First Time User Experience & Wizard101's Audience

Wizard101 has had updates pretty regularly since its creation, but the types of updates that it's getting are changing. This is indicative of an evolving strategy for the game and tells us a little bit about its strengths and weaknesses. Let's take a look at what's different and what it means for Wizard101 going forward.

Test Realm Updates

The summer test realm went live this past week in Wizard101, and there are several new things to check out! The Wizard City revamp is now complete with an updated Crab Alley, and some improvements have been made to Quick Sell. Additionally, a few other new features are on their way. The biggest update, it would seem, is the new "FTUE" or First Time User Experience.

First Time User Experience

When you first create a wizard, you are required to go through the tutorial on your first run through and can skip it on characters after that. However, then you're mostly left to fend for yourself when it comes to questing. This update seeks to better explain the basics of combat and navigating the world. Beyond that, there have been significant improvements to the early game experience with new dialogue, new character animations, and additional effects, models, and camera angles used for the Unicorn Way and several other parts of Wizard City. 

Update Frequency

After the release of Grizzleheim and Celestia, which were delayed for some time beyond their originally planned dates, players wondered if old worlds would get an overhaul. Developers found that fitting together their puzzle pieces for the streets was taking as long as it would to simply build a unique environment from scratch, so that's what they started doing with those two worlds. For a long time, Wizard101's team said they wouldn't likely update the early game as it didn't directly generate any revenue for the game. That was back when Wizard101 was growing at a substantial rate, running television commercials, and having no problem with acquiring new players.

Fast-forward to 2019 and it's a little bit of a different story. Wizard101 is still doing great, despite the fact that its updates have slowed from their initial frequency. It's no surprise that 2009 and 2010 were big years for the game that included the implementation of new worlds and new systems. But even several years later, take a look at the 2011 update notes. In 2011, Wizard101 had four major Test Realms and released Celestia housing, several new spells for each school, a new Crab Alley quest line, plus Wintertusk, Wysteria, and Zafaria! That's about three years of updates now rolled into one. 

It was 2015 when Polaris came out and the updates slowed to three per year. They tend to come out now in April, July or August, and November.

Retention & Extension

Wizard101 never seemed to have any issue retaining players, and it still looks like they're doing pretty well. While a lot of their original, younger audience has grown up, there's never a shortage of wizards running around the Commons. New players might be a different story. If you're wondering which part of their audience they're targeting, the most recent updates paint a pretty detailed picture. 

Focus on Early Content

There's been a big overhaul of the early game content in Wizard101, which mirrors what they did to Pirate101 several years ago. They've dedicated several updates now to recreating Wizard City with improved textures and models, and it does make a huge difference. The game feels newer and cleaner and I imagine it'll have some serious impact when it comes to first impressions for new players. This is also the focus of the FTUE update. If the game looks great and is easy to understand, that's a plus.

To some degree, the game updates have been focused on improving the overall player experience for awhile now, with things like the level 50 elixir being geared toward new characters and general user interface improvements such as scaling for different resolutions. 

I should note that there have been some strange choices, in my opinion, on some of the early-game content. For example, the quests "Bear Market" and "Trade Voyage" that gave low-level players a free look at Grizzleheim were quietly removed in a recent update and are no longer available. How hiding this magnificent content and world from new players helps sell or improve the game I do not know. Either way, all of the early-game content is clearly being looked at.

Any-Level Content

The other thing we've seen recently is the roll-out of new features that can be enjoyed by wizards of any level. Where a skeleton key boss would be geared toward a specific level range of players and have limited replay value for the majority of wizards, something like the Deckathalon is doable for every level and not too difficult or too easy for anyone. I imagine the same thing will be true of the Beastmoon event which is coming soon (love the mini-maps used in the top-right corner). 

Barrier to Entry

Here's something I worry about. The Deckathalons aren't that difficult to get started on. You could get some treasure cards, probably figure out the various new symbols and quest chain to begin, and defeat a few rounds fairly easily. However, I have the Deckathalon a try and wasn't completely sold. It just isn't really for me. This is maybe the second feature ever (the first being Monstrology) that I haven't wanted to participate in. Why? Well, we've got quest content, side quests, gardening, fishing, pets, PvP, housing, minigames, daily assignments, tournaments, pet derby, more I'm probably not remembering, and now Monstrology and the Deckathalon and the upcoming Beastmoon Hunt and Spiral Showcase and Scrolls of Fortune... it's a lot. 

It worries me a little because there are games I have chosen not to play merely because there are so many systems and things to learn that it's overwhelming. PvP is something many players chose not to participate in because it requires learning and keeping up with current strategies and what people are doing, as well as building an inventory of relevant treasure cards, a suitable pet, and perhaps obtaining gear specifically for the arena. To a seasoned PvP player or someone who is slowly acclimated to these different aspects of the game, it's not too bad. For a lot of other people, it's... again, a lot.

We'll all be watching very closely from here on out for what's coming and where the game is going. Will we see new commercials advertising Wizard101's updated early-game experience? Will additional marketing strategies be used to attempt to acquire new players? What sort of updates might we expect to other aspects of the early and overall game play experience for Wizard101?

What do you think of the new updates?

Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!

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