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How hard is it to make small games now?

The tide faded and the industry was swimming naked.

Two years ago, an industry insider told reporters: Mini-games are the last wave of opportunities in the gaming industry. Missing this outlet means losing hands with wealth and freedom.

Later, the success of several small games on the market confirmed his words.

In July 2018, “Pirates Coming” developed by Crazy Games became the first mini-game on the WeChat platform with a monthly turnover of over 100 million yuan; in August of the same year, Weng Dawei, the founder of Shifang Space and Time, entered the market with 1 million startup funds and brought two people It took two weeks to muffle the tens of millions of popular mini-game “I want to be emperor”.

Later, when he talked about why “I want to be Emperor” stands out, in addition to attributed it to the right category and successful transformation, Weng Dawei placed “stepping on time well” in the first place-“time and place”.

The so-called “time and geographical advantage” is the first wave of dividends released when the WeChat game ecosystem is open. During that time, everyone has the opportunity to fly from the wind to the wind.

As a “mini-program” that relies on WeChat ecology, mini-games do not have too high R&D costs, and the outside world even thinks that mini-games have no technical content-at that time, various entrepreneurial stories that realized the counterattack of life through mini-games were circulating in the industry: East It was the first time that Zhang’s “single flight” led the team, and Li Xi’an in the west hadn’t even played before entering the mini-game.

But now such “time and place” are quickly disappearing. In April this year, a small game release from Shenzhen told reporters that with the rapid decline of eCPM and the decrease in advertiser placement, many small game teams are on the verge of dissolution. After this wave of epidemics, most of the people who survived this year were supported by products last year. Team.

Zhu Tao, head of the distribution of Jiujiu Interactive Entertainment, also said that from the second half of 2018 to 2019, countless teams in the industry have fallen, and they may have 5 to 20 people, and ran in while taking advantage of the wind. However, after a period of time, it was discovered that this industry has no heritage and cannot be done at all.

Gone are the days when anyone can make small games, and with the golden age, there is the confidence of practitioners. A head of the small game team from the central city sighed to reporters: At the beginning, everyone was generally optimistic when entering the game, but from the current situation, the previous expectations were too high, and the dividends of domestic platform games have basically disappeared.

In the eyes of many small game practitioners, today’s small games are gradually taking off, and those who are still in the game need to survive while seeking a turning point. Thousands of words are combined into one word: “difficult”!

Hard to buy

Buying volume is the first hurdle faced by the current small game team.

Zhu Tao pointed out that the biggest feature of the WeChat platform is decentralization, so whether a game can come out depends on each ability. First, see if your product is strong enough. Second, see if you have the ability to buy on a large scale. .

Y, the head of a Guangzhou distribution team, revealed that in the current small game market, there is little room for survival without buying, and only through a large number of users can the life cycle of a product be maintained.

Zhang Bin, head of Changsha Hilu Interactive, has a similar point of view: “At present, the purchase cost of WeChat mini games is generally within 2 cents. Although the unit price is not high, it requires a huge order of magnitude. We put it in one month now, and the overall purchase cost is Seventy-eight million is close to 10 million. The team has nearly 80 products on hand. To maintain a DAU of several million, the cost of putting it in one day may be 300,000.”

Although Zhang Bin knows that this continuous buying game is not a long-term plan, the fierce competition in the market forces them to survive in this way.

Regarding the current situation of the market, the head of the small game release team is also helpless: “In the casual category, except for the slightly developed gameplay product such as “Legend of the Bow and Arrow”, other products are almost running on traffic. Stop buying, and the life cycle of these games will come to an end.”

The reason for this situation is that in the small game market, after a certain product breaks out, countless products of the same type often appear, and because the first starter has already won the first wave of traffic, the latter want to highlight the encirclement and continue to “smash” money”.

Zhu Tao believes that purely monetized products actually do traffic business. “Because the threshold for making small games is too low, many teams come in to do it. However, not all teams treat small games as real games. Many The team only regards it as a traffic product to operate, and they will even do something in the product to deceive users to click on the advertisement, which will lead to the instability of the entire small game ecosystem.”

With the addition of various factors, the small game ecosystem has only appeared for two years, and users have been washed countless times. The quality and quantity of channel users have been declining this year. This has also caused the difficulty of the survival of small game teams today. .

Hard to monetize

Although the purchase cost of a single user does not seem to be high, correspondingly, the user’s monetization value continues to decline.

Zhang Bin told reporters, “It takes a lot of users to support a small game. If a casual mobile game has about 200,000 users who can support the entire plate, then in a small game, it needs 10 times or even 20 times. Users only have room to live. At the same time, the value of a single user will not exceed 2 cents, and those who reach 2 cents are already very high-quality products.”

Zhu Tao also said, “Since the second half of last year, super casual small game products are not very profitable, because the ARPU value is too low, the average eCPM on the small game platform has fallen below 20 yuan, so we have super casual on hand. There are not many products.”

