The Definitive Guide to LiveOps in 2024

Written by
Mike Moran
June 21, 2023
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As the world of gaming evolves, so does the importance of LiveOps. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore how LiveOps can help maximize player value, the tools you need to implement LiveOps, and the best practices to ensure that you are getting the most out of your LiveOps strategy.

LiveOps is No Longer a Luxury

LiveOps are no longer the exclusive domain of the video game industry's giants. We're observing an industry-wide shift where studios of all sizes are operating their games with liveops as the heartbeat of the game. The undeniable benefits of LiveOps are becoming increasingly apparent: increased lifetime value (LTV), effective user engagement, and a competitive edge in the saturated market.

In fact, LiveOps isn’t just about retaining and monetizing players anymore. It has evolved into an indispensable component of a companies' core business strategies, essential for maintaining competitiveness in an ever-changing market. By implementing LiveOps, companies can enhance user retention, foster engagement, and gain invaluable insights into user behavior and preferences, facilitating further refinement of their products and services.

Consequently, LiveOps has transcended the realm of being a mere buzzword; it has become an imperative tool for any company seeking success in today's business environment.

Today, we’re exploring the rising prominence of LiveOps in the gaming industry and how it gives studios a competitive edge. We’ll also examine the necessary tools for implementation and some practical advice on how to get started.

Ready? Let's do this.

The Importance of LiveOps

As the world of gaming evolves, so does the importance of LiveOps.

It may help to start off by defining LiveOps. LiveOps refers to the continuous updating and evolution of video games after their release. These activities can range from fixing bugs and improving features to introducing new content and events. The importance of LiveOps has grown in recent years for several reasons:

  • Rising Cost Per Install (CPI): The cost to acquire new players is rising. To justify this cost, developers need to increase the lifetime value (LTV) of each player, which LiveOps can help achieve.
  • Economic recession: The purchasing power of users is declining, making it more challenging for developers to monetize their games. LiveOps provides a means to engage users more deeply and drive retention.
  • Falling eCPM: Effective Cost Per Thousand Impressions (eCPM) rates are decreasing. This means ad revenues for studios are falling, necessitating other ways to increase revenue.

But one of the primary benefits of LiveOps is its ability to facilitate continuous innovation and experimentation. By utilizing LiveOps, game developers can quickly respond to changing player preferences, market demands, and emerging trends. They can introduce new features, characters, levels, or gameplay mechanics based on real-time data and feedback. This flexibility enables companies to adapt swiftly and stay at the forefront of the highly competitive mobile gaming landscape.

LiveOps provides more than just retention. It provides an innovative approach that can save developers from the overwhelming task of building an entirely new game. By implementing smart LiveOps strategies, developers can continuously evolve and improve their existing games, keeping them fresh, engaging, and relevant. This approach helps maximize the potential of the current game and extend its lifespan, avoiding the need to start from scratch. With LiveOps, developers can introduce regular content updates, address player feedback, conduct a/b experiments, and adapt to market trends. By leveraging LiveOps, developers can breathe new life into their existing game and maintain its relevance in a rapidly evolving gaming industry.

Here’s an interesting stat:

According to Sensor Tower, LiveOps has emerged as a pivotal factor in player retention and monetization for top-tier games. It aids in maintaining player interest and enhancing revenue streams. At the conclusion of 2022, the top ten grossing games have all employed LiveOps strategies.

At the conclusion of 2022, the top ten grossing games have all employed LiveOps strategies.

Bye, Bye UA. Hello LiveOps.

LiveOps is on it’s way to surpassing user acquisition as the key engine for growth. For many studios, this is already the case. Just ask Voodoo or SayGames. It’s also becoming a more cost-effective way to drive growth versus acquiring new users. By consistently delivering fresh content, organizing events, and implementing updates, developers can nurture a loyal player base.

Essentially, User Acquisition teams are out and LiveOps teams are in.

What's even more exciting is that LiveOps is no longer limited to big-budget studios. Thanks to accessible and affordable LiveOps tools like UserWise, even smaller teams can implement sophisticated strategies without draining their resources or requiring extensive expertise. This democratization of LiveOps levels the playing field, empowering smaller studios to compete head-to-head with their larger counterparts.

