Discovery experience redesign for Blacknut
Because when you want to play, you don’t want to waste time choosing what.
Have you ever found yourself stuck, running out of inspiration in front of Netflix? Searching without much conviction what to watch? The cloud gaming platform Blacknut offers a large catalog of games and its users, sometimes, wonder what to play too. Here is my proposal to redesign the discovery experience of the platform.
✦ When ⇢ last two weeks of January
✦ How long ⇢ 2 weeks
✦ How ⇢ everything remotely
✦ Method ⇢ double diamond
✦ Team ⇢ “UX team of one”
Before being a UX designer, I worked in the game industry, so I was really happy to start a mission for Blacknut as this company is all about video games and accessibility.
Blacknut is a company that we could describe as the Netflix of video games. No need to download anything, no need to have a super-powerful computer. All you need is an internet connexion. You subscribe to the service and boom, on Blacknut’s platform, you have access to hundreds of video games on your computer, your TV and your mobile phone.
This technology is called cloud gaming.
As I said, Blacknut’s very first goal is to give people easy access to all video games. Problem is their catalog is growing every day. That’s a good thing, but they’ve observed that their users tend to focus on a lower number of games over time and ultimately cancel their subscription. So my mission here was to understand how we could help users to discover new games and stay engaged on the platform.
Initial brief : help users to discover new games and stay engaged on the platform
Even if I’ve been in the gaming industry for a while, even if I read the video game press regularly… I had to move forward by putting aside my assumptions to approach the subject with a fresh look. In this perspective, I conducted researches about the video game industry in the broadest sense and about the specific issues of the cloud gaming sector.
The very first insight I had was that the number of French gamers is HUGE. According to a study published last November, there are more than 36 million people who play video games in France. In fact, 52% of French people say they play video games at least once a week.
These numbers may seem impressive but you know, you don’t need to have the latest console or spend all your nights watching streams on Twitch to be a gamer. Actually, even if the only thing you’re playing is Candy Crush, you’re still a gamer.
At the same time, I posted a survey, to get some figures about what influences people’s choices when they decide to buy a new video game. More than 350 people answered to it, giving me interesting insights.
It might sound obvious but the very first factor that influences people when they have to choose a new video game is that it is in a category they already like. And for me, it was important to keep in mind, as I had to work on a way to help users discover new games.
The other interesting finding were that they also rely on external opinion such as what their friends told them, video of gameplay they’ve seen or article they’ve read.
Taking a closer look at the cloud gaming business also brought me useful insights. In this specific field of gaming industry, the number of actors increases every year. What is interesting, is that Blacknut does not have the same target as its competitors.
Indeed, platforms like GeForce Now, Google Stadia, XBox Game pass or PSNow are targeting hardcore gamers. The service they’re offering is not really the same as Blacknut: they mostly provide a cloud service that allows you to play games online, but you have to buy these games yourself or add a fee to access games from a specific editor in addition of your subscription.
Blacknut on the other hand, aims first and foremost at the general public and their service is all inclusive : once you paid the subscription, you access their whole catalog. This difference means that, Blacknut’s main competitors come from other type of entertainment platform, such as Netflix or Spotify.
Be aware of that was really important, as my real challenge was to reach Blacknut’s users for interviews.
The UX method is interested in everything we have just seen, the industry, the competitors, etc., but above all, it is centered on the users. And unfortunately, Blacknut lacked direct contact with its subscribers. I tried to contact them in different ways, by sending emails to active subscribers, searching for them on social networks, contacting newly unsuscribed users… Nobody was available.
According to Blacknut’s Chief Marketing Officer, their main active users were young adults, rather male, between 25 and 35 years old. Finally I was able to interview 3 people.
✦ Two young women, who used the platform for a social media partnership
✦ One extreme user, who has a much higher than average playing time and does not fit into the “young adult” category since he is 46 years old
Their feedbacks were interesting, but their profile definitely did not fit with Blacknut’s average user I was looking for.
To get more insights, I decided to look at the problem from a different angle. Interviewing users from other cloud gaming platform would not have been relevant, as the solutions they offer are different and they’re targeting hardcore gamers. But looking back at the competitor analysis helped me understand to whom I had to turn to.
Pivoting in research orientation helped me get more accurate insights
I realized that when they want to discover new games, Blacknut’s users might face similar issues as Netflix or Spotify users when they want to discover new movies or different music. Thus, I conducted new interviews with Netflix users and asked few more questions to Blacknut’s users I already spoke to and who had a Netflix account. I also had an interview with the Director of datascience at Deezer to get insights from a subject matter expert.
