Last time we went over what the initial draw of Splatoon on a mechanical level. Lets take a step back this time and take a look at why it has survived for so long. Another issue facing multiplayer console games is they die out quickly but Splatoon 3 months later is thriving. This is particularly peculiar because the WiiU has not sold well at all. What did Splatoon do different than games like Titanfall? My gut reaction points to two things: One they haven’t fractured the community and two they continue to roll out free content to this day.
When shooters launch they usually have a few game modes (Death match, Team death match, Capture the flag, etc) and at least 10 + maps. Splatoon launched with 5 multiplayer maps, 40 single player missions and only 1 multiplayer game type. This should have been a death sentence for this game. But Nintendo has been rolling out new content since the first weekend of Splatoon’s release. With new content they are bringing back players who may have moved on to try something new. (or at least this is typically the hope).
By not launching with a bunch of maps and game types the community was funneled into one game mode so it stayed together. They weren’t split across multiple game types. Then we got ranked play which brought with it a king of the hill type game. But this was only after Nintendo determined there were enough players online to keep from fracturing the community. As time has gone on they have added more game types, levels, weapons and clothes to help the game stay fresh in the minds of players. And did I forget to mention all this DLC is free? So every couple of weeks a new weapon or new level comes out helping to keep the game feeling fresh for players. Then every month or so a new game type is released further making the game continue to feel fresh.
But what are they doing aside from adding in new content? Restricting maps.
This sounds absolutely crazy but it works. At any given time for each game type there are only 2 maps available to play. After 4 hours the maps get switched out for 2 other random maps. Now we already know restricting content for a time can be monetized heavily (Clash of Clans anyone?). So what happens if we don’t give the players an option to skip the waiting by paying? Well you avoid the media bashing you for “trying to suck the money out of player’s pockets” (Even though you may not be forcing the player to purchase the speed up). Also players are more excited when they get to access the different levels. How does the old saying go? “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Well it would seem it can be applied here as well to make players more excited (initially) when getting to play rotated out content.
And then there is Splatfest. Which is an event which brings players back once a month because it pays out materials used to add slots to the player’s armor and weapons so they can have more bonuses.
So what have we learned?
1. Continuing to roll out content over time for free can be an effective way to keep players coming back for more and retain players.
2. Restricting content can be used as a tool to funnel players towards other content.
3. Restricting content for a certain amount of time regularly can make old content feel new again.
4. Having events can bring players back, if even for a little bit, which will expose them to some of the new levels, gear and game types.