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A Thinking Ape联合创始人介绍公司发展路线编辑本段回目录

加拿大温哥华工作室A Thinking Ape可以算是一家默默无闻的手机游戏公司,但这并不意味着他们无所追求。该工作室由Kenshi Arasaki和Wikins Chung这两名前亚马逊加拿大开发者成立,其前身是三年前获得创业孵化机构Y Combinator支持的聊天客户端公司,但在2009年进军社交游戏领域,而前Facebook加拿大开发者Eric Diep也在此时加入团队,从此公司项目开始一路向前发展。

A Thinking Ape在过去几年中的团队规模由原来的3人扩张至40多人,已将拳头产品《Kingdoms at War》这款游戏移植到Android平台,并收购了温哥华小型开发商Good Guy Robots,开始从硬核RPG游戏业务向休闲社交游戏领域扩张。

其联合创始人Kenshi Arasaki在最近的媒体采访中介绍了公司发展历程,用户ARPU以及在线游戏社区发展情况,以下是游戏邦编译的访谈内容:

A Thinking Ape(from insidemobileapps)

A Thinking Ape(from insidemobileapps)

据我所知,你们自从原来的天使轮融资后就再也没有接受过其他投资,你们有打算再进行一轮融资吗?

因为我们已经完全可以靠公司营收自给自足,所以资金并不是一个问题。我们当然也会考虑进行A轮融资,但只有在我们急需一大笔钱时才会采用这种做法。

A Thinking Ape的三名联合创始人都是加拿大人,但你们却是在旧金山创业,为什么又选择将公司迁回加拿大?

我确实很喜欢加拿大和温哥华,我们主要是基于公司在何处落脚才有利于长期发展,公司在哪可以扩大影响力等考虑才搬迁回去。如果你已经有了运营模式,那就真的需要一些可靠的人才和有利的人脉。而温哥华正是个理想的城市,所以我们决定将总部设在这里,把公司扩张为至少有上百人的团队。你在哪都可以组建有100多号人的团队,但在哪能打造一个有上千人的团队,就真的需要仔细掂量了。

看来你们很关心公司扩张这件事,请问你对公司未来几年的发展愿景是什么?

我们不会长期将自己定位为社交游戏公司。我们最擅长的技术之一就是在游戏中创建社交层,所以我们最终会打造一个有利于大众的社交平台。但现在我们还要构思如何开发这样的产品。

所以你们打算向服务或平台公司转型?

我们可能不会一直做游戏,但在最近阶段还是会以游戏为重心。我们的业务恰好处于手机游戏和社交游戏这两个新兴领域的交叉点,虽然Facebook已经称霸社交游戏领域,但手机平台的社交网络却还没分出胜负。我们希望成为iOS手机社交游戏平台中的一员。

假如你成为这场角逐中的主流竞争者,就很可能打造一个身价达数十亿美元的项目,这也正是我们追求的目标。

能不能谈谈你们游戏的MAU和DAU表现情况?你们打算继续在iOS平台发展,还是向Android平台扩展业务?

说到我们的MAU增长情况,要先提到之前苹果限制App Store非自然下载量的事件,这项苹果新政确实让我们的一些竞争对手备受打击,也让那些通过购买广告位而获取用户的开发商大伤元气。

但我们从来不通过这种奖励安装模式创收,因为我们这种稳打稳扎的运营模式发展较为顺利,所以我们并没有受到什么损失,业务也没有下滑。苹果新政出台之后,我们的游戏反而晋升到了美国营收榜单第6名。

《Kingdoms at War》经常浮动于营收榜单较为靠前的位置,你们是如何做到这一点的?

因为我们的运营模式根基牢固,每用户平均收益也相对可观,所以我们能够控制游戏在App Store的排名情况。

这也正是为何你从未看到《Kingdoms at War》从未称高居榜单之首的原因。游戏应用具有一种天然的吸引力,但无论有多少人接触游戏,最终都只有一小部分用户会持续体验游戏。你在榜单排名越高就能获得越多用户,但用户质量却会开始下滑。我们已经找准了可以让游戏通过每名用户获得最大ROI的排名位置。

虽然你们不需要公开财报数据,但请问能否和我们分享下具体情况呢?

一般来说,在苹果新政出台前,iPhone平台第一梯队开发商每月营收介于100万至300万美元之间,我们正好在此之列。

Kingdom at War(from insidemobileapps)

Kingdom at War(from insidemobileapps)

具体每款游戏的表现情况如何?

