Mastering Retention

In this episode of the Mastering Retention Podcast, host Tom Hammond speaks with Antanina Livingston, a product manager and liveops extraordinaire! Antanina shares her insights on how to approach feature and event planning, the importance of understanding player needs, and how to manage burnout in the liveops team. She also discusses the challenges of managing burnout and the importance of understanding different cultures and languages in the gaming industry. 

  • Antanina Livingston shares insights on how to approach feature and event planning, the importance of understanding player needs, and how to manage burnout. (0:20)
  • Livingston talks about her background in business and how she transitioned to the gaming industry. (3:44)
  • The importance of understanding different cultures and languages in the gaming industry is discussed. (8:47)
  • Livingston shares her thoughts on how to approach feature planning and event planning in a way that maintains player retention. (13:07)
  • The challenges of managing burnout in the live ops team are addressed. (19:13)
"Retention is one of those metrics that's really hard to need to create something that would be interesting to players to come back." (14:59)

Creators & Guests

Tom Hammond
Co-founder and CEO UserWise | serial entrepreneur | Inc 500 | angel investor | startup advisor

What is Mastering Retention?

Welcome to the ultimate gaming breakdown with Tom Hammond and Neil Edwards! Tune in every week as we deconstruct today's top games and reveal the secrets behind their success.

MR - Episode - 112 - Antanina Livingston

[00:00:43] Tom Hammond: Hi everyone. Uh, welcome to today's episode of the Mastering Retention Podcast. Uh, today I'm so excited to have Antonina Livingston, uh, on with us. Uh, you know, she used to be at War Gaming and now works at Activision. I think the first time that I actually encountered you was on a YouTube sharing some other information on live ops, and I was like, Wow.

[00:01:12] She is just brilliant and I have to get her on the podcast. And here we are. And I'm, I'm just so excited to have, have you here, so Well, thank you. Thank you. I'd love for you to, you know, introduce yourself and, and just tell us a little bit about how you got into this, uh, world of gaming. Thank

[00:01:27] Antanina Livingston: you. And honestly, like I'm honored to be the first woman on this like podcast series.

[00:01:33] So, yeah. Um, yeah, I actually, I think you saw me first on the pocket gamer, uh, panel discussion. So we're talking about live ops, so that was really interesting. And actually I will be in [00:01:43] another Pocket gamer conference battle again, uh, this November. So welcome everyone to, to join and listen and find me there.

[00:01:50] Yeah, but myself. So, um, I'm originally from Belarus, so hence my name is a little bit weird, not hard to. Um, but uh, honestly, I could never imagine myself living in us. But right now I'm here, uh, for almost two years already. Um, and yeah, previously I used to work in war gaming and I used to live in, uh, you know, China, Uruguay, like many countries.

[00:02:13] And I actually have more of a. Business background. Um, and so my, actually, my first gaming company was war gaming. And prior to that I was mostly, um, engaged in like startups, you know, and business and international relations, all kind of stuff like that. But nevertheless, I think it's also, it's kind of inspiring for people, um, who are.

[00:02:33] Leading, like a, pursuing another career right now that it's never late to change and, you know. Mm-hmm. Like gaming provides lots of opportunities. You know, you even, even though you're maybe not a [00:02:43] developer, right? So you can still do something else and that, that's kind of cool.

[00:02:47] Tom Hammond: Yeah. So, so tell me a little bit about Belarus.

[00:02:51] I don't really know too much about that. Like, you know, what, what is your favorite part about Veers?

[00:02:57] Antanina Livingston: It's actually a very cool country and you know, like recently, um, I would say, Past two years. Uh, I'm not talking about this year because it's a little bit crazy right now, what's going on there, but let's not go there.

[00:03:09] But, uh, for the past few years, so actually the IT industry really developed there. And, um, Belarus had means specifically had the, uh, huge, um, industrial park that they call it like that. So the park of, uh, Technological park, let's put it like that. So there are like many companies and startups and many of those actually, um, cooperate with us on different, like businesses, for example, like, um, or gaming.

[00:03:34] I om, um, transition and many other country, uh, companies, uh, that work with uh, us. Counterparts. So it's really cool. And, you know, um, I [00:03:43] think that's why the country also became famous because of the, you know, talented people and developers and Yeah, the company that's kind of started rise very suddenly.

[00:03:53] Yeah, yeah,

[00:03:54] Tom Hammond: yeah. So you have, you have Iwe and you have China. China. How, how, how many languages

[00:04:00] Antanina Livingston: can you speak? I, I was trying to count. So yeah, I used to study German. I used to study Spanish. I speak Chinese. Uh, Russian, be Russian, English, so it's already six, but right now, yeah, like German and Spanish, I kind of can understand.

[00:04:17] Yeah. Um, but you know, it's like when you don't use it all the time, so it's like hard to, uh, speak again, but it's, uh, it's always there. It's always in my head, but like once I'm in that environment, right? So same with Chinese, you know? So for example, when I speak to people all the time, right? So of course it's like, uh, the like very good level, but once you're like always, um, you know, using some of the languages, right?

[00:04:37] So it's kinda like, uh, yeah, yeah. Sleeps in your brain.

[00:04:41] Tom Hammond: So. Ah, that's so [00:04:43] cool. Do you think that knowing these different languages and having lived in these different places actually makes it easier for you to approach like live ops and content and, and translating things to, you know, cater to users in different locations?

[00:04:58] Antanina Livingston: I would say definitely contributes to that. And, you know, I also, uh, like in my company right now, we work with, uh, Chinese partners, right? So that's why it kind of like helps to understand the culture. Mm-hmm. Um, and also it helps to, Let's say explain something or like when they explain something right in Chinese to understand that or you know, the documents that we are receiving.

[00:05:18] Right. So I can also like just read so it's kind of like easier. And I would say it's also helps to understand the market specifics as well. Um, so how different players I would say, or how different people approach, you know, things in games, let's put it like that. So yeah, it's definitely. Helping. So I would say, you know, mastering in new language is like mastering in new culture, so that's why.

