Category Archives: Tech Talk

Where most Freemium Games fail, Kabam Wins!

A few years ago I downloaded my first freemium game. I played it for awhile and then had an issue.  I submitted a ticket on the company’s support website.  48 hours later I got a response. By then I had already deleted the game and moved on to another one.  So I deleted the email and forgot about the game.

After unconsciously repeating this process seven or eight times, I began to wonder, why could I not stick to one game and why would I not spend time to get deeper into these games?

Through the lense of my support leader eyes, it became clear.  These gaming companies were not engaging me, they were not focused on my behaviors, and therefore I was not invested in their product.

They lost my eyeballs, interest, and my attention.

It then occurred to me. This lack of engagement, care, and sense of urgency is costing these companies tons of potential players and money. And they probably do not even realize it.

To prove out my theory, learn more, and lend my experience, I decided to join one, Kabam.

What is Freemium and why does it matter to gaming?

For folks new to this business concept, here are some additional details.  Wikipedia shares the Freemium concept in this way, “Freemium is a pricing strategy by which a product or service (typically a digital offering or application such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for proprietary features, functionality, or virtual goods”.

According to a variety of sources this term or larger business approach started circa 2006. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, was quoted in an article on Business News Daily, which explains clearly the value of the Freemium model.  He states, “The easiest way to get 1 million people paying is to get 1 billion people playing.”

In the mobile gaming context, below is the revenue forecast from the Global Games Market report for 2016-2020.

Over the next 4 years the market share of mobile gaming will jump from 29% to 40% of all gaming revenue or $26.3B.   This means the more eyeballs you have, the more downloads you get, leads to more opportunities to influence players to play and spend in a Freemium game.

What I Learned at Kabam

Upon joining Kabam, I completed a comprehensive player listening tour across all disciplines.  It was very informative and helpful to understand how our talented designers, developers, operations, support, and producers think and operate on a daily basis. I was amazed at the passion and focus each role had for our players and that everyone in the company plays our games everyday.

As I dug deeper into my support and community discipline, I found some compelling challenges that were different than other industries I had worked in.

The first challenge is the word ‘free’ means something different to each player that downloads our game.  Often times our players, and us as creators, have a different understanding of what the value of free is. This complexity requires different ways of thinking and engaging our players, as well as how we operate our business.  A mapping of how players value themselves and how we value them has been a key differentiator to Kabam’s success.

The second challenge is how gaming board rooms around the world invest in their support and community teams.  The trend is to follow the same way they invested with their console games.  This antiquated thinking leads to a broad brush business approach to all of their players, even if many are more invested (time+money) in your game than others. Kabam thinks about this differently.  We have the ability to clearly identify who our players are and invest in them in kind.

The third challenge is best illuminated by IMPAKTER below:

The world has changed, everything moves faster, people want things now and on their terms, and a gaming company’s ability to engage and retain a player’s attention has never been harder.  At Kabam, it is not just about answering questions or how fast we respond.  It’s about listening, enabling, empowering, and engaging our players.  It is about building an ecosystem of players that are ambassadors for us, even when we are not in every conversation on every platform.

What I learned from benchmarking the industry

Upon reviewing these challenges with my team, stakeholders, and partners across the company, we found that certain ways of thinking that were happening in the industry, were legacy and detrimental to long term success.

In general we agreed that we must avoid industry approaches of thinking and talking to players in antiquated ways:

  1. Support is a necessary cost, let’s try to minimize it, after all we don’t need complainers in our game
  2. Let’s deflect all of our players to the knowledge base and hope they get their answers
  3. We had a longer response time on console so it will work for mobile, all players are the same
  4. I don’t need gamers to answer support questions, anyone can do it, with training
  5. I don’t need to invest in tech for support and community, the service experience is not a priority
  6. I don’t need to understand my players, all players are the same
  7. People love our game, it doesn’t matter if we engage them.  It is so amazing, they will keep coming

We strongly felt that disruption was the key.  Disruption to how we think about, engage with, and treat the players of our games.  Disruption in how we invest, disruption to how we prioritise our boardroom conversations, and disruption in how we allow our support and community teams to operate. We decided we must disrupt, think blue sky, and retire legacy thought processes.

How Kabam is Different

 

To help us drive this disruption, we aligned how to engage our players across the leadership team and all disciplines. We did not merely want to support players, we were going to retain them.  And not just for a day or month, but for the life of the game.

We re-wrote and embraced new guiding principles that engage and listen to our players:

  1. The core game mission, once players get into the game, should be to keep them playing, everyday.
  2. Leveraging technology and people in new and innovative ways will be the difference in winning the eyeball game
  3. Every player has value, understanding it, categorizing it, and maximizing it through engagement will be the key
  4. Deeply embedding and measuring this approach in our Support and Community teams, as well as the reinforcing it in the company culture, will be essential to long term success
  5. Support and Community is a means to an end.  Investing in the means will derive multiplicative results on the end
  6. The end result is how often our players play our games, how much they play our games, and then in turn how they share their enjoyment by spending and investing in our games

Our ability to disrupt the vision, strategy, purpose, and deployment of the resources and technology that engages our players everyday, has had a profound impact on our player base and our bottom line.