With software innovations and the demand from players, every game should be:

  • Personalizing their offers: Personalizing offers based on user behavior and preferences helps increase user engagement and potentially their in-game purchases.
  • Adding regular (repeating) events: Hosting in-game events not only increases user engagement but also allows developers to monetize these events.
  • Engaging with players: Engaging users in the development process helps them feel more connected to the game, leading to higher retention rates.

If you’re not currently employing some of these basics tactics in your game, it’s probably time to get started.

Never Underestimate Personalization

There's a phenomenon called The Cocktail Party Effect. The cocktail party effect refers to the ability of individuals to selectively focus their attention on a specific conversation or stimulus in a noisy and crowded environment, such as a cocktail party, while filtering out other distractions. It is named after the analogy of someone being able to listen to and engage in a particular conversation amidst the background noise and chatter of a social gathering.

It’s a perfect analogy for how games can use personalization to increase revenue.

In today's highly saturated advertising environment, where we are bombarded with thousands of ads daily, personalization has the power to cut through the noise. We inherently place higher value on things that relate to our identity and feel personally connected to us.

In today's competitive mobile gaming landscape, leveraging personalization within your LiveOps strategy can be a game-changer. By tailoring the game experience to individual players, personalization enhances engagement, retention, and monetization opportunities. It allows you to create a unique and immersive experience that resonates with each player's preferences, motivations, and progress within the game.

The power of personalization lies in its ability to understand players on a deeper level, anticipating their needs, and delivering content, offers, and challenges that are highly relevant and captivating. With personalization, you can foster a stronger emotional connection between players and the game, leading to increased player satisfaction and improved monetization by targeting segments that are more likely to make purchases or respond positively to specific promotions.

What tools do you need?

Your liveops are only as good as your tools, so it’s critical to choose the right tools to power your liveops. And ideally, liveops software should be integrated during the development phase of a game, but it's critical to have it fully operational by the time the game is launched.

Here's why:

  1. Pre-Launch: Integrating LiveOps software early in development allows developers to establish the necessary infrastructure for user data tracking, analytics, event management, and in-game monetization. This setup can be tested and refined during beta testing, ensuring that it functions correctly once the game is live.
  2. Launch and Beyond: Upon launch, the LiveOps software helps track player behavior, manage in-game events, handle customer support, and more. After launch, LiveOps plays an even more crucial role in keeping the game fresh and engaging for players. Through continuous content updates, events, and promotions, product teams can retain players and drive revenue.

Remember, LiveOps is not just about software. It's an ongoing process that requires a dedicated team to analyze data, plan new features, events, run A/B tests, and interact with the community. Therefore, it's essential to think about your LiveOps strategy early in the development process and build it into your game from the ground up.

That being said, software that is both powerful and easy to use is vital to managing your LiveOps.

Here are some types of software that help run mobile game LiveOps:

Analytics and Data Platforms: These tools are critical in understanding player behavior, segmenting users, and optimizing experiences. Examples include:

  • Google Analytics for Firebase
  • Mixpanel
  • Amplitude
  • DeltaDNA

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Marketing Automation Platforms: These tools allow for personalized player outreach, segment-specific campaigns, and push notifications. Examples include:

  • UserWise
  • Braze
  • Leanplum
  • Airship
  • OneSignal

A/B Testing Platforms: These are useful in running experiments to optimize player experiences. Examples include:

  • UserWise
  • Optimizely
  • Firebase Remote Config

In-game Event Management Platforms: These tools allow developers to manage in-game events, discounts, and limited-time content without needing to update the app. Examples include:

  • UserWise
  • PlayFab
  • deltaDNA
  • GameSparks (Amazon)

Customer Support Tools: These tools help in managing customer support tickets and ensuring a good player experience. Examples include:

  • Zendesk
  • Freshdesk

Remember, the choice of software tools largely depends on the specific needs and scale of the game. Larger games or studios often require more robust and comprehensive tools, while smaller games or indie developers may find simpler, more budget-friendly solutions sufficient.

