开发者谈狂热过后的Pokémon Go:低调&稳定的主导地位

开发者谈狂热过后的Pokémon Go:低调&稳定的主导地位

原作者:Brian Barrett 译者:Vivian Xue

两年前,Niantic的工作室发行了《精灵宝可梦Go》(Pokémon Go)并提出一个新奇的倡议:到外面去,用你的智能手机在现实世界中抓一些怪物。一夜之间,《精灵宝可梦Go》登顶各大应用商店排行榜。游戏发行200天内,内购收入达到10亿美金——速度远超行业水平。2016年夏天,走在街上的你保准能遇到正在捕捉比比鸟的玩家。然后这股狂热的风气消停了,或者说看上去是这样。

相关新闻报道变得寥寥无几。曾经因成为热门捉怪地点而销量大增的商店,也恢复了正常的业绩水平。在2016年8月至9月间的四周内,《精灵宝可梦Go》流失了将近2000万玩家,因为这些游戏爱好者们回学校念书了,或是找到了新欢。

Pokemon Go(from znjchina)

不过游戏从红极一时到热度逐渐减退的现象,掩盖了其持续的、史无前例的成功。你所认为已经过气的《精灵宝可梦Go》如今依然占据着大片市场,这其中蕴藏着关于应用程序的未来的宝贵教训。

-宝可梦的辉煌过去

《精灵宝可梦Go》如今的玩家数量与两年前比确实大大缩水了。2016年7月,美国费耶特维尔市的水晶桥博物馆由于成为精灵聚集地而迎来大批游客,参观人数同比增长了50%。8月这股浪潮就褪去了。“热度似乎在一个月内就减退了,”博物馆的PR总监Beth Bobbitt说。她补充道,“博物馆里依然有许多‘精灵站’和‘武道馆’,因此对于现存的玩家来说,我们这儿依然是一个很棒的游戏地点。”

这种现象你也有所耳闻了吧。网上再也没有宝可梦玩家的疯狂视频。没有人会在闲聊时讲独角虫笑话。人们自然地认为:《精灵宝可梦Go》只不过是另一个短暂的流行事物。但是认为《精灵宝可梦Go》在最初的狂热后就彻底凉了,就好比认为平昌举办完奥运会后就不存在一样。重点不在于《精灵宝可梦Go》巅峰时期的辉煌,而在于它之后是如何继续运作下去的。

“这是前所未有的。游戏最初的狂热、短时间内全球性的疯狂传播,这对我们来说是一个全新的体验,”John Hanke,Niantic的CEO说。“但是回过头来看,几乎所有的游戏都是如此。所有的游戏都处于一条相当连贯的衰减曲线上,一些游戏在这条曲线上表现得更好,这在某种程度上区分了胜利者和失败者。”

从各项重要数据来看,《精灵宝可梦Go》是十足的赢家。App Annie的数据显示,自发行以来,《精灵宝可梦Go》一直位于App Store和Google Play Store日下载榜前一百。它是Play Store本周收入冠军。据应用数据分析公司Apptopia估算,《精灵宝可梦Go》这两年内的收入高达18亿美金。

“尽管与游戏刚发行时比交易没有那么火爆了,但收益率仍然十分可观,”Apptopia通讯部门主管Adam Black说。“IOS和安卓市场的收入几乎持平,这很不寻常。”

游戏成功的还有另一个原因,那就是一款成功的手机游戏并不一定需要很多玩家。《精灵宝可梦Go》的游戏收入主要来自鲸鱼玩家,就像投资养老保险一样,这些人每个月都会花钱购买宝可梦币或者提高毒属性之类的。

“在游戏中,花大钱的往往是小部分用户。这一点适用于大多数优质游戏。”App Annie的分析师Lexi Sydow说,“我想《精灵宝可梦Go》将保持这一趋势。”

