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Four years in a day

2024-04-23 Update From: SLTechnology News&Howtos shulou NAV: SLTechnology News&Howtos > IT Information >

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Shulou(Shulou.com)12/24 Report--

This article comes from the official account of Wechat: ID:chuappgame, by the Toule reporting Group.

On November 27, 2023, everything was a foregone conclusion.

Xiao Jiang hurried through the gate on November 27.

10:30, November 27, 2023, Haidian Urban Construction Building, Beijing. Light-year employee Xiao Jiang knew he was late, but he was not in the mood to think about it. At noon the day before, Xiao Jiang saw the news that "byte beat is about to abolish the game business" and then stayed up all night. He kept searching for keywords such as "byte" and "light year day" on pulse, Weibo and Boss direct employment, hoping that the layoffs were just rumors.

When he arrived at work, after sitting down at the station, Xiao Jiang found that the people around him were silent, frustration enveloped the entire work area, and several company groups often prompted by the "99 +" message also fell silent. At this time, Xiao Jiang finally confirmed that layoffs are not rumors.

At noon on November 27, the byte beat announced that it would "shrink the game business on a large scale and retain some innovative game exploration". At this point, the first boot fell, and the speculation of the outside world was finally confirmed. In the afternoon, when the second boot fell, Xiao Jiang finally received his own notice-as an employee on the R & D line, he was not explicitly informed of layoffs, and the company said his project might be sold, but the time has yet to be decided.

When it was time for dinner, Xiao Jiang looked around. Everyone at the station was quietly sitting in front of the computer to go to work. No one exchanged work, no one made an appointment to prepare for dinner, and no one talked about today's layoff notice.

Xiao Jiang turned off the computer, picked up his backpack and went to the door. He sent messages to several close classmates, asking them out for a drink and a barbecue. A colleague asked him, "leave so early today?" Usually, due to long overtime, Xiao Jiang seldom leaves the company before 10:00.

"Chicken feathers! that's all for this × class today." Xiao Jiang answered.

When Xiao Jiang left the company, the Kaka of Douyin game also finished its weekly meeting. We now know the contents of the weekly meeting: "all the light years have been cut and all the projects have been packaged and sold. All Douyin game-related business at home and abroad, including but not limited to Douyin platform manufacturers of mobile game promotion, MCN matchmaking, Mini Game operation, distribution and industry and research, all converged to the Douyin game department." And the reason for cutting daylight years is also very simple: the content is too general to make money.

It didn't take long from hearing the rumor to putting it into practice. In mid-November, it was announced that Byte Jump was planning to sell Muki Technology for no less than $5 billion. It is generally believed that this may be a harbinger of an important adjustment of byte jump in the game business. As it did more than two years ago, when Byte Jump bought Muki for $4 billion, it was seen as part of a large-scale gaming business. At that time, it was believed that the acquired mu pupil would form a new "big factory" together with several studios in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shenzhen and other places.

The pupil, which made achievements in the direction of going out to sea, was acquired at a high premium by byte beats, from big acquisitions, scenery to giving up business and withdrawing from the track, which took only four years.

High-profile entrance Day Lightyear was founded in 2019, formerly the parent company of the time management tool product "Day Calendar" acquired by byte jump in 2017. After several adjustments, byte beat gradually abandoned the instrumental products and began to develop the game business, taking Lightyear as its own game distribution and research and development institution.

At the beginning of 2019, Yan Zhi, the former head of the strategic investment department, began to serve as the person in charge of Lightyear. In March of the same year, byte beat successively acquired four companies, including Shanghe Network and Shanghai Mobil, and set up 101 game studios in the "four major studios" with Shanghai Mobil as the team. Before being acquired, Shanghai Mo Fu had launched products such as "unparalleled for all" and "Wulin", and had good R & D capabilities of boutique web games and mobile games.

In February 2020, Yan Zhi became fully responsible for the byte jump game business, leading the team to look for R & D teams and game projects in the market. At that time, Yan Shu's consideration was to "give priority to setting up a mature team for more than five years and have the immediate combat power to launch products quickly", while the strategy was to invest a lot of money and manpower to match the top standards of the industry and create popular styles.

In April of the same year, Yan Shu said that the byte jump game business would continue to recruit more than 1000 people in 2020, and the self-developed game would be launched as soon as half a year. In only half a year, Lightyear has set up five R & D and distribution studios in four cities. By the end of 2020, the scale of Lightyear has reached 2000.

