapted for the English version.

Player exploits

Monster Strike is one of Japan’s biggest app money makers. “In Japan, it’s known the game focuses a lot on very high-spending users: both the ARPU and ARPPU of Monster Strike are said to be multiple times higher than that of Puzzle & Dragons, for example. This is thanks to the way Mixi designs its title’s “gacha” (random draw system),” notes Toto.

Free-to-play games have to convince players that spending money is a good thing — which is a pretty tough obstacle to overcome sometimes. In Monster Strike, it was especially tough. The game’s premium currency, orbs, are for — among other things — obtaining new and exclusive monsters from the game’s random “hatcher” — the English name for the gacha mechanic. A 50-orb roll from the game’s random monster hatcher cost almost $40 for 10 monsters, and this didn’t guarantee even one of the game’s treasured 5-star monsters. Of course, players could scrimp and save the free orbs that the game hands out to try for new monsters if they didn’t want to spend money — and with rates that low, many Western players felt reluctant to fork over cash. But the 5-star monsters are a huge boon to clearing some of the game’s tougher dungeons, so eager players took every opportunity they could to beat the system and get free rolls without paying a dime.

Early on in the game’s life, the way to do this was through friend invites — invite a friend to the game, and you’d get a code you could redeem for tons of orbs and bonuses. With this, you could make numerous “dummy” accounts using things like Android emulators to acquire orbs for free rolls. Apple eventually forced Mixi to remove this functionality, as it violated its policies.

When the invites were removed, players turned to another means for free orbs: the affinity system. By playing multiplayer games with others on your friends list, you would fill up an affinity gauge, which would give you a daily reward when it maxed out. The rewards in the game’s English version were adjusted from the Japanese version, giving out far more orbs as a reward for playing with people on your friends list. Mixi even gave out free vouchers for a period that would allow players to play a quest and max out affinity (and get rewards) for that day instantly.

While Mixi figured that “one affinity bonus per friend per day” would be good enough to stop exploits, it was wrong. The dummy accounts came back in full force, with people friending, getting affinity, and then defriending numerous players daily to earn piles of free orbs. Groups developed for the sole purpose of farming free orbs with each other: an active circle of 20 players would rake in piles of free orbs each month, which they would hoard to spend when the most powerful new monsters were introduced. Eventually Mixi stopped distributing the instant affinity vouchers, but not before giving out a large amount of free currency to players eager to exploit the system — but without making any further adjustments to affinity rewards, simply making the process harder rather than adjusting it to something better for business. When people are used to getting things for free and suddenly find it more difficult, they’re not necessarily likely to start spending — they’ll either adjust their playing habits or take their freeloading elsewhere.

A smart solution — which was partially implemented later in Monster Strike’s life — would have been to eliminate generous affinity rewards and guarantee a 5-star monster for a 50-orb roll and thus provide some guaranteed value to players in exchange for spending. There were a few limited-time offers that included a guaranteed 5-star monster starting from late last year, but unfortunately, this change came too late to make an impact.

Removing online player, torpedoing player trust

Games-as-a-service is a model that thrives on player trust. People are willing to put money into these games because they trust that the game won’t suddenly and radically change overnight into something they no longer enjoy. Mixi learned this the hard way with a decision that, in the eyes of many players, doomed the English version of Monster Strike by alienating its player base and destroying the trust that the company had spent over a year building.

Early in 2016, Mixi trumpeted a partnership with Facebook Creative Labs to help promote Monster Strike in the West. With this deal came a new, localized interface for the English game, a new tagline and logo, even a live-action commercial meant to go viral featuring Andy Samberg (which seems to have completely vanished from the internet as of this writing). But with this marketing push came an announcement that shocked many of the game’s longtime players: Mixi was removing online co-op play.

Monster Strike was, fundamentally, a game that thrived when played with other people.”Forcing people to play a game next to each other is a concept that works well in densely populated areas like Greater Tokyo but fails in regions of the world that are further spread out like the US,” notes Dr. Toto. Early interviews with the localization and promotion team of the English version suggested that they knew how important having online co-op was to this market, and they made sure to implement it in the game as best they could.

However, at some point, Mixi management decided to change course. They wanted — for reasons that may forever remain a mystery — to emphasize the importance of local co-op play to the English market above all else. They started by removing global co-op, a feature that let players look for and join random games, then added additional dungeon clear bonuses that could only be obtained through local co-op play (which many players exploited by making alternate accounts on separate devices). Then, not long after the new marketing blitz, the company announced that support for online co-op would be dropped for the English version with little explanation as to why.

The reaction from players was swift and angry. Mixi never explained why they were dropping the feature (which remained in the original Japanese version of the game), leaving players to theorize why they would do such an absurdly stupid thing. Bad reviews and angry posts began flooding app stores, message boards, and Facebook. New players who might have seen advertisements or promotion would take an interest in the game, only to take note of waves of angry messages decrying removal of a feature players loved. How could anyone look at those reactions and decide they wanted to invest time and money in a game that would betray its own player base?

To this day, we still don’t know why Mixi over thought killing this feature was a good idea. The only thing it accomplished was destroying the trust of their established fanbase — trust no amount of marketing spend could ever hope to bring back. Eventually, online co-op play was restored, but it never recovered — many players had migrated to the Japanese version or simply moved on to different titles, and the small amount of players that either stuck through it or came back to the game weren’t enough to keep the lights on.

Such is how Monster Strike ends: a mobile juggernaut felled by a string of poor decisions. The game’s in no danger of dying off in Japan, but for now, it seems like Mixi’s grand ambitions of global expansion have been struck a severe blow.(Source:venturebeat.com)

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