[00:05:40] Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. Definitely helps. [00:05:43] That's

[00:05:43] Tom Hammond: super cool. So I'm gonna ask a fun question now, and I call this a fun question because I think that everyone has a little bit of a different definition. So you started as a. Is it a senior live ops specialist? Yeah. And now you've kinda transitioned over to product management.

[00:06:01] Yeah. So what is, what does it mean for you to be a product manager? Well, I've, I've heard like people vary, well, like some will say like, you know, a product manager is kind of like a mini CEO over the game. Or if you're in a really big game, you know, over your area of the game. And I've also heard people say, Product manager could be a producer, or it could be any of these other things.

[00:06:22] It just is kind of a, a nebulous title. Um, so I, I always like to ask people that actually have product management, you know? Yeah. What do you actually do? Because it seems like it can flow so much depending on the company size and such. I

[00:06:35] Antanina Livingston: think I would. Probably, uh, then distinguish like a product director, product manager and producer, right?

[00:06:42] Because like [00:06:43] mm-hmm. When you, when we talk about product director, right? So he kind of like manages uh, the product overall, right? So all the spheres of that, right? When we talk about the product managers, they can be multiple product management on their own fields, right? So for example, like product managers and.

[00:06:58] Words or, you know, um, I dunno, a live ops for example, right? For us or, uh, some, I dunno, features management, right? So it's also can be product management and then there's a producer, and producer is the person who kind of makes sure that everything goes smoothly, right? So the game, uh, passes all the releases, right?

[00:07:16] All the features are released, right? So kinda like more controlling all the processes that are in the game, and uh, also like dealing with all the product managers and making their life easier, I would say like that. Yeah. At least, um, right now I would say, um, I kind of like understanding like that. Yeah.

[00:07:34] But product manager, you know, for example, for live ops, right? So it's, um, it's the person I would say who, um, makes sure that, you know, the game not only [00:07:43] runs smoothly, right? But provides the content to players all the time, right? And so provides the features that retain players in the game or. Um, you know, probably plans something e you know, events or like, you know, content that we're gonna offer, uh, that will actually help to boost some, like business KPIs or our, like, you know, the KPIs that we wanted to, to achieve for this or that event or something like that.

[00:08:06] Tom Hammond: Yeah, no. How, how do you approach, like thinking about feature planning or event planning in such a way that you do keep that retention because, I often say retention rate of players is the most important metric in a game. So how, like, how do you approach, you know, okay, I need to add a new feature. You know, what, what feature do you actually think about designing, and how do you approach that such that you do maintain that retention and engagement of your players?

[00:08:33] Yeah.

[00:08:33] Antanina Livingston: I would say also like retention is one of those, um, metrics, you know, that's really hard to influence. You know, you, you know, for example, like the revenue, right? So it's [00:08:43] like much easier to influence with like launching an offer or something like that. But retention is always like a very tricky thing, right?

[00:08:49] Because basically you need to create something that would. Be interesting to players to come back. Right. And, uh, you know, actually I was, um, uh, the other day I was listening to one of the, also the, one of the podcasts and they were talking about retention. And, um, a person was speaking about the app that didn't do anything, just reminding you about some like social, um, like your posts and social networks that you posted.

[00:09:13] But every single day they would, uh, make a different dinner, like different colors or something like that, like a mascot of that. And so basically not really the content of the, of the app made him come back to the game, but that like mascot that he was wondering what's gonna be different the next day?

[00:09:30] Right? So sometimes it's like, it's a very little things that you, uh, maybe not even the event, right? But something that is running with this event, right. That would make players come back. Mm-hmm. So for example, uh, you know, [00:09:43] Some games use the login events, right? That would make players come back. Or like, for example, something that, you know, you offer player, uh, that he's interesting to come back the next day and maybe like claim or something, right?

[00:09:56] Or I don't know, the content that you release the next day and you kind of like tease and mm-hmm. Make player come back. So in terms of features, right? And in terms of like feature planning, I would. You have to always look what's going on right now in the game and see where the loopholes, right? And so for example, okay, right now we see that players stopped like using this area or the game or something like that, right?

[00:10:18] So what can be done to improve that? Right? So what can be done to, to make them, uh, come back and check it, um, different, you know, maybe like you will analyze your. Core gameplay. Right? So what, like maybe at certain stage players just like get bored and leave the game, right? Yeah. So then we will do something towards that specific stage, right?

[00:10:38] Um, or for example, they can be also like, when the game starts, be [00:10:43] very monotonous, right? So you're, you're getting bored. And so you also need to maybe like, change everything entirely, right? And provide some like completely different and drastically different event for them, uh, so that they'll be interesting to come back.

[00:10:57] So it really depends on like which point, which area, right? And like where are we looking at? Yeah.

[00:11:03] Tom Hammond: So it sounds like a lot of it starts with the data and really understanding Yeah. You know, what your players are doing in your game, how they're consuming it, and then kind of planning from there. That's cool.

[00:11:12] Yeah. Yeah. One time I heard, uh, someone say something that I really liked, which is, if you can answer these three questions, your retention rate is probably gonna be. Pretty good. Um, and the first one is, you know, what do your players want to be doing a day from now? Yeah. What do your players want to be doing a week from now?

[00:11:32] And the third one is a month from now. Yeah. Um, and so it's just like really understanding your players, all those loopholes, being able to talk to them and just like understand like what are they trying to achieve [00:11:43] and then giving them ways to actually like work towards those goals. Which I thought was

[00:11:47] Antanina Livingston: super cool.

[00:11:47] It's actually true. It's true. And then, you know, like basically it also kinda reflects, you know, how we also plan, you know, for live ops, right? And how we plan for the product for like future updates or something right? To develop. Because we're constantly thinking of like, okay, what's gonna happen the next month?

[00:12:03] What's gonna happen? Like the, you know, next year? Something like that. Right? So that's, yeah, that's definitely what you have to think about.

