The old adage that good content will always attract people no longer stands up, particularly when publishing in the scarily competitive online game space, or targeting the overly serviced teen audience. Rather dauntingly ‘The End’ is doing both.
How players will find the game and what keeps them coming back have always been the project's big questions. This post begins to answer these questions, describing the different versions of the game which will co-exist online from launch.
It’s widely known that browser-based games will end up in multiple destinations online, often as a result of self-initiated seeding but mostly from unofficial rip ’n’ embeds on third-party games portals. This natural distribution system creates a range of requirements which are dictated by the host site and it's community.
I've talked previously about how our games adapt to their environment - In the case of ‘The End’, we are planning three versions:
1. The Official version
This is the full-fat experience hosted on ‘PlayTheEnd.com’. It provides integration with the player’s social-graph and features profiles, leader-boards and additional game content. This destination will wrap the Flash game in an HTML surround, which delivers the majority of the ‘on-site’ game enhancements.
(The End's HTML dashboard)
Creating a game that integrates HTML and Flash so closely is a first for us, and something which we are very excited about.
2. The Kongregate version
The Kongregate version will integrate with Kong leader-boards, user-friend lists and the all important site-badges. A bespoke implementation like this goes a long way in improving a game’s chance of success through higher ratings and subsequent site-wide promotion. A well-promoted game on a major games portal like Kongregate will also increase the likelihood of the game being ripped.
3. The 'Pirate' version
The final configuration is designed with portability in mind. It will be the most prolific version and the one that exists on all ‘unofficial’ hosts.
Here is how the game features are mapped to their respective versions:
|Deathcards (incl. MP)||•||•||•|
|Social Graph (FB)||•|
|Remote code save||•|
|Content: Objects list||•|
|Content: Thinkers profiles||•|
|Kongregate User Integration||•|
Incentivising ‘on-site’ play
Tailored implementations by their very nature will have broad appeal, but our ultimate objective is to deliver the 'full-fat' experience to the largest number of people possible. To do this, our strategy is to captitalise on the game’s self-distributing nature whilst creating a clearly defined return stream which channels the audience back to the official version.
(Work in progress - off-site in-game promotion)
The key motivators for official on-site play are the inclusion of the player’s social-graph, remote-saving and the game’s enhanced content. These are juicy features which just need the correct sign-posting. The objective is to message these in an unobtrusive way, whilst taking care not to undermine the integrity of the off-site versions. It’s a UX and copywriting challenge and something that we're hoping to finish by Alpha.
We're aiming for a 20% click-through rate to the ‘on-site’ version. Wish us luck - we’ll post the results once the game goes live in the Summer.