While expanding rapidly, the day-to-day business is partly caught up in the processes and red tape inherent in big companies. Unlike medium-sized manufacturers, Lightyear is big enough to have the ability and strength to make its own rules, and unlike Tencent, Lightyear is new enough that the work habits of non-frontline departments sometimes fail to adapt to the habits of the gaming industry-although it may seem irregular in listed companies.

In the first half of 2020, Xiao Tu, a practitioner who provided outsourced planning services for a byte jump game project, speculated that the project might belong to the light years of its early days. According to his recollection, the cooperation was expensive, but when the contract was drawn up, the other party asked for a "lifetime confidentiality agreement". "if you leak information about the work before death, you will have to compensate them 300000." Xiaotu said, "the method of payment is also different from what I am familiar with. They require Party B to register with a certain human resources platform and issue an invoice before payment can be made."

The liability for breach of confidentiality agreement told Toule that, under normal circumstances, the game company's confidentiality agreement for outsourcers is about a year after the release of the version. Lightyear's "lifetime" made him less optimistic about this rapidly expanding burgeoning manufacturer. The reason for not being optimistic is not entirely the confidentiality period, as well as many seemingly overbearing terms in the contract. "this kind of contract with the overlord clause makes people wonder if the byte is too unfamiliar with the business. Outsourcing this kind of clause, it looks more like commercial fraud." Xiao Tu said.

"everything except the production team itself makes people feel very unlike what people who play games do." Xiao Tu added, "they are like going to the mall to buy food. they only care about whether they are out of date or not, or even like buying expired ones on purpose, so as to knock on the mall." In the end, Xiao Tu did not sign the contract, but the work was completed, and the other party refused to pay him for cooperation on the grounds of "not acting in accordance with the business process", but accepted the content he created.

This impact on the business is obviously not limited to outsourcing, but even so, for game practitioners at that time, Lightyear was still a good choice: high salary, self-traffic, and high degree of freedom. There are media reports, light-year employees in the first two years of the assessment requirements are relatively relaxed. After the acquisition, Yan Shu also mentioned in his speech on the seventh anniversary of the pupil: "in the first few years of playing games, the annual OKR (key goals and achievements) is not revenue, profit, DAU (number of daily active users), but the increase in talent density."

At least at the time, the vision was credible. Fabregas joined Lightyear to do the front-line distribution work in 2020. In her recollection, the light year of 2020 seemed full of hope. " The company pursues flat management, the working atmosphere is relatively relaxed, there is no strict relationship between superiors and subordinates. Not long after I first entered the workplace, my Leader taught me patiently that my colleagues would not treat me as a newcomer. Sometimes I put forward some ideas that may be wild, and they will seriously discuss them with me. In bytes, when there is very little pressure, when I first get started on some projects, professional colleagues will take me. I don't think the original intention of byte is to make a pure value game or draw a card game, it wants to do a large-scale, good-quality game. "

At that time, Yan Shu, the person in charge of Lightyear, mentioned most of the popular style games such as "Arena of Valor" and "Onmyoji", well-known IP, or phenomenal games such as "original God" when giving examples of standard projects. This strength comes from the rapid growth of revenue in the two years of byte jump. Byte-jumping revenue roughly doubled to about $37 billion in 2020, while operating profit exceeded $7 billion, a 1.3-fold increase from $3 billion in 2019, according to TheInformation, citing people familiar with the matter.

At this stage, the byte beats on the back, and Lightyear produces output in terms of IP adaptation products and overseas distribution:

Products such as "Voyage King's Hot Blood Route", "Hot Blood Street basket" and "Dart Man" all achieved excellent results at the beginning of their launch. The MMO mobile game "Legend of Wonderland RO: the birth of a New Generation", which was released in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan in October 2020, topped the iOS bestseller list in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan for more than a month, and ranked 19th among domestic mobile games with an income of US $17 million the next month, becoming the first byte-beating heavy game with more than 100 million water in the month.

"Hot-blooded Street Basketball" wins players' favor with its stylized tonal design. Everything looks good.

The rapid development of large-scale investment, at the same time with the help of its own algorithm and traffic advantages, is the strategy pursued by byte jump in the game business. If we review the development of byte jump in the game industry, we will find a relatively clear route. The first popular game with hundreds of millions of dollars in running water was the casual Mini Game "eliminate virus" released in February 2018, which went viral through Douyin drainage during the Spring Festival and remained on the Top10 free list of iOS games for 96 days. Since then, this set of promotion in Douyin and Jinri Toutiao, and then the exclusive agent of lightweight game products of the cash model, has become a habitual path of byte jump, but also brought considerable water for the byte jump.