[00:12:11] Tom Hammond: Yeah, I always think it's, uh, interesting when I try to schedule a meeting with someone. You know, actively doing live ops and they're like, well, I, I probably am gonna be free that time, but, you know, you never know what's gonna happen on any given day.

[00:12:24] So, you know, even though you've got this like intense live ops calendar that's got everything planned out, it seems like every day you're checking on the metrics and figuring out like, do I need to change things or add things or, I do all this stuff, uh, which is just kind of crazy, I think. Yeah. Cause you're, you're just always on when you're doing live ops.

[00:12:42] Antanina Livingston: [00:12:43] Yeah. And I would say you're lucky if you have time to check the metrics every day, because honestly like, yeah. Uh, I think the live ops. Is like super crazy in terms of how intense it is. Um, and like once you know the game hits the market, it's like live ops never sleeps. It's, it's, it's, honestly, it's true, uh, because the game is always running and there are always things going on and they're like, yeah, every day there's something new.

[00:13:09] Right? So, but that's a, that's, I think that's the most exciting part of that. So we're never bored, so there's always something to do.

[00:13:16] Tom Hammond: Yeah, definitely. But I also think, you know, and, and this is something that's, you know, near and dear to my heart, which is the concept of burnout. You know, especially on the live ops team, when you're, you know, going 24 7, like, you know, it could be a holiday and you know, you're at, you know, Thanksgiving with the family and you get a call up and you gotta go and, you know, help your players or something.

[00:13:37] And so how do you, and like your team, like how do you manage that burnout [00:13:43] such that, you know, people do get those times to. You know, relax and are, because obviously, you know, having someone that's, it usually takes like a, well, like a year to actually learn the game and, and how to put out those things. So, you know, if you burn out a year and a half in, that's not too useful.

[00:13:59] So how do you, how do you manage that?

[00:14:01] Antanina Livingston: Um, first, like I always travel with my laptop. I, I had this crazy case when I had to like, uh, fix something sitting at the airport, you know, like Detroit or something, waiting for my next light. So it happens. So you have to be really like, prepared for that. Um, yeah, as the burnout, it's honestly, it's this serious thing because like yeah.

[00:14:22] When you work in this crazy schedule, right? So, and it's like, as you were saying, you know, and, and as I just mentioned, right? So I had to like, travel through the laptop. It's not, it's not normal, I would say like that, but, Um, at the same time, I would say with, um, our team. So what we're trying to do is like when you actually feel you need some time off, just, you know, tell your [00:14:43] manager about that.

[00:14:43] Right? So I need the day off. That's it. So I need to relax, try to also, like at the weekend, I'm trying not to check my emails and I'm trying not to like really, um, start my computer cuz I will be like, you know, I start reading emails and everything. I'll start like doing something. Try to like, not to switch it on entirely.

[00:15:02] Um, and then also, um, I think it's important to, as you know, when you're a manager, right? So it's important to delegate and to make sure that the processes is set up in the way that, you know, your team is always, like, knows what to do and everything is done on time, right? So that's kind like, it's important to have this visibility, transparency, right?

[00:15:22] And also like the process that it's like, uh, well set up. That's important.

[00:15:27] Tom Hammond: That's great. Yeah. Yeah. And I know, you know, I was looking at your LinkedIn before this, um, and I was looking at all the things that you did with word gaming, which is like really extensive too. I was pretty impressed. But one of the things that jumped out to me is you, you mentioned you kind of.[00:15:43]

[00:15:43] Slashed the issues handling time by like 70% or something like that. Do you think that, you know, that can kind of help with burnout too. Like if you guys are able to spend more time, like reducing things that happen from like a crash perspective or like events that go wrong so that you know, are there processes that you found over time?

[00:16:03] To help with things like that so that there are fewer, you know, airport, pull out the laptop situations.

[00:16:09] Antanina Livingston: Yeah, I would say, you know, first of all it's, as I mentioned, you know, the processes that you have to like set up, it takes time. But they saying to me, you know, like when you actually have the process set up, it makes it easier.

[00:16:18] Um, and then also in terms of, you know, let's say when we're setting up the events, so, um, Right now we're trying to also like, uh, do it far in advance to make sure, you know, everything is tested right and everything is like double tested somehow, sometimes, right? So, and make sure that, um, everything is correct.

[00:16:36] But nevertheless, they, they can be some situations that, you know, like something is slipped or something like that. Um, we're all humans [00:16:43] and you know, like human factor, it's, it can happen. But at the same time, I would say, um, Again, like when there is the process, right? So it's easier to follow that process and it's easier to follow up the, you know, the milestones, for example, right?

[00:16:56] What needs to be done at certain dates. So that's kind of like what I would, I think, what I would recommend. And then the same time, yeah, we're also trained to pull in as much, you know, as we can in advance. It's hard to do sometimes, so they're always, you know, very intense work. And, uh, I always tell my team as well, it's like, you know, when you double check, triple check, right?

[00:17:18] Yes. It can be, yeah. Like, like little, little things they can happen. And so, You know, this, this also, our work is very, um, public, so every little like, misspelling of the word or something like that, right. So we'll be on Reddit. Seriously? Oh, like, yeah. It's, it's, so that's why it's also very stressful and, you know, we just, uh, talked about the [00:17:43] burnout.

[00:17:43] So I think it's also necessary. Mm. Give yourself a time to, like, when you do something, to focus, verify, check, and then maybe, you know, like relax and come back to that again and probably like verify again. Mm. But at the same time, you know, it's just like if, uh, let's say we also have the, uh, established process of like, what's, uh, what's done today, tomorrow, the day after.

[00:18:08] Right. So then it makes easier also because it's more like a processed work, I would say, like that. So,

[00:18:14] Tom Hammond: yeah, that's great. But yeah. Are what, what kind of hobbies do you do to de-stress after work or outside of work? Um, are you a gamer as well?

[00:18:24] Antanina Livingston: I do play games, um, and also I'm a big fan of fitness, uh, So I do like lots of exercising, so it's nice even today, in the morning.