Should you build your own liveops tool?

Building your own in-house LiveOps tools for your game can seem like an attractive option, especially if you have specific needs or want full control over your tools. And many studios tend to go this route. But building your own tools is not an easy task. Especially when there are several off the shelf solutions available.

Make sure to consider some of the significant downsides to building internal tools:

  • Time and Resource Intensive: Building robust, reliable software tools takes a significant amount of time and requires skilled personnel. This process can distract from the core task of developing and refining the game itself.
  • Maintenance and Updates: Self-built tools need ongoing maintenance and regular updates to remain compatible with the game as it evolves, as well as with broader technological changes. This represents a further drain on time and resources.
  • Lack of Support: If you encounter issues with your proprietary software, you're on your own for troubleshooting and fixing them. Off-the-shelf solutions, on the other hand, usually come with customer support and a community of users who can provide advice and best practices.
  • Limited Features: Your team may not have the resources or expertise to build a tool that has all the features and capabilities of established, off-the-shelf solutions. This might limit what you can achieve in terms of analytics, user segmentation, A/B testing, and so on.
  • Inadequate Scalability: As your game grows, you might find that the tool you've built isn't capable of scaling to meet your needs, which can cause significant problems down the line.
  • Lack of Expertise: Unless your team has extensive experience in data analytics, machine learning, and software development, it can be very difficult to build a tool that's as powerful and useful as those created by dedicated LiveOps software companies.

While there's a certain appeal to having a tool tailored to your specific needs, the costs, effort, and potential pitfalls involved in building and maintaining your own LiveOps software can be significant. That's why many game developers choose to use off-the-shelf solutions, which offer powerful features, ongoing support, and scalability, freeing them to focus on what they do best - making great games.

LiveOps vs Lifecycle Marketing

LiveOps and lifecycle marketing are interconnected concepts in the gaming industry, although there can be some confusion regarding their boundaries. In fact, many studios opt to use lifecycle marketing software as their LiveOps engine, and call it done. However, it's important to recognize that while there is overlap between the two, they still maintain distinct purposes and functionalities.

LiveOps software is geared towards maintaining and enhancing the game itself post-launch to keep players engaged and motivated. It enables teams to continuously introduce new content, run special events, balance gameplay, and a/b test offers and shops, and help you monetize players for a much longer lifecycle. While lifecycle marketing platforms focus on personalized communication, mostly via email marketing and SMS.

While lifecycle marketing platforms can be useful for managing certain aspects of player engagement, relying solely on them to run a game's LiveOps operations may leave you wanting more:

  • Not Game-Centric Focus: Lifecycle marketing tools primarily concentrate on managing player communication and engagement, often overlooking the game itself. LiveOps, on the other hand, encompasses continuous updates, content additions, and gameplay enhancements. By solely relying on lifecycle marketing tools, you may miss out on opportunities to optimize and evolve the core gameplay experience.
  • Limited Customization: Lifecycle marketing tools are designed to serve a wide range of industries and use cases, which may result in limited customization options specifically tailored to the gaming industry. Games often require unique and specialized features, events, and in-game mechanics that may not be fully supported or optimized within these tools.
  • Technical Limitations: Lifecycle marketing tools may have limitations in terms of integrations with game engines, analytics platforms, or other tools essential for LiveOps. This can hinder seamless data flow and impact the ability to track and analyze player behavior accurately.
  • Lack of Real-Time Adaptability: LiveOps often requires real-time decision-making, quick adjustments, and instant deployment of updates or events based on player behavior or market trends. Some lifecycle marketing tools may not provide the necessary agility and flexibility to respond promptly to changing player needs or market dynamics.
  • Cost Considerations: Lifecycle marketing tools typically come with a cost, and these expenses can increase as player bases grow or specific features are required. For smaller studios or games with limited budgets, the cost of utilizing these tools solely for LiveOps purposes may be prohibitive.

Both LiveOps and lifecycle marketing are essential components of a successful mobile game strategy, and you shouldn't neglect one at the expense of the other. Depending on the resources available to you, you might want to look for ways to address both areas, even if you can't invest in a full-featured platform for each right now.