Stepping back into my player mindset. Like many of you, I love mobile video games.  I like free things. I will continue to try and test them out.  Just as I do in other walks of my life, I will choose to care about and invest in the ones that reciprocate and engage me in kind.  It will be an unconscious behavior.   I know each of you are the same way.

Where many Freemium companies still operate in legacy and failing ways. Kabam tries to win players affections and loyalty everyday, by finding new and innovative ways to engage our players we enrich their gaming entertainment experience.

Our willingness to disrupt, re-imagine, and adapt how we think and operate has put us in a great position to grab part of the amazing $26.3B opportunity that sits in front of us.

Jerry Leisure is a Customer Success leader that believes the heart of every company is their customer. He can be reached via LinkedIn , @J2leisure on Twitter or byujerry@gmail.com

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemium

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2591-freemium-model-infographic.html

http://impakter.com/impakter-essay-mobile-devices-and-consumer-behavior-decoded/

https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/the-global-games-market-will-reach-108-9-billion-in-2017-with-mobile-taking-42/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nozomi-morgan/finding-strength-in-being_b_10893012.html

Anna wants to do amazing things, so why does IT get in the way?

Anna walks in the door. She is starting her dream job. She has always wanted to work for this company, doing this thing, and be in this field. She has already imagined what the next few years will look like. She is ready to get to work, be productive, and make an impact.

The question is, does the company she chose to work for really think about Anna like she thinks about herself? From the moment Anna opens the door, her end user productivity experience begins. This is the experience that is going to enable her to do what she loves—her job, and hopefully do it really well.

A lot of companies build this experience from a technology, cost, or infrastructure view. They believe IT and the company make decisions that help the business, provide tools and solutions, and are cost effective. Then, they think about the end user productivity experience and hope it works out.

For Anna, she wants to work for a company that thinks about her, how she works, and how she and her team can be most productive together. For her, technology that supports an anytime- anywhere workplace mentality is vital. That’s the new world; that’s the productive world.

User Centric IT organizations have the ability to influence, empower, and drive productivity at the same rate as the businesses they support. At the same time, IT must manage and hide complexity from its end users, while managing risk and security for the company.

I believe in creating a simple, user centric experience that enables IT end users to be highly productive. This game changer will create more revenue for a company and create employee loyalty. Aternity, an enterprise software company specializing in end user experience management solutions, breaks this concept down in great detail on their End User Experience website.

In simple terms, employees may make future employment choices based on the experience with the technology within the company and how productive they can be with it.

We all have an Anna join our company every week. Are we going to help Anna reach her full potential? Will we enable her to truly grow and make lasting impacts within the company?

The Death of an Apple Lover

I woke up yesterday morning and heard news that I thought I would never hear in my life. My wife said she was tired of Apple and how she no longer feels connected to them. She said I am going to go ahead and get an Android Phone…and she did, a Samsung Galaxy S5.

So most folks might say, hey its not a big deal. Customers change their minds all the time. I think what surprised me the most is that she has been an Apple Lover since she started using technology. She is a designer and artist by trade and has never had a desire to use another product. She has consistently, over the years, defended Apple like Apple was her mother or a family member. She has often said it is her duty to support the Apple family and upgrade after every launch. I was of the mind never to ask her to choose between me and the Apple product she was currently using 🙂.

This revelation from her really peaked my interest. I asked her what were the 3 reasons why she decided it was time to move on:

  1. Apple used to be niche and now they have become too mainstream – She said Apple used to care about their customers. They used to make me feel special. I really felt Apple was making products for me as a designer. Now I feel they are making products like Microsoft does, for the masses.
  2. Apple stopped giving their customer power over their experience – Many folks think the free U2 song was a great thing. My wife said it was a huge mistake. It was a forewarning that Apple is not giving its customers choice and is taking control of their experience. She made several comments about how other companies give more power to their customers to customize their software and hardware (I.E. Batteries interchangeable). Her view was the customer should always be in control. She used to feel that way with Apple, now she doesn’t.
  3. Apple is not relevant and cool any more – The example she gave is their commercials. She said they used to be awesome and now they are gimmicky. She would wait with baited breath for the keynotes and then watch every minute of it and now she might watch them on demand and then fast forward through most of it.

So, I said what is cool? What is the new experience? What is something that makes you feel special? She said this video is an example of a product and company that gets its now:

i.am+

http://youtu.be/ZB1j8rHrwKU

As a true advocate for customer success I found the whole conversation super interesting. I don’t think she hates Apple, but now she just groups them with all big corporate companies that produce products. She has fallen out of love. She will probably use an Apple product again if it competes well against others. However I imagine if companies like i.am+ connect with her, she will probably leave Apple and other large companies in the wake and go for a company that speaks to her and makes her feel special.