Don’t blame the players, blame the game
Updated: Sep 6, 2022
Check out our latest webinar hosting Itamar Rogel, Affogata’s CPO and Co-founder on the webinar called: "don’t blame the players, blame the game", where we discussed how to leverage player feedback to make games stick.
What is this podcast episode about?
1. Players trust gaming companies to entertain them to the max, so this means that these companies are in a constant search to know exactly what users want, what is trending, and what will stick. Check out what Itamar had to say about this.
2. A conversation on how player feedback enables brands to create a seamless experience and how companies can learn and improve their games faster than ever before.
3. Itamar shares what he thinks is the biggest challenge in leveraging player feedback for companies today.
4. Itamar also answers our question on the differences between mobile games and PC or console games in terms of making the most out of the player feedback.
5. Lastly, we asked Itamar if he thinks companies can survive today without player feedback analysis, and we got a very interesting answer.
Hi, I'm Natalie Markovits and welcome to Affogata's Webinar on gaming.
Wow, we can't believe it, but GDC is so close and we're super excited. Affogata is exhibiting at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco in a few days. So if you're attending also, come to say hi to our booth number P1861. We would love to meet you there.
Now let's get back to what we came for today. We have the pleasure of hosting Itamar Rogel, Affogata's CPO and co-founder. Thanks for joining us today in the webinar called: "Don't Blame the Players, Blame the Game", where we will discuss how to leverage player feedback to make games stick.
Players trust companies to entertain them to the max. So this means that these companies are in constant search to know exactly what users want, what is trending, and what will stick. Does player feedback enable brands to create a seamless experience? How can companies learn and improve their games faster than ever before? Let's find out.
So let's start Itamar! So you are the CPO at Affogata. As a product professional, how do you think product teams and gaming companies can utilize player feedback?
Itamar Rogel - participant:
I think this is a great question and because we work with really a lot of gaming companies and we see a lot of how different companies, different cultures, also different game types, it would be different for a console game versus a mobile, hyper-casual game. We see a lot of these different processes and I think that because of that, the first thing that I would start from is actually the things that you should not think about as processing feedback.
What I mean by that, is sometimes when we talk to product people and we talk to them about, using player feedback integrated into the game, into decision making, about the game, about the content that you're creating. Their initial response is like, what do you mean? People always complain about the same thing. If it's a free-to-play game, they always want whatever it is, right. More coins, more whatever it is given in the game. If it's a console game, there's like a kind of recurring complaint that people would have. And that's true. But the thing is, you shouldn't think about the feedback. It's just like, oh, I'm reading this and people are asking for more coins or more cards or whatever it is. So this is the feedback and this is what we need to do. You should really kind of step one layer beyond that and understand, first of all, why are people complaining? Sometimes it says, yeah, people want more stuff, of course. But sometimes there's maybe a breaking point in the game where people give up, like, oh, I feel this is unfair. Right. They reach some point where it's like this is too much. Because by now, people who play these kinds of games know what to expect. They know that this is a free-to-play game. There's some free stuff. Sometimes I can buy stuff or whatever it is. So yeah, some people would be unreasonable.
But you can look at the feedback at large, and you can understand, first of all, the trends, how many people are complaining about it. We made a change. Did the amount of people, do the relative amount of people who complained about this thing change, or was it pretty much the same? So you definitely can get insights even from the feedback that you think is worthless, from the thing that people say, oh, well, I know people would complain about this because they always want more free stuff. And beyond that, when you really analyze the feedback properly, you can look at interesting patterns that come up from the data, things that are not obvious. Maybe suddenly people start talking about a specific behavior that you tweaked or some character that you added or things like that. And when you drill down into that, you can really a lot of the times uncover some really interesting aspects, whether it's about balance or about things that you actually can improve or something that you thought maybe would be a not so important game mechanic or maybe even an experiment that you thought it failed.
We definitely saw cases like that, right. And when you get to the feedback, you realize that, hey, this is something that people use, maybe a way that we didn't expect and you can match it. Of course, the idea is to match the feedback with your quantitative analytics, right. With analytics package that you have. So when we see the best practices apply, like in really the leading games, they use all this data together. They basically use the feedback together with the quantitative stuff to give meaning to the things that the numbers show. And this allows them to really do sometimes very little changes that really move the needle quite a lot. So I would definitely suggest first giving the feedback a chance if you haven't yet, like really processing this data, using a proper tool to really understand the subtleties and kind of distinguish the signals from the noise. And we see a lot of big improvements in engagement and retention when people do that.
