Traplight Games started creating User-Generated Content (UGC) games about five years ago somewhat by accident, and since then we’ve studied the genre and player behaviour quite a lot. Here are our key takeaways we wish to share with you, including some reasons why it may be worthwhile for you to consider adding UGC content to your mobile games, too.  

Our first UGC game Big Bang Racing, launched in July 2016, approaches UGC from a social media perspective: the levels are designed and created by the players for the players. Like in social media, the level creators receive social validation for their work in the form of likes and follows. Top Creators have amassed tens of thousands of followers and millions of likes inside the game.

Through our experiences with Big Bang Racing we have realised that some specific emergent features of UGC makes it extremely valuable for us. Here are our top five reasons to develop UGC-based games:

 

UGC means HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT

Our debut title Big Bang Racing has 8 million user-created levels, of which our team members have created less than 0.002%. Around 100,000 of all the levels are of extremely high quality. Soon after launching Big Bang Racing in 2016 we realised that neither the amount nor quality of levels created by the players were going to be an issue. To have even a fraction of players creating content results in tens of thousands of brilliant levels. The Top Creators create so much high-quality content that a game studio could never compete with their output.

 

UGC is ENGAGING

In Big Bang Racing players who create levels are twice as engaged and monetize better than non-creators. By creating you participate, and participating makes you more involved with whatever you are doing. You put a little of yourself into everything you create. There is something called IKEA effect in play; people who create or participate in creating something, value the end product higher than they would otherwise. Players who create also invest a lot of time and social energy into the game, which makes them even more engaged.

 

UGC is INHERENTLY SOCIAL

When players in Big Bang Racing create levels, they expect to get feedback on their levels from other players. Feedback happens in the form of social validation: likes and follows. Players are also interested in seeing what others have created and want to give out social validation about those creations. One of the most requested features by the creators was the possibility to edit already published levels based on feedback they received from their clan members. This tells us how inherent the expectations for social validation are for players of UGC games.

 

UGC keeps your game FRESH

Players get inspired by other players’ levels. They iterate and combine things found from the game, keeping it fresh. This behaviour also forms trends when something new and exciting is found: everyone wants to take part in that movement. In Big Bang Racing we had a few moments where players had exhausted the potential from the available tools. We decided to add creative tools that gave new functionality and repurposed some of the old. The result? The game was instantly fresh for non-creators and full of potential for creators to invent new trends.

In social media, where the creation tools (eg. cameras) are completely in the hands of the users, it’s much harder for developers to contribute to keeping the content of the platform fresh. In UGC games however, the creation tools are part of the game, and by releasing new updates the developers play an integral role of setting new trends and helping creators innovate.

 

UGC makes your game STAND OUT

A game that is based on UGC has a unique feel to it. It has a promise of something more than just playing. Highlighting these creative aspects of the game makes it easier to distinguish from the competition.

UGC has also given us synergy with social media influencers. YouTubers, like Nickatnyte, EthanGamer and Annoying Orange, have created videos about the Big Bang Racing, and many others have hosted tournaments with their custom-made levels.

We feel that UGC games have a huge, yet undiscovered market potential. Lately this has shown in successful storytelling, home decoration and fashion designer games targeted at a female audience. There are still many genres and markets to be discovered with UGC games, so it’s definitely worth considering adding UGC elements in your games as well.

 

This text was also published by PocketGamer.biz as a guest author article. Thank you PG!

 

Traplight Creative Director Sami Kalliokoski took part in an interesting panel in Casual Connect USA on 17th of January. The panel dived into how to make safe, easy and fun games that both kids and their parents can enjoy.

Check out below Sami and Traplight’s take on some of the topics discussed in the panel. You can also watch the full panel discussion in YouTube!

 

Monetisation:
It has become clear to us at Traplight through our own experiences and by looking at current industry trends that User-Generated Content games are super interesting for kids. Because of the high interest towards creating, monetising UGC games comes naturally through the creation elements. Big Bang Racing became popular with kids a bit by accident, but if we were to focus more on making games for kids, we would also put a lot of effort into creating interesting and fun collection mechanics that have been proven to work great in games targeted towards younger audience.

 

Safety:
The nature of User-Generated Content games means that players are able to basically create whatever they like. This makes it a challenge to control the content players create and to keep underage players safe. In Big Bang Racing players can give thumbs up or thumbs down on the created content, much like in social media, and the community is able to quickly hide offensive or not-kid-friendly content. There are also basic bad word filters in place to make sure that the names of levels, players or teams are not offensive. We would also like to highlight the importance of parents playing with their kids: a UGC game can be a kid’s first touch to social media like social interaction, and having a parent there will help them learn how to behave when interacting with other players and the content created by them.

 

Virality:
When it comes to virality, our games rely heavily on the inherent social aspects of User-Generated Content: When you create something you also want to share it with others. In addition Traplight focuses on influencers to make our games visible in social media and YouTube. We put effort into making streaming and video creation easy inside our games. This will help influencers to create content for their fans, and also the players who just want to share their experiences with friends. We also add features that will help influencers create fun and engaging content utilising the User-Generated Content in our games.

 


User-generated content in games gives a lot of value to developers and players alike: virtually endless content created by the community keeps the game ever changing and interesting.

However, user-generated content also benefits gaming YouTubers in many ways. User-generated content games work in a very similar way as social media platforms: all content is created by the users, and all social interaction revolves around the content.

People like, share, comment on and create content inside the game, as well as set trends and try out new things. YouTubers can use these inherently social aspects of UGC to create engaging content that helps them stand out. Below are some of the things that UGC games offer influencers.

