Building WeChat Games With In-app Purchases

2020.9.11 Other News by COCOS

Developers of many popular games created with Cocos appeared at the ninth session of the “WeChat public class” and brought practical experience on mini game performance tuning, advertising monetization, and in-app purchase methods.

Among those participating developers, Liu Xiaolong, Vice President of R&D from Tuyoo Games, gave a keynote speech on “Creating a New Mode of In-App Purchase for Mini Games.” His game currently has a daily turnover of nearly 2 million yuan and a cumulative total turnover of more than 8 million total users for their game “Three Kingdoms of Hoolai Mobile,” it’s a perfect example of how developers are bringing IAP games to WeChat. Liu shared three thoughts about how to accomplish this: Project establishment, platform understanding, and commercial design of in-app purchase games.

We wanted to share with you a summary of the speech to learn a bit more about their approach to game monetization.

1. How to set up a WeChat in-app purchase game?

After obtaining our patent and approval from the government, the “Three Kingdoms of Hoolai Mobile” launched in December 2018 for closed testing until May 19. During the test period, more than 500 people were added every day, and the day one average stayed at more than 32%. After continuous iteration, the current highest daily turnover is nearly 2 million, and the cumulative increase has exceeded 8 million.

“Three Kingdoms of Hoolai Mobile” is a hero card battle game based on the books about the “Three Kingdoms.” These card games are a very mature game genre in China. My focus today is on how to build in-app purchases based on the WeChat platform.

I will elaborate on three aspects: Platform understanding, project idea, and commercial design.

Platform Understanding

The first question that Tuyou games thought deeply about when getting involved in mini games in 2018 was what type of mini game should we build?

First of all, mini games are a new game platform. When we speculate on the development trend of mini games in 2018, we believed that mini games would follow a similar development path as flash games, web games, and mobile games. First, super casual enters the arena, gradually increasing to mid-core games, hardcore games, and finally reaching the mainstream. We believe that with the establishment of small game ecology and technological progress, there is room for mid-core and hardcore games.

Project Idea

The second is to determine the type of game. We hope that the game type can meet the three characteristics of the platform: “quick play, controllable volume, low operating cost.” At the same time, if the product can be operated in the long-term, then it also needs to have three characteristics: “Continued development, future strategy, and social interaction.”

Based on these two ideas, we believe that a card game can meet these six characteristics at the same time, so we chose this game type.

Commercial Design

The last is the subject matter. I had done a lot of chess and card games before arriving at Tuyou. When I was doing a mahjong mini game, and I stumbled upon a picture. This picture is fascinating and looked great for a game based on the stories of the three kingdoms. Our art took this picture and made many new pictures, and found that the effect was quite good, so we decided to take the theme of the three kingdoms.

2. How to make a WeChat in-app purchase game?

First of all, we must first understand the characteristics of the WeChat platform. I have summarized it into four items: lightweight, fragmented, social, and professional.

What does lightweight mean? There are still certain limitations with WeChat in memory and performance given for small games. So resources and content should be minimal, and performance indicators should be paid attention to.

Not much to say about social as this is the basic attribute and advantage of WeChat.

Fragmentation is known to be “high login, low stay, high return visit” characteristics of the mini game scene. It means “leave when you run out of time, but come back when you have time.” Not much to say about this as it’s is the fundamental attribute and advantage of WeChat.

Professionalism refers to the technology, product and operation teams, and various tools that support the small game platform.

Based on the above understanding, what should we do with item consumption?

When we do IAP, it is best to find an excellent example in the real world. The examples we chose are offline stores and commercial supermarkets. They have some know-how on how to increase sales or make profits. Based on observations, I think there are five factors:

First, we looked at their knowledge of the location and how they display goods that can be seen by consumers.

The second is to have good quality and low prices, with frequent events and specials, so that consumers feel that there is a bargain.

The third is to have a good environment and services to enhance the shopping experience.

Fourth, the quantity and category of goods must be large enough so that there is room for selection.

Fifth, I have a good shopping experience, and all aspects of after-sales are guaranteed,  I am happy to spend money.

Based on this observation, what did you do for the game?

The first is to increase the exposure of items more than you would a native game. Without exposure, there is nothing, and key products must be fully displayed. For example, we previously wanted to increase the sales of weekly and monthly cards, so we added the messaging to the display in the main interface, trial interface, and reward receiving interface. The result of the data is that the number of monthly card repurchases has increased by 30% every day, and the number of weekly card repurchases has increased by 50%.

The second point is that there are more concessions. This is our weekly card purchases, in-game banking, and initial charge interface. These products have low unit prices, high discounts, and do not make money. The main thing is to make friends with the player, build some trust for players, and give them some good experiences.