With a mix of what came out from these interviews and datas from Blacknut’s analytics I managed to define more precisely who are Blacknut’s users and what are the problems they are facing.
Sebastian and the Arte effect
Now it’s time to introduce you to Sebastian! He is curious but not temerary.
Have you ever heard about the Arte effect? Everybody say they watch Arte, but when you look at the real audience, it’s more as everybody watch TF1.
Sebastian seems to encounter a similar effect: he says that he wants to discover new games, but in reality, he struggles getting out of his comfort zone. And time is also a frustration for him: he does not want to spend too much time finding what to play to.
“Spending two hours looking for what game to play is so boring”
He wants to play to a game he enjoys, and he wants to do it now! But on entertainment platforms with a wide range of products, chosing the right thing is time-consuming.
“There are so many choices, it takes forever to select the right thing”
At this point, we finally put the finger on the real problem to tackle!
As seen before, we know that users are largely influenced by what they already like. They are not against the idea of making new discoveries, but this approach requires them to take an active, more costly stance. So I’ve been thinking about additional ways for Blacknut users to discover new titles, on the one hand, by offering them recommendations based on their basic preferences, but also by guiding them and accompanying them when they need to leave their comfort zone.
Changes on the homepage
One point that came up several times in my discussions with users was that new games were hard to spot. Indeed, each new game is placed in its own category and if you don’t look closely at it, you may miss it. Moreover, this does not encourage players to go and see what is new in other game categories.
⇢ I therefore propose to create a category dedicated to recently added games, and to place it at the top of the homepage, so that it is clearly visible.
⇢ I also propose to highlight editorial tops, like those already present on Blacknut Le Mag, a media dedicated to video game culture published by the company.
By focusing on editorial thematics, we move away from classification by categories, and the recommendations of editors reflects the “we have curated this great selection for you” spirit Blacknut wants to convey.
My Collection page redesign
The second opportunity I identified is based on a redesign of My Collection page. For the moment, it is divided into two tabs: Last Played and My Favorites. First of all, I propose to rename this page My Blacknut to emphasize the personalization.
In this revamped version, the first tab is dedicated to discovery with:
⇢ An inspiring feature I’ll introduce you in detail in the next part of this article
⇢ Recommendations of games recently added to the catalog, based on the user’s tastes
⇢ Curated playlists from the editors, as on the home page, but selected especially for the user, again based on their tastes
⇢ A Trending in France this week category, to open the field of exploration
The second tab is dedicated to the user’s games:
⇢ The games they spotted but not had the time to try yet
⇢ The titles they played recently
⇢ Their favorite games
We could also imagine the possibility for users to create their own “playlists”, or at least to organize their games as they wish.
“Inspire me” feature
Last but not least, the final change I propose is a quick and easy 3-steps feature providing a shortlist of games to discover, according to the mood of the moment.
The idea is, again, to break out of the category logic to encourage discovery, but also to reduce the cognitive load encountered when faced with too many choices.
This feature comes with a quick feedback modal that appears when the user exits the game, in order to improve the accuracy of suggestions over time.
Blacknut users who were not available for interviews during week 1 answered the call when I tested this prototype in week 2. And their enthusiastic feedbacks confirmed the hypothesis I had made, that some of their issues were similar to that of Netflix users.
To see this specific feature in action, I propose you to discover it directly within the interactive prototype above.
When I presented my proposals to the Blacknut team, I also made some more general suggestions based on my research and discussions with users.
⇢ Re-launch the Blacknut Club
At the beginning of my mission, I found out that there was a Blacknut Club, aiming to develop the link with the more active subscribers. But this project seemed to have stalled.
Re-launching it would be a good idea, allowing to build a relationship with the early adopters, take their feedback into account and value them.
⇢ Develop the community aspect of the platform
This theme has come up regularly in my research. The impact of Covid reinforces the need to connect, literally and figuratively, with friends. In times of lock-down, multi-online games popularity increased significantly.
Being able to find and add friends on the platform, recommend games to them, and see what they are playing could be a first step towards more socialization.
⇢ Explain the possibilities offered by the mobile app
I didn’t address this at all in my research because I was working on discovery, but it’s something that came up several times: many users didn’t understand the point of the mobile version of the platform. They find that the games aren’t really suitable for a small screen.
Explaining to them that they can plug their phone into a TV and use it as a nomadic console to play on vacation, or at a friend’s house, would allow them to fully enjoy it.
Thanks a lot for having read my article, hope you enjoyed it ! Don’t hesitate to share your feedbacks, I’d be happy to read your thoughts.