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May 19, 2022
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User Research: How to achieve IP collaboration success through User Research

by Yongcheng Liu on 09/28/21 12:25:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


1. What is IP collaboration about?

IP is actually the legal concept of "intellectual property", originally. In an online context, the concept of IP is much broader, and usually, a cultural brand that can be spread independently on multiple platforms, developed in multiple dimensions, and achieve commercial success is called IP. IP usually has its complete world view and values, and has three basic features: firstly, the diversity of forms of its works; secondly, the complex nature of the means in IP operation; thirdly, it has a deep and wide influence on people’s social life. In other words, IP is actually a kind of spread of reputation, which can achieve effective interpersonal promotion without relying on advertising and marketing, and quickly unite audience groups with similar worldviews and values, and even generate a subculture.

Companies in game industry love IPs and IP collaboration is now a major trend in this industry. IP collaboration usually has the following forms:


Collaboration within similar areas

Collaborations in similar areas such as collaboration between game Ips are common. For example, a collaboration of Naraka: Bladepoint and Onmyoji, which was a big hit when it was launched, was a success. Specifically, t collaboration of Naraka: Bladepoint and Onmyoji is a more common character collaboration, adding the popular character of Onmyoji, Yoto Hime, as a new hero to Naraka: Bladepoint. At the same time, Naraka: Bladepoint launched a series of Onmyoji concerned weapons and skins.

There are also some game collaborations adding gameplay, stories into other games.


Collaboration across different fields

There is another kind of collaboration which is cross-field, such as films and games collaboration, as well as games and TV dramas, cartoons, novels collaboration, etc. And the specific forms of collaboration across different fields include the production of film and TV works into mobile games, as well as the simultaneous release of film and TV dramas and games which brings promotion of each other. For example, the collaboration between the PC game Justice and the TV drama Ordinary glory is a very good case. In the drama, the behind-the-scenes story of how the development team of Justice has faced the pressure of huge research and development costs under rapid changes in the pc game market and finally achieved a high-quality success in pc game left a great impression on the audiences of this drama. More audiences can understand the difficulties of the staff behind the game through the TV series.

2. Why do games start a collaboration?

Generating revenue and promoting activation is goals of games and the  IP collaboration promotion is also closely related to these goals. From the perspective of acquiring new players, as the penetration rate of game users increases, the cost of acquiring new game users by traditional means will become higher and higher. Because of the high cultural vitality of IP,  it can spread more easily and save promotion costs when using IP collaboration for publicity. On the other hand, audiences of IP itself may be transformed into players of a game to achieve the effect of getting new users from other fields.


From the perspective of promoting activation of players, big IPs themself have a wide base of audience and may have a high overlap with the player group in games, so doing IP collaboration can undoubtedly make this part of players full of passion and increase their activation in game; some of the churn players may also return the game due to IP collaborations and related activities. For the non-IP audience, it can also enhance the freshness of the game. Further, good collaboration activities may also bring self-promotion among players, bringing more users, and the game's revenue may naturally grow.


3. What influence can user research make on IP collaboration?

IP collaboration sounds like a marketing-oriented activity, so what role can user research play in it?

The first concerning is the choice of which IP to collaborate. IP is basically good for games, but the value of the IP itself, and how the game fit with IP may be a question. A good IP is itself has a wide enough audience, and no matter what game collaboration it is, it can still cover part of players. However, the cost of collaboration with such IPs is high and it is hard to settle a proper timeline of a collaboration. On the other hand, there are some IPs whose audiences and players of certain games highly overlap. Then players’ acceptance in the world view, persona, and other collaborations contents like characters and skins will be higher. This kind of IP brings fewer risks in terms of collaboration also it may be possible to achieve the effect of small cost and big revenue. All these issues can be researched by the user research teams to help production teams in the early stage of collaboration decisions.


In the case that the intended IP has been selected within a limited amount of promotion budget:

  •  User research can, on the one hand, conduct desktop research to investigate the player characteristics and audience scope of the target IP and help create personas of IP fans to help detect if the IP collaboration fits the game itself.
  •  On the other hand, user researchers can also do research on classic elements and the most well-known/emotional events of the IP to help determine the suitable content for the collaboration.
  •  In addition, User researchers could potentially do research on the existing players of the game to understand the players' awareness and acceptance of the IP to avoid possible risks after the collaboration. No matter what time, it is a pity if the old players do not recognize the IP collaboration, and most of the old players should at least have a neutral or positive attitude towards the targeted IP.

Of course, in the case of no target IP, user research is also able to research to understand what IP collaborations players want to see most, and how players in the game like different IPs.


Secondly, after the collaboration campaign has been launched, user researchers track the collaboration effect comprehensively through multiple ways such as public opinion monitoring, questionnaire tracking, data analysis, and deep interviews. For example, how do we know which are the IP fan players and what is their feedback on the game and the collaboration? And which part of fans have a good conversion effect and can be promoted more? And which fans have poor conversion effect instead? The user research team can tag players with fan tags and source tags when they enter the game, regularly track all the data of different type of players within the game, combining qualitative research means to understand their real thoughts.

There are many more things that can be done with research on IP collaboration, including but not limited to: new player promotion effect estimation, new fan player persona, fan retention analysis, collaboration content analysis, external opinion tracking, fan communication features analysis ...... Of course, don't forget that regular tracking and risk assessment of old players is very important.


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