Episode 54: Unlocking LiveOps Success – Lessons from Mobile GameDev Award Winners

Discover the strategies that drive award-winning LiveOps! In this episode, we analyze the Mobile GameDev Award winners, revealing their secrets to boosting engagement and revenue.

Join host Jon Jordan and GameRefinery experts Erno Kiiski, Kalle Heikkinen, and Jiri Saarinen as they break down the essential components of successful LiveOps. Learn how to master collaborations, competitions, seasonal events, minigames, and compelling narratives.

Get actionable insights to level up your own LiveOps strategy, whether you’re an indie developer or an established studio. Discover the key metrics that matter and tailor your events to maximize impact.

Watch the video recording

Episode Transcript


[00:00:00] Jon Jordan: Hello and welcome to the Mobile Games Playbook. Thanks for tuning in for another episode. This is the podcast all about what makes a great mobile game, what is and isn’t working for mobile game designers, and all of the latest trends. I’m your host, Jon Jordan, and joining me today, we have no less than three experts from GameRefinery. So welcome to Kalle Heikkinen, Erno Kiiski, and Jiri Saarinen. And I think Jiri, first time on the podcast, so a particular welcome to you.

[00:00:28] Jiri Saarinen: Yes. Yes, it’s a hard name; it’s Jiri. It’s alright, it’s alright. It is a hard Finnish name.

Exploring LiveOps in mobile games

[00:00:32] Jon Jordan: Yes, sorry, yes, Jiri, I’ll try. Okay, correction’s out of the way. Right, so in terms of today’s episode, we are going to be looking broadly at LiveOps, but we are going to be looking at them in the context of the mobile game dev awards from Liftoff. Now, in their third year, they are looking at the power of LiveOps, obviously in terms of things boosting revenue. So we’re going to be breaking down the LiveOps ecosystem in terms of some of those categories. So we have collaboration, competition, immersive narrative, seasonal events and mini-games. So we’re going to be looking at those in that context. But maybe to kick us off, Erno, can you talk broadly about some of the stuff we’ve been seeing in LiveOps just to contextualise what we’re going to be going into?

[00:01:25] Erno Kiiski: Yeah, yeah, sure. Maybe just to start, first of all, why we decided to move in with our awards, you say, this third time we’re doing it. And now we reiterate a little bit to focus just on the live events because, well, to be honest, there are all kinds of awards and different types of awards. And we were thinking about, how could maybe we, differentiate from the.. rest of the best game of the year type of things and stuff like that. And as we know where the market is, where the focus is, a lot of the focus in the market is what we have been doing in GameRefinery.

A lot of our recent additions and tools and focus have been on live events. So how about we specify, be a bit more specific, and just look at the live events? side of things and what is happening there and who is innovating and who is doing interesting stuff because, to be honest, most of the innovation nowadays in the mobile game markets Or a lot of the innovation happens in the event space There are a lot of the same old games still in the market, but in the event space the innovation and new stuff is happening much more often than maybe new games appearing Which of course once in a while, still come not that much but once in a while.

[00:02:45] Jon Jordan: No, it’s true. It’s a very good point.

[00:02:46] Erno Kiiski: Well, Monopoly Go is one of the biggest launches ever, so no, of course, there are still those, but anyway. So, when we think about live events, how would I categorize live events? How do we think about live events, and how did we make these award categories, for example? So, of course, when you are adding live events, it all comes down to what is your goal. What are your aims for the event? So it can be so varied.

So it can be that you’re aiming to increase the retention, are you’re aiming to increase long-term retention? Are you trying to create a month-long event that may be connected to other events? Or are you trying to use your data to have a weekly loop, and then on Mondays, it’s always people are dropping off and are not very engaged, so you’ve asked yourself, what could we do in order to increase retention or engagement for those days for short term, as an example. Or if it’s just you trying to increase daily playtime. So you see that, okay, our session lengths could be longer.