In moderate and severe games, byte beat is inexperienced, so it chooses to speed up the layout by acquiring studios and tapping mature game talents. to promote distribution in light years day and night-- instead of using the traditional game company's step-by-step approach of building a team, but directly through capital, quickly open the way.

This also makes Lightyear seem "maverick". A common saying is that most of the management of byte games do not understand games. Yan Shu has an investment background and lacks a resume in the gaming industry, and the widely circulated picture tells an interesting story: Zhang Yiming joined relevant hobbies within the company during the opening trial of the original God. And after the public test, he was quite dissatisfied with the employees in the group who often talked about games when they were at work, and asked everyone if they were "very idle."

Zhang Yiming's inquiry in the hobby group has aroused widespread discussion in the industry. Since then, Zhang Yiming has not spoken in the group.

On February 22, 2021, Lightyear officially confirmed the brand name of the game, and the official website was officially launched at the same time. The English name Nversegame,Slogan is "bring interesting and inspiring experience to every player". According to public data, the official website belongs to the company Beijing Lightning Information Technology Co., Ltd., byte jump through the Beijing Youyi Technology Co., Ltd. 100% indirect shareholding.

On March 19 of the same year, Lightyear announced the establishment of the nightly Lightyear fantasy fund, which was seen as a sign of increased investment in the game business-in 2019 and 2020, the number of public investments in the gaming sector totaled eight, rising to 11 in 2021. On March 22, Byte Jump acquired Mu pupil Technology, involving an amount of $4 billion to $5 billion. Prior to this, the market generally quoted for Mu pupil in the range of US $20 to US $3 billion.

The reason for the premium is closely related to the competition. Under the condition that the game market pattern in the mainland has been basically solidified, even in the light years of growth, if you want to complete the acquisition of a project team, you often need to pay more chips.

But this was not a problem for the light years, which were in the midst of "great progress" at that time, such as a huge ship advancing at full speed, willing to bear the huge cost of fuel and the risk of breaking down in order to reach distant targets. While making great efforts to acquire mature teams, some of the teams that were "on sale" by other manufacturers were also accepted by bytes and continued to expand their staff. at the peak, the total number of light-year employees reached 3000.

The ship seems to be huge and majestic, but there is a fatal problem: no one is in control. Byte wants to get involved in the game track, so he sets up a game department, starts new projects, and recruits producers, planners, programs and fine arts. But no one knows what their goal is. Day and night Lightyear has tried many tracks, such as female orientation, science fiction, Quadric, and so on, and most of the practitioners have experience in successful projects. But the problem is that many people only have successful experience, so everyone depends on their own path. On the surface, it seems that the professional division of labor is in place, but it is actually scattered.

"the first problem with bytes in the game is not to build a team on the basis of 'figuring out what you want to do', but to follow suit. If you want to play a game, so find a team; if a team wants to have a producer, find a producer; have a planner, hire a planner; have a program, recruit a program; have a program, recruit a program; have art, recruit art. Here, what are you doing? I don't know." A veteran gaming practitioner told Toule, "in theory, a project starts after the producer has figured out what to do. But bytes are not'do you want to do but can't do the case, let's do it', but'we want to make a money-making fashion, will you come or not'."

In 2018, Lightyear has not yet officially started, although there was a period of suspension of version numbers in the game industry at that time, according to media reports, byte was optimistic about this, "thinking that it was only a temporary transitional adjustment period." at that time, most of the byte's investment in games was concentrated in lightweight casual game products, and the impact was not serious.

By July 2021, the game industry had experienced 263 days of "version number winter". In April of the following year, the release of the version number resumed smoothly, but the number of games reviewed per batch decreased significantly. During this period of time, it is the cycle of the rapid development of light years, and the limited version number has greatly hindered the pace of self-development of the game.

At the same time, in the domestic market, overnight Lightyear is also difficult to compete with experienced established manufacturers in terms of grabbing agents, and a variety of factors are superimposed, and Lightyear begins to turn its perspective overseas. The performance of Lightyear in the offshore market is indeed better. In the second half of 2020, Lightyear launched the independent game distribution platform Pixmain and released excellent games such as "Portia time". Overseas flow once accounted for nearly 80% of the total flow of daylight years, which not only won a good reputation at home, but also won the love of foreign players.

But the problem remains unsolved: in overseas markets, the games in Lightyear's hands are also basically agents, with almost no self-developed products.

