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.