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OS Chat: Do Franchise Modes Need To Be More Accessible To Get New Users?

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OS Chat: Do Franchise Modes Need To Be More Accessible To Get New Users?

Sometimes in the OS Slack channel we have some really good discussions that are completely organic and spur of the moment about sports games. We’ve shared a few of these with you all in the past and today’s was a really good one we wanted to involve the community within.

Today’s topic: Are franchise modes focusing on the wrong thing (depth) when they need to be focusing on accessibility and growing their user base?

The convo below has been edited lightly for grammar, spelling, and some context/content. 

Chris Sanner

Ok guys, we’re going to have a discussion today on what exactly sports games should do with franchise modes in the future. Should they deepen the experiences or is there a need for getting new players to actually play them?

I guess in other words, are franchise modes focusing on the wrong thing (depth) when they need to be focusing on accessibility and growing their user bases for the future?

Matt Llwellyn
Do you not feel it’s accessible now? The front end does a good job organizing everything that you need to do for that week.

Chris Sanner
Probably can be depth but the type that you don’t necessarily need to access to get a lot out of the modes TBH.

Chris Sanner
Franchise Modes basically throw you to the wolves and expect users to know what they’re doing. They don’t actually help you do things.

Chris Sanner
Like when should I trade, what should my roster size be, why shouldn’t I sign this 3B at 88ovr when my current guy is 81ovr.

Basically things like that. You need to have the modes really introduce ways to hold new users hands through the experience. That plus the creation of narratives you don’t have to make up in your head are the two areas franchise modes gotta go to next. The whole “let’s add depth for depth’s sake” is useless in getting new gamers on board at this point.

Operation Sports

Is the gaming landscape built for people who want things like complex contract negotiations with ascending bonus money or is it built for a different type of gamer completely?

Chris Sanner
Gamers aren’t as interested in nuance right now…which is actually becoming a societal problem that’s in your face every day now as well. Some of its is social media driven, and gamers lack of desire to put in hours into games is driven by the ever increasing amount of things to do outside of gaming. It all plays into it.

So you have to have more accessible, faster ways to do things nowadays and compelling single player modes have to kinda fit that mold. Right now franchise modes are wasted because people literally go a couple of seasons max on average.

Not saying you can’t have depth (I think franchise modes shouldn’t sacrifice stuff they already have) but I think the surface level experience needs a lot more automation and hand holding.

Matt Llwellyn
Madden already tells you that you need to train, resign x player, scout for the draft, etc. all from the first tab of franchise. Then once you click those tiles, what’s behind them is pretty straight forward. Letter grades for scouting, straightforward trade screen…How much hand holding do people need? Wouldn’t it be as simple as just adding a tutorial?

Joel Smith
I think maybe the addition of an option as “easy” as “Simple/Advanced”

Chris Sanner
I think its making it a literal checklist task oriented experience with an AI Assistant who can explain things more thoroughly. Like in a players needing re-signed screen “We shouldn’t resign Prescott. His overall has gone down 8 points in the last two years and we have some good options in free agency this next year plus a good draft pick.” Then you can push a button to get a list of Free Agent QBs or to enter negotiations and all that. Basically that sort of hand holding.

At this point the menus suck in every franchise mode and don’t actually separate out tasks. That’s one big problem.

Joel Smith
Beginners and rooks get the walkthrough hand holding experience sans analytics and really get introduced to the inner workings. Advanced would be for us lol

@Chris Sanner. Well frigging said

Chris Sanner
Also the ability to automate tasks with an AI you can trust is important. If you don’t want to manage contracts but would rather set the terms for who you want to re-sign vs. actually do the negotiating as one example of the above.

Just a lot of room to explore there to make the franchise experience more accessible.

Joel Smith
I know most of what we play inside out (I’d like to think) but having my head scout tell me “This dude is trash. Remember Ryan Leaf? Yeh. That bad. We should look at Joe Shmoe instead.”

Matt Llwellyn
To me that’s more depth than accessibility and depth is more important. Madden is far more accessible than 2k or the Show (before this season) but there’s not enough depth. You can have the most hand holding franchise in history and it won’t matter if the gameplay loop gets stale quickly because there’s no immersion to keep players hooked.

Joel Smith
That’d be HUGE. Like Chris said. ACTUAL smart Automated AI that does things to HELP the player.
And like Mill just said. Teaching.

Pretty sure the average of players that fully understand how things operate to casuals is 30:70

Chris Sanner
That’s also true. I think teaching alongside automating is more what I mean. Basically have the game explain things but give you the option to kinda let it handle any individual task the user doesn’t want to worry about. IDK, I’m old fashioned and just think the user should get to determine their experience in meaningful ways — but the software (aka game) should be the one creating the opportunities and not being in the way of the experience (or itself).

Operation Sports
Depth means something to OS’ers for sure. But is depth what gamers are actually looking for? Do games need more depth to endear themselves to newer gamers or is the answer something else?

Chris Sanner
Depth is overrated.

I’ve always wanted more depth but at this point I think sports games are way too complicated for their own good. I use my brother as an excellent example of why this is. He won’t play sports games because its too hard to play them. He’s an ideal candidate. Male. 30s. Loves Sports. Hates sports games.