You are creating events that have then maybe more sense of urgency if we are thinking about the top dogs’. Royal Match, for example, has these events that you activate and then are active for one hour. It’s a very engaging short-term event with a true sense of urgency.

Alternatively, is your event about monetization? Are you trying to directly monetize and have some different bundles or then, of course, battle pass tying the engagement into monetization? Or are you thinking about that, okay, I’m gonna actually indirectly need to wanna increase the monetization, so through the retention, through the engagement and then exposing to players your usual monetization hooks. For example, a lot of the match-three games, that’s all of their events. They are not necessarily directly monetized, but they very, very cleverly engage the users in order to buy those extra moves and buy those boosters and stuff. Or if it’s you catering, you’re looking at your user base, and you’re seeing that, okay, we’re not catering to specific motivations enough. So if we think about social motivation as an example, let’s say we have a great game, but we could increase our motivation; how it induces different motivational drivers is we need a little bit more social in our game. We would need maybe competition in our game for the more competitive players in our game or incentivize them through that or maybe cooperation, something that is happening in some of those games. So, this is motivational thinking. Or even UA-driven thinking.

We have been talking a lot about mini-games, and mini-games are one of the topics that have been talked about a lot. And if you look at the top, especially strategy games, mid-core, hardcore games, a lot of them are pushing events also, not just to engage and monetize the users, but they are working together with the marketing department and creating these mini-games and that stuff and events and stuff that they can tie into their UA efforts. We’re gonna talk about mini-games more in the section discussing the different categories, but that’s just a couple of examples.

So there are so many ways that you can think about live events, but ultimately, it comes down to ‘what is your goal?’ I guess. That’s the key thing, and then even on top of that, when you decide, ‘Okay, this is what we are trying to do, ‘this is what we try to achieve with the events’, but then also how that event interconnects with your whole game and your whole gameplay loop. So it’s such an important thing to not just slap-slap an event. Then you see an event in a top game, and oh, that’s cool, but then it’s a totally different game.

The most important thing in your game is how it interconnects with all the other events and how it fits into your whole event framework I think a couple of examples great are Royal Match again, how they have a quite strict weekly framework, but how everything is so interconnected and gives these extra pushes to play another event and then play this another event. For example, they released their latest new event type called Archery Arena a week ago or maybe a week and a half ago. And it’s a leaderboard event, but then it has this win streak implemented into it. And it’s a one-day event.

So again, if you think about those things, what…it tries to achieve. Okay, so it’s a one-day event, so there’s a much more sense of urgency. It always happens during the week, and it gives that every single day of the week an extra push. Then there’s the win streak, and a loss aversion is tied into it. So there’s another there are multiple of these, I guess five to six different things that you lose if you lose a level or if you keep the win streak going, you get extra benefit status tied to it. So it taps into that, and then it ties again into the monetization. So you wanna compete, you wanna complete the levels, you don’t wanna lose the win streak, so you get the score. So then it ties into the monetization. So this type of a thing, how it interconnects with the rest of the events that you have and the whole game you have.

[00:08:38] Jon Jordan: Yes. So definitely enough there for an award, and I think it’s a good point you do say there, where certainly from the outside looking in at not a very deep level to some of these games, then sometimes they can seem very much, oh, ‘they’ve gone down the catalogue of LiveOps’, and they’ll have one of those and two of those and slap that in. And it is, I think, without telling everyone to use your tools unless you really have a very deep understanding of how these games are being played. It just seems a little bit chaotic, and you can’t really see the gearing of how all these things, when they work in a flywheel, really work well.

[00:09:14] Erno Kiiski: Yeah, it’s definitely, and it’s especially more midcore or hardcore you go; you’ve got more stuff there that has started to happen, for example, I’ve been just recently studying probably the highest scaling 4X game in the past year, Whiteout Survival and their live event framework. At first, at least for a couple of weeks, it feels like there’s so much going on and stuff happening all the time. But when you follow it for a longer pattern and over a longer time, you start to see those patterns that, ah, okay, this is why they have these on the same time. And you start to see that, okay, this event actually reiterates every two weeks or every three weeks, and this one is every week. You see these patterns and try to actually deconstruct why their event framework works and why it actually works, as well as why they work together. So that’s a very interesting part about deconstructing and analyzing these top games.