Recommended Lifecycle Marketing Tools

Fortunately, there are a variety of cost-effective lifecycle marketing tools available that provide essential features at a more affordable price point. These budget-friendly platforms provide the ability to use multiple channels of communication, including push notifications, in-app messaging, and email. This allows you to effectively engage players throughout their lifecycle without straining your resources.

Using something like OneSignal over a more costly solution like Braze or Leanplum could save your budget. OneSignal offers robust features at a more affordable price point, making it a great option for developers just starting out.

Navigating the Limited LiveOps Landscape

When it comes to LiveOps, there are fewer options available for you to choose from. LiveOps involves continuously updating and modifying the game post-launch to keep it fresh and engaging, and to encourage monetization. It's a crucial aspect of game management, but unfortunately, finding a robust yet user-friendly LiveOps tool can be challenging.

Always consider factors like scalability, flexibility, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness. It's crucial to choose a software that doesn't only meet your current needs but also has the potential to grow with your game and adapt to future LiveOps challenges.

Finding the right tools to support your mobile game's lifecycle marketing and LiveOps can be a daunting task, especially when you're working with a limited budget. However, affordable and effective options do exist. By leveraging cost-effective lifecycle marketing tools like OneSignal and robust LiveOps platforms like UserWise, you can maximize player engagement, retention, and monetization without overspending.

Key Resources

Having the right resources at your fingertips is crucial for every mobile LiveOps team. The following list comprises some helpful resources that you should consider. They are designed to help you navigate the complexities of LiveOps, whether you want to stay updated on the latest trends, get practical advice and strategies, or find tools to streamline your operations.

Here you go:

Mastering Retention Podcast

Mastering Retention is a must-listen podcast for anyone involved in LiveOps and game design. The podcast offers a unique opportunity to learn directly from top LiveOps experts and game designers who share their wealth of knowledge, experiences, and insights.

The Art of LiveOps Podcast

Although this podcast is no longer in production, it provides in-depth perspectives on modern game development and shares stories behind some of the most successful LiveOps strategies.

Playliner is an online platform for free-to-play mobile game developers that provides access to a database of features, offers, and Live-Ops. This platform offers a continuously growing library of some 150,000 updates with screenshots, revealing the latest trends and best practices in the industry.

LiveOps Training Course

From building a LiveOps team to executing your LiveOps strategy, this free ten-part email course helps explain the fundamentals to help kick start your game’s long-term engagement.

This Week in LiveOps Newsletter

This newsletter delivers insightful deconstructions of the most innovative and effective LiveOps strategies being used in the industry today. It also has a curated selection of the latest LiveOps news and must-read blog articles.

Wrapping Up

As we look towards the future, it seems clear that the focus will shift towards retaining and converting a loyal audience rather than acquiring new players. Unrestrained buying of traffic at any price is becoming less viable as a strategy.

  • LiveOps is for all: You no longer need to be a huge team to operate with LiveOps. The advent of more accessible and affordable LiveOps tools has contributed to a trend of smaller teams incorporating LiveOps
  • Retention > Acquisition: As acquisition costs rise, the emphasis will be on retaining existing players. LiveOps tactics can significantly help with this.
  • Converting a loyal audience: Converting existing players into paying users is cost-effective. Personalized offers and exclusive content can encourage users to spend more in-game.
  • Add LiveOps Early: Incorporating LiveOps into your game before launch gives you a proactive strategy for player engagement and retention, maximizing your game's potential for success.
  • Personalization is key: Don’t sleep on personalization. It fosters a deeper connection between the player and the game, which can significantly improve player retention and increase the lifetime value of each user.

To sum up, LiveOps has become a crucial part of game development. Its ability to drive engagement, retention, and monetization makes it indispensable in the current gaming  landscape. This shift towards the importance of LiveOps is not just a trend; it's a revolution that's shaping the future of gaming. The new era in gaming is no longer about unrestrained traffic buying, but about creating valuable, long-term relationships with users.

Embrace LiveOps. Be part of this revolution. The game has only just begun.

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