[00:18:34] So I, at first my, yeah, I need to do, like, my usual morning routine is like, I need to do my yoga, I need to exercise. You know, so it's kind of like, yeah. [00:18:43] Keeps me, um, feet and also like keep, uh, It helps me to tress. Um, I do play the guitar, um, and, you know, sometimes it's also kind of like when I'm in the mood so I can, I can, uh, sing a song or something like that.

[00:18:57] And then I also found that it's very, it's necessary, you know, especially when we work from home right now. So it's necessary to just go for a little walk, you know, for 20 minutes, half an hour, right? Every day it. Really helpful to just freshen your mind, right? And so kind of like change the scenery and have a fresh start.

[00:19:19] So yeah, that's what I'd recommend for sure.

[00:19:23] Tom Hammond: I, I love your hobbies. We're actually oddly similar. I, I love to get up and, and hit the gym and work out, you know, every morning at like four or five in the morning. And I also enjoy playing, uh, the guitar and singing song. Nice, nice, nice. I unfortunately live in Wisconsin, so it's.

[00:19:41] It's snowed like once or [00:19:43] twice here already, so it's getting a little cold for the walks outside, but you know, still, still can make it work. You just have to bundle up a little bit more. Yeah, I

[00:19:50] Antanina Livingston: love it. Yeah, I kind of Ms. Snow, you know. So in LA hasn't been raining since what? March? I think April. So yeah, we're looking forward to some, some cold.

[00:20:04] Tom Hammond: I remember the first time I went out to San Francisco, um, and I had this like picture of like California Beauty and it was like in March, I think it might have been for like a G D C or something like that. And I got out there and it was kind of rainy and I don't know, forties or fifties or so, which was great.

[00:20:19] Like it was way better than Wisconsin, but it still wasn't quite the California dream. And they're like, oh, you actually need to go down to LA for that. So

[00:20:27] Antanina Livingston: yeah. Yeah, I would say, um, I actually first when I moved to us, so I moved to. Um, and, uh, because my husband was from there, and so I spent some time, you know, in the Midwest as well and kind of like Yeah.

[00:20:40] Um, very familiar with the culture [00:20:43] there too. And then when we moved to la, so it was, yeah, it was a very drastic change because, you know, it's always summer and sometimes you, like you are losing track of what days it is, like what, what season it is. So, yeah. Yeah. But, um, um, yeah, from Wisconsin, he actually ordered.

[00:21:01] Cringles, if you know, that's the famous dessert. So it's actually very good. So whatever, like Wisconsin, I'm like, oh, cheese and cringles. Yeah, I know it. Yeah. But I haven't been there yet, so

[00:21:11] Tom Hammond: No, you should. You should come out. It's great during like the spring and summer. Yeah. It's not too bad during winter if you stay inside.

[00:21:20] Yeah.

[00:21:22] Antanina Livingston: Makes you play games, you know? It's good.

[00:21:25] Tom Hammond: Oh yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah. So one of the things that I was also glancing at, you know, around work gaming was that, you know, you shifted to starting to do regional specific content. Mm-hmm. Um, and this is something that I've been really fascinated with as an idea.[00:21:43]

[00:21:43] And I don't know if it would work in every game, and I feel like it might require a large team, but you know, from the player perspective, you know, having events that are like specific to your country and your holidays and like everything that you are all about, I feel like that would just make me connect so much more to the game than if it's, especially if I'm living overseas, it's all like US-based holidays or something like that, that doesn't really feel that personal to me.

[00:22:09] Um, but I, I'd love. Learn more. Like what does a, a regional specific content, live ops type of a thing look like, if someone ever wanted to approach that in their own game?

[00:22:20] Antanina Livingston: Yeah. So I would say, mm, there are, you know, the major difference, for example, when you have the one game with like, okay, different servers, right?

[00:22:28] But it's still one game environment. And if let's say your game. Different, you know, in different regions. Right? So for example, like a different, I dunno, maybe a different publisher or something like that. Right? So they, they can be like, uh, two different [00:22:43] things because it kind of, it determines what you can do in your game.

[00:22:46] Mm-hmm. So let's say if you have a one game for the whole world, Right. And so for example, you decided to like launch event for, you know, in um, uh, c I s for example, right in, in Russia. So, uh, they do celebrate the, uh, victory Day in May, and that's like one of the biggest holidays, right? So that's why you need to make sure that you, um, have some content, right for that.

[00:23:09] Well, you know, maybe for like other regions it's not gonna be really relevant. But if you run that event in one region, right? So at some point you need to run the, this content in the different region as well, right? Because then the players will feel like, oh my God, like we, we don't have it, right? So, yeah.

[00:23:25] So. Or for example, you are running the event through all the regions, but you do the marketing in one region specifically, right? Because it's something important to them. Mm-hmm. Right? So for example, yeah, like the 1st of July, that is like US holiday, right? So, um, this content may be also interesting to like other regions, right?

[00:23:42] But probably [00:23:43] you're gonna spend more like UA in marketing in, uh, us, right? So, and the. Example when, let's say your game has different clients, uh, right. So they're released by different publishers, for example, in different regions. Yeah. So this gives you a little bit like more opportunities of like having completely different game in terms of features, for example, right?

[00:24:02] So for example, your Asian games, your Asian, like, uh, versions. Yeah. Probably will have like more gotcha elements in. Right. Uh, and probably UI even will be a little bit different because, you know, also, like if we talk about regional differences, so, um, if you look at like Asian games and if you look at, uh, Western games, right?

[00:24:23] So there are like differences even in when you enter the game, what do you see? Right? So for example, Asian games, they're prefer more like. Everything is running on your screen, so there will be like chat going on. Right. So there will be like this event, that event. So it's kinda like where to go, like what to do.

[00:24:38] Right. But they're like, they're very quick at like, you know, clicking things and they, they love it. Right. [00:24:43] While if you have the same UI in the west, so it's gonna be like, uh, okay. What the hell is going on in the game like, right. So we want to provide like a more clear focus of players, what to do at a certain day, for example, right?