That is super interesting for product teams, definitely that these actionable insights can change the product and what people think. So I love that answer. And what do you identify as the biggest challenge in leveraging player feedback?
Itamar Rogel - participant:
I think at the base level, and I know it sounds kind of basic, but it's really where a lot of gaming Studios are. It's just really hard. You have these thousands or tens of thousands or more reviews and messages. And if you have a community, then you have messages from your community. If people write you on social media or you engage in social media as your community managers or whoever is responsible for that in your organization. You just have a lot of data, right. You have a lot of data in different forms. A lot of it is irrelevant.
Like, let's say you have a Discord server. Like, people there, they're just hanging out, they're having fun. And it's very good. It's nice that your players are having fun together, but it's not really something, you don't need to scan through conversations about what someone had for breakfast or whatever it is. So really at the basic level is just coping with the amount of data and really finding those little bits that are super relevant. Right. Like maybe I'm on the Discord server just shooting the briefs and talking about my coffee today. But within this huge conversation that I'm having with some people, there's a couple of sentences we talked about this latest addition that you made to the game and you catch whatever it is. And this is actually maybe super meaningful.
Maybe it's your whales spending some time in your community server and they're giving you insights for free, basically, and you need to find them. So I think really the basic challenge is having either a process or tool or the ability to find those little bits within the sea of feedback that are really relevant. And of course, it goes beyond that, and I think we will touch on some of that. But that's really the basic challenge that you need to kind of get over the hump in order to start utilizing it as part of your process.
Right, and prioritize the most relevant insights right? So what is the most impactful way you've ever seen a gaming company leverage player feedback?
Itamar Rogel - participant:
That's a really great question. So it's actually hard to answer because we see a lot of interesting changes and a lot of like when they work with the player, with the player voice connects to the KPIs and different gaming studios, they have different KPIs. Maybe they're focusing on attention, they focusing on kind of engaging more than most active players. Or maybe they want to kind of actually kind of increase their long tail of people who are maybe not way level engaged or not super engaged but are actually potentially long-term active players.
So it really depends. So we see a lot of great stuff. I think I will kind of apply my own bias in what is always very interesting for us to see is that when you integrate the feedback into your process. Right. So it's great if you, like, had a major release or you changed the game considerably or you're trying something new, and then a lot of the times you go and you look at the feedback, you look at everything that people say across all the mediums and you process it, you apply to whatever iteration you're doing. This is great, and this is, of course, very meaningful.
But what we like seeing and what we feel is kind of a more long-term thing, but very fruitful, very rewarding for studios who applied well is when it becomes part of your process. Right. You do a release, you look at the things that people say, even the small changes, even the little trends. And I kind of touched on this before, can tell you quite a lot about how do people feel about the changes that you've made a lot of the time, you maybe have a very successful game already. And obviously, when you have that egg laying hand or whatever, or the chicken, I'm sorry, but you have that something that lays those eggs for you. The changes that you make are pretty minuscule. Right. They're not big. You're not making huge changes to a game that engaged with it's great. It's overall working.
So you kind of can miss out on those little things that are really even though for you small, you didn't change the main mechanic of the game. But for the players, they're actually very meaningful. Maybe you get whatever treasure box is in the game and you change the frequency or you add a little extra mechanic and now you can get them on this little new opportunity or a little mini gaming again, that's like, oh, you do this and then you solve it and then you can get something for free. These things that may feel like they're kind of small, they're not big within the whole mechanics of the game. But for the players, especially if you have this existing base of players, they can actually be very meaningful in how much they enjoy the game is just dealing with surprises. They like it, or maybe they hate it, maybe it's super annoying and kind of distracting them from the main thing that they like doing in the game.
So when you integrate feedback, like kind of a feedback loop, tight feedback loop into your process, that's where you can really reap long-term rewards and you can turn successful releases to basically continue and really extend their lifespan and make them even more successful. So I think that's really a very big deal that we like seeing when it happens.
Yeah. It actually makes total sense because if product teams or gaming companies would listen to what their players are saying and they change certain features according to that, that means that they will retain more customers. So it does make total sense.
