When I buy a AAA game from the store, I have a vested interest in liking the game. I’ve plonked $60 down for it, so there’s less of a chance I’ll abandon it just because the installer is annoying, or the tutorial is a bit dull, or because I have to create an account first. I’ll give the game a chance… at least a half hour.
But if it’s a web game, I’m not going to give it more than a minute of my time. That first minute has to hook me, draw me into the second minute. The second minute has to draw me into the third, and so on, until I’m solidly invested in the game.
This is a lesson that indie Flash developers have had to learn the hard way. That’s why a huge proportion of their development time is spent on things like the menus, the loading screen, the tutorial levels. They know that if they bore me during that first minute, there are literally hundreds of thousands of other games for me to try.
Why Are You Acting Like I’m Already Invested?
But now AAA companies are trying to get in on the quick-play, no-hassle, free-to-play scene. And they don’t understand that they need to make a good first impression. They’ve got a AAA mindset with an indie PR budget.
To start with, there’s sign-up forms. Seriously… they make me fill out a friggin’ web form before I can even download the game! Web forms are exactly the opposite of fun.
Free Realms is supposed to be “ultra-casual”, yet I have to provide a username, password, and an email address before I can start downloading. Why can’t I play first, then sign up after I’ve played for a bit? This is not a difficult technical challenge.
Even worse is Lotro, whose signup form requires 9 pieces of information.
Now, it’s true that older free web games (like Flyff or Maple Story) had similar signup forms. But there’s a zillion free MMO choices now. When I’m bored and spot an ad for one of these games, I’ll click it, see the signup form, and… then hit the Back button. Partially that’s because you’re wasting my time, and partially it’s because I don’t want to be on yet another spam list before I even see if the game is fun. No thanks, I’ll try a different game instead.
Every web developer who’s done any amount of A/B testing can tell you that if you make users fill out a form before they’re invested in your product, the chances of them leaving are much higher than if you delay that form until the user is invested.
This is so big a deal in the indie scene that on FlashGameLicense.com, we won’t even try to sell your game if it has a mandatory signup before you can play. It’s too high a hurdle; it also kills viral propagation of the game.
In fact, this is so “common knowledge” that it’s flabbergasting that big companies can’t figure it out.
Stop Forming Me
If your free game requires a bunch of my personal info before I can play, do you have any idea how many customers are bouncing away because of it?
Do you have metrics on it?