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The Rise and Rise of Idle Games
Anthony Pecorella
Kongregate
Introduction
Slides Are Up Already!
• You can view and download this
presentation by vising
dev.kongregate.com/blog
INTRODUCTION
What is Kongregate?
INTRODUCTION
What is Kongregate?
INTRODUCTION
What is Kongregate?
INTRODUCTION
Who Am I?
• At Kongregate for 8 years,
directing our browser-based
F2P virtual goods business
• Producer for AdVenture
Capitalist mobile
• Also an indie designer,
cofounder of Level Up Labs
INTRODUCTION
Previous Idle Game Work
• GDC 2015: The Mechanics and Monetization of
Self-Playing Games (free on GDC Vault)
• GDC 2016: Idle Chatter
• Blog posts: The Math of Idle Games (3-part)
• All slides available at dev.kongregate.com/blog
INTRODUCTION
What’s an “Idle Game”?
Core Elements for Idle Games
Idling!
• Progress without
interaction
• Modern form doesn’t
require game to be open
• Always progressing
forward
WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
Core Elements for Idle Games
Exaggerated scale
• Big numbers are fun
• Exponential costs +
diminishing returns =
prestige loop
WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
Core Elements for Idle Games
Prestige (Reset) Loops
WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
Graphing Progression
WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
Graphing Progression
WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
Graphing Progression
WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
Designing for the 4th Dimension:
The Impact of Time
It’s About Time
Time is part of the game mechanics
• Instead of grinding, players just
take a break
• How do you model
and design around
this?
THE IMPACT OF TIME
It’s About Time
Time is a release valve, a (somewhat) self-
balancing system
• Gives players ability to decide what is
“too slow”
• Provides the developer with some pacing
wiggle room
THE IMPACT OF TIME
Offline Limits
Why we should limit offline gains.
• Monetization point: pay for
more offline earnings
• Activity pressure:
wasting income if
you don’t check in
THE IMPACT OF TIME
Eggs, Inc.
Offline Limits
Why we shouldn’t limit offline gains.
• Less excitement around returning
after long hiatus
• Reduces release valve
effectiveness, increases pain
points of slow growth periods
THE IMPACT OF TIME
Realm Grinder
Offline Limits
Why we shouldn’t limit offline gains.
• Unnecessary?!
THE IMPACT OF TIME
Let’s Graph It!
Comparison of
playing actively
vs. leaving and
checking back
in for the first
time at time t
(x-axis), starting
at 10 lemonade
stands.
THE IMPACT OF TIME
Big Numbers Beget Big Numbers
Web Browsers
• 4 of the top 10 most-
popular games on
Kongregate are idlers
• We have 7 idle games
that have grossed over
$100k USD
BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
Steam and Downloads
• Clicker Heroes peaked at
over 60k concurrent
users
• Clicker Heroes still in top
30, AdCap in top 50, two
more in top 150 most-
popular games
BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
Mobile
• Group of 10 of the most-popular idle games
can claim a total of 75M downloads and tens
of millions in revenue.
BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
Mobile
• Apple continues to prominently feature idle
games, even as Editor’s Choice
BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
Metrics
Top-grossing
Kongregate.com single-
player games by ARPU
BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
Metrics
Top-grossing
Kongregate.com single-
player games by ARPU
BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
Metrics
Fabulous retention!
BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
Multiplayer 0-Player Games
Social Network Mechanics
• Ask friends daily for some
currency
Taps to Riches
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
Social Network Mechanics
• Can see friends in
front (and behind!)
you
• Game would challenge
you to beat friend with
time limit
• Leaderboards per area Best Fiends Forever
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
Best Fiends Forever
Social Network Mechanics
Other ideas
• Get persistent income generation
from friends based on their progress
• Set up trade routes to for different
resources with friends
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
Cooperative Systems
• Mad CEO: Every prestige you
can paste a code into chat
• Everyone gets a bonus!
Mad CEO
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
Cooperative Systems
• Turned out to be
extremely
compelling!
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
Guilds. Always Add Guilds.
Guilds are extremely powerful
• Collaborative and cooperative
• Positive social interactions
• Supportive environment
• Desire to perform well for the group
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
Clicker Heroes Clans
• Raids together for
shared benefits
• Damage based on a
different calculation,
slightly reigned-in
Clicker Heroes
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
What would a Cookie Clicker guild look like?