The power of collaboration in LiveOps

[00:10:13] Jon Jordan: Yeah, cool. Okay, so we’ll be doing that as we go through. So we’re gonna take these categories and go through them in a bit more depth. So, the first one we’re looking at is collaboration. So, Kalle, do you wanna take us through that?

[00:10:25] Kalle Heikkinen: Yes, so just adding to the great list that Erno just explained on the different kinds of objectives that developers might have when building these events. Virality is another and is definitely one of them related to what Erno just talked about regarding marketing efforts. So, how many social shares do you get for your events, and how much is it shared in social media these collaboration events are definitely something that, if successful, do get a lot of attention from your player base.

So IP collaborations obviously have two major potential benefits for your game. You get to re-engage your existing player base, but then at the same time, it’s possible to acquire totally new audiences as well. As a developer, you want to achieve both, of course, but depending on the game and the crossover IPs type, the focus then might be more, for example, on the re-engagement side, as opposed to user acquisition, or then it’s the other way around.

But anyway, in general, I would say that games shouldn’t be too conservative when considering these different IP crossover brands. I think we’ve seen some pretty wild combinations that have been greatly successful just recently.

Lords Mobile is collaborating with the car brand Pagani, for example, and we’ve seen Gucci in Tennis Clash and so on. But I guess it’s safe to say that we do see a bit more gaming and, for example, anime-related collaboration events on the mid-core side. And then it’s more common to see, let’s say, celebrities or consumer brands and popular movies, for example, collaborating in the casual space.

And of course, on the casual side, if we now go to the winners that we have in the GameRefinery Awards, there the winner for the best IP collaboration events was actually StumbleGuys. We didn’t choose that just for one specific event, but I think it’s safe to say that nowadays, if we think about Stumble Guys, the IP collaboration events that they have, they’re pretty much one of their key cornerstones when we think about their live up strategy overall.

So they are out there with, for example, Fortnite always having some interesting collaboration events going on with IPs such as collaborations with MrBeast, Monopoly and BarBeech, just to name a few.

And then, on the mid-core side, our winner was PUBG Mobile. There, we were especially thinking about the Dragon Ball event that they had, which was really cool, especially how they implemented the limited-time mode there. It did not just have some Dragon Ball skins for players to purchase, but actually, the entire mode was revamped to be a real Dragon Ball experience, starting from the graphics and aesthetics to all the other content that was in the mode. So that was a really, really special moment for the game.

[00:13:50] Erno Kiiski: Yeah, maybe on my two cents on these two winners. Especially for the PUBG, it’s a game, and overall, shooters have been on the Western markets. Of course, in the Asian markets, we have seen many more collaborations even back in the day. But I think in the Western markets, shooters were one of the first ones to really kick it to the next level, with Fortnite, of course, and all that stuff, and PUBG has also been there, especially the mobile side, collaborating with tons and tons of brands over the years already. But with the Dragon Ball one, what I saw, looked into that specific event, the production levels were off the roof type of a thing, so, their whole game had a proper Dragon Ball makeover, and they were proper, skills and change the whole how you played the game for the short period. This is not just an event mode type of thing, but this is a whole movement of the game. Everything has changed, almost a big, a big event happening.

[00:15:06] Jiri Saarinen: Yeah, if I could add maybe a few thoughts.

[00:15:10] Kalle Heikkinen: Please go ahead.

