I would truly be honored if you shared my post somewhere. :)
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Written by Mike Moran on February 18, 2021, LinkedIn
In Part I, I weaved you through some of the most crucial -- and least talked about pieces of liveops -- content essentials. So if you haven’t taken yourself through that insight yet, now’s the time. Because you’re going to need it here.
Feel free to take this moment to catch up on Part 1. I'll wait here for you.
*Hold music plays.*
Otherwise, if you are ready to dive into the next phase -- into the cadence (and all of its high-impact glory) -- then I’m happy to have you. And trust me: this article is going to shine some light into the dark crevices of liveops you've been too scared to look at. It's time. So get your flashlight ready.
My hope is that this post gives you some insights to create a game that has the wherewithal to stay a game. - for years and years.
So, with that said, buckle up.
Let's get to work.
My last article on liveops walked you through the events, their components, and the strategies you need to create them intentionally. But cadence? Cadence looks at something a whole lot less concrete.
Don’t get me wrong -- I have actionable steps, clear instructions, and quite a few tips coming your way. It’s just that, underneath all of those tidbits, there’s an ocean of malleability. The waves are swelling and crashing, the wind is changing speed and directions, and you -- with a calm sense of confidence -- are letting the variables guide you.
So with that image in mind, I’d like to introduce you to cadence. The thing that’ll decide when you implement which events, how you plan your overall strategy, and why you’re adjusting the way you’ll be adjusting.
And yes, there will be plenty of adjusting.
So first off, what is cadence? Cadence is essentially your rhythm and flow. Think of it as the musical notes that make a symphony. Your goal with cadence is to find the right musical notes to make your game (and your players) sing. 🎶
Cadence requires you to be easygoing, astute, and curious. It demands that you observe, ask questions, and learn. And in order for it to give you what you want it to give you, it absolutely needs you to be as flexible as it is.
In the land of cadence, there is no certainty. There is no promise, and there is no guarantee. There’s only your game, your events, and your audience. So watch it all closely -- and empower your cadence success to grow.
Since I gave you an objectively killer overview of the big-picture theory stuff relating to cadence planning, today’s breakdown is going to be zeroing in on practice. Which means I’m going to take you from kinda-sorta understanding what a LiveOps cadence is to actually being able to design one for yourself.
But first, a recap of basics. With your LiveOps cadence, what you’re always looking to find is the perfect release schedule for the two things that comprise your LiveOps strategy: your game client and your content.
Nothing short of magic.
So we know there will be trial and error, but how do you choose the right trial first? How do you know where to start, and how do you know what to take into account when?
The best jumping-off point is getting these factors nailed down:
1. Know Thy Capabilities:
First thing’s first -- it’s one thing to dream up a crowded content calendar with a release cadence that’s bordering on insane, but it’s quite another to be able to actually implement it. Before you let your ambitious plans carry you up into space, you’ve got to make sure you have the support you need to execute.
Do you have the digital tools you need to create the content in the timespan you’ve allotted?
Do you have the horse power for content production on top of everything else your game needs to function day-to-day?
Do you have the team members on standby the day after release to make sure all bugs are zapped before they become a real problem?
Before you get to drawing up your plans, make sure you know what you can do. That’ll give you a benchmark to start from -- and it’ll show you where the gaps that you need to fill in are sitting pretty. And before you ask: no -- I’m not saying you’re forever limited by the types of tools, the number of team members, or the amount of time you have. I’m saying you need to take stock of all of that first -- and then, once you pinpoint your goals, figure out what needs to change to turn them into reality.
2. Know Thy Audience:
The point of developing the perfect cadence isn’t to impress yourself or your team. It’s to impress your audience. And the only way you’ll ever be able to do that is by knowing your audience. How frequently are they playing? What are the other games fighting for their attention, and how often are they releasing their new content? Find out your audience’s expectations, find out their behaviors, and you’ll be closing in on what you need to be doing much faster.
But general expectations and general behaviors aren’t enough. Not really, anyway. If you want to truly carve out your place in the market, you’ve got to step it up. That means looking at which days of the week your audience engages the most, and planning your cadence around them. It means researching the most popular games in different regions and making sure your release cadence is offering your region-specific playerbase the same -- if not more -- excitement.
Some examples to ask yourself:
Do you know when your players get paid?
Do you have regional holidays on a calendar somewhere?
Do you consider bathroom break times?
The more details you acquire, the better positioned you’ll be to design a cadence that works. But, like we said: where there’s failure, there’s room to grow. A key way you’ll learn about what your audience desires is by giving them something and observing their reactions. We’ll get into analytics something heavy later on, but for now -- mental-bookmark it. Observation leads to better execution. Always.
3. Know Thy Game:
Just like when it comes to developing content, when it comes to developing your cadence -- the strategy lies within. What does that mean? That your game -- its framework, its reach, its distinctive traits -- will help you dictate your release schedule. Or at the very least point it in a specific direction.