For a long time, the advantage of byte jump in the game market is concentrated in casual games, although it can quickly accumulate traffic in a short period of time, but the heat cycle is short and the cash ability is unstable. Because of this problem, the demand for self-research of medium and heavy games is becoming more and more urgent.

The first "self-research product" in the real sense of Dawn Lightyear is the national style card game "Flower and Mountain Heart Moon" developed by Studio 101. it was tested on November 26, 2021, with a background set in Guofeng Academy, exquisite painting style, excellent copywriting and strong promotion ability of Toutiao Department, which once topped the iOS free list at the beginning of its launch. But soon, the game exposed its disadvantages: high activity intensity, low reward, and serious "forced class" phenomenon. The first week of the release was OK, but it soon began to decline, and was rated as "seriously high and low" by players. Two months after its launch, "Flower and Mountain Heart Moon" could still remain in the top 100th of the iOS bestseller list, but only half a year later, it fell to 300,000 or 400th.

"Flower and Mountain Heart Moon" is famous for its exquisite enough art and performances to increase commercial content with high intensity, so that it is very difficult for Lightyear's products to have space for slow heat or long-term operation, although it has a good response at the initial stage of launch. Rely on a large number of publicity to attract a large number of players, but often follow-up is weak, the loss of players is very fast.

The ultra-high exposure achieved in the early stage through super-dose resource investment, and then suddenly fell silent a few months later, which looks like the product of a typical "big corporate data-driven". The game products of large companies need to compete with other project teams for resources, need to take the lead, need to invest a lot of resources, and get enough advantage at the start.

"generally speaking, there is only one reason why products fall rapidly on the best-seller list: stop buying." A senior practitioner in the game industry told Toule, "there is usually only one reason for not buying quantity: buying at a loss." if the data is good, it will continue to buy, on the other hand, the data of these games may not be good from the start, but the buying volume is heavy and the total amount appears to be high. "

With the outbreak of hidden dangers, the high cost of investment, the lack of returns for a long time and the deceleration of the development of the industry, Lightyear has to begin to consider "reducing costs and increasing efficiency". Executives in Lightyear this year have written "reducing costs and increasing efficiency" into OKR, Caixin reported, citing people familiar with the matter. "Bytes jump is to concentrate on taking advantage of platform traffic for distribution, so they make a choice of self-developed games," Caixin reported.

At the beginning of 2022, byte began to contract the game business, shutting down some self-research projects that are difficult to go online in the short term, and transferring some staff to other project teams.

From June to September 2022, Lightyear launched a large-scale abolition of personnel and projects. Among its four major studios, Shanghai 101 Studio was disbanded, leaving only more than 40 people from the production team of the masterpiece "the Moon in the Heart of the Mountain" and merged into the distribution department to continue to operate. Beijing Oasis Studio and Hangzhou Jiangnan Studio also had projects to be abolished, with a layoff rate of nearly 20%, and some staff transferred to Pico, Mudi and Shenzhen self-research game projects.

But at the time, light-year employees didn't see any sign-almost the entire gaming industry was laying off staff in 2022. Compared with the 30% or 50% layoffs of some manufacturers, the light-year situation is even hopeful. Most people never imagined that the company would cut almost all its gaming business in a year's time.

"the byte makes the product is very powerful, the working method is more systematic, on the contrary, there is no concept of game studio." Game planner Xi, who added byte jumps after the layoffs in the industry last year, told Toule that byte-efficient work allows him to learn a lot. But at the same time, he also felt a lot of hidden trouble: "Bytes are more dependent on the middle station, such as art and technology, and more often they are supported by people transferred from the middle station when a certain business line needs people." personally, I think this method is very good at making products, but it's not very good when playing games. "

Large and medium-sized game manufacturers often set up Zhongtai because of the accumulation of technology and experience. But another problem with daylight years is that without enough accumulation, they rely too much on CCTV, which is not conducive to the iteration of the project team's own R & D capabilities.

At the same time, the game planner "dirty bag" of Lightyear Oasis Studio also mentioned the problem of accumulation to Toule. " The project team does not seem to have any systematic R & D experience, newcomers are encouraged to explore independently, and there are no project documents to read. The project emphasizes' agile development 'and requires a new version to be released quickly. I feel that the executives only want to see the results, regardless of the long-term development of the studio. But the good news is that byte welfare is good, giving generous money, including three meals a day, and holiday gifts are also worth a lot. "

In addition, the interviewees generally mentioned that "too much emphasis on results and data" runs through the operational strategy of light years. The game is a creative work, and emphasizes precipitation, communication and coordination at the same time, and the team with common development experience is a valuable asset, but in the light years, there are occasional scenes of "cutting down the fruit". However, although many self-research projects have been cut or handed over to partners after September 2022, Lightyear has not completely abandoned self-research projects. The "crystal nucleus", which was preserved in the wave of withdrawal, has become one of the "spark" with high hopes.