[00:15:12] Jiri Saarinen: I feel the developers are understanding that players appreciate understanding the IP. It’s not just a random, just a skin, but adding more of the IP components into it; you have in the PUBG that you could do classic Kamehameha and whatnot, so it feels more like you’re actually understanding the collab IPs, and those are I think are pretty important and maybe in the party games maybe IPs start to feel they’re part of the core gameplay of the core game. So players are always waiting for the new IP that’s going to come into the party games.

[00:15:58] Erno Kiiski: Yeah, that is true and especially with the Stumble guys, it’s been so interesting to see ever since it got acquired by Scopely, how they have gone to the next gear, and they went to the next gear in terms of the live ops and how it transformed. When Stumble Guys came from Finland, it was a couple-person team, and now it’s this massive live ops machine where they have such big IP collaborations going basically all the time if you follow it, there’s always some collaboration going on. So it has become this, as Jiri mentioned, this game is almost a platform of IPs like we have seen in Fortnite or Roblox or stuff like that. It’s a crucial part of the whole experience.

[00:16:41] Jon Jordan: And I guess that particularly works where the game itself is very simple. This was the way that the game was successful. Obviously, it was bringing something to mobile that was on PC. But you would think after a certain period of time, people would start to churn out if the game is that simple. And you saw, yeah, it’s got. Obviously, you’re playing co-op, and you’ve got your friends in there, and so there is that level as well. But then it’s really the, what you’re saying is that level, the collaboration is providing the long term engagement because if you just really love this game and the exciting things are going to happen next week, next month. You want to stay there to see what the IP engagement is.

[00:17:20] Erno Kiiski: Yeah, definitely. And that, I would see through the events, especially the IPs and then the UGC stuff that has now also been slowly added into Stumble Guys. Now, the EGGY Party, Stumble Guys‘ main competitor from NetEase, has just released, and the UGC is even on the next level. It’s had a very slow start at the moment for the West, at least. But, will be very interesting to see where that competition goes in the future.

Social and competitive elements in LiveOps

[00:17:47] Jon Jordan: Yes. Cool. Good. OK, so let’s move on to the next category, which is Social and Competitive.

[00:17:53] Erno Kiiski: All right, so Social and Competitive overall, of course, this is a huge category because you can look at it from many, many angles. So, well, first of all, social is one of the strongest retention drivers and glues that keep players in the game. If they get a community, if they get a sense of competition going on, it can be one of the most engaging motivational drivers that there can be, to be honest. So it can be looked at either on the competitive side where you are competing or then actually on the collaboration side. So, for the winners of this category, we will look a little bit across the board. So, on the casual side, we focus more on collaboration. Here, we chose the winner to be Monopoly Go with the partner events.

So if you’re unfamiliar with the partner events, basically in those events, you are teaming up with other individual players, and then you are progressing with them, on with the one-on-one, so two-player teams, you’re progressing through the event, reaching point thresholds and getting rewards, and so on and so on. And then there’s an extra incentive if you can complete the event with all of the four people you are teaming. So you are making these two people teams with four, four other people, I think it was. So if you’re able to complete the event with all of those, then you actually get even an extra reward. So you wanna, especially if you’re a hardcore and engaged player, you wanna team up also with the other players who are very engaged.

But why did we choose this one? To be honest, we have been talking a lot about increasing competition in casual games for years already because of this type of collaboration, even in this podcast. And it’s been a trend for a while. But this type of collaboration, especially outside of the guild. So you are teaming up at the start of the event and having done that with just a friend. The event is for just individual friends. So it feels a bit more personal than just having a joint goal with the 40-people guild or so on. So these types of events haven’t been really that common yet. And now, when Monopoly Go implemented the first iteration of this event, I think it was, was it in the summer of last year? And then they have had it once a month, every single month. about five to six-day events, something like that.