《精灵宝可梦Go》最令人印象深刻的指标是玩家投入的时间。迄今为止,《精灵宝可梦Go》的玩家累计游戏时长在所有游戏中排名第一。更令人惊叹的是,《精灵宝可梦Go》的玩家游戏时长占了5月安卓Top 20游戏的玩家游戏时长总合的五分之一。

“我们的游戏自发行以来的表现一直相当的持续稳定,如果你要这么想的话,”Hanke说。

事实上只有少数几个游戏,譬如《星球大战》和《糖果苏打传奇》,拥有《精灵宝可梦Go》这样持久的魅力。特别是如果你已经忘记了这个游戏的存在,你会吃惊地发现它依然拥有许多玩家。但这种持久性还具有启发意义,尤其在应用程序经济完全接纳了Niantic倡导的AR技术的背景下。(app economy, 应用程序经济,指围绕移动应用的经济活动,包括应用程序的销售、广告收入、免费应用程序衍生的公共关系,以及用于运行应用程序的硬件设备等,游戏邦注。)

-无所不包

Niantic并没有对玩家群体做太细致的划分,不过想想也知道他们的玩家群体和《堡垒之夜》不大一样。和同类游戏相比,《精灵宝可梦Go》吸引的更多是老年人和女性——事实上游戏最初的成功很大程度上归功于那些除它之外什么游戏也不玩的玩家。

“《精灵宝可梦Go》并没有取代其它的游戏。它并没有在消耗时间,”Sydow说,“我们认为它实际上增加了人们的时间。因为人们会一边玩游戏一边完成他们原本要做的事。”

广泛的玩家群体帮助《精灵宝可梦Go》继续走下去。虽然它像其它游戏一样经历着玩家数量的持续缩水,但它潜在的新玩家数量要多得多。并且由于游戏与现实世界是关联的,增强用户粘性的方式就更多了。

“我认为不可忽视的一点是游戏设计属于MMO模式,”Hanke说,《精灵宝可梦》是一个典型的大型多人在线游戏。另外一个典型是《魔兽世界》,Hanke拿它来作对比。正如《魔兽世界》公会鼓励玩家定期进行比赛一样,让玩家和好友一起在《精灵宝可梦Go》探索世界能够加强他们相互的联系。

“我认为由于《精灵宝可梦Go》是一个基于现实世界游戏,它比《英雄联盟》要更具粘性,你在《英雄联盟》里组建了一支队伍,但你永远无法和队友面对面交流,”Hanke说,“《精灵宝可梦Go》让你和真人面对面玩游戏。你们形成的是真实的友谊。友谊是具有粘性的。这大概就是游戏成功的秘密武器吧。”

Niantic自然会发扬这种优势。2017年6月,他们引入了一个叫Raid Battles的团战模式,让玩家组队攻打强大的怪兽。今年1月,他们开始在全球范围内组织每月活动Community Day,利用特殊奖励吸引各大城市的游戏爱好者到外面捕捉精灵。就在上个月,他们开始推出好友功能,让人们互相赠送礼物和交换精灵。

今后游戏将沿着这条社交道路走下去。Hanke说,“我认为我们还可以为游戏增添更丰富的社交内容。”他们计划在游戏中加入双人对战模式。

-勇敢新世界

《精灵宝可梦Go》两年后的发展情况是否会让你惊讶,取决于你是否还玩这个游戏。很多人自己不玩这款游戏,就认为这款游戏过气很久了,但是他们又不知道其他人有没有在玩。

“手机是我们最私人的设备。它和我们的银行账户关联。我们用它发短信给家人、收发邮件,”Sydow说,“我想这解释了为什么人们觉得这个游戏不火了。(因为手机是私人化的东西,你无法知道别人使用手机的情况。)”

