Game Development Reference
These players are known as “whales.”
This marketing strategy will have diminishing returns as you scale upward—since there are only so many users in your target demographic.
In simple math terms, for example, a game that generates $2.00 in LTV from $1.00 CPI and 10,000 total paid
installs makes $10,000 in profit. However, this assumes the right Facebook users have been targeted in your
ads. In the case of KIXEYE games, an ideal target is men between 18 and 34 who have “Liked” strategy games
like Command & Conquer.
Design a Strong Meta Game
For Preece, there's another key design feature to a successful Facebook game (or for that matter, games on most
platforms): A “meta game” that has goals above and beyond the game's specific, explicit objectives. For ex-
ample, in Battle Pirates, the meta game is effective teamwork—players learning to collaborate in order to find
the best ways to minimize their own damage and maximize damage to others.
As an example of this meta game, Preece says some players who inhabit the same sectors of Battle Pirates
have come to establish a no-neighbor-attack policy with each other (see Figure 5-5 ) . In other words, players are
changing the goals of the game, which is meant to be an all-out PvP-fest. Even FarmVille has a meta game,
Preece notes, which is “How do I design the most efficient farm?” Then, he says, “You've gone beyond the
mechanics and are looking at it top down.” From a business perspective, Preece believes “meta players” are
more likely to spend money on the game than more casual players.
Preece offered a sub-rule related to this one—don't punish the meta gamer. As with the no-attack policy that
emerged in Battle Pirates, sometimes players create meta game rules that you, the designer, didn't intend. In
Preece's view, this is a good thing that is to be encouraged. “You shouldn't remove something that takes skill
to acquire,” he argues. (You could go even further, I might add, and actively reward meta players, by turning
their unofficial gameplay behavior into an explicit game mechanic. So, for example, if meta players are forming
informal alliances with each other, create an “Ally” feature that confers explicit game bonuses for allying—and
explicit penalties for betraying an ally.)
With his web game classic Desktop Tower Defense, Preece was at first bothered by players who'd “juggle”
their defense mazes—that is, create a temporary opening in the maze that the invading monsters would rush
toward, giving the player extra time to reinforce another section of the maze (see Figure 5-6 ).
From one point of view, this technique could be seen as an exploit—but from another, it was a clever player
strategy. And while Preece originally considered removing the ability to juggle, he ultimately decided it should
stay. “If anything,” as he says now, “you should double down on that [workaround]...[in KIXEYE games] we
try to allow that kind of emergent gameplay to occur.”