• Guild baking quotas
• Players generate cookies at a rate based on heavenly
chips (prestige currency), must check in to ”deliver”
• Meeting quota gives bonus to all players and sets
higher one for next time period.
• Same-size trade bonuses
• Similar-sized cookie shops generate bonuses for each
other. Incentivizes coordinated prestige and growth.
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
PvP and Competition
Balancing huge
numbers is difficult
• Use something like
prestige currency to
keep things more
controlled
Endless Frontier
MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
Keeping the Lights On:
The Business of Idle Games
Idle Game Monetization
“As an experiment you could certainly try this,
but I want to keep expectations realistic that
you're not going to be able to make a lot of
revenue from this model.”
- Anthony Pecorella to Hyper Hippo
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
The Basic Three
Time Warp
• Jump ahead by
hours/days
• Immediate gratification
Best Fiends Forever
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
The Basic Three
Time Warp
• Scales perfectly with progress
• Predictable impact
• Can be priced with large discounting
for long warps (thanks to exponential
growth!)
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
The Basic Three
No-reset Prestige
• Claim prestige
benefits without
starting over
AdVenture Capitalist Taps to Riches
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
The Basic Three
Taps to Riches cleverly
surfaces this feature after
resetting!
Taps to Riches
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
The Basic Three
Permanent Bonuses
• Generator
multipliers
AdVenture Capitalist (original)
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
The Basic Three
Permanent Bonuses
• Generator
multipliers
Taps to Riches
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
The Basic Three
Permanent Bonuses 2.0
• Lots of options for permanent
boosts
• More complex and expensive
Realm Grinder Eggs, Inc.
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
Gacha
• Random draws
of permanent
bonuses
• Allows for repeat
purchases and
chase rewards
Clicker Heroes
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
Gacha
• Collect advisors,
equip 3 at a time
• All advisors
contribute to
general bonus
Taps to RichesTaps to Riches
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
VIP Services
• Give special
privileges to
spenders
• Subscription or
cumulative
• Friends with
benefits! Taps to Riches Best Fiends Forever
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
Piggy Bank
Incremental monetization!
• Value grows as you play,
cost stays same
• Player chooses when to
“crack it open”
Egg, Inc.
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
Pay to Play?
• Challenging since
free is “expected”
• So far sales are
limited, but could
work for the right
game
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
Cross-Promotion
• Idle games are often high-
volume, low ARPDAU (and
mid-level LTV)
• Opportunity to cross-
promote players into higher-
LTV games
• Particularly nice for spin-offs Best Fiends Forever
IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
Adding Ads
Ads Are Really Important!
• This is a genre of low
ARPDAU, high DAU,
and great retention
• Ads provide light,
daily monetization
that is substantial
when done well AdVenture Capitalist mobile revenue sources
ADDING ADS
The Standard
• Watch ad for 2x
bonus for 4 hours
• Add randomness
for more fun!
AdVenture Capitalist Politicats
ADDING ADS
Variations on the Standard
• Temporary boosts
aimed at active play
Egg, Inc. Realm Grinder Endless Frontier
ADDING ADS
Random Offers
• On-the-spot deals
if you watch an ad
(or enable ads)
• Often doubled
rather than all-or-
nothing
Bitcoin Billionaire Best Fiends Forever
ADDING ADS
Double Return Gold
• Watch an ad to double
your idly-earned currency
• Predictable and often a
great deal
He-Man: Tappers of Greyskull
ADDING ADS
Interstitial
• Simple interstitial ads
can be used as well
Taps to Riches
ADDING ADS
Constructive Criticism
Penalties
• Idle games are
progress machines
• Moving backwards
is very punishing,
feels against the
spirit of the game
• Churn point for me Money Tree Make it Rain
CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
Wait…How Much Is That Again?
• Real name
• Million, Billion, Trillion, Quadrillion, …, Vigintillion
• Scientific notation
• 1 x 106, 1 x 109, 1 x 1012, ..., 1 x 1063
• Shorthand
• 1M, 1B, 1T, 1q, 1Q, 1s, 1S, …
• Abstract
• 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, ..., 1aa, 1bb, ...
ADDING ADS
Wait…How Much Is That Again?