Very often, those days when this partner event has been active have been the best-performing days of the month for the game. That’s, of course, one example we are seeing in terms of the correlations between the performance with this social event. However, we have seen this exact event type so often with casual game events; when somebody comes up with a specific type of format, it starts to pop up all over the casual market. So now Monopoly Go brought this, and the same idea has been brought to Royal Match, Phase 10, and Clockmaker, just to name a few, so it has all a different core gameplay. It’s not just casual casinos but also puzzle games and stuff like that. But the same fundamental idea of this social collaboration event that they did worked really well for them. And now it’s been spreading, and it’s a trend already, one of the trending event types in the casual. So, it’s definitely worthy of the winner spot over here.

And then on the mid-core side, we have League of Legends: Wild Rift implementing an event called Arena. So Arena was a new PvP mode. And why we especially wanted to highlight this one for this category was that it’s a good example of a developer trying something out, and getting really good feedback. They probably see good numbers in terms of engagement, at least, and then actually develop it further and implement it as a proper permanent mode in the game. So, this PvP mode they released called Arena first came as a test. It was a limited-time event that was around for a while, but it was so well received that Riot has actually developed it into a proper permanent part of the game that is over there. It has its own ranked mode and everything else. So, a great example of this is testing out something, then seeing the results and then moving on to a proper feature implementation.

[00:23:22] Kalle Heikkinen: I think that’s really a testament to how… Yeah, I was just to add that it’s a testament to the powerfulness of events in general that you can test out your ideas, your concepts, see how they perform, how players react, do they engage with the event, and in the best possible scenario if it makes sense, then you can do things in Wild Rift, you can make that temporary mode, a permanent feature in the game.

Seasonal events in mobile games

[00:24:03] Jon Jordan: Good, good. Okay, so now moving on, I guess to what we see as the first thing we had with LiveOps was seasonal events. So, it’s still going strong. Kalle, what do you want to tell us about the winners of seasonal events?

[00:24:19] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah, I mean, I think when people think about live events in general, seasonal events, Halloween or Christmas, probably come to your mind straight away. It’s a low-hanging fruit out there. Oh, ‘we need a summer event or a Halloween event for our game’ and so on. And you can make any event a seasonal event. If an event is a Halloween event, it doesn’t tell anything about the nature of the event, just that it’s themed around Halloween.

And I think that’s one of the reasons why we feel, why I feel we see a lot of reskins of existing events, which with just seasonal wrapping. So, you change the name of the event to a Halloween event. And let’s say if it’s a match-three game, you match pumpkins instead of regular pieces. And nothing wrong with that, of course. And if you’ve had your game running for a longer period already, then you can start recycling some of the ideas, the mechanics and the assets you’ve used in previous years. So, just as an example of that, Merch Mansion, one of the most popular Merch 2 games out there, actually had a limited-time store open during Christmas time, where they sold their catalogue cosmetics from previous year’s Christmas events. So, players could then purchase some of the cosmetics they probably have, which they might have missed in previous years.

But yes, the winner of this year’s awards for the best seasonal event on the casual side was Phase 10, which was already mentioned in this podcast. They had a versatile package for their holiday event. So it had a bunch of something for everyone. So there was a minigame going on. They had a renovation event, a competitive event, a social co-op event, and even some slot elements incorporated into the event. So, it’s really a nice package for Christmas. And I guess just in, yeah, please go ahead.

[00:26:37] Erno Kiiski: So yeah, for Phase 10, I just want to say that overall, it’s a very interesting game to… If you’re working in a casual space, it’s definitely a game to look into about LiveOps because, as Kalle mentioned, a lot of the especially casual live ops, there are a lot of these patterns that, maybe, the only seasonal thing is that, okay, your battle pass is now, Christmas battle pass and, and it’s a UI reskin of an existing event. And a lot of that is happening. And I said, nothing wrong with that. And it, of course, makes all the sense if you have a strong event framework. But Phase 10 is a very exceptional game in that sense that they innovate a lot and brought different gameplay mechanics and event mechanics and stuff that may be more than any other this top-performing casual game, so definitely a game to peek into if you’re interested in the variety of live events.

