Pretty Simple is committed to providing unique game experiences. With their Headquarters in Paris, France, they develop and publish social games on Facebook. They share their experience with their hit game, Criminal Case.
When we launched Criminal Case in November 2012, the pressure was on. We had worked for a year and a half on it, doing it all ourselves at Pretty Simple in Paris. The whole team had grown from just the two co-founders at the start of 2010 to close to 35 people in just three years. This was the first big production that we were releasing. By June 2013, Criminal Case had grown to 9M DAUs, ranking #2 most played game on Facebook in June, and its players gave it the highest rating in the Facebook top 10 games.
As we opened the beta, the game started growing, but not quite as fast as we hoped. After only three weeks, we started observing something very interesting: while the number of new players coming through invitations was growing in a linear trajectory, the number coming through Open Graph (OG) stories was growing with sudden jumps. So much so that after 30 days, for every new player coming from an invite, five were coming from an OG story. We had worked hard on creating interesting OG stories, with compelling art and narrative, but we were still amazed by these figures.
Finding the Right Story for Your Game
Criminal Case is a game of investigation, with a core hidden object gameplay and, most importantly for OG stories, a strong, story-led gameplay. The players are police investigators in the homicide unit of the Grimsborough Police Department, tasked with catching killers. They investigate crime scenes, find clues, analyze them, and interrogate suspects. Each murder case that the players investigate has its own distinctive story and art, and each key action the player takes can make for an interesting OG story.
We knew from the start that we wanted the OG stories players post to tell the story of their investigations. These stories would provide the friends of players with visually pleasing content, and with accompanying texts that would incite interest and curiosity. We also were very clear that we did not want our players or their friends to experience the spammy feel of glorified icon + badly written text that a poor implementation of OG stories would create.
Implementing Your Narrative in OG Stories
So you’ve found an interesting, overarching narrative for your OG stories, and it’s time to define what your individual posts will contain, both in terms of visual assets and text. In Criminal Case, we isolated four key event types, which we thought would make for interesting enough content:
– Working on a murder case
– Investigating a crime scene
– Interrogating a suspect
– Finding a clue
For some interesting events, however, we decided we wouldn’t create associated OG stories. For example, arresting a killer would have made for an awesome OG story, but it would also have been the mother of all spoilers. Keeping the player experience unspoiled was central in deciding what we would show, and how much we would say in the OG stories of Criminal Case.
Creating the Material for an OG Story
When you create an OG story and optimize its impact, you deal with the usual hierarchy between elements: visual first, then title, then text.
When it came to creating our own OG stories for Criminal Case, we tested hundreds of combinations, variations, and angles, in order to find what really resonated with players. The first step had to do with getting a first sense of what kind of images might work, and to find the way they should be presented. We A/B tested wide angle images, close ups, images with a frame, with a red corner band saying “New”, with a lens and/or other icons, with the Criminal Case logo, in all combinations of elements and element placement on the image.
Thanks to these tests, we were able to define an optimized method for choosing and presenting visuals for each scene and event, as well as title and text template on which variations could be built. Then for each scene, we always A/B test three images to find the most interesting one.
On OG stories talking about the investigation of a crime scene, the title and text were A/B tested as well. They evolved from being specific to each scene, with the name of the scene as the title, to being generic, and, most importantly, having “New” as the first word in the title. In the end, here’s what an investigation OG looks like in the Facebook.
We have about 600 different OG stories today, and this number keeps on increasing as we add new content to Criminal Case. The creation of these OG has required quite a bit of work, even after all the initial testing was out of the way. The results speak for themselves: over 10 million installs, and players appreciate the care we’ve given to creating quality content.
Hear more about what Pretty Simple did to create great retention and virality in Criminal Case at their session at Casual Connect USA!