Let’s start with three questions.
According to data released by the publisher Marvelous, “Amaho no Saki Inahime” (hereinafter referred to as “Saki Inahime”) reached 500,000 global sales in less than two weeks and exceeded 850,000 in more than two months. Compared with the sales data that starts at millions, this does not seem to be a commendable number, but if you talk about the three keywords hidden behind the number, it is really unusual. One is a small team, which mainly develops There are only two people, the second is the price, which is much higher than the indie game, and the third is the time. Based on the first two keywords, it achieved 50w sales in less than two weeks.
Two months after the release, there were many discussions about the game, and the developer was invited by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (equivalent to the Ministry of Agriculture of China) to be a guest interview. From game development to finished products, from pricing to sales, this article will start with three questions to talk about this little dark horse in 2020.
Question 1: An indie game with a price of 350 in the Steam country?
It is not uncommon for Japanese game Steam to have a high national price. According to statistics, on Steam, which has broken prices everywhere, the games released by the Japanese factory have the least profit in the country. In 2017, the incident of reverse discounts at the initial release of “Neal” was even more aroused. The discomfort of many domestic players.
But the price of an independent game? 350 is the first time I heard (from the perspective of the size of the development team, “Saki Inahime” is included in the independent game camp). There are rumors in the market that it is caused by an operating error, and some say it is a developer/publisher. The merchant directly converted the price into RMB according to the Japanese exchange rate, but the price in the national area remained unchanged for two months after the sale. It has to be suspected that this is a “premeditated” pricing strategy.
If you really want to look into it carefully, the price is not determined by the developer Edelweiss duo. The US publisher XSEED Games (the American division of Japanese game maker Marvelous) also played a certain role in it. Does the high price of “Saki Inahime” follow the “conventional rules” of high prices in Japanese game countries? GameRes randomly selected a few Japanese games published by XSEED Games to make a comparison, and the results are as follows:
Except for “Kandagawa Jet Girls” and “Amaho no Saki Inahime”, all other games follow the “conventional rules” of “treating the country as a low-priced area”, which shows that the high price of “Saki Inahime” is well prepared. of.
The pricing of games is a science, and many avenues can be spied in the distribution strategy of “Saki Inahime” and XSEED Games. This is an introductory course for manufacturers who focus on the Steam platform and are interested in global distribution.
One of course is to set different prices for different regions. The high prices of Japanese games are not without reason, because their original factory prices are much higher than those in other regions. This has nothing to do with Japan’s economy and consumption levels. Most European and American manufacturers’ prices in the Steam Japanese region are also higher than their own. Much.
The high pricing of Japanese factory games affects not only the buyout players on Steam, but the pricing strategy of early Japanese two-dimensional mobile games has also developed a kind of market “convention”. But in turn, those Chinese mobile games that go to Japan can take advantage of price advantages to form a dimensionality reduction blow.
Uncharacteristically, vendors selling at high prices in the “default” low-price zone are sometimes regarded as a “test” signal—testing the bottom line of local consumers. Sellers want to sell high prices to earn higher profits, and buyers want to save at low prices. Expenses, the psychological game between buyers and sellers has never been less in the buyout game market. The source of gray markets such as cross-regional purchases, activation codes, and pirated games is nothing more than the word “pricing”.
For global publishers, the Steam country is a piece of sweet pastry. The emergence of many hot games and the disclosure of official data have long indicated that the purchasing power of national players is good, how to squeeze more in this huge and unlimited market More profit? One way is to increase the price.
But for “Saki Inahime”, its situation is closer to the second-facing the core group. The farming theme of this work is more suitable for countries with long farming civilizations such as China, Japan and South Korea, and this is the only one on the market. This is like a Japanese animation BD, which is aimed at core users and does not worry about high prices.
The second is the pricing strategy of independent games. In the past few years, national pricing generally ranged from 20 to 30, but nowadays, there are no shortage of 68 to 120. The pricing of indie games has been discussed a few years ago, with low prices and small profits but quick sales, and high prices have room for discounts. But with the rapid expansion of the Steam game market and the number of consumers in recent years, game pricing is no longer as distinct as usual. Although there are many price strategies, the best rule that consumers and pricers follow is still the production value of the game. Fundamentally Games’ chief strategy officer Oscar Clark stated in the article “Rethinking PC Pricing” that “game pricing is limited by the value of game production” This price is related to the player’s “price expectation”, “a game priced at XX US dollars should look like XX US dollars”, which forces developers to lower the priority of development costs, and from consumers’ perceived value Pricing.