[00:27:48] Kalle Heikkinen: Yes. And I guess one thing that I would add about seasonal events is that if I had to give one tip, that would be to think about which seasonal events to address in your game. So, I would definitely look at which geos are most relevant to your game. And then not only that but also if there are any sizable ethnic minorities in some of the played in the game. And so then, obviously, how do we implement those, let’s say, Dragon Boat Festival events and Diwali events? Then, we definitely chill here. But definitely, I would look for GameRefinery’s implementation database and look for examples. We have all the relevant seasonal events covered over there. So, it’s definitely a good source of inspiration.

[00:28:53] Jon Jordan:

Cool, have we finished Seasonal? Do you want to talk about the mid-core winner?

[00:28:59] Kalle Heikkinen: I think we’re done.. Let’s finish this up. We can go to the minigames already.

The role of minigames in LiveOps

[00:29:06] Jon Jordan: Okay, cool, so there we go. Minigames.

[00:29:12] Erno Kiiski: Yes, minigames, minigames. As I already mentioned, it’s an interesting trend. So, this is something that we have been talking about in the industry quite a bit and for a good reason. So if we talked about a little bit what we mean by minigame and how, for example, I think about minigames, again, there’s such a variety of minigame implementations, and also coming back to the motivations of implementation. So with minigames, especially, we have seen the approaches for the UA-driven minigames and UA-driven minigame modes and minigame events I talked about pretty much all the currently in the current market landscape scaling hardcore, midcore, 4x strategy type of a game is pretty much all of them, if you look at the recent hits, has been doing something in this space so some more casually appealing.

One very good example of a very interesting example is a game called Happy Match Cafe; it’s part of this trending subgenre of 3D match, which I mean by that is the game triple match 3D or match factory that came from Zynga. just recently. So these games, these puzzle games where you have a pile of items where you need to find similar items from the pile of 3D items and then clear the board type of a thing or find specific items to complete the levels and so on and so on. So there is this game called Happy Match Cafe, which is on top. I think it’s a top-grossing 50 game in the US, doing very well and originates from China.

But one very interesting thing in terms of minigames is what they do is that they have actually minigames as a permanent part of the game when you complete those 3d match levels, then on the side, you also have a progression for the minigame levels and what is even more interesting about that is that minigame that you have in your game is dictated by when you downloaded the app and what was the UA campaign active at the time. For example, we did an analysis of this game a while ago. So when I downloaded the game, there was this very beautiful pimple-popping type of minigame which they, probably everybody, has seen some of those ads, but they were using that. And that was a minigame in the game for me. But now, if you go, for example, to HappyMatchCafe‘s app store page, they actually are advertising with this drawing without lifting your finger or solving the puzzle without lifting your finger type of a minigame. And now, if you download the app, that is actually the minigame that you get. And I still have that old minigame. So, they are trying to change the minigame based on the UA campaign, which they changed. They see that, okay, this is probably testing it out, seeing that this is a campaign that seems to be working, then they are creating the minigame, then it’s part of the game permanently, and doing this evolving, changing minigames in the game and so on. So, very interesting tactics that they have.

But then, if we talk about on the other side of the spectrum, so if that is, to be honest, the main goal is UA driven. We have minigame events that are aimed at retention and engagement. And that is also more important than ever when user acquisition is harder than ever. So if we look at the top games, especially the top of the chart games, the mega games, and so on, They are, of course, getting bigger and bigger, and they are slowly turning, to be honest, into this almost platform offering a variety of experiences. If you think about Playrix, they have a different; it’s not just a match-three game anymore; they have Merge, and they have exploration and all that stuff implemented in there. But also, on a smaller scale, if you think about another type of game such as Royal Match, they have had these digging minigames that you are digging treasures out of the board or stuff that. This type is a bit smaller scale, but they’re minigames, after all.