The project was established in early 2020 and has been developed for nearly three and a half years with a team size of 150 to 200 people. In 2021, the first actual demonstration video of Crystal Nucleus was exposed. On July 14, 2023, "Crystal Nucleus" was officially launched. In the warm-up and release stage, the products carried out extensive publicity on the Douyin platform, even on the competitive platform Kuaishou, and invited major stars and anchors to make a live broadcast.

"Crystal Core" stood out in the early days of its launch and soon entered the top 5 of the best-seller list. According to Qimai data, the average daily flow of "Crystal Core" iOS is about 1 million US dollars in the first week. However, in only one month, the running water of "Crystal Core" has shown a downward trend, and in September, after a new copy was updated in the game, there was a storm of "forced lessons". At the same time, people in the industry are not optimistic about the quality and long-term operation capacity of "Crystal Core".

The new version of "Crystal Core" is obviously in decline (data source: Qimai data) on November 16, 2023, the sci-fi theme survival RPG game "Planet: restart", also developed by Lightyear overnight, was launched with tens of millions of new users in the first week. it is currently on the best-seller list Top10 and the free game list Top6.

Overall, "Crystal Nucleus" and "Planet: restart" have achieved good results, but they are still not in direct proportion to the previous investment and goals set by byte beats. Obviously, this is not the result that they can be satisfied and willing to accept.

At this point, it is only a matter of time before light years contract.

Collapse contraction is not without trace. But for employees who spend light years every day, all this makes them a little dismayed. Toule's editors have come into contact with several employees who are still or have worked in Lightyear. Most of them said that the project team "has a good atmosphere and does not seem to be breaking up", which is why the news of layoffs stunned many employees.

But in the general environment, all this seems to be taken for granted. In 2023, China's game industry as a whole is shrinking. According to media reports, people close to byte beat revealed that byte beat CEO Liang Rubo believes that in the past few years, byte games pursue "big and comprehensive", projects are not focused, resources are scattered, and energy and resources should be devoted to more basic, innovative and imaginative projects.

Looking back at this time, the game seems to have been in an awkward position for the byte-beating behemoth: the revenue of the game business is not good enough, but it looks promising. Or, Lightyear realizes that it has entered a "channel trap"-the company has its own platform advantage to support buying and delivery, allowing decision makers to fall into the judgment of low-cost publicity. But the problem is that even if a byte beats its own channel, it is not cheap and leads to another very obvious fact: when someone finds that you can make more money by using channels such as Douyin to work with other companies, the gaming business looks unbearable.

When the income becomes lower, the purchase will become "worthless"-that is, if "Crystal Core" and "Planet: restart" can have the same standard as Yan Shu's popular style project, and become a cash cow day and night, then the channel resources they occupy will also be relatively worthwhile. However, the truth is that they are not "explosive" enough. If it is not "explosive" enough, more problems will arise. The drastic withdrawal of the game business line is the result of a combination of Jinri Toutiao's style and thinking about the gaming business-like all Internet companies, Jinri Toutiao believes in "hiring cautiously and cutting people decisively". When they fail to achieve the first half more or less because of rapid development, they can at least try to achieve the second half. And unlike those Internet companies that take games as their important income and have been tied to the game business for decades, Jinri Toutiao does not have much enthusiasm for the game business and lacks interest and confidence in "sharpening a sword in a few years".

Of course, this way of thinking can not be miscalculated, but games and "Internet products" are different. Whether the game itself, or practitioners, need enough accumulation, failure can bring valuable experience, but if the direct failure to death, the experience is out of the question. The day-to-day light-year game team has been given a "win" mission, for this purpose, they have access to rich resources, but it also means that, to a certain extent, they have no room to fail.

In the past four years, Lightyear has invested enough resources and efforts in game self-research and acquisition, showing incomparable ambition and determination. Now, contraction is coming unexpectedly. On the evening of November 24, the studio-level Leader began to be notified to take inventory of project personnel and prepare for adjustment. The news fermented all weekend, and the employees spent two days in anxiety and tension. By November 27, everything was a foregone conclusion.

This article is jointly completed by Xiong Dongdong, Wang Linqian and Chen Jing. Thanks to a number of interviewees, including the historian of Justice, all of whom are pseudonyms. )

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