And for the next question, I would love to know if do you see any differences between mobile games and PC or console games in terms of making the most out of the player feedback?
Itamar Rogel - participant:
Yeah. So I would say this is actually a loaded question because I think it's funny. Of course, players, of course, gamers care about them deeply, but also game creators care about it deeply. Right. Because I think everyone feels that with so many games being free to play all the mobile games, obviously the casual games, the monetization mechanisms are really a core part of the game. Without judging some games feel like, okay, this is a Monetization piece that you play, right? This is not even, so I think a lot of people have strong emotions about it, and like it or not, gaming is a business. Right. And I think you create something for people to enjoy and it needs to be sustainable. And obviously, there are great businesses that are built in the gaming space.
So there's definitely a very big difference because when you look at mobile games, you look at those free-to-play games and hyper-casual games. The Monetization piece is part of the game mechanics is just a very big deal. It is the deal, right. So it does affect the decisions and like it or not, that's just what the product is about. So definitely not only does it impact what you do, but people judge their decision. Like they evaluate the decisions in the perspective of what the impact was on Monetization, on their performance, and all that. And not only that, it's not like, oh, some people are greedy. Not that at all. First of all, it's a business, but secondly, it's tied to expenses on the other end, right. Bringing players for summer, this is very costly. You need to make sure that your metrics are in order that you're bringing players profitably. And this is a tricky thing to balance out.
So definitely this is something that is quite prominent when you work on these types of games.
Whereas in console games and PC games nowadays, the models also vary there. But by and large, you have a bit more creative space to optimize for engagement. And we see different creators care about different things, whether it's long term enjoyment of the game, keeping people engaged and not for a monetization reason, of course too, but just to kind of maximize the value in the game or to create a more interesting evolution in how people play the game over time. And that's super interesting.
And I'm not going to go into any arguments with anyone, but I would say maybe it's a bit purer in the gaming sense of the experience. And I think probably people would agree. But this is definitely a very hot topic for both gamers and creators. And you always have to balance out the experience with the business, of course.
Definitely. And do you think that a game can survive today without player feedback analysis?
Itamar Rogel - participant:
Well, that's a great question. I think also because how you phrase like can a game survive, right? Because I think we all know and I think everyone loves the stories of these kinds of instant hits, right? I mean, this is a really old school example, but whatever Flappy bird style, like someone maybe it's a single game creator who doesn't even care about anything and he created or he or she created this game and everyone loves it and they didn't listen to player feedback maybe except their friends playing it and telling me, oh, this is really cool. You can release it, right? But really that's good for, I think, instant hits and it doesn't mean that you can have longevity. But even when we think about those instant hits, I think when they have a long lifespan, like think about games that are we kind of remember them as instant hits. Everyone playing them, but now they're kind of sustained brands like candy crush or angry birds, those types of brands.
I think you see that when they want to get the long-term lifespan, they really have to incorporate player feedback right now. I'm not saying there could be. They are definitely out there. People like they're the Steve Jobs of gaming and they know what people want. They don't need to ask anyone or whatever. That's fine. Of course, there's always maybe a handful of people like that, but by and large, if you want to create a sustainable game that people enjoy over time, I think listening to feedback in one form or another, there's definitely a lot of ways to do that, but I think it's pretty essential. It's pretty essential in having a long life plan for a game.
So yes Itamar, it's so nice to have you here. We're super excited to attend this year's GDC in San Francisco, so we know that you're attending with the team. Can you let us know a bit more about it? Where can people find you?
Itamar Rogel - participant:
Yeah, so we're attending GDC for the first time since the coronavirus started and really we are super excited. I think we're going to be there. We got to have our team there and we really looking forward to meeting people in person and engaging again. Super curious how it's going to pan out because I think this year is a hybrid event, right. And it's definitely something we're looking forward to. So we're going to be at booth P1861, next to the meeting rooms, and come say hi we promise to be nice to show you some cool stuff and we're really looking forward to engaging face to face again. It's been too long.
And that was it for our webinar on the importance of player feedback and how gaming companies can leverage it. Itamar, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in today's webinar. Thanks all for listening and let us know if you're also attending GDC. We would love to meet you and don't forget to visit us at www.affogata.com
Itamar Rogel - participant:
Thank you, Natalie. Thank you so much for having me. We're super excited to GDC this year and come say hi.