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Radical transformation or moderate improvement, NetEase and Kingsoft set off a battle for MMO roads

New Position 2024/06/28 19:36

New Position, Radical Transformation or Moderate Improvement, NetEase and Kingsoft set off a battle for MMO roads

When NetEase's "Against the Cold" mobile game launched in 2023, the slogan "Make MMOs Great Again" was controversial, suggesting a situation where the MMO category has long since ceased to be in the limelight.

The heyday of MMOs was around the first decade of the 21st century, with World of Warcraft having more than 12.5 million paying subscribers worldwide by the end of 2008. During the same period, domestic MMOs also had masterpieces such as "Journey", whose "innovation" of paying for props refreshed the industry's cognition, and in 2008, the highest number of concurrent online users of "Journey" reached 2.1 million.

There have been many opinions on the reasons for the decline of MMOs, such as the popularity of new ways to play such as MOBAs, which provide a faster-paced and more diverse gaming experience; For example, the popularity of mobile terminals has made the traditional MMO with PC as the carrier decline. But they can be roughly summed up in one simple sentence, players find more fun and convenient games to play.

As the most representative and local subdivision of the category, martial arts MMORPGs are still in continuous operation and maintain a high number of simultaneous online users. Not long ago, at the beginning of June, "Sword Network 3" produced by Xishanju (a subsidiary of Kingsoft in charge of games) also broke out into a fierce conflict with the mobile game "Against the Cold". The former believes that the latter is vicious competition, and the latter accuses the former of deliberately gaining popularity, and the game producer on one side fights with the official Weibo on the other side, setting off a scolding war between players.

Interestingly, the grievances between Kingsoft and NetEase behind the two games can be traced back many years. Soon after the establishment of "Sword Network 3", a large number of main creators were poached by NetEase, according to media reports, there were only 4 newcomers left in the development team at that time, and they had been employed for less than a year. Since then, the "antagonistic" relationship between the two companies has continued to this day, and in March, "Sword Network 3" had a war of words with NetEase's new game "The Legend of the Condor Heroes".

But compared with the verbal quarrel on the surface, what is more noteworthy is that June also happens to be the "key node" of the two games. June 28th is the first anniversary of the launch of "Against the Cold" from a terminal game to a mobile game, and after the "makeover", it seems to have broken into a new world of MMO mobile games; The mobile game "Unbounded" of "Sword Network 3" was launched, and multi-terminal data synchronization was chosen, which has not yet been successful.

The former is reinvention, the latter is inheritance or continuation.

01, "remodeling" NetEase, the cutting and "restart" of terminal mobile games

In the year since its launch, the data performance of the mobile game "Against the Cold" has been impressive. According to NetEase's financial report, the number of registered players in the open beta of the mobile game "Against the Cold" has exceeded 50 million within 45 days. In January of this year, it was officially announced that the total number of active users of "Against the Cold" had exceeded 100 million.

You must know that MMO mobile games are mostly regarded as short-lived categories in the industry. However, after one year of operation, the mobile game "Against the Cold" still has a presence on various lists.

Why NetEase's end-to-end handover is particularly effective this time, the clue may have to be found from the change of mobile games to end-game games.

First of all, it should be noted that the data of the mobile game is clear, that is, players can use the same account to create characters in the mobile game, but the mobile game will not inherit the characters, progress, items and other data of the terminal game, and the game experience, server and in-game data of the two are independent of each other.

On this basis, the adjustment of mobile games relative to terminal games is first reflected in the adjustment of the experience of players in different "consumption levels".

In MMO games, character development has always been the core gameplay, which inevitably involves the design of the numerical growth curve, which is why there is often a saying in the game circle that "MMO is selling values", and the terminal game "Against the Cold" is also criticized for its numerical values and krypton gold issues. To briefly summarize the contradiction that the numerical system is prone to in the past, as long as the character values are stacked with the operation time, the difficulty of developing heavy Krypton players will always be lower than that of low Krypton players.

However, the design idea of the mobile game chooses to simplify this set of numerical growth system, and from the official words, it is important to focus on "horizontal replaceable" cultivation rather than "pure vertical depth" cultivation. In addition, the mobile game adopts a season system, rather than the traditional MMO cumulative update of the terminal game, and the numerical system will be iterated more frequently on a season-by-season cycle to reduce the pressure of long-term development.

In this way, the time gap between heavy and low krypton players in terms of growth progress is reduced, and it is relatively easy for new players to keep up with the mainstream development progress. This change in the mobile game is the key to his ability to bypass the barriers of traditional MMO numerical cultivation and gain a large user base.

