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The Seasons Ahead

2011-11-02 17:30:00

Where is Hattrick headed? A few words on our recent changes and how they fit in our plans for building a stronger and better Hattrick for the seasons ahead.

In the past few years, Hattrick has had a slow but steady decrease of active users. This trend is something we take seriously as, in the end, a solid and satisfied user base is necessary to sustain the game.

Much can be said about this trend, but the key thing is that we have not really seen a big change in how our existing users see the game. It is very humbling to observe that Hattrick has, and has always had, very loyal users - people that try the game out tend to stay for a long time. What has changed in recent years is rather our ability to attract new users and to keep them interested.

At a simple level, the theory is that we - like many other games and community sites - are affected by the changing usage patterns on the internet, such as more time spent on social networks or smartphones. There is a different expectation as to how games should work, how communities should work - and where to find them. Hattrick was a pioneer among social games, but we simply have not kept up with the times in this regard.

Hattrick's strength has always been to offer a compelling, long-term game, that has low barriers of entry and which is free and easy to access. We believe that to many younger users, Hattrick does not tick as many of those boxes as we used to, and that shows in both signup rates and our ability to keep the attention of new users. This in large part explains why the game has stopped growing.

Fixing this will be our primary focus in the coming seasons. For a time, we will spend less time adding new things to the game and instead work on making it easier to understand, easier to access, and more welcoming. But we are also making changes to the way we organise ourselves to make this possible.

* For newbies, we have recently released line-up suggestions, and today we are also making available instant preparation games for new signups - which means you can get into action within 30 minutes from signup. This is a powerful new feature that builds on our Hattrick Open code.

* Our new integrated stats, announced earlier, are another way to facilitate analysis for new and established managers alike.

* We are taking several initiatives in the marketing area, something that we traditionally have not done very frequently. In particular, we are carrying out a reinvitation campaign to millions of former Hattrick users, and we're also running campaigns targeted towards new users. Marketing becomes more important as our user base gets older - simply because many existing users have "run out" of friends to recommend Hattrick to. (And if you still haven't, don't forget our Invite function!)

* We have launched a new premium service, Hattrick Gears, as a way of introducing pay features in the game without disturbing the fairness of the game. Adding paid products is something that we have been very slow to do, but the reality is that we need to develop Hattrick commercially as well. With a better mix of premium services, we can keep developing Hattrick for years even if the user numbers should continue to drop.

* We have realised, again, that in order to deliver the best product, and user experience, we are capable of, we need to be really focused. This means reconsidering some of the things we habitually spend time and resources on, such as with the recent example of Alltid. Integrating Alltid as it was three years ago was a beautiful dream, but one that had become increasingly unrealistic. Building a slimmed down version the way we eventually did, and which we released today, did not only save months of work, but will also simplify our server structure significantly and remove several performance bottlenecks. It was a painful decision to make, but having made it, we were able to finally get something done that will benefit users today.

* Another step in this direction is that we will further consolidate our development team in one location. Some familiar faces that do not work in Sweden will no longer be part of the HT team. The responsibilities of Flameron, who has helped us with game design and game analysis, will be taken over by HT-Klaus (previous user thomyorke), who has worked with the team in Malmö since March. HT-Oxidus, who is an external freelance developer and the father of the Kit Designer, among many other things, will no longer be an "official" HT or part of our core development team. And our community manager HT-Anne, who has been much appreciated both by users and colleagues, will also leave her position. There is no question that all three have made fantastic contributions to Hattrick, but a side effect of relying too much on a dispersed team is that decisions take longer and it becomes harder to keep everyone in the loop. And that is important, for developers, but even more so for people involved in game design and communication.

* Finally, we would like to clarify some things about our development focus. Nothing is more important to us than our existing users - the one thing to remember from all of the above is that it is thanks to our loyal user base that Hattrick is still a strong and vital community. Hattrick has been incredibly resilient given the changes on the internet over time and there is simply huge potential left in this game. Even so, we now talk a lot about the needs of new users and ways to make Hattrick easier to understand. While we do think this is the most important thing we can do right now, we want to underline that none of this should intrude on your game experience in a negative way - and that some of it may well turn out to be great additions for you, too. Some examples:

* We will be looking a lot at the newbie experience - from signup, to playing the first games and getting feedback from them, and better tools for analysing games. Much of the latter we know is on your wish lists as well.

* We will be looking at competitions - are they engaging enough? Questions that may arise have to do with how leagues and cups can be restructured to offer more fun. For everyone.

* Social features - where are your friends at? It should be easier to find and interact with them, both inside Hattrick and within other social networks.

* Even more effort at opening Hattrick to new channels - from CHPP apps and the mobile web to sites like Facebook.

* What we won't do so much - for the time being - is changes to the core mechanics. This means that the new Staff project will be removed from our roadmap for the foreseeable future. If we do touch the core game, it will mainly be smaller tweaks and updates.

Thanks to you for all your patience! It's been a busy season change, and we have lots of interesting stuff lined up for the coming months, so please stay tuned!

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