For most solo developers, this problem is really a big problem. On the one hand, it is the production time of three or four years. On the other hand, it is the involution phenomenon of similar competing products. For a long time, game developers and There is a delicate balance between the consumer market, and the games in each gear are in their own place. From this point of view, the high price of “Saki Inahime” is indeed a case that should be included in the research object.
However, considering the pricing strategy of “Saki Inahime” only from the Steam price, it is one-sided. Maybe the main consumer group of the game is the host player?
The picture above shows the Steam store page of “Saki Inahime”. The total number of reviews is 2030, and the number of Chinese reviews accounts for half (1061, which also reflects the game’s pricing strategy for the core masses). According to the evaluation sales ratio of 1:60 It is estimated that the current Steam sales volume of “Saki Inahime” is about 120,000 (the number of steam reviews at the time of the official announcement of 50w data is less than 700), which is far from 50w.
The main sales force of “Saki Inahime” is the console player.
This is the price of the NS version of the game in various countries/regions, roughly in the two gears of 260/300:
This is the sales volume of the NS physical version of “Saki Inahime” in Japan, 109881 copies:
Although the price is higher than that of “Ori and the Will of the Elves” and “Hades”, the premium is still within an acceptable range. Compared with Steam, the NS price of ?260 inevitably makes people feel “earned” (Is everything in the calculations of XSEED Games?)
In general, the pricing of “Saki Inahime” is more like XSEED Games’ one-time sales strategy aimed at consumers, and the main audience is still host players. But will lowering Steam’s national price make the game more sales and wider spread? This is not known, at least the current game sales have far exceeded Edelweiss’s expectations.
Question 2: How can you sell 50w?
Judging from the media evaluation, the evaluation of “Saki Inahime” is mostly in the 8/10 grade, and the player evaluation is mainly praise. At the beginning of the game’s release, there was a boom in farming at home and abroad.
As a game that has repeatedly appeared at game exhibitions such as E3 and BitSummit, “Saki Inahime” has won a lot of attention from the beginning with its gentle style and farming features. Nintendo’s indie game face-to-face meeting is also the main promotion of the game. One of the thrusts is that “Saki Inahime” is more compatible with NS than other platforms in terms of game scale and style (the NS version of the game has twice the amount of reservations than the PS4 version).
1. Farming simulator full of positive feedback
There are no shortage of farming games on the market. Farm management simulators are blooming everywhere, the retro “Stardew Valley”, the relaunched “Ranch Story”, and the modern “Simulation Farm”, but this is the only one who engraved the entire farming process into the game , “Saki Inahime”‘s special cut-in angle allowed it to win at the starting line.
For players in farming civilized countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, the PV screen of “Saki Inahime” can be described as a straight shot. On weekdays, you can only see the real farm tools in the museum and be transported to the game. Unfamiliar and familiar The feeling immediately inspired the farming genes of this group of players, and the actual performance of the game did not disappoint the players. It is better to say that the developers’ attention to the minutiae makes the players unexpected.
There have been many introductions on the hard core of the farming system of “Saki Inahime” on the Internet. I will not extend it here. In one sentence, it puts the whole process of rice planting from soil loosening to whitening in the game. Through several key indicators and operations to achieve complex numerical dynamics, the game simulation method allows players to truly feel the hard work of previous farmers. This kind of “hard core” is inseparable from the in-depth research of the developers. The non-farmer Edelweiss duo even cultivated real rice based on their own research.
Leaving aside the “hard core”, what else can be discussed in the planting module of “Saki Inahime”?
One is to accurately grasp the essence of the simulator-the familiar but unfamiliar sense of distance. As the developer said in an interview, “Japanese people are very familiar with rice, but they don’t know how it is made. This familiar and unfamiliar sense of distance is a topic worthy of in-depth.” Familiar but unfamiliar, this is precisely the basic quality of popular makers. If the emulator game is created to let players experience a strange life, then developers can’t stay at the surface portrayal, simple numerical simulation, they need to accurately convey the reality of the simulation——
“The function of automatically planting seedlings does make the game more convenient, but I don’t want to turn it into a monotonous project that can be completed by just pressing a button.” It is precisely such uncompromising content that makes players empathize. There is a sense of irritability of initial repetitive tasks and a sense of convenience after tool improvement.
