I came to DoubleDutch about a year ago from a mobile gaming studio. Looking back, it’s interesting to compare and contrast developing a free-to-play mobile game versus building the DoubleDutch event app. While they are both software that you use on your phone, each is designed from the ground up with different philosophies and purposes.
First, let’s take a look at free-to-play mobile games.
Most successful mobile games are stars that burn very brightly for a short period of time before fading into irrelevance. Every developer knows this. In an industry where customer retention is not measured in months or weeks but rather in days, it’s always a race against time. For example, a great game may have day 1 retention of 35% and day 30 retention of 5%. What that means is if 100 people download and open the game, only 35 will return the second day and 5 at the end of a month.
In that very limited amount of time, developers must create an engaging and addicting experience to convince players to spend money. To do that, developers create a feedback loop that rewards players for certain actions and punishes for others. When done successfully, players become addicted to the rewards for pulling the right “levers” (such as filling a progress bar) and will eventually spend money to obtain additional rewards. Since every game is a completely artificial and controlled environment, developers, using aggregate data, are able to minutely tweak the balance and timing of each of these actions to create an optimal monetization path for the player to fall into.
But the majority of players won’t spend any money, even if they do become engaged and addicted. For most free to play games, 1-2% of the daily active users make up a majority of the revenue. That tiny slice of players must pay for all the marketing, salaries, and infrastructure costs of a game. Developers, then, have no choice but to optimize their design for far fewer paying customers than players.
What this creates is an often hostile relationship with the users in your game. To monetize them further, you have to essentially create inflation in the game economy. This can mean releasing new items that are much more powerful than previous items, having sales on purchasable currency, or adding new levels that are much harder to complete. Inflation also increases the competitive tension amongst existing players as they will spend to retain their top positions and rankings.
With each new content update or sale, developers devalue everything the players have worked towards. This, understandably, results in a lot of outcry from the player base. The economic divide between the “haves” and “have nots” only increases as inflation creeps into the game economy. While new content and updates are expected in any game, if developers push it too hard and fast, there will likely be an adverse reaction from the players.
Maintaining that fine balance is often what separates a great game from a mediocre one. Great games are able to mask these inflationary pressures while keeping both the “haves” and “have nots” engaged in activities that are rewarding for each group. Mediocre games, on the other hand, either fail to create a strong enough feedback loop or fail to control their economy properly, usually resulting in hyperinflation, which ultimately turns many spenders away.
Moving out of the gaming world and coming into the enterprise has been a much different, and in many ways, a more rewarding experience.
The biggest change I’ve found has been the interplay between myself and the end users. Instead of a combative relationship, it’s collaborative. In gaming, you’re often committed to hitting monthly revenue targets that often forces you to make decisions that draw the ire of many users.
Since we don’t directly monetize our users from the DoubleDutch app, the pressure to hit revenue is gone. To clarify, we’re still focused on creating an app that is addictive and engaging for the end user, but the person we sell to is the event marketer, so we have the added pressure of creating and selling a product that is beneficial to them as well. This means our product and engineering teams can focus on creating an incredible event experience for all of our users – attendees, organizers, and sponsors and exhibitors alike.
The base of this starts with understanding why people go to events. For the most part, people go there to learn, network, and conduct business. As a product manager, my job is to understand the problems that attendees run into while trying to accomplish those goals. Once the problems are defined, then we can collaborate with designers and engineers to conceptualize and build solutions.
For event organizers, the main goal is to create the most engaging experience for their attendees. At DoubleDutch, we’ve built tools to help them interact with attendees easily, from location-based push notifications to instant, live polls and everything in-between. Event organizers can gather information about their event performance in real-time to keep a finger on the pulse of their event, a huge piece of information missing thus far in their technology stack.
Attendees on the other hand, come to events to learn new things, meet like-minded professionals, and be inspired. We facilitate the success of these seemingly elusive physical activities with tangible technology. With interest-based group messaging and, coming soon, people recommendations, attendees discover the right people to network and build meaningful connections with.
Lastly, the showroom floor for sponsors and exhibitors will never be the same again. No more running blind, flashy banners and gimmicks, and waiting hopelessly for leads to come to their booth. Our technology allows for easier ways to target the right leads and drive more face to face, meetings.
Shifting from a revenue-chasing model to one focused on solving users’ problems has been a huge change of pace and breath of fresh air for me. If you’re looking to make a similar change, for the chance to join a highly collaborative team committed to solving real problems in the world of live events, check out our jobs page – the Product Team is hiring!