Taps to Riches Taps to Riches
ADDING ADS
Leveraging Content
Licensed IP Games
LEVERAGING CONTENT
Spin-off Games
Bush Whacker 2 Crusaders of the Lost Idols
LEVERAGING CONTENT
Spin-off Games
Cloudstone Clicker Heroes
LEVERAGING CONTENT
Spin-off Games
LEVERAGING CONTENT
Spin-off Games
LEVERAGING CONTENT
Topical Games
Pocket Politics Politicats Campaign Clicker
LEVERAGING CONTENT
Innovations, Variations, and
Noteworthy Games
Cult Classics
NEW & NOTEWORTHY
Shark Game
Sandcastle Builder
Cult Classics
NEW & NOTEWORTHY
Crank
Kittens Game
Short, Completable Idle Games
ANTHONY PECORELLA
Galaxia Spaceplan
Loot-based Idle Games
• Slower
growth
• Focused on
picking best
gear
• It’s fun to
get rare equipment!
Idle Loot Quest
Battle Without End
Idle Duels
NEW & NOTEWORTHY
MMORPGs
Infinite Hero Endless Frontier
NEW & NOTEWORTHY
Click & Conquer: Space Age
NEW & NOTEWORTHY
What’s Next?
Previous Predictions…
• Text-based idlers replaced by
more sophisticated visuals
• Spin-offs and licensed IP
would become popular
WHAT’S NEXT?
Previous Predictions…
• “Idle” becomes a genre
modifier
• Action Idle RPG: Nonstop Knight
• Idle Tactics: Endless Frontier?
WHAT’S NEXT?
Previous Predictions…
• Idle design philosophies
integrate into meta-game
of standard genres
• Not much, but
Click & Conquer: Space Age is
kicking it off
WHAT’S NEXT?
Where Do We Go Now?
• The genre is maturing,
becoming big-budget and
less indie-driven
• Is there still opportunity for
innovation?
WHAT’S NEXT?
Where Do We Go Now?
• Multiplayer
• We looked at some options,
but it’s very limited right now
• Can we provide deeper social
connections that develop
over time?
• Is competitive, realtime
multiplayer possible? World of Warcraft
WHAT’S NEXT?
Where Do We Go Now?
• Pull idle concepts into other
genres
• Resetting with more power is
fun…where else can we do this?
• Can we use rapid growth to
replace energy systems?
• Are there ways to delight players
upon returning to a game? Curl Up & Fly
WHAT’S NEXT?
Where Do We Go Now?
• Plot?! Characters?!
• We have long-retention games,
let’s introduce story arcs and
characters!
• Opportunity for deep emotional
connections to grow over time.
• Demon War: Idle Rebellion looks
to be experimenting with this
WHAT’S NEXT?
Thank you!
QUESTIONS?
• Check out developers.kongregate.com
• Browser games: apps@kongregate.com
• Mobile games: bd@kongregate.com
• Me: anthony@kongregate.com
• Slides are available at
developers.kongregate.com/blog

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The Rise and Rise of Idle Games

  • 1. The Rise and Rise of Idle Games Anthony Pecorella Kongregate
  • 3. Slides Are Up Already! • You can view and download this presentation by vising dev.kongregate.com/blog INTRODUCTION
  • 7. Who Am I? • At Kongregate for 8 years, directing our browser-based F2P virtual goods business • Producer for AdVenture Capitalist mobile • Also an indie designer, cofounder of Level Up Labs INTRODUCTION
  • 8. Previous Idle Game Work • GDC 2015: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games (free on GDC Vault) • GDC 2016: Idle Chatter • Blog posts: The Math of Idle Games (3-part) • All slides available at dev.kongregate.com/blog INTRODUCTION
  • 10.
  • 11.
  • 12.
  • 13. Core Elements for Idle Games Idling! • Progress without interaction • Modern form doesn’t require game to be open • Always progressing forward WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  • 14. Core Elements for Idle Games Exaggerated scale • Big numbers are fun • Exponential costs + diminishing returns = prestige loop WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  • 15. Core Elements for Idle Games Prestige (Reset) Loops WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  • 19. Designing for the 4th Dimension: The Impact of Time
  • 20. It’s About Time Time is part of the game mechanics • Instead of grinding, players just take a break • How do you model and design around this? THE IMPACT OF TIME
  • 21. It’s About Time Time is a release valve, a (somewhat) self- balancing system • Gives players ability to decide what is “too slow” • Provides the developer with some pacing wiggle room THE IMPACT OF TIME
  • 22. Offline Limits Why we should limit offline gains. • Monetization point: pay for more offline earnings • Activity pressure: wasting income if you don’t check in THE IMPACT OF TIME Eggs, Inc.