[00:24:56] So today like here's, like try this, right? So that's also the difference. And I think again, it's like, it really depends how you actually. Publish a game, right? So it's one game for all the regions, right? Or it's like, let's say different versions in, in different regions. So, um, for example, yeah, like we had a world of Things bleeds, the title that I worked for.

[00:25:15] And so, uh, for example, it's Chinese version, right? Was a little bit like slightly different, you know, from the global, right? Because it was its own server. And at the same time we could also implement the like a little bit different features or like run events at different times, right? Because it was independent server.

[00:25:32] So that's kind of like, I think the, the difference.

[00:25:36] Tom Hammond: Yeah. Do you typically see, at least if you have different servers, do you typically see like different teams managing each [00:25:43] version of the game kind of a thing as well? Not

[00:25:45] Antanina Livingston: necessarily. You know, it depends on the, of course, the size of the game, right? And the size of the events.

[00:25:49] Uh, so for example, you know, sometimes, Again, like if we talk to scenario one, when you have like one game, uh, with just different server, right? So one team can control all their servers, but let's say maybe you will contact your, like office in like other country or something. Or maybe like your, uh, okay. If it's one team, right?

[00:26:07] So they will just like spend more UI budget or like spend more marketing budget right, on that specific region to promote this specific activity. Mm-hmm. That, that what can happen. And Yeah. And also I would say, you know, in terms of marketing, right? So it also ver it, it also varies through the regions cuz something that will work for Japan right?

[00:26:27] Uh, will seem awkward in Europe or us. Mm-hmm. So, and I'm like, I've witnessed that. And something that I, I would think like, what is that? Like, it's like pede. But actually it worked for Japan. Right? And I'm like, okay. [00:26:43] So that's their culture and it's, it's different, but at the same time, it's important to like, um, there was a very good book actually.

[00:26:48] I also read, um, or read about the, like, marketing languages basically. So they're like certain words, you know, that kind of like, um, describe the cultures and mm-hmm. Even like the wording that you use for like different regions can be also different, right? So for example, if you use like more like hero in.

[00:27:06] Um, I, I'm just given the example, if you use like a hero in Europe, right? So, um, maybe in, um, um, like Asia, you will use something like a friend, right? So, or some different messaging that you're gonna send for the same campaign. So, yeah. It's, it's called like, uh, it's like, uh, local localization, right? And the good example, for example, um, example for example.

[00:27:29] Yeah. So the good, uh, the good case, um, let's say Starbucks in China. So, uh, here Starbucks, they're all. Standard, right? Mm-hmm. So they just have, uh, coffees and, uh, some shakes, right? But if you go in China, so they have [00:27:43] these, uh, different mixes that, uh, here, like buyers who think like, what is that? Like, what is the weird combination of like, um, I don't know.

[00:27:53] Uh, What do they have of like beach or something there? Yeah. Like very, very different. Mm-hmm. And even the whole atmosphere is a little bit different. You know the cakes that they sell, right? Mm-hmm. This is a good example of that. Or for example, we had the McDonald's in Russia that could sell the bonds with the ripe bread, you know?

[00:28:08] So localization, same works for games. So, yeah,

[00:28:13] Tom Hammond: I love it. Yeah. Yeah. It, it kind of reminds me, and it was one of these digital conferences this year, I don't remember which one, but it was, uh, somebody from Wright Games was talking about something that they did where they took a little bit more time to study the colors and how they are, you know, us can affect skins and such.

[00:28:34] Uh, cuz that's where they make most of their money is skins for new champions. Mm-hmm. And, uh, they were origin. Planning on doing, like it was kinda like a red skin or something. And they [00:28:43] did some more research and they learned that, I think it was in China, that that color really didn't vibe well with them.

[00:28:49] And after some iterations, they decided to release it with like a gold skin and it performed like. A thousand times better than, you know, any of their other skins have been released and stuff. And so just finding exactly how to like connect with those, you know, audiences is, is super

[00:29:07] Antanina Livingston: powerful. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:29:08] Even to like, yeah, to the color scheme basically, you know, it's like, yeah, the skins there, they have like different popularity. But it's a fun thing because, you know, like, um, we're also like receiving some, uh, you know, reports or something, uh, from China, right. And like negative things they put in. And, um, something positive they put in red.

[00:29:27] Right? Well, for us it's just like, just vice versa, right? So this is also a cultural thing. Yeah.

[00:29:34] Tom Hammond: That's super fascinating. Yeah. So I remember when you talked at the Packer Gamings Con Gamer conference, you [00:29:43] said something where about live ops. You basically defined it as there's three core pillars, there's operations, analytics, and planning.

[00:29:51] I'd love for you to go into a little bit more depth. What do those different, you know, pillars look like and what kind of activities go on in each of them? You know, imagine I have a new game that's being successful and I don't have any sort of live ops going in and I want to start, you know, adding something in, like, what do this actually mean?

[00:30:08] Like, what are things that I might need to do?

[00:30:11] Antanina Livingston: Yeah, I would say, um, you know, when I define those three pillars, right? So I would say they're more for like the game that is already on the market, right? Because if you're just launching the game, I would first recommend to maybe think about the tools that you're gonna need, uh, to provide your live ops team, right, to actually operate the game.

[00:30:28] So that's also kind of like the things at the beginning. But if we talk about the game that let's say, already hit the. Um, so I kind of look at it as a loop, you know, because, uh, you can actually start from any point, you know, you can start [00:30:43] from analytics or you can start from planning, right? Or just like directly to like a peer rating basically, which I don't recommend, but, but.

[00:30:50] Um, let's put it like that. So right now, if, if you start with planning, right? So you plan a, uh, feature or you plan an event, you put certain, like KPIs that you want to achieve, whether it's like, okay, I want to increase the hours per users. I want to increase the revenue, or I want to increase the d u, for example, right?

