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Designing mobile games for success


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A brief talk I gave at a recent mobile game development meetup on analyzing the mobile app stores to find repeatable patterns of success. Includes analysis of Charts, Genres, Themes, Control schemes, play duration, engagement, intrinsic motivation, and more.

Published in: Design, Entertainment & Humor
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Designing mobile games for success

  1. 1. Designing mobile games for success
  2. 2. Using Constraints Designing on a blank sheet is hard Perfection is boring Limitations help focus your creativity Start from success constraints
  3. 3. Researching the App stores Reveals patterns over time Critical to success Recurring patterns are like pop music chords, use em! Top paid vs Grossing
  4. 4. Top Grossing Business model F2P Micro-transactions Genres City building/timers Casino Collectibles Hidden Object This is for bigger companies
  5. 5. Top PaidBusiness model Up front pay with optional Unlocks/DLC Not micro-transactions Genres Retro/Action/Arcade Endless run/jump/fly Puzzle Tower Defense Minecraft
  6. 6. Business models Don't be a starving artist
  7. 7. Up front with DLC Works as retail or shareware model Needs a low price, good marketing, and reviews Needs a good core Sales come in waves Needs social long term
  8. 8. Micro-transactions Cheap, consumable Repeatable Relate to gates like lives, energy refills Or random elements like booster packs, slot machines
  9. 9. Premium currency Works alongside a free currency Can be used to purchase the free currency Speeds up gaining free things or gives advantages over free players Creates a player divide Best for vanity or collectors
  10. 10. Genres They work for a reason
  11. 11. Action/Arcade Instant fun Easy to understand Quick diversion Good feedback
  12. 12. Puzzle Starts simple and builds complexity Quick to play a puzzle Levels provide variety Physics and Match-3 dominate Learning is fun
  13. 13. Tower Defense Engaging complexity Not as quick to play Balance of strategy and accessibility Appeals to more mid-core
  14. 14. Endless High accessibility Simple controls Infinite replayability One more time play Variable excitement
  15. 15. Elements of success Breaking down the hits
  16. 16. Choosing a theme Some are evergreen themes for kids: Dinosaurs/Animals, Monsters, Robots, Knights/Dragons, Cars/Trains Some are popular now: Zombies, Raptors, Cats, Lumberjacks, Bears Use a theme people like, it makes marketing so much easier. They need to be interested BEFORE playing.
  17. 17. Controls Keep it simple Use single taps or simple swipes, don't mix Virtual and tilt controls suck Make tap targets big and spaced
  18. 18. Duration Where do people play? Toilet Lines Car rides Can you accomplish something in 1 minute? Can you keep going when hooked?
  19. 19. Engaging systems Psychology matters Intrinsic motivation Autonomy Mastery Purpose
  20. 20. Autonomy Play how you want, when you want Quick easy to start, hard to stop Fast restart Almost wins and one more times
  21. 21. Mastery Purely skill based is hard to balance and maintain flow Random elements keep it difficult to fully master Let them plan and luck foil their plans Our brains reward mispredictions
  22. 22. Purpose Persistent elements give purpose Levels, XP, achievements, high scores, currency, vanity items, unlocks, power ups Make every play matter
  23. 23. Content designDesign for your content to be systemic or procedural, not consumable Systemic means the gameplay is defined by the rules and systems like Tetris and Collectable strategy Procedural means the levels are generated algorithmically on the fly, remixing content pieces Algorithms and random elements keep costs low and
  24. 24. Social designKeep multiplayer asynchronous or passive with leaderboards Real time multiplayer is expensive, complex, and sucks on mobile Use built-in social functions of game centers, social graphs, and texting Allow playing and friending random players Gifting/trading makes economies harder to manage
  25. 25. Endgame play Endgame is when players are done with the main content Things to do: PvP/Coop, Clans, Events, Player content Social stays fresh, you don't make people! Player created content and expression are awesome
  26. 26. Virality Marketing is expensive, design your game to encourage sharing Players share humor/topical references, exciting moments, created content, and achievements Make it easy to share and talk about these What would make a popular Let's Play video?
  27. 27. Platforms Keep in mind smaller growing mobile and console platforms where competition is smaller Ouya, Windows 8, Tizen, Web portals Html5 and Unity!
  28. 28. Questions? Write them down and ask away! There's much more detail than time, hope you learned how to look! Available for design consulting if you liked this! Thanks!