On Aug 8, 2020, Sausage Man celebrated its three-year anniversary. Ever since we started to work with Xiamen So Funny Technology Co., Ltd. (So Funny in short) on this game, we have been confronted with not only doubts from within the industry, but also opportunities and challenges never seen before. The doubts were mainly about So Funny, which was a small team based in Xiamen and never had a go at creating shooting games before. People were skeptical about whether it could pull off making a 3D shooter that stands out in the fiercely competitive battle royale market. The opportunities came from TapTap, as Sausage Man is released exclusively on this platform. TapTap allowed the development team to iterate Sausage Man in the long run, which is almost unprecedented and rarely seen in China’s game industry. Meanwhile, we also invested tons of resources to support the project.
Today, after three years of experiment and efforts, we can finally announce, with great pride, the success of Sausage Man. Not only has it survived, but also thrives and stands tall among loads of battle royale games. Also, the game’s success proves the plausibility of TapTap’s strategy, i.e. “stimulate TapTap’s growth with exclusive contents from Xd to attract and retain more users; support first- and third-party developers’ content creation and attract more quality content with the expanding user base”. In this article, we would like to share with you the secret behind Sausage Man’s success, and hopefully more games with long-term values would come to and shine on TapTap.
What makes Sausage Man a flagship project under Xd’s long-term-focused strategy?
The summer vacation three years ago was when PUBG became vastly popular. At the time, our perennial partner So Funny, whom we had partnered with since their Shen Xian Dao project, told us their interest in making a battle royale mobile game. They spent a few days to create a demo using free Unity assets and put it on TapTap. In merely one week, the demo achieved about 300,000 pre-registrations. Everyone familiar with TapTap knew what this means a lot for a small, obscure team. So after the test, we decided to expand the demo into a full game. However, the game’s performance wasn’t satisfactory when it was first released, and it didn’t contribute a lot financially to Xd. Meanwhile, games of the same genre, with licenses for popular IPs, support from influential social media apps like WeChat and QQ, or endorsement from monopolistic platforms, were mushrooming. Under such competitive pressure, how did Sausage Man maintain strong growth momentum, leading to our increasing confidence and investment despite all the challenges?
We believe there are three reasons:
First, the game features a unique art style.
From the initial test, we found that there was a huge demand for battle royale games. However, we didn’t imitate PUBG and make a title with realistic graphics, which was what most of our rivals did. Instead, we attempted to give our game an anime-style vibe at the very beginning of development. We were inspired by vinyl sausage man toys that looked funny and cool. At first glance of those toys, our team decided that this was the art design they had been looking for. We also wanted to establish a unique brand image for the game, so during the initial period of the project, we co-produced a Sausage Man animation series with Bianyue Culture. The anime paved way for Sausage Man’s being established as a brand new IP. By now it has been viewed over 1 billion times. With the unique art style, Sausage Man successfully distinguishes itself from other battle royale games, capable of attracting hundreds of thousands of new players during peak periods at weekends. Even though the market is now dominated by a few top-ranked games, there are still many players looking for a fun and relaxing battle royale game.
Second, there’s a vast scope for polishing gameplay.
When PUBG became a huge hit, most developers rushed to release their own battle royale games on mobile, by replicating PUBG’s mechanism and making slight changes to it. Sausage Man was no different then. Its early versions stuck to PUBG’s framework, easily reminding you of other PUBG like games, and the game’s controls felt clunky. After several versions of update, we gradually figured out the proper direction to design Sausage Man’s gameplay – offering combinations of multiple playing strategies and simplifying controls. Thanks to its anime-style character design, there aren’t many restraints in designing new gameplay and items. We are free to allow characters to do actions impossible for real humans, for example double jump, high jump, and move with grappling hook. Players can control their characters to move fast and conveniently on a small screen. There are elements like the Goofy Wyvern, Mecha, and ID Card that greatly extend the possibilities of strategy outside of gunplay. After the development of 6 seasons, data and user feedback prove that we have chosen the right development direction. Fun contents that are not seen in other battle royale games are fully capable of winning target users.
Third, we’re willing to take risks and invest over the long term.
Different from previous projects that were terminated once the trends changed, Sausage Man is not developed to grab first-mover advantages. Instead, it’s a game iterated continuously over a long time on TapTap. The platform has provided a great opportunity for developers, by allowing them to offer players early access to their games and iterate on existing builds according to feedback. In the first half of 2018, the test version of Sausage Man was already on TapTap. With no paid contents available, the game steadily attracted about 300,000 new users during holidays, which considerably expanded TapTap’s user base as well. Our development and operation teams kept polishing the game and paid contents were rolled out at the beginning of 2019. In the third year as of its release, Sausage Man is eventually able to make a profit.
As for the developer, they received unlimited financial and operational support from Xd when Sausage Man was not able to cover its cost. And when the game started to make money, they get all the profits as TapTap, unlike most game platforms, doesn’t take any cut of games’ revenues. The developer thus has more resources to invest in development. One takeaway from our work over the last three years is: TapTap and Xd should set a longer cycle for content providers (CP) to iterate their products and help them achieve value in the long run. Making continuous, reasonable investment in development will greatly help developers learn and grow.
TapTap: offering special values to game CPs
The development team of Sausage Man started small with less than 10 people. At first, Dada, the producer of the game, personally posted test announcement and answered players’ queries on TapTap’s forum. Obviously, it’s tough for a team focusing on development to handle operation and marketing jobs well. They were also short of experience in long-term game operation, a common defect for medium and small CPs. We spent three years helping them polish and expand the game from an early build with basic gameplay to the current version packed with fun, novel contents that appeal to all ages. Our work has well prepared the game for a great performance, which showcases the value of TapTap as a platform. Like senior sailors passing their knowledge and experience to the younger to navigate their voyage, we’d like to serve as a navigator for CPs, helping them solve problems and create more unique values. As hardcore gamers and experienced operators who happen to own a huge base of veteran players, we understand what players really want. Our users also communicate with CPs directly about what they like. We are now offering operation services to more nascent games, helping them and their developers grow. We are proud of who we are, what we do, and how we contribute.
Our goal: becoming Chinese Nintendo, becoming the childhood memory of the young generation
Many Sausage Man fans first watched the Sausage Man animation series before they started to play the game. The game’s producer Dada and operation specialist Danjuan are the superstars in the TapTap community. Almost every fan knows them. Seeing this, we decided to make a game-anime crossover by adding the game’s staff to the animation series, so that both the game and anime would be part of our young fans’ precious childhood memories. Besides, many of our colleagues deem Sausage Man as a family game and they play it with their kids. Thanks to its cute art style, mild competitiveness, and team-up system, the game did win the preference of some families. During exhibitions, we were glad to find parents and their kids come to our booth to play this game and win accessories. It is the mission for both TapTap and Xd to bring more products with long-term values to users and the industry, by following the mode that makes Sausage Man a success. We care little about short-term profits. As a platform and publisher, we’re willing to give more time to developers with potentials to iterate their games and eventually create more quality titles. In our eyes, this is where our greatest value lies.
Sausage Man has accompanied our young users for three years. These users, who came to TapTap because of Sausage Man, will meet more good games on this platform. We hope Sausage Man and TapTap is to them what Nintendo is to us, and ten years later, they would recount their stories about the game and the platform with passionate enthusiasm.