Second, the presentation of gamification. The real difficulty in making hardcore simulator games is how to express the simulated objects without losing interest. In addition to realism, fun is also an important measure. The hard core of “Saki Inahime” is a hard core that simplifies many practical elements. For example, the processes of “raking the ground” and “polishing rice” are integrated because they are too similar to other processes, reducing the player’s meaningless repetitive work; For example, the core of rice planting is concentrated on the two items of “water control” and “fertilizer addition”, using simple mechanisms to simulate complex conditions; for example, weather factors are simplified to changes in rain, fine weather and temperature, and the developers discarded the wind changes that were previously envisaged… …The planting experience that the developers gained in actual research has not been fully implemented in the game, but the existing “Saki Inahime” was made after repeated consideration and selection.
The “gamification” of the planting module of “Saki Inahime” is also reflected in its positive feedback and game loop. Like general farm management simulation games, a certain process/tool reaching a certain level of proficiency will increase efficiency, but “Saki Inahime” has the skin of the evolution of farming tools, and the growth rate of proficiency is higher than similar games. Players can easily get positive feedback that practice makes perfect. The growth of rice is also one of the feedbacks. From short and tender seedlings to full-grained golden rice ears, you can feel the changes in rice every day.
The game loop is the driving force for players to keep playing. “Saki Inahime” divides rice planting into one natural year after another. Players are nothing more than repeating their work in a simple cycle of four seasons, and aim to “bring more and better rice”. The characteristic of the planting module cycle of “Saki Inahime” is that there is almost no negative feedback. The visualized three-dimensional and six-dimensional diagrams have become the most convenient player teaching. “What is missing” can ensure the growth of the annual harvest.
The game loop is also the biggest feature of the entire game design of “Saki Inahime”. You can use a simple sketch to show how the game is played:
The character’s growth attributes are linked to the quality of rice, thus forming an intuitive and clear core cycle: planting rice→improving character attributes→improving the efficiency of killing monsters→obtaining more fertilizers→cultivating better rice, which allows players Continuously throw into the cycle of the next four seasons without consciousness.
This kind of cycle is also present in ordinary farm simulation games. Watching your ranch expand in an orderly manner, your residence is filled with furniture, and your daily settlement income is rising. These sense of accomplishment constitute the motivation for players to continue to cycle. The difference of “Saki Inahime” is that it strengthens the sense of accomplishment of the game loop, or it is more intuitive.
The growth of character attributes, the acquisition of martial arts, the expansion of the game world, the advancement of the story, and even the return of the sky to verify the player’s strength. The three modules of action system, RPG, and management are all bundled in this simple cycle. Compared with general simulation games, it is accompanied by more fresh content and clearer game goals (such as the rice value required for the next martial art, and the conditions for achieving level goals), which solves the problem of emptiness in simulation games. The problem.
However, the cycle of “Saki Inahime” is not without problems. Those who can’t touch the doorway will experience a longer period of ineffective exploration. The progress of rice growth is slow, and it is not impossible to double the clearance time. Players who lack guidance are more likely. The patience wears out, and eventually it is lost.
2. Unique horizontal action
In the Edelweiss duo in charge of combat-related content, る was engaged in the development of fighting games in the early days. In “Saki Inahime”, you can clearly feel the developer’s effort on the strike, which is very different from ordinary independent action games. Of course, it also includes There are many “bugs” in fighting games. The double-push joystick is sprinting, the monster is in a state of being unable to chase after the monster is on the ground, and the combo system composed of many skills…There is a certain threshold to master the action system of the game.
Like the farming module, the action module of “Saki Inahime” also highlights the word “feedback”. The sound and picture difference of light and heavy weapons, the crisp sound effect of rebounding, the sense of speed and strength when impacting, the gorgeous vision of various martial arts, and the recycling of wood spirits after the clear version… these designs are all exciting to the player.
なる has uploaded several episodes of game development-related videos on YouTube, one of which introduced the action module of the game.
In “Saki Inahime”, the enemy’s state of being hit is a very important design. The length of the knock-over distance and whether it falls to the ground will affect the player’s combo moves and the final damage settlement. For this reason, る is on the “vector”. A lot of effort, the game strictly distinguishes the coordinates of the starting point of the character’s attack and the coordinates of the monster’s strike point. The longer the distance, the more obvious the special effects and the greater the flying force:
For the special effects design of martial arts, the attack judgment will be followed, which is more in line with the player’s visual perception:
With this, the player can play a smooth combo based on grasping the attack distance:
The camera settings of the game can also form a part of the player’s action experience and even the game experience. When the character moves, the camera will adjust to meet the needs of the scene. When climbing a hill, the camera tilts and changes in height will also ensure that the player’s perspective is focused on the center, or the camera can be zoomed out to maximize scene information.