[00:31:07] Then you operate, you implement that feature. And then you start to analyze it, right? So, and you can analyze it on the go or you can analyze it after the, after the fact after this thing happened, right? And see what I can do, uh, differently. And then you start planning again, or, you know, that's what we do actually, we work at all these three pillars simultaneously, right?

[00:31:27] Because when we're planning one season, right? So we'll already operate another season and. Analyzing the previous season. Right. And it's always like that. So it's always kind of like, you know, and also like we're planned like far ahead, what's gonna happen, um, in like six months from now or something like [00:31:43] that.

[00:31:43] So yeah. But that's, that's definitely, um, I. Think that's how, uh, you can look at, uh, the live ops work in general, right? If you don't know what, like, what the team is doing, um, because it's important to look in your data, right? It's important to plan ahead and it's important to execute, like I would say in the normal.

[00:32:04] Base and not like, you know, have it like super intense because then the, um, the number of mistakes or like errors can actually increase. So

[00:32:15] Tom Hammond: yeah. So essentially if I am wanting to push out a live ops event, one of the things that I should do is to actually have like a KPI beforehand to say, okay, this is what I expect this event to do and to improve.

[00:32:30] And then you can actually analyze that.

[00:32:34] Antanina Livingston: I would say yes. Th this is important because, you know, otherwise I would say that's a good, um, question. You know, we ask inside our team, it's like, what is the business [00:32:43] value of that? Right? So why are we doing these things? Because if there is no value, right, so we shouldn't do it.

[00:32:49] So that's simple, right? And so for the events, I would say they should be at least a certain, you know, um, not exact, for example, KPI or something like that, right? As I mentioned, like, uh, hp like d u, right? But you can for example, say like, okay, we're doing this to engage this. These players, right? And so here's what the events we're providing.

[00:33:09] And you, you don't even have to say like, okay, we expect the retention to go, uh, to this level, or something like that, right? No, but you kind of expect the d a U to be on this, like on this level, right? Or for example, you can see where you, you will have the spikes of, uh, uh, engagement on certain day and when you're gonna see the drop.

[00:33:27] And if you see the drop, okay. Here, probably we'll need to add something else, right? To keep the players engaged. That's kind of the thing. Oh, for example, if you plan your offers, right? So like what offers will be in the game? So you don't have to like slot everything into one day, right? But rather look at your calendar and say like, [00:33:43] okay, so probably here's like the cadence that we're gonna do that, right?

[00:33:46] And then, okay, here's the holidays. So here's the offers for the holidays, right? And then maybe also plan how long players will be engaging with those things. Yeah, that's, that's I think, uh, at least you have to plan these things. Right? So, and then, yeah, like if you can plan to Okay, uh, the exact things, uh, that's even like better.

[00:34:07] Yeah.

[00:34:09] Tom Hammond: Would you say it's important to think about player archetypes? So, um, something that I've found is, Even when I'm playing a game with like three or four friends, like typically we'll have different things about the game that we enjoy. Like maybe my buddy Jim likes to collect stuff and I just like to rob the merchants and somebody else likes to, you know, really engage in the story and stuff.

[00:34:32] But like, do you try to plan like, okay, you know, these are our five different player archetypes. Like let's try to have events that cater to each of those different player personas, types of things. [00:34:43]

[00:34:44] Antanina Livingston: Yes. I would say we definitely use, uh, some certain, you know, segmentation, right? Because it, you definitely need to understand who's your player.

[00:34:52] So like player portrait, that's usually said in like many game conferences, right? Or something. So you need to, yeah, you need to understand who is your player. And what's like, what your player likes about the game and what they do in the game. And it really depends on the game, right? For example, if you have this like, um, uh, open world game or something, right?

[00:35:10] And you see some players okay, go to like a very, um, I don't know, like random places and they're just explore the game, right? So yeah. Probably they need something to explore and probably you need to put something there for them to find it. Right? Like Easter X or something like that. Some players, they can be just achievers, they just want to accomplish everything, right?

[00:35:29] So you need to put this like clear goal for them to accomplish. Some players they can be just like, you know, uh, like. To kill. And so for them it's like, it's important to just, you know, kill, collect, I don't know, experience or something. Right. And like climb the leaderboard or something. [00:35:43] Right? They wanna like show that they actually like, uh, achieve that.

[00:35:46] And then there are also players who just like to play together, right? So it's like this social aspect of that. And there are also many cases when players actually just, uh, go from one segment to another, right? And then you can also segment your players, for example, on how much time to spend in the. Right.

[00:36:01] So for example, the same achiever, killer, like explorer, right? So they can't spend the same, uh, amount of time in the game. And so they will be already like a cohort, right? That like, yeah, um, actively engage players, let's put it like that. And then yeah, there will be players who are like, okay, they don't play that much, but they.

[00:36:18] They spend a lot, right? So, uh, or like they both, uh, then we come to this segmentation of like, whales, dolphins, andinos, right? So, uh, there are many, many aspects, right? And it just depends on how do you, like, how do you prefer to segment your game and what's more suitable for your game, right? Whether it's like segmentation on your, uh, behavior or whether it's like a segmentation based on like the time that you spend on the [00:36:43] game and the, for example, how much you, um, you donate to the game, right?

[00:36:46] How much you. Both like money and time basically. And so, um, then you can, then you can actually plan the different activities to them, right? So if, uh, you know, that users are really, uh, want to achieve things, so you have to provide the challenge, I would say difficult enough. So that they can achieve it.

[00:37:07] Right, but not, for example, not in one day. Yeah. And at the same time, you also need to make sure that the difficulty right is so the event is difficult enough so that the players who are not that engaged can also participate in that, right? Mm-hmm. So it's kinda like, it's, it's already like, you know, live ops, it's at some point it's also game design, right?

[00:37:25] Because besides like, um, thinking about the segments, you also need to think of like, Difficult, it'll be for players to achieve that or that thing, right? Mm-hmm. Or like, for example, okay, this event will cover like most of the segments, right? Because it's like really low entry, uh, entry point for them. [00:37:43] So that's also how you can plan.