《精灵宝可梦Go》的成功是难以复制的,虽然未来有望出现一些仿作,毕竟苹果和谷歌都在AR领域投入了巨资,Niantic也对外开放了它的平台。

《精灵宝可梦Go》衍生自Ingress,一款Niantic在2012年发行的模式类似的游戏——只不过里面没有皮卡丘。Ingress有自己的玩家,但若不是宝可梦玩家挖掘了这个游戏,它根本毫无影响力。Niantic即将到来的新作《哈利波特:巫师联合》(Harry Potter: Wizards Unite)将会是一款魔法元素的AR游戏。如今AR已经不再是什么新奇的事物了,拥有粉丝基础的大IP 成了制胜法宝。

不过,必然会有其他竞争者能够再创Niantic的奇迹。如果它真的发生了,这都要归功于那个模式:到外面去,和朋友一起用智能手机探索现实世界。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Two years ago today, a studio called Niantic released a game with a novel proposition: Go outside. Point your smartphone at the real world. Catch some monsters. Within a day, Pokémon Go was at the top of every app store chart. Within 200 days, players had spent a billion dollars on in-game upgrades—the shortest time to reach that milestone by a wide margin. In the summer of 2016, you couldn’t walk two blocks without running into, sometimes literally, a person in hot Pidgey pursuit. And then it stopped. Or so it seemed.

The news reports faded. Shops that had seen a sharp spike in sales thanks to Pokémon hot spots settled back into their normal routines. In just four weeks, between that August and September 2016, Pokémon Go shed nearly 20 million players, as enthusiasts headed back to school, or lost themselves in various other viral pursuits.

But the game’s long retreat from that initial burst belies its continued, unprecedented success. And in the gap between what you might think happened to Pokémon Go and the game’s current-day dominance lies an important lesson about the future of apps.

Pokémon Went

It’s true that far fewer people play Pokémon Go today than did two years ago. In July 2016, the crush of players boosted attendance at Pokémon-heavy Crystal Bridges Museum in Fayetteville, Arkansas by 50 percent year over year. By that August, the tide was already ebbing. “It seems like the hype died down in the span of a month,” says Crystal Bridges public relations director Beth Bobbitt. (She adds, “We still have a lot of ‘pokestops’ and ‘gyms’ all around the museum campus so I think we’re still a great location to play the game, for those who still are.”)

You’ve seen this yourself, anecdotally. There are no viral videos of Pokécrowds gone amuck anymore. No one makes Weedle jokes at the water cooler. The natural conclusion: Pokémon Go is just another fad that disappeared in a blink, a fameball of Pog proportions. But writing off Pokémon Go after the initial frenzy is like assuming PyeongChang no longer exists post-Olympics. What matters isn’t how Pokémon Go looked at its zenith, but how it held on from there.

“It was completely uncharted territory. The initial fervor, that global excitement around the game and the way it spread virally, globally, in such a short period of time. It was a new experience for all of us,” says Niantic CEO John Hanke. “But looking at it in retrospect, it looks very similar to all games. There’s an attrition curve that’s reasonably consistent across games. Some games are better at that attrition curve than others. That kind of separates the winners from the losers.”

By every measure that matters, Pokémon Go has been a winner. Since its launch, it has almost never dropped out of the daily top 100 downloaded apps in both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store, according to app analytics company App Annie. It has been the top-grossing app in the Play Store this entire week. In two years, according to an estimate by app analytics firm Apptopia, it has taken in $1.8 billion in revenue.

“Even though the mega spending at the beginning has died off, the rate of revenue is still highly impressive,” says Apptopia communications lead Adam Blacker. “Where the money comes from is actually pretty evenly split between iOS and Android, which is unusual”

It also helps that mobile games don’t necessarily require lots of players to be successful. Revenue generally comes from power users, the whales that invest in PokéCoins—or whatever their poison—the way others might their 401k.

“Generally speaking within games, a smaller portion of your users are spending a lot of money. That’s true of most premium games,” says App Annie analyst Lexi Sydow. “I would imagine that trend would hold for this game.”

