How to manage the live ops of a free-to-play game with a small team

August 13, 2019

Today, the survival of a free-to-play videogame is not so much in getting billions of players, but in keeping users interested in the game for as long as possible.

Just look at examples like Legend of the Cryptids, a Japanese game that was a top download for barely a fortnight but has for years been among the games that generate the most revenue. All thanks to live ops.

But, what are live ops? They could be summarized as ‘the ongoing actions you make to keep your player base engaged and spending potentially forever’.

5 tips to manage the live ops of a free-to-play game with a small team

Managing live ops in a small team is not always easy, but if there’s one person who can teach us how, that is without a doubt Andrés Tallos, co-founder of Everguild, an independent studio which specializes in making card games for mobile.

1. Design for live ops from the start

The player may have enough content to be entertained in the first few weeks, but if you don’t design the game with live ops in mind from the start, by the time you want to add more content, players may have already gone elsewhere. Think about how to integrate live ops into the core loop while designing the game.

For example, if you have a card game, you can rotate the cards that are for sale on a daily basis, offer time-limited arenas…

2. Set up technology and tools

In order to be successful in implementing live ops, especially if you are a small team, you need to use the right technology and tools. Some suggestions from Andrés Tallos are:

  • Invest in remote delivery tools. Especially on mobile and consoles where the store has to approve every update.
  • Automate updates to game data like leaderboards, seasons, stores…
  • Use editor tools to minimize the need for developer intervention in creating and publishing updates.
3. Start small, then grow

Don’t try to be too ambitious at first; start slowly and, once you prove that you are able to produce content at that rate, you can go further. The most important thing is to always meet the expectations you generate in players.

4. Mix up types and frequencies

When designing your live ops, try to mix different types of content and different types of update frequencies. For example:

  • Daily: update the store.
  • Weekly: new events or reinforcements.
  • Every two weeks: a new card or weekend promotion.
  • Every month: a new feature or special event.
  • Every quarter: a new expansion with new factions.

However, beware of fatigue. Consecutive events driving high engagement or monetization can lead to burn-out.

5. Standardize processes

Last but not least, try to polish the workflow as much as possible: standardize processes, locate and eliminate bottlenecks…

And, above all, whenever you can, try to plan and create content as a group. This way you can optimize the cost financially and in terms of hours, as well as having a buffer to back you up in case there are any problems.

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