What is Live Ops?

July 19, 2023
July 19, 2023

Originally, video games were static products. Once a player completed the content of a game, there was little reason to play that game again. On January 1, 1983, the internet was born. Eventually, this development would revolutionize the gaming industry and lead to the emergence of new strategies for ongoing game design. What is live ops?

Key Takeaways:

  • Live ops is a method of managing and operating games as a live service rather than a static product, leveraging new technology that made it possible to update games on the fly.
  • Live ops is necessary for modern games because the complexity and sophistication players expect requires continuous updates and improvements.
  • Live ops makes games more fun and engaging for players and helps developers better monetize games by providing a way to keep players interested in games long term.
  • Live ops is a resource-intensive process that goes beyond the typical skill set of most core development teams, but Sonamine can supplement internal live ops staff or outsource live ops functions.

What Is Live Ops?

Live ops, a portmanteau of “live” and “operations,” is a game management and operations strategy that treats games as a live service, rather than a product. Live ops includes changes, improvements, and updates developers make to a live game that don’t require releasing a new edition.

The focus of live ops is to continuously and consistently improve games. Live ops centers around managing the player lifecycle from the point they discover the game to churn.

Why Is Live Ops Necessary for Modern Games?

The emergence of live ops eventually made this method of development a requirement for most modern games, because the ability to continuously add new content and fix problems on the fly led to the creation of more complex and scalable games with longer shelf lives. As a result, modern players expect highly engaging and sophisticated games that require live ops.

Live ops are particularly necessary for free-to-play games that rely on high retention rates and long-term in-app purchases for revenue. Because players aren’t spending money upfront to play free-to-play games, developers must keep them playing for a long time to make a profit. Many successful gaming companies, such as the studios that produced Candy Crush and Pokémon Go, have built their reputation by providing exceptional live ops support for their games.

Chart that demonstrates the role of Live Ops in video games

What Are the Key Components of Live Ops?

Live ops consists of several key components.

Continuous Updates and Content Releases

To keep players engaged long-term, developers must continuously release new content, features, levels, and gameplay modes. Additionally, developers can add new content to games by selling new characters, levels, or cosmetic items as in-app purchases.

In-Game Events and Limited-Time Activities

Live events, such as holiday-themed events, leaderboard challenges, limited-time quests, and tournaments, generate buzz for your game and excitement for players. These events also give players who have stopped playing a reason to come back.

Developers often combine in-game events with other engagement strategies, such as offering limited-time purchases of unique items or releasing new features, levels, or challenges, that players can enjoy after the event ends. Many of the most popular games are constantly running one or more events to keep players interested in the game.

Player Engagement and Community Interaction

Players are constantly generating useful information as they interact with the game environment. Developers can analyze this data to tailor in-game events, in-app purchases, and marketing campaigns to players’ playing styles and preferences and to address pain points, such as frustrating levels that increase player churn.

Monetization Strategies

In-game events provide opportunities for gaming companies to monetize their games by selling unique items or experiences. Developers can also use events as a way to create new sinks for in-game currency, which helps balance the game economy by stimulating spending and also encourages players to buy in-game currency.

Problem Management

However much testing you do, there will be bugs and other issues that may lead to player churn if you don’t fix them. Live ops allows you to patch such issues on the fly so that players don’t have to wait for an updated version of the game.

Chart showing the impact of bugs on player churn

What Are the Benefits of Live Ops?

Live ops benefit players and developers in a variety of ways.

Enhanced Player Engagement and Retention

Live ops improves customer engagement through:

  • New content
  • Promotions and incentives
  • Timely responses to customer service issues
  • Updates to fix areas of friction that cause churn

Additionally, live ops provides you with an opportunity to actively engage with your player base, which makes customers feel more valued and builds a sense of community.

Increased Revenue Generation and Monetization Opportunities

Live ops allows you to collect valuable data about your players to use to attract new players and better monetize existing players. Additionally, live ops events provide you with opportunities to introduce new ways for players to spend in-game and real-world currency.

Flexibility and Adaptability for Game Developers

One of the greatest benefits of live ops is that you can continuously improve your game based on player feedback and your analysis of player data. This helps you keep players interested in your game long term, rather than having to continuously develop sequels and new releases and then having to woo players back to those games. Live ops also makes it easier to conduct ongoing A/B testing that helps you make better decisions about how to update and expand current games and develop new games.

What Are the Challenges of Live Ops?

Live ops requires a high level of operational expertise that may go beyond the capabilities and interests of your core development team. Successful implementation may require you to integrate with cloud services or operate backend technical infrastructure.

Live ops also requires you to consistently identify and respond to issues that affect the player experience. To address these needs, you may need to hire a dedicated live ops team.

What Is Live Ops at Sonamine?

Sonamines offers complete live ops services that you can use to supplement your existing team or outsource your live ops functions. Sonamine can run your live ops events, helping you improve your monetization, retention, and engagement metrics, provide real-time analysis and reporting, and assist with ongoing tweaks to continuously improve your game. Contact us today to get started.

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