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In an old Saturday night live skit, actor Garrett Morris rubbed two balloons on his sweater and stuck them to his chest. It was a scientific experiment he called “frictional fun.”
In video games, friction is not fun. We have seen time and time again that friction is the enemy that makes it difficult for people to play, pay and finish playing. As Nelson Rodriguez of Akamai wrote in GamesBeat in 2017, friction is all that drives the player to leave the game and look elsewhere.
Friction costs you money, now and then. Players who reject your game can reject your entire studio, Rodriguez wrote. These include things like game errors, damaged savings, and backlogs as your top three frictions. More than 40% of the players who felt friction left the match. Friction can take many forms. If a game is too hard (don’t remind me of Cuphead), players won’t finish it.
Rich Hilleman, leader of Amazon Games, said at an event in 2013 that his then-Electronic Arts company was studying why they were leaving players before the games ended. Interestingly, with Battlefield 2042, EA has decided to completely abandon its single-player campaign and now focus only on multiplayer gaming. Was the single player campaign just a point of friction for the eternal multiplayer game?
Free play companies learned to solve many of these problems. They got rid of the $ 60 game price barrier. They reduced the entry barrier by allowing players to download a game for free and start playing it. They allowed players to play for a long time before suggesting they could pay for something, often to speed up their experience and reduce friction in the game.
They also created narrative experiences that never ended. Live transactions are things like tournaments that only make players come back. And if players came back a lot, they were much more likely to buy. But if any of the levels were too hard, the players would give up. Therefore, mobile game makers constantly scanned to find out why they were abandoning players and then fixed these issues.
Try Apple vs Epic
But lately we’ve learned that even the smallest types of friction represent huge barriers. Friction arose in Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple. Epica attorney Gary Bornstein argued that Apple was committing an antitrust violation by letting Epic Games sell Fortnite virtual currency at a low price on the Fortnite app in Apple’s App Store. Apple said it was a violation of its policy and that if it really wanted to, Epic could simply direct users to use the Safari web browser to go to the Epic Games store to buy currency if they wanted to.
But Bornstein said this created too much friction for players to the point that they probably never would, and this could be devastating to Epic’s ability to sell virtual currency the way it wanted. Apple argued that was not a big deal. But Bornstein said the friction associated with the alternatives meant they didn’t replace the use of the Fortnite app. I wanted Apple to activate an alternate Epic Games store on the iPhone or have it loaded from an app.
In other words, if it makes it too awkward for lazy players to choose an alternative, you may be creating an anti-competitive barrier that could put you in antitrust trouble. (This brings up that old Microsoft saying: “Windows isn’t made until Lotus runs”).
Other platforms have also had insurmountable frictions. When virtual reality headsets debuted in 2016, they were cumbersome. They could cause you seasickness. They could hit your glasses in the face. And they cost a lot of money. Regardless of the type of magic they presented before your eyes, they were doomed because of the high level of friction. I remember the long cables that molded to my computer and how many were for the HTC Vive. And when I unplugged them, the normal audio headphones no longer worked.
Somehow, the players overcame all these barriers. It reminds me of this quote at Jurassic Park, where Jeff Goldblum’s character says, “Life finds a way.” Somehow, gamers found a way to enjoy these games, despite all the barriers that VR creators put in their way.
But let’s be real. Friction killed the first VR headsets. When the Oculus Quest VR wireless headphones were released in May 2019, they got rid of all those cables and came at a lower price (between $ 400 and $ 500 at first). Oculus Quest 2 debuted in October 2020 and removed additional barriers such as being overweight and reduced the price to $ 300 to $ 400. Quest 2 still sells well and is still hard to find. But it’s getting to take out virtual reality in a way that previous headphones couldn’t do.
Once all the hardware barriers are escaped, it will be time for game developers to remove all the friction from their experiences. This may mean that Facebook can create ads that run on virtual reality headsets, which could further reduce prices. But gamers will have to figure out if they really want this kind of low friction on their virtual reality platforms, even though they accept it on any other platform.
Call of Duty friction
For years, Call of Duty was the best-selling video game every holiday season. It seemed like nothing was going wrong, as 15 to 25 million people would buy it every year. But Activision Blizzard rallied its resources and attacked the friction points, one by one.
After Epic Games has forced cross-platform gaming on gaming machines, allowing Fortnite gamers on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android to play with each other across all platforms. . This allowed players to play with their friends regardless of the machine they had.
He also activated Tencent’s TiMi studios in China to create Call of Duty: Mobile for free games on iOS and Android. This added 500 million players to the Call of Duty funnel or group of people entering the game. He created Call of Duty: Warzone as a real free battle mode for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and added 100 million more players.
And when players activated Warzone, they came up with a menu. They could play Warzone or Zombies modes. But they could also click on the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare option (and later Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War) and immediately buy the $ 60 premium game. Partly because of this user interface, Call of Duty premium game sales rose 40%, according to analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities. I talked to Rob Kostich, the president of Activision Publishing and the head of the Call of Duty franchise, about that.
“It simply came to our notice then. One of the most important concepts for us is to make sure that we limit any friction for our community as we move forward, “Kostich said.” What this means behind the scenes is to make sure that, from the point of view of technology, everything is perfect for the player.This is a big focus for us as we move forward, so as you move from one experience to another, as new weapons come in and out of the game , it feels like a solid, continuous gaming experience that evolves into the future. “
If you’ve ever wondered how to create a video game franchise that sells 400 million premium copies, do so. Take out the friction and let the fun pass. And if you want billions of people to play together, that’s another problem.
I see new platforms being created all the time in games. Non-consumable tokens (NFTs) skyrocketed earlier this year, but players are facing frictions on things like understanding cryptocurrency portfolios, transaction fees and other types of concerns. The creators need to realize that they need to remove the friction from the system to make it work for the players.
We must consider friction as we move toward the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are interconnected, as in novels such as Snow Crash i Ready Player One. The metaverse has to overcome a huge problem of eggs and chickens, as users will only like it when they have unlimited things to do. But gaming companies can’t create it until they allow frictionless travel between worlds. You can do this within a company-owned metaverse such as Manticore user-generated games. But friction between gaming worlds and gaming companies also needs to be reduced, and this will mean industry-wide cooperation.
“The metavers must have low friction, meaning you can go anywhere instantly. If you study ancient Rome at school, you should be able to transport yourself there in a second and do a tour with your class, “Roblox CEO Dave Baszucki told our Into the Metaverse event in January.” It has to have a variety of content to support the long queue of interests that people have. vibrant economy to make sure people can make a living on the metaverse, not just with programmers, but also with artists and designers, and finally, you need security and stability so that people can come together and improve civility. digital ”.
From the smallest annoyances to the biggest tasks of the metavers, if you can avoid friction, you can find fun.
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