 

Social and engaged fans

Influencers aren’t just looking for a steadily growing number on their subscriber counter. To make their channels feel alive influencers prefer fans that are active to comment, like and share, and are eager to engage in activities set up by the influencer. Without sociality, the channel can soon feel dead, and not tempting for new fans to join in.

Through UGC the YouTuber can engage their fans on a different level than with traditional games. The YouTuber becomes part of the UGC social network and gets access to fans that are eager to share their creations and participate.

Incorporating player-created things intotheir videos, playing with their fans in content that they have created, or merely creating something for their fans are great ways to increase engagement.

YouTubers visiting Traplight office.

 

New content

One of the significant problems for any influencer is to find new, exciting things to do and talk about on their channel. For gaming YouTubers it takes a lot of time and effort to scout for new games, or discover new, compelling angles to the game that their channel revolves around.

With UGC there is no problem with new content. The player community is routinely producing new things in the game. Trends and fads are forming at a fast pace. The YouTuber just needs to dig in and pick the cherries for their channel.

A UGC game doesn’t necessarily need any updates from the developer, but the game is organically transforming through players’ actions and preferences.

 

A way to stand out

With 300 hours of video content uploaded to YouTube every single minute, it is sometimes tricky for YouTubers to stand out from the competition – especially when over 30 per cent of the content is gaming-related.

Gaming YouTubers have many solutions to get ahead – personality, different game genres, humour, skills – but it’s still a constant fight to find something that not every other channel is showing as well.

UGC can offer solutions to this problem. In a UGC game each gaming session for each player is unique for two reasons. Thanks to the sheer amount of content and the ever-changing nature of the game, you will always experience the game differently from others.

It is also easier to distinguish from the competition when highlighting these creative aspects of the game, and involving fan-created things in the videos. While many channels are showing exactly the same gaming experience with small variances in tactics and compositions, a channel with UGC games can either create entirely new content or show unique things made by others.

We give value to YouTubers with our UGC games.

 

Conclusion

Influencers and UGC just work together. This is why we are focusing most of our marketing efforts on influencers. We are excited to dig deeper into this relationship and offer influencers better ways to utilise UGC for creating great content for their fans.

These things include building special features for them inside our games, giving them unique content that no one else has, or bringing them in on the game’s development process early on to provide feedback. Our goal is to not only make our products highly ‘YouTubable’, but also give value to influencers, their channels, and their fans through our games.

 

This blog post was published in Influencer Update as a guest author article. Check it out here!

Our Creative Director Sami Kalliokoski featured in PocketGamer.biz as a guest author, sharing some insight on the two different approaches to User-Generated Content that we have discovered. Read the article below:

 

User-Generated Content is often associated with social media, where all posts, shares, and comments are user created. However, UGC is no stranger to games either – level editors and modding has been a common occurrence in games for decades.

At Traplight, we see UGC as enhanced player autonomy – an increased pool of choices and possibilities the players have in the game. That autonomy starts with how you control the game and create your unique playing style. The playing style as such is rarely cited as UGC. But when you look at, for example, placing points on talent trees to twist game mechanics, customizing characters and all that express our identities as players, it is not so clear where the player choices are UGC.

This is especially true in social F2P games. The same goes for user-created characters, storylines, and tactics that become popular. In Clash Royale, Supercell has named decks after players who started using a particular unit combination in a successful way.

 

“Jason’s Deck” became popular after his win at Helsinki Tournament in 2016.

 

While UGC has been a big part of games for a long time (in the form of autonomy), there is one question that divides UGC games into two main categories. This question is about how UGC is used in a game: how does the created content help the content creator achieving their goals in the game? We have identified two-high level approaches to UGC games: Player Centric UGC and Creator Centric UGC.

 

The first approach – which we call Player Centric UGC – is the more popular one of the two. It is used through enhanced player autonomy to give the players an edge over another, via strategic city layouts, counter-decks, and tactical character synergies. The signature of this approach is direct competition between the players. In other words, players customize their gameplay to win. Thanks to the success of this approach, there is a high population of city builders, RPGs, and MOBAs in the mobile F2P market.

The second approach – which we call Creator Centric UGC – is used to gain social validation. Instead of optimizing player power to win, the creators use their enhanced autonomy to craft enjoyable gameplay experiences by setting flow, pacing, elements of surprise, and unique visuals of their creations. If they succeed in entertaining other players, they receive likes that convert into other rewards. In this approach, players create content for other players’ enjoyment – much as game developers do. Big Bang Racing – with it’s 8 million player-created tracks – was born from this approach.

 

These two high-level approaches have different end goals. The player-centric is aiming for power through winning and is rewarded by more power and higher social standing (leaderboard, rank) based on your success. The latter aims for social validation and is rewarded by increased social influence and size of an audience. Large audience grants players a possibility to start their own trend in the game – an achievement that is comparable to having a deck named after you in Player Centric UGC.

 

In Big Bang Racing, the level creators receive likes from other players. Top creators have tens of thousands of in-game followers.

 

The Creator Centric UGC has lots of similarities with UGC in current social media. They both rely on people delivering interesting content, giving and receiving social validation, and growing a following. They both also allow opportunity for becoming an influencer, much like streamers in YouTube and Twitch, but inside a game, by providing your unique content to your audience of other players. In Big Bang Racing, the highest rated creators have tens of thousands of followers.

 

But in social media, there is no direct way to monetize you UGC content creation process. This is because the content creation tools – cameras, cell phones or animated gif makers – are external to social media platforms. The camera and the skills used to take great pictures for Instagram or Facebook, attracting thousands of likes, are external to the publishing platform.

In UGC games, the content creation tools are internal to the game, creating a new kind of potential for monetization. Here lies the unique puzzle in UGC gaming – how to monetize player creation process and longing for social acceptance.