But the most impressive indicator of Pokémon Go’s sustained success is how much of their lives people devote to it. To this day, more cumulative time is spent playing Pokémon Go than any other game. It’s not even close: One in five minutes spent on the top 20 games on Android in May was devoted to chucking virtual Pokéballs.

“The game has been remarkably consistent and stable in terms of its performance post that bubble era, if you want to think of it that way, when we first launched,” Hanke says.

In fact, only a handful of apps—hello there, Candy Crush Saga—have had anything close to Pokémon Go’s staying power. The durability is surprising, especially if you’d forgotten Pokémon Go even existed. But it’s also instructive, especially as the app economy fully embraces the augmented reality experiences Niantic pioneered.

All Inclusive

Niantic doesn’t offer much in the way of demographic specifics on its players, but suffice to say they don’t much resemble the Fortnite crowd. The game attracts proportionally more older people and more women than its peers—and in fact can credit much of its initial success to enthusiasts who otherwise wouldn’t be playing anything at all.

“Pokémon Go was not displacing other games. It wasn’t taking time away,” Sydow says. “We saw that it was actually additive time. People were taking more of their day playing Pokémon Go but also doing what they would originally.”

Pulling from a broader pool has helped keep Pokémon Go going. While it experiences steady attrition like any other game, it has a higher ceiling on potential new players to attract. And because it’s a game that takes place in the real world, it has more ways of making sure those players stick around.

“I think the design of the game in terms of it being an MMO should not be overlooked,” says Hanke, referring to the massively multiplayer online game genre of which Pokémon Go is a prime example. World of Warcraft would be another, a comparison that Hanke invites. Just as a WoW guild encourages regular, cooperative play, exploring the world through a Pokémon Go lens with friends can be mutually reinforcing.

“I think in Pokémon Go, because it’s a real-world game, it’s even more sticky than with League of Legends or something, where you’ve got a team but never see them face to face,” Hanke says. “With Pokémon Go, you are meeting those people face to face. You’re forming real friendships with them. Friendships are sticky. That’s probably the secret sauce of the game, right there.”

Niantic has, naturally, leaned into this advantage. In June 2017 it introduced so-called Raid Battles, a cooperative mode where groups of players team up to take down especially powerful bosses. This past January, it began organizing a monthly worldwide Community Day, using special Poké-bonuses to lure enthusiasts out into the open in major cities. And just last month, it started rolling out a Friends feature, which enables sending of gifts and trading of Pokémon among people you know in real life.

The roadmap from here follows that same course, buttressing the gaming appeal of Pokémon Go with hints of a social network. “I think there’s a ton more we can do there to basically enrich the game when you’re playing it together with people that you know,” Hanke says. That includes a system for dueling other players, which Niantic still plans to implement at some point.

Brave New Worlds

Whether Pokémon Go’s durability, two years later, surprises you likely depends on if you still play it. But its disappearance for so many people for so long underscores how little we know about what happens on other people’s phones.

“Our mobile phones are our most personal devices. We have our bank accounts linked, we have our messages to our family members, we have our emails,” Sydow says. “I think that translates here.”

Its success may also prove difficult to replicate, although you can expect a swath of imitators now that both Apple and Google have invested deeply in augmented reality, and Niantic itself has opened up its platform to outsiders.

Pokémon Go is itself, after all, a spin on Ingress, a game Niantic launched in 2012 that follows the same basic pattern—minus the Pikachu appeal. Ingress had its devotees, but without generations of Pokémon fans to tap into, it had nowhere near the cultural impact. Niantic’s upcoming effort, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, will also map a famous fictional property over the real world. As AR becomes less of a novelty than the norm, the trick will be to create those experiences without the failsafe of a megahit’s built-in fan base.

Still, surely something else will catch the same lighting in a bottle—or Blitzle in a Pokéball—that Niantic has. When that happens, all due credit to the model that enabled it: Go outside. Point your smartphone at the real world. And find some friends to do it with.(source: Wired

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