Sunday, June 15, 2014

[Review] Love Live: School Idol Festival.

It's about damn time I did a game review ^_^

Here we go: "Love Live! School Idol Festival"

This iOS/Android social game has been out in Japan for quite some time now (I think more than a year ago?) and I recently picked it up. The English version was released around a month before this post. I won't go too much into the mechanics of the game as you can try it out for free and read the unofficial English wiki here.

But I'll at least skim through what it's about. The game is really simple, even by social game standards. Basically you use stamina gained over time to play songs (essentially rhythm games) which can give you Loveca Stones (it's the game's cash currency used for paid gatcha), coins (the game's free currency used for enhancing cards), friendship points (used to get more free version of gatcha), and random cards depending on how well you do. If you have no idea what these bolden words mean, then you haven't been exposed enough to social game mechanics. Hopefully I'll write an article about it and link it here in the future.

The simple layman objective of the game is to collect as many cards as possible. Cards have rarity. The lower rarity ones can be obtained through the free gatcha which costs friendship points which is obtained simply by playing. The higher rarity ones can be obtained through paid gatcha which can be bought using real life cash OR completing one-shot objectives in the game (the game is rather generous at this too compared to other social games). Combining two of the same card will yield a more powerful (and naturally more unique) card.

And of course, better cards in this game will allow you to yield better score in your song attempts. Higher rarity cards will have better stats and have abilities that affect your play. It's really a very simple social game model.

Okay enough about mechanics. Let's talk about why the hell would you want to play this game. If you are a Love Live! fan and not playing this, you are either missing out A LOT or you are just trying to prevent yourself from bankruptcy. If you are NOT a Love Live! fan, give it a shot. It's a simple, polished rhythm game in my opinion. Remember to watch the anime if you actually like the characters! (mwahaha)

Simple Rhythm Game

What makes this game great to me? Firstly, its simple social game model allow players to quickly understand what they need to do. There aren't any overly complicated mechanics or number crunching. Getting better cards and performing better at your songs yield naturally yield better results. Secondly, its polish. Clean art, clear UI, voice acting (I cannot emphasize this enough), this game markets the Love Live characters and franchise really well especially with in-game events and login bonuses that reflect real life events like a character's birthday or airing of an episode. Thirdly, its generosity with Loveca Stones, the game's cash item. Normally in social games, the developers rarely want to give easy access of these cash items to players is essentially giving the players money.

Highlighting the third point, I think some of us would start thinking how the heck does being generous to cash items lead of sales. There could be many reasons. It could be that the sales are already SO GOOD that the company can afford giving cash items away, sacrificing profit for happier players (which in turn brings more happy people, which in turn increases chances of them spending money, etc). However, this is a chicken and egg problem. If we assume that this hypothesis is true, there must still be something that allows them to start this cycle.


Okay here is where I talk about what I really wanted to talk about. Events. In Love Live, so far there are only 2 kinds of events that happen periodically. One of them is a grind-fest, the other is PvP. Both have the same objectives: getting points.

The basis of participating in an event is very simple and is already used in some social games. Participating allows you to have a shot at an event-exclusive item, or in this case, a Super Rare card (the only thing higher is an Ultra Rare card). However, this game is generous. If you play the event regularly (regularly meaning if you have enough stamina, you play ANY song and do not lose), you will get the card no problem.

So when to people pay? In comes the infamous simple but powerful ranking system. Every player who participates has a rank depending on how much points he accumulated. Every 'region' of ranking will receive different rewards when the event ends (events typically lasts 10 days). In the japanese version I'm playing, the highest region of ranking reward is 2 free attempts at the paid gatcha and 2 of the event-exclusive Super Rare card. Why would you want another of the card? Remember that combining 2 of the same card will yield another card! So in reality, the event has 2 event-exclusive cards, one of which can only be obtained by being at a certain ranking. Why would you want a THIRD card? Mostly for collection. The 2 exclusive cards are after all, 2 different art. If I really liked that character, I would've gone for it.

Eye catching UI and presentation

It's almost perfect execution in my eyes. After seeing how events are designed, it's obvious that the people behind the events knows how to target their audience really well. It is generally accepted that if 10% of your social game's players actually spend money monthly, the game will be sustainable and rather profitable. I can just imagine that 90% of people playing this game are Love Live! fans, with maybe a quarter of that being HARDCORE fans, and...we know how otaku fans are. When the cash is no question and the thing they want appears right in front of them, it automatically goes to "buy first think later" mode. I'm not really a huge fan of the series but I can imagine that if the event has a character card I really love and there's a thousand me's competing for that game is gonna profit a hell lot.

And it goes back to the franchise as well! Love Live! is one of those idol animes where they would hold concerts in Japan and sell lots of albums. Players who play this game will end up knowing the songs, encouraging them to attend concerts and buy the franchise's goods and albums, and of course spreading the word. It goes a full circle. That's the beauty I see in this game.

If I had an ideal of how a social game promoting an existing IP should be done, this game is a great example I would bring up. Simple, polished, very engaged to the franchise, and effective execution of content release and balancing.


  1. Replies
    1. coins you use to 'practice' cards and are also used for idolization. You will never have coin crisis in this game lol. Real life coins, maybe, after you get hooked and scavenge money ;A; that's what's happening to me right now.