我们在《Kingdoms at War》这款游戏中投入了最多营销费用,但从目前我们所有的游戏表现情况来看,《Future Combat》的每用户平均收益最高。

能否具体谈谈这一点?

这个行业一般游戏的DAU平均收益是4-6美分,但《Future Combat》的这一数据高达46美分。不过这是我们一个半月之前观察的数据,现在有可能还不止这个数。我可能肯定地说,这款游戏DAU平均收益最低的时候,也从未低于行业一般游戏平均值。作为一家RPG游戏公司,我们的用户基本上是细分市场的硬核玩家。

那么你们游戏的用户平均收益情况如何?

需要说明的是,我们限制鲸鱼玩家(即高消费用户)的数量。我们这款游戏中甚至有玩家一天内就挥霍了2万美元(游戏邦注:编者对这一数据表示怀疑,但A Thinking Ape向采访媒体insidemobileapps确认这一数据无误)。

我们清楚限制玩家消费情况会对游戏营收造成影响,我们也不希望打造一个让大家觉得只有花钱才能玩得痛快的游戏社区。我们的游戏极具社交性,玩家可能会通过积分排行榜看到有钱人更容易晋升至榜单之首。但这会对玩家群体造成消极影响。我们希望玩家慢慢向榜单高处攀升,并在游戏过程中融入玩家群体。所以我们将用户每天最高消费额度控制在150美元以内。

是否认为这种做法有助于形成一个更良好的玩家社区?

没错。我们限制鲸鱼用户数量,我们遇到的最大抱怨就是“为什么我想每天多花点钱都不行?”,虽然这实际上并不是坏事,但也存在其他风险。假如你不允许鲸鱼玩家大量花钱,他们可能很快就会厌烦了,而且也不再继续花钱。但我们的目标是打造一个强大的玩家社区,让非高消费用户也能获得良好的游戏体验。我们希望为用户创造最好的体验。

这种理念好像与其他开发商的逻辑相反。是否认为这就是社交游戏应该走的发展路线?

我们希望为玩家创造最好的体验,所以我们多少有一些无私之心。我们根据社区发展来权衡盈利方案,因为假如你想开发真正的社交游戏,而你的玩家社区发展并不健康,这会让公司最终走向死胡同。而在单人游戏中,你可以尽量扩大鲸鱼玩家数量。

可见玩家社区对你们来说非常重要,为何认为你们的玩家社区粘性很高?

如果你看看我们在App Store的竞争对手,就会发现他们的游戏内容比我们更多。他们有专门的美术团队,每周定期发布可供玩家消费的新内容。我们才刚开始向游戏添加更多内容,但我们起家时是一个聊天应用公司,我们希望开发拥有强大聊天客户端的游戏。

我们的游戏也因此拥有很强的社交性,所以才会有强大的游戏玩家社区。所以,即使用户玩遍游戏中的内容,他们也常会登录系统看看朋友。这些核心好友群也因此成了社区粘性的强化剂,更高的粘性会带来更高的盈利性。

这样看来,游戏玩法对你们的用户来说好像居于次要席位了。既然这样,为什么现在又要向游戏添加更多新内容?

这是为了长远考虑。我们是以聊天应用公司起家,但我们也没有理由不为游戏添加更多产品价值。我们现在有足够的资源同时做这两件事。

所以你们现在同时拥有出色的聊天客户端公司和游戏公司这两个身份了?

许多社交游戏实际上并不社交,其社交功能只是让玩家邀请好友而已。我们已经找到了开发iPhone社交游戏的门路,而我们的竞争对手则擅长推出大量产品。这个市场刚起步时充斥大量非社交而且产品质量低劣的游戏,但已开始提升产品质量层次。我们比较偏重社交层面的东西。人们已经知道如何制作更丰富游戏内容,但却并没有形成如何让游戏更有社交性、如何打造充满活力的在线社区的标准方法。

所以说,游戏社交性并不只是体现在“拥有积分排行榜”这一点上!

是的,也不仅局限于“我邀请了10个好友!”我们有大量游戏用户经常在现实生活中碰面,一起去迪士尼乐园玩。我们还收到一些玩家发送来的结婚照片,看到结婚蛋糕上印有我们游戏的加载页面图案,因为他们就是在我们游戏中相识的。

你们的游戏成就了多少桩婚姻?有没有超过10对?

