How to evaluate a game for your startup?
As a product manager working in gaming, its impossible to miss the recent rise of multi gaming platforms which package multiple individual games together inside one app. Doing this has a lot of benefits and you can read my previous blog posts to better understand how bundling benefits everybody in the ecosystem. In this post, we investigate intrinsic aspects of a game apart from their powerUser:casualUser ratio and delve deeper into what makes a game successful by itself. In the previous post, we looked at how different games interact with each other inside a MGP and in this post, we will look at ways in no particular order to evaluate a game in isolation. All games are looked at from a real money gaming POV.
- How big is the market currently? How fast is it growing? Ludo was a nascent market couple years ago but it has been growing faster than the rest of the other games in the last couple years. While Poker is an older game, it has been growing slower than the rest of the industry.
- Some notes on RMG market in India
- Size of the market would also determine your competition. If you are planning to enter Rummy today, your acquisition costs would be high relatively compared to doing a new game like Carrom.
There are two important factors here:
- Skill vs luck ratio of the game which makes it appealing for a new player(because its winnable) to participate. You want a new player to think that he has a chance at winning at money online.
- Steepness of the learning curve and how long it takes to master the game.
You ideally want games which are super easy to learn and takes infinite time to master. This will ensure longevity and the game might eventually become a sport.
Legality and regulations
- This is actually getting clearer by the day in India. Self Regulatory Organizations (SRO) are going to be established in about 2-3 months. These SRO’s comprised of AIGF + the leading RMG companies from India will determine what is a “skill” game and define frameworks around game certification. Presumably, once certified as a skill game, you should be able to advertise and promote freely everywhere. Overnight bans from different states will reduce and RMG can finally stop being a “gray” market in some jurisdictions.
Familiarity of mechanics or Popularity of the game
- Games like Rummy and Ludo are culturally familiar to us and thereby also are immensely popular digital games. Ludo has always been in the Top 3 highest grossing casual game on Google Playstore and Rummy RMG has been about 90% of the industry since inception. Almost all RMG games are round off errors (except Fantasy of course) when compared to Rummy.
- This does not mean that you cannot be launching any new game in India. Familiar game mechanics inside a new context (Coinmaster or Striker club (Marvel snap + Fantasy) is one approach as well. You can also look for game inspirations where your current RMG users spend time (like a casino, Win Patti by MPL is an example) or look at casual gaming charts to make RMG variants or create new monetization business models (like PUBG, GGX etc).
- Is there enough power user population for the game? Can it be a (e)sport someday?
- As we know in RMG, 80% of our revenue is going to be derived from 20% of your super users. If the game never reaches super user potential and all you can run is Rs.1 loops of the game, you will not be profitable. There should be enough users who have passed your skill(or luck) curve that they are willing to play Rs. 1000 loops of your game. If there is not enough critical mass achievable here, the game won’t work in a RMG setting.
- Alternate monetization angles like collectibles and IAP for free to play games are growing these days too.
- Does the game get better with more people playing it? While tournament formats are fueled by compounding network effects, cash game/1v1/ SnG variants don’t benefit as much from more players playing (beyond a point, it doesn’t matter if you have 1000 active players on one stake or 10000 players.). Games where MTTs(or any tournaments) is the main format like Fantasy benefit from this for example.
Variance in reward distribution
- Variance in nothing but the standard deviation of the players win rate. While the previous skill vs luck discussion tells us about the outcome, variance tells us the distribution of outcome with time
- Some examples of standard deviation for different poker formats: NLH(9max): 60-80 BB/100, PLO 6-max: 120-160 BB/100, PLO Heads up: 220 BB/100. Higher the number, higher the variance. You can see that heads up poker has insanely high variance compared to full ring poker.This basically tells us the randomness of the reward distribution from the average win rate of the player. So, a short heads up session will have a bigger monetary swing compared to a similar session on a full ring (9max) table on an average.
- Higher the variance = higher the wins and losses w.r.t time = more fun for new players
- In the previous blog, we discussed about how two games interact with each other and in this post, we looked at some ways to evaluate and pick a game for our bundle. Do remember that the games you pick initially and the dimension you focus on to evaluate them would determine your product and strategy. For example, if the game has high power user population, your game discovery should be more towards satisfying their core need/game, skill vs Luck factor of the game would determine your FTUE and how you will deal with the learning curve and cultural significance of the game would determine your GTM etc. Ultimately, your selection of games should determine the product and discovery and not the other way around. I would like to end this post with a rap written by GPT4 summarizing this post.
Gaming startup, gotta evaluate, it’s no fluke,
Check market size, learnin’ curve, and legal rebuke.
Popularity and money, see them in distribution,
High reward variance brings the player’s contribution.
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