[00:37:45] And I would say it's like, you know, that's why live Ops is fascinating because there's so many things, right? And there's like, I know it's just, there's so many things that you can do and so many things that you can plan. I'm like, you know, this little tweaks that you can do to the game.

[00:37:59] Tom Hammond: Yeah, I love it.

[00:37:59] And I feel like everything, as you were outlining all those different ways to segment players and things like that, I feel like those are all things you could test and you know, see

[00:38:06] Antanina Livingston: what Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:38:10] Tom Hammond: So something you said that stuck out to me, you know, before you can really get into live ops, you need the tools.

[00:38:16] So what kind of tools would you need, let's say, at a minimum, to be able to do live ops?

[00:38:23] Antanina Livingston: I would say at the minimum, right? So you need to like control, uh, what's going on in the game, right? So for example, if you wanna add the new content, right? So you need to have a tool to do that, right? Or for example, if you wanna start like a new offer, how are you gonna do that?

[00:38:37] How. Players will see it in the game, right? So what's gonna be this like programming tool right? To, to [00:38:43] put this or to add the images to the game, right. Or something like that. And so yeah, basically you're, you start from there and kind of like spec out the major activities that you, you want your players to do.

[00:38:52] For example, you know, if you want your players to log in daily, right? So you need to have this mechanism. Right, that events would grant players event, uh, like, um, rewards on daily basis, right? And so basically here's your like, okay, one of the requirements, right? So I want the tool to program the event that would grant, you know, players these, uh, these things.

[00:39:14] And so for example, right now we always. Um, improve, you know, the tools that we're working with because we see some loopholes and we see some, okay, so maybe I want, um, like the popup, right, to be something different. Maybe I want like, the text to be distributed something differently, right? Or maybe I want to make sure that, you know, uh, I, I don't like it in this place, right?

[00:39:34] I want this event. To, I want to be able to put this event somewhere else, right? So for example, to like a different window. [00:39:43] And so your tool need to, need to be able, or need to give you this chance to, to program it like that. Mm-hmm. So I would say, yeah, like first, uh, spec out what you want your players due on a daily basis.

[00:39:58] Right. So, um, you know, it's whether like both engagement and both monetization for example, right? So what offers you want them to do, and that's gonna be your first thing of like, uh, to, to make a spec for the tool. Yeah.

[00:40:13] Tom Hammond: Cool. Do you see the, the best tools just kind of being built in-house, kind of custom for the game or reused across companies?

[00:40:21] Or have you come across any like commercial tools that are, you know, useful and, and good and get you to where you need to be?

[00:40:29] Antanina Livingston: I would say I've seen, um, all these options, you know, and they all, they all have their own like pro and cons, right? So, and also it depends on the size of the game. So let's say if you are a small company, [00:40:43] And, you know, you're probably, your live ops is pretty, uh, simple, you know, just like running the events or like doing the offers.

[00:40:49] So you can, I think, go to like, um, platforms that offer the tools like that, right? And just utilize those. If let's say you already have like a several, uh, games, right? Um, that you, um, You kind of have the similar events or something like that, right? So for example, occasional games, they mostly do like same or like, uh, almost like similar types of events, right?

[00:41:12] Mm-hmm. And so you can use probably like, uh, one tool for all these games, right? Just maybe like different, um, I don't know. Yeah, yeah. Like different taps for them, right? And then, yeah, like let's say if you're a big company, right? And you have this ability to build a big in-house tool that would operate different, uh, titles, why not?

[00:41:31] So you can also. And so, you know, or you can have one tool for your individual game depending on your budget as well. So it's like really case by case basis. So it really depends on the [00:41:43] scale of your game, I would say.

[00:41:44] Tom Hammond: Yeah. Cool. Yeah. What do you think are the, the biggest problems with the tools that are out there, whether in-house or platform?

[00:41:51] Like what, what takes the most time, or what's the biggest year? 10? What's the. Need from a tool perspective, maybe put another way.

[00:41:58] Antanina Livingston: I would say, um, probably like implement the changes, uh, fast enough. Let's say, you know, if you see something like, okay, I want this new task, right. Um, to be, or like, I want this new feature to be in the tool.

[00:42:10] And sometimes, you know, it takes time to develop it as a feature. So I would say, um, I wish, you know, the things that we want to. Add, uh, to the tool could be implemented much faster, right? So for example, okay, I wanna do it. I made this back, right? And next week it's there. Bu right? So sometimes it's not like that.

[00:42:28] Sometimes you actually have to like plan a ahead. Mm-hmm. Context things will happen because it's also the tool itself is like a live-in mechanism as much as the

[00:42:36] Tom Hammond: game. Yeah. Yeah. So it's almost like the tool is connected to the game, at least from like the data model perspective. And so you [00:42:43] have to take the time to implement the data model in order for this new event or feature to be able to control by the tool.

[00:42:48] Antanina Livingston: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like that. Yeah. And also, you know, basically like everything, um, you know, your tool is not only connected to the game, right, but it's also connected to your, like, analytics, right? Because all the analytics that you're gonna get will not come from the, I mean, Come from the game, but all the data about the event, what happened there, right, will come from you too as well.

[00:43:07] So this is also these like, uh, connections, the same as we're talking to Luke, right? So here we go. Here's another look.

[00:43:15] Tom Hammond: I love it if you'd known everything that you know now. What would you have done differently when you started in games?

[00:43:23] Antanina Livingston: I think if I knew how much of a enjoyed, I would start much earlier, you know?

[00:43:29] Yeah. I wouldn't spend so much time on like other industries. I would just go straight to games. Yeah. But, um, I think everything happens for a reason, you know, and probably, you know, that experience that I got in like. [00:43:43] Businesses. Right. So it's actually pretty useful right now because, you know, like working with other, uh, non-material, uh, projects, you know, and like products, right.

[00:43:51] It's actually quite useful as a product manager right now as well, so.

[00:43:55] Tom Hammond: Awesome. Yeah. What is your big dream for your career? Like, what trace do you wanna leave on the world?