Along with the value of a single user, of course, the total revenue of a single small game is-“pig is coming” and “pirate is coming” over the previous year, and last year there was “eliminating the virus” and “displacement of the whole people”. Now in 2020 Half of it has passed, but there has not yet been an explosive ultra-casual product.

In Zhu Tao’s view, this means that small game practitioners have encountered development obstacles. Last year’s eCPM could reach 40 yuan or even 60 yuan, but this year it can be achieved by 20 yuan is already a high-quality team, most can only be maintained at 10 yuan or even lower, so some manufacturers will strategically give up or reduce in the field of pure leisure Investment.

Taking the Changsha Hilu Interactive Product Matrix as an example, they invested nearly 10 million yuan in buying costs every month, and they could make a profit through “small profits but quick sales”. But not all small game teams have the same abundant funds as them. When many small game teams noticed that the value generated by users could not fully offset the cost of their purchases, they successively exited.

On the other hand, the decline in advertising revenue, in-app purchases have become one of the few outlets for manufacturers, but before them is a more serious and realistic problem-the version number.

H told reporters that one of the most important reasons for emphasizing quality is that products with insufficient quality do not need to have a version number, because it is likely that the version numbers are more valuable than the game itself.

Another practitioner complained to the reporter that the team’s monetization by advertising was actually a frustrating move. In order to open in-house purchases, they had a small game to apply for a version number early, and wait for the version number to do the program, art and planning of this project. All have left, the game has stopped maintenance, and even the server is turned off.

A similar situation is not a minority. Most of the small game teams around him can only rely on advertising to maintain their lives. In-app purchases are simply extravagant.

Product is difficult

When traffic and cash flow are not so easy to do, the most affected is the product itself.

Y has analyzed the underlying logic of the mini-game for the reporter: the mini-game is divided into three layers, the top is monetization, the bottom is traffic, and the middle is the product. Now there are problems with the top and bottom, prompting the small game team to focus on the product.

But the product is still the most difficult to overcome for small game practitioners-Imagine if the small game developer has always only used the small game as a traffic monetization tool, constantly changing skins, constantly copying, waiting until one day. Really want to play the game, how can you make it?

Zhu Tao’s point is straightforward: In the past, everyone used to make super casual games, and only used small games as pure “traffic games” to play, but as time went on, users on this platform were slowly being educated, so those with poor quality Products are slowly abandoned by users, and the market is urging developers to move closer to quality games.

However, behind the premium games are longer R&D cycles and higher labor costs. In Y’s words: “The quality products are not free to come out at random. It takes a long time to polish in the early stage, including product orientation, positioning, and more trial and error.”

H also told reporters that a product may have been made in three or five days before, but now it may take two or three months to make a fine product. Whether it is art or gameplay, it is several levels higher than last year.

However, even such a large investment can not guarantee the success rate of boutique products. According to H, the success rate of boutique products that have spent a lot of energy is actually only a little higher than that of ultra-casual products. Once it fails, all the costs are sunk costs.

In the face of increasingly high R&D costs, more small game teams choose the “dead” idea and iteratively play it crazy.

Zhang Bin observed that from last year to the present, the small game category has undergone many changes in gameplay such as ball games, shooting games, and simulation games. Some time ago, it was popular to cut fruits and cut wood, but now this gameplay is shameful after the silence. The gameplay came out again, “even the characters of the game have experienced the iteration from stickman to rubber man”.

A wave of small gameplay came in bursts, and a dazzling product appeared, and similar games in batches swarmed in, quickly washing the users in the entire ecosystem, and waiting for the data of this gameplay to go. Look for the next trend and leave a feather.

In H’s view, in fact, there are not many gameplay innovations in the small game. The developers can do nothing more than recombine the two old gameplays, or find more elements on top of this. But the point is, can small game developers produce so many ideas? Does the market and team have time and cost to wait?

The founder of Sleeping God Studio, Sleeping God, told reporters a story: Before the success of “My Flying Sword 6” and “My Sword Forty Meters”, they made more than 50 mini-games and went online. Less than half of them, and only two of them came out in the end, but in fact most teams simply cannot afford such innovation costs.

Difficult to travel

According to data released by WeChat in January 2020, the cumulative service users of WeChat mini-games have exceeded 1 billion, and the DAU of the WeChat mini-programs is as much as 300 million. But with regard to its future growth space, some people’s attitudes have changed.

Zhang Bin is worried: How big is the WeChat mini-game plate, “The user level is huge, but the overall market space is not.” He believes that the current mini-game is mainly based on buying and selling in the industry, playing around People in the circle are playing-if no user pays, then this ecology is definitely unhealthy.

Even worse is the change in the external environment. Before the WeChat mini-game ecosystem entered a virtuous circle, this track has already entered a stage of positive competition and close combat. Zhang Bin said that in fact, the current WeChat mini-game does not have much resource advantages and routines. Everyone knows for two years, and now the competition has returned to the competition of hard power.

But what worries many small game teams is that since the beginning of this year, many big manufacturers have also begun to look at the small game field-native, small game, H5 chain end, they all have to, in the future small game field and big manufacturers The products are tough, and the small teams are even less confident.

Source: gaming top


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