Another aspect of the adjustment of the consumer experience is the issue of appearance pricing. The direct sale appearance of the mobile game "Against the Cold" is roughly priced at 6-288 yuan, compared with the lowest level of mobile games of the same type, which is around 100 yuan, and the reserve price of 6 yuan was once considered to be intended to set off a price war in the industry. And according to players, game operations sometimes issue half-price coupons to stimulate purchases, and the actual consumption is lower than the reference price.

In the same way that behind the low price of e-commerce is the systematic supply chain capability, the game can reduce the appearance of pricing and ensure the frequency of output, and must be supported by a high-capacity team. This also touches on the second quality of mobile games that we want to discuss, which is the value of amplifying the power of technology.

As mentioned earlier, the mobile game "Against the Cold" has attracted a huge user base, and in a fashionable phrase, it is the "first MMO" for many people. This also brings up the problem that traditional MMO depth gameplay is not appealing to every player, but the player's perception of the game's technical power and texture is intuitive, or can form the greatest common divisor.

New Position, Radical Transformation or Moderate Improvement, NetEase and Kingsoft set off a battle for MMO roads

Putting aside the elements that involve technical capabilities but have aesthetic differences, such as art expression, action modules, and interface design, the application of AI technology in the mobile game is recognized as a major highlight. Taking AI NPCs as an example, the intelligently generated NPC dialogue and AI dungeon assistance are elements that are unanimously praised by light players in our encounter, the former provides a sense of immersion in role-playing, and the latter provides convenience for fragmentation and single-player gameplay.

As for how to retain the non-traditional MMO players attracted by the game, we can talk about another change in mobile games, broadening the breadth of gameplay and not binding the gameplay.

In short, it is to add casual gameplay such as big world exploration to the game content, and the rewards and outputs of different gameplay are independent, so that players can choose their own way of playing. At the same time, it also uses the "different paths to the same destination" system, so that players with different ways of playing can achieve the purpose of cultivation.

Compatible with all types of players, while allowing them to converge on the mainstream social gameplay of MMOs. The above points have contributed to the change of the high-net-worth payment profit model of the mobile game to a large DAU and low ARPU structure.

But this reinvention is not without its pitfalls. First of all, the macro control of player values at different levels, frequent and cost-effective appearance output, and diversified gameplay all put forward ultra-high requirements for team productivity. It's not just about industrialization and standardization, but it's also a challenge to maintain a level of creativity in the gaming industry.

Second, mobile games attract a large number of users who are new to MMOs, but not necessarily retain them in the way of MMOs. This is not only the advantage of mobile games to break free from the shackles of traditional ideas, but also makes it too completely cut from the category for traditional MMO enthusiasts, and lacks some of the fun associated with MMO in-depth gameplay.

Coincidentally, Xishanju, which seems to have chosen a different path, is also facing a similar problem.

02, "Continuation" Xishanju, gentle improvement?

On June 13th, Sword Net 3 Unbounded was launched, a game that is very different from many MMO mobile games in terms of promotional strategy.

First of all, the official has repeatedly emphasized the positioning of the game, and mobile games are just "a port for terminal game players to log in on their mobile phones" and "convenient for terminal game players to do their daily life". Secondly, the promotional caliber revolves around "feelings", repeatedly mentioning the significance of old players to the survival of terminal games for 15 years, and compared with the common new game to attract new players, the keyword more often mentioned in "Unbounded" is "return".

Guo Weiwei, the current vice president of Kingsoft Group and CEO of Xishanju, mentioned in an interview last year that the positioning of the mobile terminal is very strange in nature, which is completely inconsistent with the business rules of today's mobile games, and is a mobile game that requires a monthly card. "Our positioning is clear: it mainly serves returning veteran players, as an increment outside the terminal game scene, for most users who don't have time or equipment."

From this, the information we can extract is that the mobile game of "Sword Network 3" retains the data of the same account role of the terminal game, and the data of multiple terminals is synchronized, which is very rare in similar competing products. Secondly, compared with the common MMO mobile games on the market, "Sword Network 3 Unbounded" may not be a "complete body" of a mobile game, but is synchronized with the terminal game and deeply bound.

The mobile game "inherits or continues" the terminal game, which to a certain extent gives the official space to "attack, retreat and defend". After the game was launched, observing the evaluation of the player community, the mobile game not only reproduced the content and data of the terminal game, but also copied the problems existing in the terminal game. For example, the lack of beginner guidance, the confusion in the story and mission upgrade process, and the action mods and art performances are too "old" for some.

