CASE STUDY: Replika.ai
Helping an AI-driven startup find focus & drive retention
The team at Replika.ai had a lot of interest in their smart chatbot – but were struggling todrive sustained engagement. They used Game Thinking to identify hot-core superfans in their existing market – and discover what those people cared about most. This disciplined, iterative, low-fidelity approach allowed the team validate ideas faster and increase their design throughput. Using Game Thinking, Replika increased retention rates and created a business model around their best customers.
Replika.ai had shipped a promising product – with a big press push & millions of downloads. But there was one big problem.
Their retention was low. They tried surveying customers – and got back a wide variety of goals and expectations.
They tried gamifying the interface with points and badges – which juiced their stats, but didn’t solve their focus problem.
Then, they adopted the Game Thinking methods – and figureed out who to listen to – and what product to build. Focusing on a small, hot-core slice of a much larger audience was the key to validating ideas faster.
To fix a leaky bucket, start by identifying your hot-core high-value customers
Focus the app and business model
How do you find blue-ocean opportunity in a crowded market? That’s the challenge Jam City faced when we started working together.
We tackled this challenge by connecting with enthusiastic gamers in that genre, and understanding what they liked — and didn’t — about those games.
Through this process, we discovered a group of players who enjoyed these games, but wanted a new type kind of gaming experience, which didn’t currently exist.
Using insights from these players, we crafted a scenario that showcased gaming activities and progression, and added a cooperative mode based on what we’d observed during our research. Validating those designs let us understand which features these players cared about most, which helped us tighten up our game pitch.
Their reactions let us know we were onto something. When we pitched our new concept to the executives, we showed video clips of these players reacting to our game concept. That sealed the deal, and got the game green-lit.
To find new market opportunities, start by understanding the existing habits and unmet needs of your leading-edge customers
REPLIKA’S STRATEGIC ADVANTAGE
Natural-feeling AI Conversations
As we started working together, it became clear that Jam City had a “secret weapon:” their world-class Customer Insights team, led by Lisa Spano, VP Research.
This team had developed an active Insider Community, populated with enthusiasts from all their game franchises. This warm, curated group played a key factor in our execution speed, letting us quickly recruit gamers with specific interests into our tests.
This asset let us complete test recruiting in a few days, something that would have otherwise taken weeks.
To increase your odds of success, build a pre-launch Insider Community
FOLLOW THE CUSTOMER
An AI friend you can talk to anytime
In our initial design sessions, we explored different directions for the game – and reviewed the market landscape. After interviewing potential players, it became clear that creative cooperative play between friends and family members was an unmet need for our audience.
So we developed and tested some co-op ideas, and found that most of our testers identified cooperative play as their favorite part of the game concept.
Taking a low-fidelity, iterative approach to testing game concepts let us get feedback on different ideas quickly and cheaply. And that led us to a game design concept we felt confident about.
Test your initial assumptions and find out what excites potential customers MOST about your idea
LEVERAGING THE POWER OF GAME THINKING
Adopt a system your team can learn
After having success with Game Thinking, Jam City decided to spread this methodology to other studios within the organization.
So the company invested in training 6 team members in our Game Thinking Certification program. These professionals are now spreading Game Thinking throughout the company to develop, test and pitch game ideas.
This shared methodology and language has increased cross-functional collaboration between researchers and game designers, and allowed teams to test ideas and catch problems earlier.