The third is interface optimization. Take the rewarded fighter interface as an example. The left is before the revision, and the right is after the correction. We re-drew a version of the original painting, marking Zhao Zilong as a five-star card, optimized the copywriting and labels, and further increased the discount rate. It used to be a one-time benefit, but now it is rewarded for three consecutive days. These optimizations are very effective in improving data, and the first charge purchase rate has increased by 20%.

Since it is so effective, we have made some optimizations in other interfaces. For comparison, we did not redesign the original paintings for these two pictures. We just modified to share the discount percentage and specific content that users are most concerned about. The gift package purchase rate increased by 19.64% month-on-month, and the new payment rate increased by 14.08% month-on-month.

It is not enough to sell a single product well. Everyone likes to go to big supermarkets because they have enough products, consumers can compare and choose what to buy.

Just like my wife often compares various maternity and baby products online. She doesn’t buy them, and I asked her why. She said it was fun to do window shopping. I think enough products are not only fun but also have long-tail value for manufacturers.

Finally, I think that good feedback can reinforce the behavior. This is how human nature is. We hope that players can obtain continuous or unexpected happiness after purchasing. After you buy a product, you can use it every day. This makes you want to repurchase their products. This is called an increased repurchase.

So we have stacked a Jackpot Gift on the first purchase. After the first purchase, in addition to the items purchased by the player, you can also get additional power for the player and come to our event interface to receive a Jackpot Gift package., So for one purchase, three times the happiness.

The second is our growth fund. In addition to the standard 30x return rate, we have also increased the number of rewards. There will be some unexpected gains if the number of people reaches a certain goal.

These routines seem to be useful, but I think that users’ recognition of product quality and the needs of users themselves should be the first priority. The essential reason why players are willing to purchase in-app purchases must be obtained in the game. By treating them sincerely, can we get their lasting rewards. I understand that in-app purchases are rewards through happiness, not compulsory.

3. How to adjust a WeChat mini game?

In WeChat mini-games, in addition to the conventional methods of hero card games, what else are players concerned about? Here are my ideas and our practices based on the characteristics of the platform.

Generally speaking, I divided into five categories: performance tools, resource optimization, fragmented design, social, and data analysis.

Performance tools

The first is performance. Smooth games are good games. WeChat Assistant provides many performance tools to offer help for our FPS distribution range, memory distribution range, package download, and other indicators. At the same time, there is a special place that will make hierarchical statistics for low, medium, and high-end models. I think we must make good use of the various performance tools they provide.

Resource Optimization

In addition to the technical level, there is also a lot of room for optimization at the art and product level.

The first example is our map. This is a cut image of a background image. The left side is the conventional cutting method, and the right side is adjusted to a 1/4 symmetrical method. Overall, it is reduced from 120K to 25K.

The second example is the interface of our main city. The original animation of the main city button was zooming, which has conventional animation feedback. We found that if the zoom is adjusted to discoloration, such as whitening, although the two images occupy the same size because it is a colorless image, the visual effect of the occupied area is reduced by 60%-70%.

The work of resource optimization has a significant impact on the overall game performance, and it is essential. I even think that performance is higher than the absolute quality.

Fragmented Design

As for the fragmented design of the product, it is more complicated. In general, it is more placed on the system to control the daily operation time of the game. But if the user likes to play, you must ensure that he has enough game time. The second is not to do too intensely confrontational gameplay or too many regular activities. The third is to make the operation as simple and convenient as possible.

Social

WeChat is naturally social, and we also secretly apprentice in product design.

First, we learn from social games. There are three types of activities that people enjoy in social games: stealing food, robbing their place, and attacking friends. We put this into the game. The city gate can compete for offense and defense. You can also go to other player’s cities to catch their ministers and rob their mineral resources. There is even a banner on the city gate. When someone becomes the lord, its image will be displayed on the top of the city. We learned this from traditional online games. Also, WeChat itself has some social empowerment. We encourage users to communicate more with real or online friends to achieve the purpose of working together to get a reward, adding retention.

Data Analysis

Many people have mentioned collecting data, and we have gained a lot from it. Why performance optimization work is because the data shows where we are doing poorly in this area, and it gives us a guide on what to do. Also, there are many data sets that we could not get, such as the user’s age, gender, city, and mobile phone.

But at the same time, it can also provide us with a lot of other data, such as how long is the start-up time for each phone and how long is the start-up time of the same type of phone. Only after the comparison can we know where our shortcomings are.

Finally, make fair use of the new features that the platform is continually developing. We did ask for feedback before, and more than 30% of players were online after receiving the push message to share their thoughts.

To sum up

To make a WeChat in-app purchase game, you must first understand the characteristics of the platform and choose a product suitable for the platform. Secondly, you must make special technology and product optimizations based on the factors of the game, not just do a simple recreation. Make fair use of the various tool interfaces and features provided by the platform. And lastly, find the most mature field of commercialization and learn from it.