Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Are one-off events a good use of developer resources?

While the numbers are far from being a perfect measure of what is going on, The Nosy Gamer's weekly XFire stats are the best we have to look at activity in various MMORPGs week after week. And this week's numbers show something already previously observed: While Guild Wars 2 activity spikes on weekends with world events, the activity drops to below pre-event numbers the week after. XFire detected 20K hours spent playing GW2 the Sunday before the event, 26K during the event, and 18K after the event.

As today World of Warcraft is being patched to version 5.1, it will be interesting to see the effect this has on WoW activity numbers over the next two Nosy Gamer reports. Does a content patch increase activity by as much as a one-off world event? And, more importantly, does the effect of a content patch last longer than just the event weekend?

Even if Guild Wars 2 doesn't have a subscription, the overall goal of adding content to the game must be player retention. And as players can famously consume content a lot faster than developers can add it to the game, the question is what kind of added content results in the best player retention. To me it appears that one-off world events aren't the best use of such limited resources, as there doesn't appear to be much if any effect after the event has come and gone. What do you think?

I think it is one of the best. Where I work when some celebrity shows good manners and dies, the traffic bump we get is not limited to the coverage only. We have few percent higher traffic for the next few days on everything.

I will be surprised if same mechanic does not work in MMOs too.

This is a powerful mechanic to use. You can bring a lot of players and break the critical mass for network effects to form.

I think that if you have one off really good events bi monthly it will be optimal for a game. Of course I do not have the data to back it up.
Lots of players enjoy one-time events. And from the dev side, knowing that the thing you're working on isn't going to be a permanent feature can free you up to experiment with stuff, so it's fun for you, too.

To say that anything non-optimal for retention is a bad use of developer time seems really mercenary -- what's wrong with developers doing things just because they're fun?

GW2 need sell game boxes and items at lion trade because it don't have subscription.

My guess is that when they have one time event each month, they sell a lot more items at the lion trade while the event is happening.

I know the prices for lion chests get higher at TP during the Mad King and the Lost Shore events. That is evidence the game had more trading when the events were on.

The psychological effect too is important at salles: if a player is interested to buy GW2 but she is waiting for buy it, to have an one-off event can be a strong incentive for buy the game NOW.

Take note that Anet is doing that one-off events each month. Other event will come now at december for xmas. While GW2 don't have a monthly subscription, each one-off event is incremeting the profits each month.

So, from the point of view of GW2 marketing strategy and salles and money making strategies, one-off MONTHLY events are a very good use of developer resources.

In general, I think I agree with you. However, I also feel they are cost effective in moderation. They add a variety and "what's happened since last patch." and an excuse to log in. In the extreme, daily quests are limited time content and they are reviled.

It also depends on whether the game infrastructure was designed to make events efficient to do.

If I were a struggling small game, I would probably do 0 to 1 a year. But a few are probably cost-effective and, like so many features, have become expected for AAA games.

J Carlos brought up a good point I had not even considered: that business model matters. Is the event designed to throw some variety in the endless maw of content that subscribers demand? Or sell mounts, costumes, etc. in the cash shop? Or get someone who has not purchased a game to overcome the initial barrier to purchasing? In the last two cases, the game company does not care near as much whether they continue playing after the event.
I tend to agree with the commenters. It might be a bit of a wash according to the Xfire numbers, but since your customer base's happiness levels depend on not being bored, dropping unique things on them every few months is probably important to the overall psychology of the players. I'd also have to think the programming load can't be all that demanding.

I think it's obvious that GW2 and WoW have different MOs.

If your game is free-to-play, there's no urgency to play it NOW. So you need a big bump to get people back (or as someone mentioned, to get people started).

With WoW, your subscription is ticking at $15 a month. If you are not interested to come back but your pay on time, Blizzard doesn't care that much. So they focus on adding more to the track to lengthen the journey.

Here's an analogy: Blizzard's rollercoaster is flat and slow but veeeery long and looks straight.

GW2's is flat as well but every 30 meters or so, it has a huge ramp. It's also pretty obvious that it's a circle :)
Just to add one more data to my comment above MONTHLY one-time events.

I wrote it before Anet announced Wintersdat event (14th december - 3rd january):

And if you look at the top corner of this page, you will see there is a january 2013 one-time event planned (
It can work to draw the crowds, but in GW2's case specifically - their one time event didn't fall anywhere close to a time I could actually participate so it just turns me off. :(
I am an avid GW2 player and I really enjoyed the first event (Mad King), but then I heard the announcements of the next event and that it was going to be over one weekend and was going to be world changing. I got excited until I realized that it was over a weekend that I had a business trip in which I would be working the entire weekend.

Not intentionally, but more psychologically, I stopped playing shortly after the Mad King ended. The Mad King had given me lots of new things to do and then end of it brought me back to the same old tasks. In addition, with the events being tied to the monthly achievements, I realized that there was no way for me to complete the monthly so I lost that goal that I often work towards.

So, I haven't played at all this month. Not because I don't like the game or am bored with it, but more because I felt like I missed a big part of the game because I wasn't there for one weekend.

I like the "event" system, but doing it over one weekend is much too short a time to really give people a chance to truly make the most of your developers time.
The monthly in-game event seems to be a staple of games that eschew subscriptions. If you run a F2P game you have to keep the whales happy and give them excuses to spend money.
Activity spikes are useful for different reasons in FTP and sub bases.

FTP needs a base user level for community/grabbing new people/providing base funds. Spikes provide a burst where extra people come in and buy items.

Sub based games don't want a user spikes so much (harder to balance server pop, can cause queues) because they already have the subscription cash. They only directly gain if an event causes an old person to resub. That is why their patches are more likely to add perminent content providing current players with a reason to stay subbed a bit longer.
Guild Wars does not have a monthly fee. Will NCsoft really care about losing people, considering that after the initial sales... everything else is mostly time spent for a minimum income?

WoW, on the other side, asks you money every month. So they DO care about keeping people interested.
I think it is a bit difficult to directly compare, due to the differing production costs of the two methods in question.
I would guess that one-off events are considerably cheaper to produce than a good content patch. (Supposing that the software devs did a good job in the original coding, and gave the event creation guys good tools to work with).

So if one-off events only show a percentage increase in participation for a percentage as long as a good contet patch, that doesnt necessarily mean the content patch is "better".

I would argue that both methods should be included in AAA MMOs these days, especially FTP ones.
"Supposing that the software devs did a good job in the original coding, and gave the event creation guys good tools to work with"

I remember GW2 beta weekends had special events at the last hours, as that "hunger royale" event. That event was created at some few hours, if I am not wrong.

My guess is that GW2 have tools that make easy for the devs create specific events. Now it is just hope for they develop more creativity and learn how to make that events less "bug-prone". For example, NEVER make NPC taht players need fight at a weekend event, that NPC will be hit for a hundred million players at same time and it will go bugged at a few seconds... That is a lesson they need learn from Lost Shores event.

Let's hope that with more experience the devs from GW2 will make events with less problems and funnier. Anyway, two events are coming, the xmas one and the january one. We will see if they can learn with the past mistakes.
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