可能有吧。就算不是结婚,至少也促成了不少情侣关系。这种事情总是很突然。最让人感动的一件事是,我们有个儿童玩家得了癌症,但他在游戏社区极有影响力。他发了一个贴子称“我病了,我要去住院所以不能再玩游戏了”,之后就再没发过贴。

后来他妈妈替他发贴称“他和我们全家人都非常感谢各位的关心”,这种现象显示了在线社区的力量。

虽然人们会说我们不过是在开发游戏而已,但我们实际上也做了极具人性化的事情,那就是打造一个丰富大家生活的在线社区,让大家在闲暇时间通过游戏中的电话、聊天室相互沟通和会面。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,作者:Kathleen De Vere)

46 Cents in Revenue Per DAU? Vancouver’s A Thinking Ape Has Seen It Before

Kathleen De Vere

Vancouver-based A Thinking Ape may be a quiet player in the mobile games space, but the company’s silence doesn’t mean it hasn’t been up to much.

Founded by Kenshi Arasaki and Wilkins Chung, two Canadian former Amazon developers, A Thinking Ape was originally a chat client company that was backed by Y Combinator three years ago. After pivoting into social games in 2009, fellow Canadian and former Facebook developer Eric Diep joined the team and since then things haven’t slowed down for the company.

In the past year, A Thinking Ape has grown from from three to 40 employees, begun porting its flagship game Kingdoms at War to Android, bought out a smaller Vancouver developer called Good Guy Robots and begun working on a brand-new social casual game outside of the company’s core RPG niche.

We sat down with co-founder Kenshi Arasaki in A Thinking Ape’s still-under-renovation two floor office in Vancouver’s Gastown district.

Inside Network: As far as I know you haven’t taken any additional funding after your initial angel round, is that something you’re looking at?

Kenshi Arasaki: Given that we’ve been able to grow completely off of revenue, cashflow isn’t the issue. There are obviously situations in which we would consider raising a Series A, but it would have to be a situation where we had to raise a boatload of cash to take over the market.

IN: All three of A Thinking Ape’s co-founders are Canadian, but the company got its start in San Francisco. Why did you choose to come back to Canada?

KA: While I really love Canada and Vancouver, the primary goal behind the moving the development office was saying, “Where can we build a company long term? Where can we scale out our company now that we’ve got some traction?” Once you have a business model, you need a really good source of incredible people. Vancouver turned out to be a really good fit and we decided to build our head office here and grow our company to hundreds if not thousands of people. You can build a team of up to 100 people anywhere, but where can you build a team that’s thousands of people?

IN: Expansion is clearly on your mind. Where do you see the company in a couple of years?

KA: We’re not always going to be a social gaming company. One thing that we’re really good at is building a social layer within games, so at the end of the day we want to build out the social platform that’s been so good to us and make it available for other people. Right now we’re still trying to figure out how to make that a generalizable product.

IN: So you’re looking to transition into a service or platform company?

KA: It’s possible that we won’t always make games. But for the foreseeable future, it’s games. We’re at the intersection of two amazingly large markets that are growing really quickly: mobile and social games. While the race is over for Facebook, it’s still being determined who the players are on mobile and there’s no clear winner. We’re uniquely positioned in iOS to be one of those players.

If you become a major player, it’s not out of the ordinary to see it becoming a billion dollar business, and that’s something we’re striving for.

IN: Speaking of your games, how are your MAU and DAU figures doing? Are you still growing or are you looking to Android for expansion?

KA: In terms of our MAU growth, you remember the issue in the app store where incentivized installs were killed? That hurt a lot of our competitors.

We never monetized through offer walls, but it also hurt a lot of people who were buying ad inventory because it was a cheap way to acquire users. Because our per-unit economics are so strong in comparison that it hasn’t hurt us as much, so we haven’t seen a decline. When they cut the offer walls, we actually went up to the #6 on the US highest grossing app chart.

IN: Kingdoms at War is usually around the middle of the top grossing apps chart. How do you keep that position?

KA: Because we have such good per-unit economics in terms of how our users monetize on a per user level, we control our app store ranking.

That’s why you never see Kingdoms at War at the top of the top grossing list, but we keep it on top of our sub-category. Games have an innate organic appeal. No matter how many people are exposed to the game, only a certain number will continue to play it. As you go up in ranks you get more users, but the quality goes down. We figured out where we need to be in the app store to have the highest ROI per user.

IN: While you don’t have to report your earnings, is there anything you can share with us?

KA: If you’re a top tier developer on the iPhone, you will make between $1 to $3 million dollars a month before Apple’s cut. We’re a top tier developer on the iPhone.