[00:44:03] Antanina Livingston: Um, I honestly see myself, you know, growing, um, as the, you know, product manager and product director, right? And who knows, maybe one day like running something myself, whether it's like live ops related or you know, like whether it's just another, you know, gaming company or services company.

[00:44:18] So I think right now the world, it provides so many opportunities, you know, it's just like, uh, just need to see what are those and kind of like. You know, see what way you can develop yourself. But as for me, I would say, you know, I always like to study, so I always like to, you know, uh, learn something new.

[00:44:38] So that's why I would say, uh, it's never, it's never enough and I kinda like feel that. The [00:44:43] biggest dream I have is just, you know, it's like, um, to know as much as possible I would say like that, you know? Yeah. And implement it, of course. And then, yeah, like grow professionally. So,

[00:44:52] Tom Hammond: yeah. That's great. You know, speaking of learning something, I often like to ask people and share as well.

[00:44:58] Um, I'm a very avid reader of, Books, podcasts very well. Not really podcasts I guess, but you know, any, anything that's out there. Blogs, I guess you could say. Um, but what's one recommendation you'd give to product managers or aspiring product managers? Um, in terms of like, oh, you should read this book, or you should follow this writer blog or whatnot.

[00:45:19] Antanina Livingston: Hmm. Yeah, I would say I also like read a lot. I try to. Um, and so, you know, I kinda like, uh, recently I studied to read about books about the artificial intelligence and so that's kind of interesting and it's also blows my mind how, you know, the robots actually are developing and how they will change also even the gaming industry, you know, because like [00:45:43] literally, you know, you probably won't even need to have like a.

[00:45:45] Community service or something. Right. Or customer service. So yeah, you know, AI will do it for you. And so, um, I kind of like from the latest books that are read, so I would recommend the Big Nine by Emmy WebP. So that's about the artificial intelligence. That's, that was kind of cool. And then also I'm reading books in Russian as well, so if, you know, like, uh, with his like fourth generation.

[00:46:08] So that's also kind of like a really cool book. And it's also explained how your brain operates, you know, so some like triggers in the brain that actually cause like different things. I've been always a big fan of, uh, ne y so I hope I pronounce his name right. But, uh, his, you know, the book Hooked, that's like, I think it's the most for product managers, right?

[00:46:26] And then, um, his, his latest book, like Indestructible was also quite good. Mm-hmm. Um, it kind of like made me realize how much I depend on this smartwatch, like, like, Closing the loops every day. You know, that's also gamification basically. Right. And then, [00:46:43] um, yeah, like from, I would say books that inspire me.

[00:46:47] I also read, um, the Disney ceo, Robert Iger, so his memoirs. That was really cool book for managers, I think, because it's like how you cop with different things. Um, and I think in general, you know, like always. Try to find books related to your subject, right? So like, you know, whether your product management probably reads something about like, giving the feedback, right?

[00:47:07] Or like communication or like how to work with your subordinates even, right? So that, uh, you're not micromanaged, but at the same time, you know, just like, uh, you, you build a team. So that's, that's important. And then from, uh, from the podcast. Right. So I've actually, yeah, I was, uh, recently I was listening to, uh, your podcast, you know, trying to also like, get the idea of how it's gonna go.

[00:47:28] So I think I definitely can recommend this one. It's good. Uh, and I'm, I'm honored to be here today too. And then, um, I actually listened to Game Refinery. Um, they have a very good, yeah, very good podcast. And then there is, It's [00:47:43] unfortunately in Russian, it's called Product Sense, uh, make Sense podcast. They do it on YouTube as well, and they invite different people from not only gaming sphere, but also from like product managers.

[00:47:53] And they talk a lot about like frameworks, technologies, and like all kinds of stuff like that. Um, and like scrum, you know, so how, also, like how you build your team processes, right? Like the port, all that stuff. So I think it's also important, um, to understand as the product manager, right? And, um, yeah, in general, you know, trying new stuff.

[00:48:15] Um, Play games. Um, you know, I, I try to actually play new game every week at least for like, you know, maybe just a few, I don't know, a few, a few matches or something. Get the idea right or something like that. And some, some games really like, uh, hook me up, so, and then I can stop. But, uh, yeah, play your own game, of course, because that's also important to understand what's going on.

[00:48:38] Um, and experience it as a player, you know, so when you see actually, okay, [00:48:43] this is something difficult, right? So I can't do it. Probably like, yeah, it's gonna be like also quite, um, um, difficult for other people to do that. So, yeah.

[00:48:53] Tom Hammond: That's fantastic. Cool. One last question, which is my favorite question because we are on mastering retention.

[00:48:59] What's one tip or trick, uh, that you've found that people can use to boost retention?

[00:49:03] Antanina Livingston: Uh, honestly to you? I think the most important is to provide, um, something to players that resigns to their interest. You know, and that's when we're talking about, um, you know, player segments or something, right? So I think make sure that your game has everything for everyone at some point, you know, and that it can like, Be interesting to like every, like, I mean, not all the people, right?

[00:49:32] But at the same time you, you know, you are like, you know, core segments, right? So they always find something interesting to do. Uh, if you can do, you know, something like, you know, personalized offers that can also work for [00:49:43] you game because this is something that again, that we're talking that would resonates to like what people need, right?

[00:49:48] Yeah. Um, and I also believe that. It's the same for like the market, right? When we look at the market, there is always like, if there is a demand, right? There is the offer. So look at what is the demand and provide the offer. Mm-hmm. So

[00:50:02] Tom Hammond: I love that. That's fantastic. Almost like using adjacent user theory. If you've ever seen the, the Instagram post.

[00:50:09] Somehow, you know, they scaled, um, very interesting stuff. Cool. Yeah. Well, this has been so great. I feel like I've learned a lot, had a lot of fun. Um, really appreciate you being on the podcast, and I hope we can have you on again sometime soon. Thanks.

[00:50:25] Antanina Livingston: Thanks for inviting. It was a pleasure to. All right.

[00:50:28] Tom Hammond: Bye-bye. Bye-bye.