Let’s look at an example: if your game is oriented around skiing the slopes of the biggest mountains, you’ll likely want to tie your content schedule to the Winter Olympics, the X Games, and other notable winter sporting competitions. Not only does this approach make for ‘stickier’ marketing efforts, but it’ll also give you a great way to further connect your audience’s real-world lives to your game (and connect your community to each other).
Another example? The game Marvel Strikeforce planned its cadence with the releases of Marvel movies in mind, so they can cross-promote and lean into the momentum of an already-excited audience.
While holiday content (like Christmas & Easter) is always great, going the extra mile and finding unique places for your cadence to distinguish itself in a real-world context can lead to some pretty fantastic results. For the big guys and for the smaller ones.
The final tip for cadence design I’ll leave you with is this: you’re the captain. You’re the mastermind orchestrating the operation, and you’re responsible for making sure you’re actively taking your audience’s needs into account. At every checkpoint.
In order to do that sufficiently, you must be mindful of two distinctly important variables:
This is where your team has its time to shine. When it comes to the implementation of your LiveOps cadence, coordination is king. You have to be pushing towards the same goal in-sync, you have to be aware of what each and every moving part is up to, and you have to be able to rely on your teammates actually executing.
Because implementation is a team sport. And if things aren’t happening on time, to expected quality, or at all -- then your whole LiveOps strategy may be out the window. And with the importance of LiveOps in today’s games model, that’s a situation you don’t want to have to deal with.
So: implementation. What sort of operations should be running? What sort of scheduling should you enact? What sort of problems should you be keeping an eye out for?
Let’s get your well-warranted curiosity some answers.
Once you have the foresight of your design, implementing your cadence is a three-step process: Creating, Releasing, and Fixing.
Your team produces all of the content needed for the planned event(s), transforming your plans into something real.
Based on an intentionally-designed release schedule, your team sends the content live -- opening it up for players to engage.
Immediately after the content is released, your team is on standby -- ready to fix any bug or disruption as soon as it comes up.
Simple enough, right? Well, let’s get into the details.
Because you’ve heeded my advice from earlier and not bit off more than you can chew as it relates to your design -- namely, that you have the digital tools you need to be able to actually create what you’ve intended to create -- the creation phase should be fairly straightforward.
What I will say is, make sure you’re keeping track of how long each task takes to complete. Not in theory, but in practice. And once you’ve created a couple of events, circle back and see if those times are accounted for in your future scheduling plans. Is your team finishing tasks quicker than planned? Slower? Is there room for tweaks? For increased productivity? Tracking this phase will enable you to streamline your backend processes -- and improve them -- without any sort of major complexity or expense. So why not do it?
Now onto the releasing. Drumroll please.
Assuming you’ve done your research into the behavior of your audience, you know when they’re engaging the most. Whether that’s at the beginning of the week at 10am or late at night on Fridays, your content releases should be oriented around their behavior. But they should also take backend logistics into account.
The popular method of orchestrating releases ensures that there’s a full day for finding and reacting to live issues immediately after. So, if you release your content on a Thursday, your day of fixing is the Friday.
Like with any team sport, LiveOps requires that all involved parties are motivated, dialed in, and purposeful with their actions. And that requires that their working environment is someplace they feel excited to be a part of.
Tips for making sure every member of your team is locked and loaded to give the release cadence’s implementation their all? Don’t worry -- I’ve compiled my favorites right here.
The more determined you are to implement your LiveOps strategically, and the more open you are to thinking critically about how it’s going, the better your results will be. Building the right foundation, sticking to the aims you’ve established, and creating an environment where your team is motivated to kill it every day is the only way for your cadence to work sustainably.
Because this isn’t just a sprint. LiveOps is a marathon, and it’ll continue for as long as your game does. So implement it the right way. And then, once you’ve done that, you’re ready for this...
Quick shameless plug: At UserWise we’re working hard to build a tool that saves you and your studio loads of time with a calendar tool, campaign builder, offer builder, smart segmenting, and analytics all tied into one view. Our hope: reduce errors and crunches at studios.
Pinpointing the right cadence for your game’s LiveOps isn’t a quick endeavor. It can’t be executed once and forgotten about, and it can’t be thought of as a one-size-fits-all formula.
Because your cadence -- the cadence that will drive the biggest results for your game -- won’t have existed ever before. It won’t be identical to any schedule used by games in the past, and it won’t work for any of them in the future. Hell, it likely won’t even work for your game in the future. And that’s because your cadence is hyper-specific.
And that’s because your cadence is hyper-specific. To your game, to your audience, and to the market today. To your team, to your tools, and to your current capabilities.
Like I said at the beginning: this is an always-in-flux process. It’s based on your commitment to observe, analyze, and adjust — and if you do those three things again and again, you’ll be rewarded.
Stay tuned for part 3, where we’ll dive into setting KPIs, LiveOps adjustments, marketing, and so much more.
Until next time. 👋
I would truly be honored if you shared my post somewhere. :)
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We'd love to have you join. It's a private community, so try not to tell too many people please. 🤫
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