During the battle, the camera settings also played an important role. The game has many melee and flexible character movement. It needs to ensure that the player does not lose the target. Some skills and enemies also have corresponding camera settings to match the performance:
In addition, the game’s lighting, character performance, cats, feather effects and other aspects are commendable. Although these contents are well known by similar game developers, how to cooperate with the game to achieve the best effect is mutually exclusive. Difference, it is also one of the indicators that best reflects the developer’s design experience.
In addition to the sense of blow and operation, the special feature of the combat module of “Saki Inahime” is its “collision” mechanism, which is inherited from Edelweiss’s previous work “Hanasaki Fairy Frieja”. The enemy is hit after being hit. (Other enemies or terrain) will suffer a huge amount of damage. This is different from the action games you see in normal days. It has enough freshness and expressiveness to give players a sense of refreshment in battle.
Most of the character’s skills, monster design, and level design are also designed around the “collision” mechanism. The feather skills can pull enemies and even use them as hammers. The combat design of elite monsters is equipped with a large number of mobs to provide Collision damage, some hidden locations of the level also need to rely on “collision” to reach.
But if the combat module of “Saki Inahime” is insufficient, it is also due to the “collision” mechanism. While lowering the threshold for players to operate, it also reduces the richness and challenges of action game countermeasures. It lacks more excellent level design and boss design to cooperate with this system for performance.
In addition to the farming module and the combat module, “Saki Inahime” has many other things worth mentioning, such as the pleasing character, such as the ubiquitous Japanese atmosphere (practical cultural output), these unique characteristics and Its outstanding features allow it to enjoy a good reputation among the player community. It is not that incredible to win 50w of sales in two weeks.
Question 3. Will there be any in China?
Why don’t domestic manufacturers make a similar game (referring to a hard-core farming simulator)? In a lot of information related to “Saki Inahime”, we can often see similar remarks.
On the one hand, the rice planting in “Saki Inahime” is so incompatible with the appetite of the Chinese who originated from the farming culture, on the other hand, similar domestic simulation business games pale in comparison.
Such a simple comparison will certainly make people overlook many things. The launch of “Saki Inahime” was not the result of a “good hand”, and its 50w sales were not a dark horse miracle, but the final result of a variety of factors.
The developer, Nako, has a wealth of experience in game development, and she comes from a professional game development company. She started to participate in fan game creation in 2005. Before “Saki Inahime”, she produced various fandoms such as “Hanasaki Fairy Frieja” and “Astebreed”. The game is not only well-known in the fandom, but also has many hardcore fans around the world. The team itself has a good audience base. The addition of XSEED Games has also benefited Edelweiss a lot. It has helped the game to appear at Nintendo’s face-to-face meetings many times, perfectly locking the main consumer groups of the game.
なる admitted in the game development log that he has accumulated everything needed to create “Saki Inahime” after making a variety of games, whether it is development experience, network resources or other. Even so, in the actual development process, “Saki Inahime” is difficult to talk about smooth sailing. The development time of 5 and a half years is the best example.
When players advocate the hard core of farming in “Saki Inahime”, they often ignore that it is not just a farming game, but a three-in-one game of action, RPG, and farming. The team has spent a lot of energy to combine the three. Twisted together, it not only makes the originality of rice planting and collision action, but also achieves the completeness of smooth transition.
In the confrontation of commercial games, independent game developers are often regarded as a kind of “ruthless people” who put years of fate on a game. There are losers and miracles, and miracles often happen For those games with qualities or completeness, “Saki Inahime” has both.
As for whether there is a similar game in China, GameRes recommends that developers think about the meaning of “Saki Inahime” from other perspectives, such as how to do hardcore simulators. GameRes previously published in “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020”, “Hardcore Simulators Also Have Spring” mentioned, “The serious simulators that are really popular often find a balance between education and entertainment… Developers must master certain professional knowledge on the one hand, and on the other Transform it into a reasonable game format and make the simulation itself an interesting thing.” Another thing you can learn from “Saki Inahime” is to dig out potential themes;
For example, cultural output or knowledge education, these things are all based on the excellent quality of the work itself; for example, the pricing of independent games, whether the time cost paid by developers can match the value that the game can provide in the existing market, this The answer to a question will affect the market pricing of the game.