And these are there to offer a little bit of variety for the game. And here, I also discussed at the start of this podcast that the important thing is thinking about how the minigame fits in your game loop. So what is the goal? So do you want to just add a fun minigame that keeps players engaged for one day, and then they create a minigame event that becomes a part of your whole event loop and reoccurs, and it’s actually interconnected into your gameplay loop, so there are actually reasons for players to engage after the initial ‘Oh this is cool something other minigame’ fades out, so this also super important.

And then if we go into the winners who I think tap into this aspect. So for the winner of the casual, we have Royal Match. We have already talked about it, and they have been adding these I mentioned the Digital minigame called Hidden Temple. They added it already at the start of the year, and that event type, again, is a bit similar to what I talked about with Monopoly Go, and it has been a trend. So this Digi minigame that Royal Match implemented also has been popping up in tons of different casual games from Chrome Valley Customs, and even actually Monopoly Go added this digging minigame, so they are going back and forth ideating and then taking the idea from the other and these top games with the minigames. But the one we chose for a winner we haven’t really yet seen in many of the other games was…

Royal Match’s event called Magic Cauldron was added, I think, in September or October, somewhere over there for the first time, and it’s been happening ever since then once a week. So it’s part of the weekly framework, and how that event works is that you are actually solving these formula puzzles. You have potions of different colors and there’s only one right solution on which order you need to put those puzzles. And then if you put those, sorry, the potions. So if you put those potions in a specific order, then the game says that, okay, these ones were in the right spot, and these were in the wrong spot. So, what does this remind anyone of? So, of course, it reminds me of the viral hit, Wordle. So with that game, of course, it was all about figuring out the letters in the right spots. But here, it’s different coloured potions, and you have this a Wordle-like minigame, and then how that is interconnected to the whole gameplay experience, that you get those potions by playing the core gameplay. So you are earning those potions, and then you need to play more levels to get those potions, and give that engagement loop, and then again, fits the whole match- three games, and creates those extra engagement incentives, and so on and so on. It so great, has great implementation and is very engaging; in my opinion, this is a minigame to incentivize a match- three players as an example. Then, on the mid-core side, we chose Garena Free Fire for the event called Pet Smash. Maybe Jiri can talk a little bit more on this one, but maybe the one thing that I want to highlight over here again is the interconnection.

[00:37:44] Jiri Saarinen: Garena Free Fire is a shooter game, and they have all different cosmetics, and they have had these pets in the game for a long time already. You can get your pets that follow you, and so on. So now they brought an event that utilizes those pets. So you can give more reasons for you to have cool pets, and you actually engage with the pets more, giving more value for cosmetics and so on. Yeah, in the mode you play, there were three pets that you could choose from, and it was a Brawl Stars copy; typically, you just had two sides and three players on both sides, and you tried to kill each other’s pets kinda using different abilities and whatnot each pet had their own. But the reason why we chose this one is because in Free Fire, the whole live ops thing almost always has event calendars that are themed to certain seasons or some other things, and this event was a part of this team calendar.

So, playing the minigame event, you could also there was a couple of task missions that would link with this minigame. So, more reason to play the minigame.

[00:39:10] Erno Kiiski: Yeah, again, in terms of interconnecting it with not just a minigame that is slapped on top, but it’s very thought out on, okay, we’re gonna bring a minigame. It might be engaging and refreshing, but then how it fits in the grand scheme of things where in Garena are. There are so many different kinds of events, and then how do you connect those and make everything engaging so that they work as an ecosystem, so to speak?

[00:39:38] Jon Jordan: And interesting having, yeah, literally having a shooter and having pets in there, I mean, that really seems a jarring thing, but now pets are in everything. So it’s, I guess, as the industry has moved, as what players expect to have in games, it’s broken out from the genres. It’s suddenly pets in the shooter game; just, yes, why not? So it shows how these things are becoming, I mean, in other ways or platforms for narrow.

[00:40:06] Erno Kiiski: Definitely.

Narrative-driven LiveOps events

[00:40:09] Jon Jordan: And that can bring us to the final category. So, the final category is going to be narrative, and Kalle, you’re going to take us through that one.

