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How do cloud services affect engagement?

By on July 2, 2013

This is a guest post by Richard van Barneveld of Kalydo.

After several years of publishing downloadable MMO games, I got frustrated by the huge friction getting in the way of people playing. As a publisher, you put a lot of effort into getting users interested in your game, so that they will register and play. However, out of all the people who registered for my games, less then 40% started them up and played.

This was the one of my main reasons for joining Kalydo Cloud Gaming, a high-tech company that spent the last six years making downloadable games instantly playable. Their technology has more than doubled the proportion of registered users who start up the game, to 85%. We are using a file streaming technology, instead of the pixel streaming favoured by Gaikai and Onlive.

For each game we work on, our major goal is to minimize the friction for first time players. It is important to reduce the number of clicks, because each click creates friction and will make new users decide to leave. We reduce the waiting time for a first play to a minimum; instead of waiting hours, you can now play a 4GB MMO in less than 3 minutes.

I find it difficult to understand why MMO publishers and developers are still creating so many barriers for users who just want to start playing. To give an example, the installation process for League of Legends (LoL) is shown below. Before you can start playing LoL you need 23 clicks. In my case this took 78 min (based on 17,74 Mbps download speed ).

There are many obstacles that new users have to overcome in their attempt to start playing a downloadable MMO. In case of LoL we find the following:

  • Approve the EULA (End User License Agreement) for the client 4x

  • Warning Windows firewall

  • Download the launcher

  • Choose the Language for the client

  • Approve the EULA for the launcher

  • Choose location on the hard drive

  • Download the client

  • Install the game (2,46 Gb)

  • Download and patch the latest game updates

  • Double login

By streaming the game using a Cloud platform the user experience can be improved tremendously. For example, Remnant Knights, a 2 Gb client, can be played with Kalydo within 3 clicks, taking only 2 minutes (based on a 17,74 Mbps download speed). Out of all the steps listed above, only the following are left:

  • Install the Kalydo player

  • Warning Windows firewall

Also we have made an Alpha demo of League of Legends which you can play in 5 clicks and 4 minutes.

A few other examples of streaming games on our Cloud gaming platform are:

  • Godswar (on Facebook), 650 Mb client. (2 clicks/time to play less than 1 minute)

  • Requiem (on Kongregate), 2,4 Gb Client. (2 clicks/time to play less than 2 minutes)

Since we can measure every step in the conversion process we are able to analyse the results of streaming a Cloud Game. First time player logins have grown from 40% to 70%, for games launched in the browser on the publisher’s own portal. We also provide a streaming desktop version, where we see a conversion of more than 85% from register to play. One great advantage of the streaming desktop version is that users can register during the installation flow. This decreases the “Time to Play” even more.

The most difficult trick to streaming online games is handling the patching process for game updates. It is important to understand that for game streaming the old “push” method of game clients and game updates is changed into a “pull” system where users only download the required game content they need when they play (just in time) or based on a prediction of what they are going to need it.

Only the relevant game content updates are downloaded, and this is different for each user. This makes a roll back of a patch a simple procedure and takes away a lot of barriers for first time players and returning players. In the case of Kalydo, the patching happens seamlessly and therefore the updates are practically not noticed by the user.

Most of the barriers to start playing an MMO game that we experience today are absolutely not necessary. The key is to have access to the right conversion statistics and the tools to optimize where possible. Sometimes I wish I was a publisher again…

About Richard van Barneveld

Richard van Barneveld is strategic director at Kalydo.