But aside from the problems of game texture and presentation, this mobile game that reproduces the terminal game is really limited to providing a "daily simulator" for the terminal game, and does not want to innovate and reform, I'm afraid not really. In fact, a week after the mobile game was launched, a mobile game-related change caused dissatisfaction among mobile game players.

In order to adapt to the operation logic of the mobile terminal, the mobile game has reduced the relatively complex skill system of the PC to 5-7, and the operation ideas have been simplified accordingly. In the official plan, this set of streamlined skills will be synchronized to the terminal game last week, so that there are two sets of skill systems for players to choose from at the same time. But after last week's update announcement, it was urgently halted by a surge of opposition.

"New Stand" learned from the mouths of many veteran players that the reasons for opposition can be roughly divided into two layers. First, regarding the game itself, different players' understanding and needs of the game are gradually divided, and the opposition believes that the streamlining of skills dissolves the essence of MMORPG role-playing, and affects the demand for in-depth gameplay of some players.

The second relates to the question of trust in official operational promises. "Sword Network 3" is an MMO game that has been in operation for many years and has undergone a large-scale reset of the game content, in the player's statement, "almost every iteration, from the hand-drawn tablet to the reset version, from the freehand face pinching system to the realism, the parallel in the official propaganda, finally ended with the gradual abandonment of the old system." ”

New Position, Radical Transformation or Moderate Improvement, NetEase and Kingsoft set off a battle for MMO roads

From this conflict, we can see that game companies will launch mobile games with the purpose of expanding the market for long-term operation, but for Xishanju, the thrust and resistance to change are very large.

First of all, as a rare martial arts MMORPG that has been operating for many years and still maintains a high degree of activity, "Sword Network 3" can be called unique in the industry in terms of player stickiness, community atmosphere, and fan culture influence. This also makes it try to exaggerate the recall of lost players and the attraction of the community atmosphere to new players when launching mobile games. In other words, Xishanju has no obvious advantages in hard power such as technology, and this kind of "soft power" is its signature. This time, "Unbounded" was launched as a new game, and the spontaneous promotion of old players played a great role.

But this also makes Xishanju a particular dilemma when there is a trade-off between meeting the needs of "old players" and "new players". Although it is advertised that mobile games and desktop games are "unbounded", mobile and PC are two very different sets of operating logic, and mobile games will definitely have streamlined content. It's good to start from scratch, but in the environment of data exchange, there are few precedents to follow on how to take into account the different needs of mobile games due to different gameplay depths. The game producer of "Sword Network 3" also said on Weibo that the difficulty of change lies in the "mouse bogey".

Xishanju may want to add or adjust the game content in a relatively gentle way, it has chosen a different path from NetEase, but the ultimate goal and problems faced by the two are similar.

03. Write at the end

End-to-end hand-to-hand is a common routine of NetEase, such as "Fantasy Journey to the West" and "Naraka: Infinite", which can not only reuse the value of IP and ready-made game materials, but also put aside the "baggage" of the past, remove the chaff, and find new value points. Xishanju chooses to communicate with mobile games, more or less to pave the way for change, but it is unwilling to give up the huge group of old players, and hopes to be mild and excessive.

Although in different ways, the aim of both game companies is to follow the trend of mobile gaming in the market and continue the life of MMOs. But whether it is "Against the Cold", which has achieved a lot of achievements, or "Sword Network 3", which has just hit the road and is still being explored, there have been some differences in the player base.

Some PC players were dissatisfied with the original clearly priced appearance, and were moved to the mobile game to sell it again at a cheaper price, and suspected that the official production capacity and resources were tilted towards the mobile game. Some PC players in "Sword Network 3" believe that overly "accommodating" new mobile game players and operating logic may destroy the game ecology formed in the past ten years, and even be forced to give in when the two conflict.

Both companies operate the "only remaining MMO" with a high number of concurrent users, and both have found their own ways to innovate and move into the next phase of their operations. It may be doubtful whether innovation will come at the cost of subverting the original model, whether it is the controversial core gameplay of MMOs - long-term character development - or the combat system based on PC operating logic.

The subversion here is not intended to praise or disparage, only to point out their respective values, the new model may be able to provide new vitality for the category, and the traditional model can also represent the fun and classicity of a type of gameplay in design, and we expect game companies to have more practice and exploration in the balance between the two.

After all, although they have chosen different paths, game companies are always aiming for the future.

*The title picture and the accompanying pictures in the article are from the Internet.

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