[00:40:19] Kalle Heikkinen: So the winner for the best narrative event this year in the mid-course section was the Cookie Run Kingdom with their Holiday Express event. So, the Cookie Run Kingdom celebrated the latest holiday period with an interactive story event, which was heavily inspired by AgatChristie novels. In the event, players followed this storyline and collected objects from different rooms so that they could present the right evidence, to say, in this murder case for the character of Jolly. And what we would say in general about Cookie Kingdom is that they’re just excellent at using narrative elements to help players build bonds with the characters in the game. But amongst all the events that they’ve had in the last year, this particular event, the Holiday Express event, really stood out for us.

And on the casual side, the winner we chose was June’s Journey with their story of the first battle pass. So June’s Journey finally jumped on to the season pass battle pass wagon last year with the travel pass event that happened last November, and it stood out for us as the best narrative event in casual, mostly due to its innovative approach to emphasize storytelling in the season pass format. So, narrative aspects were really at the forefront of this travel pass feature. And you could say that getting rewards from the pass was, you could pretty much almost consider that as the side benefit. The main beef was really to engage with the storyline. What also made this pass very unique was the player’s ability to influence specific narrative segments by making choices in the Battle Passes narrative storyline. This added a layer of interactivity and connection for the players to the event.

[00:44:30] Erno Kiiski: Yeah, that is very interesting, especially the June Journey one, I guess. Wooga’s thing has always been narrative. They’ve always been known for creating narrative things. And, especially with June’s Journey, it’s one of the things that did stand out from the market was the emphasis on the narrative. Now, they have had different kinds of events, and they have added narrative more than maybe other casual games into their events. But they’re very interesting now with the Battle Pass. Previous iterations we have seen usually don’t include them as they are not narrative features, so to speak, but now, with their implementation, they are at the forefront. You are, I think it’s called Travels. So it’s always when a new season comes, it’s a new story that you go and progress. And then you can, Kalle said, you can have an impact even on the story by making the dialogue choices and stuff like that. Something a little bit similar we have seen earlier on, Kalle mentioned earlier, the merge game, Gossip Harbor, has had a Battle Pass and small nuggets of dialogue, but not into that scale; I think that Wooga does. But they also had that, okay, if you wanna get the kinda a juiciest part of the story, that’s on the premier layer of the Battle Pass. So that was one of the. things that they try to sell to buy the premier layer of the battle pass. You are progressing similarly and getting rewards, but the narrative is a reward for a battle pass. So that’s an interesting new type of implementation happening in that space.

[00:47:49] Jon Jordan: Absolutely. Now, I guess over the whole, over everything we’ve spoken about, we’ve gone into a lot of detail on some of these games, but it shows on the whole how much innovation there is. And some of it’s, I guess, just good best practice, really well implemented, and not innovative in terms of coming up with something new. It’s using the tools that everyone has available in a really good way for the audience and the game. And it’s still fascinating to see people coming up with these innovative ways of using a battle pass. We thought we’d seen everything in a battle pass over the last five years, and now, suddenly, a very specific implementation for that very specific game, as you said, is really fascinating to see.

So thank you, everyone. We’ve covered a lot of ground there. I hope people are enjoying that. I hope you’re gonna download these games and check them out. You’ve had a lot of pointers there, so that’s a really fascinating course to action. So thank you to Erno, Kalle and Yuri, finally, for your expertise. And thank you for watching and listening to the podcast. Every episode, we are doing deep dives into the into the mobile games industry, which remains as fascinating as ever, whatever we are now. 12 years, 12 years into the free-to-play mobile gaming.

[00:51:44] Jiri Saarinen: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.

[00:51:52] Jon Jordan: Industry is still expanding and really fascinating. So I hope you are subscribed, and I hope you’ll come back next time. Thank you very much for listening to this one. See you then. Bye, bye!