International Games Week begins tomorrow in Berlin, and I'm excited for the chance to meet and talk with developers from around the world. As PlayFab's general manager for Europe, I know how important it is to avoid focusing just on the North American market when developing games.
Take player expectations around free-to-play games. In some regions the value to players comes from social integration, while in others what players want is direct competition or trying to achieve impossible goals. These factors mean that the same game can be received very differently in different markets.
In Russia and most of Asia, for example, players expect to have to pay in order to gain an advantage over another player. This is not the case in the Western world. U.S. and western European players expect more of a "fair playing field," where balance and equality are extremely important.
One way to handle this is to separate players by community within a game. Wargaming's "World of Tanks" does this by ensuring that players who pay are put together during the matchmaking process. But not all games do this.
Where "pay-to-win" is more accepted, these kind of games can obviously be extremely lucrative. So it's also important to keep an eye on how cultural expectations change over time. As "pay-to-win" is slowly being accepted in more territories, a well-tested soft launch will give you better results. Depending on the gameplay, countries such as Turkey could vary from one side to another.
Another example: German gamers are more strategy oriented, so monetizing time to reach achievements faster is a good way to round your end of the month results. This also means that in PvP or MMORPG games where Germans spend a lot of time, you will have to add a lot of content to keep them busy and entertained. Happy hours and other holiday events are also good times to add content, challenges, missions, or put the pricing of virtual items lower. It will also trigger a retention effect where players will expect something new and come back to your game to check it during such occasions.
Content is also important to the the casual and puzzle games so popular in Western countries, but in a different way. There the goal is to use simple, easy-to-understand "made for the masses" gameplay to boost retention. The rule of thumb is that if a 6 year old can play your game, you will be fine.
Conferences are a great time to learn from each other and International Games Week is a particularly great one because it includes so many different aspects of our industry. I'll be moderating a Quo Vadis panel on game growth and retention on Wednesday, with representatives from Kabam, Ubisoft, and Aeria Games sharing their expertise. PlayFab CEO James Gwertzman is also here this week, and will be giving one of the keynotes at the Opening Summit on Tuesday.