Be it the franchise mode being way too complicated for him or (and this is sacrilegious I know) the on field experience is literally overwhelming for him.

Matt Llwellyn
I get that, but what’s the point of having a mode that teaches you how to play it, and then have nothing else really to do once you’re done learning it. With the Show you have several different types of free agency, multiple minor league teams, 2 separate drafts, arbitration, etc. Madden is literally retired players, free agency, draft rinse repeat. Without immersion and added things like better presentation, no one will stick with franchise. They’ll all migrate to MUT because at least MUT gives you a new things to get and new goals to achieve.

Chris Sanner
Because too deep and people like my brother are out instantly. That’s a loss for everyone eventually. We can say “oh he’s just an arcade gamer” or “he needs to play a game like Blitz” but he doesn’t want to play a game like Blitz. He wants to play a game that feels real enough but that he can actually play and feel like its ‘real’ to him.

Joel Smith
Big facts. My brother is the same.

30, DIE HARD football fan. Hates hates HATES Madden.

Chris Sanner
And both are a potential sale sitting out there waiting to be had for companies — but neither is buying into a sports game that they don’t understand.

Matt Llwellyn
I’m speaking of depth in more a presentation way. Not necessarily a gameplay way.

Joel Smith
I told him I did the Super Mega Baseball 2 review and he ran and downloaded it last night and will play the hell out of it. Still won’t play Madden ever.

Chris Sanner
Like there’s a point you make a game too real. I legit wrote an article on this in 2010 or 2011 that said just that — at some point sports games are going to cross a line that turns potential new gamers off. I got skewered for that point of view back then but here we are today with single player modes dying because new gamers don’t want to play them.

I just think the way games are played needs to be simple and easy to pick up on the surface with multiple levels of depth below for those who want that sort of thing. As one example: A casual gamer doesn’t need to know 50 different attributes of right guards to pick between 6 of them.

A small portion of the audience may want that, but most people just want to know if this guy can run block and pass block. You don’t need to show gamers much more than 2-4 different attributes at any given time. I think the depth you can add could still be accessible — but should be hidden behind the first layer which most people are going to play the game within.

Brandon Kosal
That’s a good point. For example, for me personally, as a hoops addict, I want 2K and Live as realistic as possible. But for football, hockey, and even baseball where I’m not as big a fan – I prefer a lighter sim that’s much easier to pick up and play.

Matt Llwellyn
The danger is you go too far the other way and you threaten to alienate the core of your user base. The same thing has happened with Street Fighter (which I play competitively) in the street fighter 4 was deep nuanced and a great game. Then they progressively made games to pull in more casual users like SFxTekken and SF5 that have done terribly because they’re too casual friendly. That’s where we will head with Madden.

I’m just at a point where Madden’s franchise is bare bones and boring to me.

Joel Smith
I’m with @Matt Llwellyn. I say I’m not buying Madden every year…then I buy it. Then I get pissed off two weeks later.

I’d think at this point companies make their money off of the loyalists no? Of course the card based games are killing it, but it’s the people that go back year after year no?

Matt Llwellyn
I also think that the conversation about accessibility is one where some have different definitions than others. I think they can make a game accessible and still add depth and immersion. I would also like to point out that even though all of us have turned it off, Madden does have a Larry Ridley voice over tutorial in Franchise for all the things you have to do as a GM/Owner.

Joel Smith
At the very beginning, yes. But I think it’s fair to say it’s “bare bones” in comparison to what I believe Chris and Mill are saying to guide a new player.

Elliott Jenkins
I definitely see both sides to it as well. I’d just hope that in the future there’s a game that caters to both.

I’m a huge football fan and haven’t played a madden consistently since 2009 or 2010. I think that the biggest element is gameplay. Tecmo Super Bowl had an exceptionally bare bones season mode yet it’s still revered. I bought madden in 2014 and 2016 and was out on them after about a week. However, at every single family holiday, we have a damned tournament of NFL street. the arcadey gameplay is fun, sure, but it’s the constant ebb and flow of chance and strategy that keep us locked in.

Chris Sanner
All fair points, perhaps the biggest thing I’d say (and I’ll get the last word here) is that adding more depth at this point is a giant exercise in missing the point. What’s the point in adding more things to do within a mode designed to go 30 years in the future where most people can only go 2-3 seasons max?

The crux of the problem within franchise modes isn’t that there’s not enough to do, and my stance isn’t changing on that. Its that there’s so much to do, especially for newer players, there’s no way a franchise mode is anything more than a glorified expanded season mode (or less) for a vast majority of people. If analytics data does indeed show franchise mode usage slipping, its likely because the focus on more depth has created a worse user experience because it hasn’t been done in a way that gets new users to cycle into the modes.

At the end of the day, franchise modes have to figure out what they are then need to give all gamers a reason to play them outside of some gimmicky ‘give them points to buy more card pack’ method. There needs to be depth to keep existing users yes, but on the other end we have to absolutely have a mode that’s easier to move through more than a couple of seasons for the average gamer. Not an easy challenge for sure, but its the one that has to be taken on if Franchise modes are going to thrive in the future.

 

So what do you all think? How can franchise modes endear themselves to more gamers to ensure their survival while keeping us OS’er interested?

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