IN: How do those earnings break down? How are your games performing?

KA: Kingdoms at War is where we spend most of our marketing effort, but Future Combat has the highest per user monetization by far of all of our games. It’s actually ridiculous how crazy it is.

IN: Can you share some specifics?

KA: Four to six cents per DAU is about average in the industry, but for Future Combat we’ve seen our revenue per DAU go as high as 46 cents. However, that might not even be our high end anymore because I looked at those figures a month and a half ago. I can tell you that even for our lowest monetizing game per user it’s at the top end or higher than the industry averages. As an RPG company our users are more niche and more hardcore.

IN: What are your averages then?

KA: Keep this in mind – we limit whales. When we were getting guys that were spending $20,000 a day in our game. (Editor’s note: Yes, we were incredulous about this figure too. But we double-checked with A Thinking Ape by e-mail on this and they said $20,000, as in real – not virtual – currency.)

We realized it was skewing our revenue and we realized we didn’t want to create a game community where people thought that you had to pay to win. Our games are so social that you could see people rise to the top of the leaderboards because they could afford to be there. That’s actually really bad for the community. We want people to rise slowly and move up the charts and have the ability to get integrated within the communities. Our users, even with those high monetization numbers are limited to like, $150 bucks a day.

IN: Do you think that fosters a better community in your games?

KA: I think so, yes. Even though we limit whales, our number one complaint is “Why can’t I pay you more per day?” That isn’t a bad issue, but there are other risks associated with it. If you don’t allow whales to spend whale amounts of money, maybe they get bored faster and never spend as much as they would have. But the focus is on encouraging a strong community and making sure that people who didn’t spend as much money can have just as a strong experience. We tried to do what was best for the users.

IN: That seems to go against the prevailing logic of some developers. Do you think this is where social gaming needs to go?

KA: We wanted to do what was best for the users, so we had some altruistic tendencies. We’re trading off monetization for the growth of the community because at the end of the day if your community isn’t healthy, your company is dead long term if you’re trying to develop a truly social game. In single player games, you can have as many whales as you want.

IN: So community is very important to you. Why do you think your community is so engaged?

KA: Well, if you look at our competitors in the app store, one thing you’ll notice is that their games have much more content than ours do. Like, orders of magnitude more content. They have dedicated art teams and are releasing new things for the players to consume every week. We’re starting to add more content, but we were a chat company to begin with and we wanted to build games that were thin veils over kickass chat clients.

This gave us a very strong social layer within our games, so we have extremely strong game communities. So, even when people run out of things to do in our game, they log-in just to hang out with their friends. This core group of friends serves as a force multiplier for things like engagement, and with greater engagement comes greater monetization.

IN: So gameplay may even be secondary for your users after a while. Why are you making the transition to adding more content to your games now then?

KA: It’s a low hanging fruit. We started off as a chat company, but there’s no reason we can’t up the production values of our games. We now have the resources to do both.

IN: So now you can be a great chat client company and a great game company?

KA: A lot of social games are not actually social, other than inviting your friends. We’ve cracked what it takes to build an inherently social game on the iPhone, and what our competitors do really well is high production values for the market. In the beginning the whole industry started out with not much social content and bad production values, and started moving up towards better production. We kind of went over into the social side of things. The thing is it’s fairly standard knowledge how to make your games richer, but not how to make your game actually social, and how to develop vibrant online communities.

IN: So it’s not just — “Our game has a leaderboard”!

KA: Exactly, or “I invited 10 friends!” We’ve had whole groups of people who play our games, people who have never met each other in real life, take trips to Disney World together. We get wedding pictures mailed to us of people who have met in our games. We’ve seen wedding cakes with our game’s loading screen on it because they met in our games.

IN: How many weddings have you facilitated? More than 10?

KA: Probably. And if not weddings, at least relationships. It’s something that turned out to be completely emergent behavior. A really touching thing was one of our players was a child and he got cancer, but he was well known in the community. He started posting things like “I’m sick, I won’t be able to play because I need to go through treatment,” and he stopped posting.

After a while his Mom started posting for him explaining that “He and our family are so incredibly grateful for all the love that you guys have shown us.” It just goes to show you the power of an online community. People say “Oh, you’re just building games.”

But at the end of the day we’re doing a very human thing, creating vibrant online communities that enrich people’s lives. And this is all through a phone, in a chatroom in a game that people play with their disposable time.(source:insidemobileapps

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