  • 23. Offline Limits Why we shouldn’t limit offline gains. • Less excitement around returning after long hiatus • Reduces release valve effectiveness, increases pain points of slow growth periods THE IMPACT OF TIME Realm Grinder
  • 24. Offline Limits Why we shouldn’t limit offline gains. • Unnecessary?! THE IMPACT OF TIME
  • 25. Let’s Graph It! Comparison of playing actively vs. leaving and checking back in for the first time at time t (x-axis), starting at 10 lemonade stands. THE IMPACT OF TIME
  • 26. Big Numbers Beget Big Numbers
  • 27. Web Browsers • 4 of the top 10 most- popular games on Kongregate are idlers • We have 7 idle games that have grossed over $100k USD BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  • 28. Steam and Downloads • Clicker Heroes peaked at over 60k concurrent users • Clicker Heroes still in top 30, AdCap in top 50, two more in top 150 most- popular games BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  • 29. Mobile • Group of 10 of the most-popular idle games can claim a total of 75M downloads and tens of millions in revenue. BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  • 30. Mobile • Apple continues to prominently feature idle games, even as Editor’s Choice BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  • 31. Metrics Top-grossing Kongregate.com single- player games by ARPU BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  • 32. Metrics Top-grossing Kongregate.com single- player games by ARPU BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  • 35. Social Network Mechanics • Ask friends daily for some currency Taps to Riches MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  • 36. Social Network Mechanics • Can see friends in front (and behind!) you • Game would challenge you to beat friend with time limit • Leaderboards per area Best Fiends Forever MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES Best Fiends Forever
  • 37. Social Network Mechanics Other ideas • Get persistent income generation from friends based on their progress • Set up trade routes to for different resources with friends MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  • 38. Cooperative Systems • Mad CEO: Every prestige you can paste a code into chat • Everyone gets a bonus! Mad CEO MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  • 39. Cooperative Systems • Turned out to be extremely compelling! MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  • 40. Guilds. Always Add Guilds. Guilds are extremely powerful • Collaborative and cooperative • Positive social interactions • Supportive environment • Desire to perform well for the group MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  • 41. Clicker Heroes Clans • Raids together for shared benefits • Damage based on a different calculation, slightly reigned-in Clicker Heroes MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  • 42. What would a Cookie Clicker guild look like? • Guild baking quotas • Players generate cookies at a rate based on heavenly chips (prestige currency), must check in to ”deliver” • Meeting quota gives bonus to all players and sets higher one for next time period. • Same-size trade bonuses • Similar-sized cookie shops generate bonuses for each other. Incentivizes coordinated prestige and growth. MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  • 43. PvP and Competition Balancing huge numbers is difficult • Use something like prestige currency to keep things more controlled Endless Frontier MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  • 44. Keeping the Lights On: The Business of Idle Games
  • 45. Idle Game Monetization “As an experiment you could certainly try this, but I want to keep expectations realistic that you're not going to be able to make a lot of revenue from this model.” - Anthony Pecorella to Hyper Hippo IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 46. The Basic Three Time Warp • Jump ahead by hours/days • Immediate gratification Best Fiends Forever IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 47. The Basic Three Time Warp • Scales perfectly with progress • Predictable impact • Can be priced with large discounting for long warps (thanks to exponential growth!) IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 48. The Basic Three No-reset Prestige • Claim prestige benefits without starting over AdVenture Capitalist Taps to Riches IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 49. The Basic Three Taps to Riches cleverly surfaces this feature after resetting! Taps to Riches IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 50. The Basic Three Permanent Bonuses • Generator multipliers AdVenture Capitalist (original) IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 51. The Basic Three Permanent Bonuses • Generator multipliers Taps to Riches IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 52. The Basic Three Permanent Bonuses 2.0 • Lots of options for permanent boosts • More complex and expensive Realm Grinder Eggs, Inc. IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 53. Gacha • Random draws of permanent bonuses • Allows for repeat purchases and chase rewards Clicker Heroes IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 54. Gacha • Collect advisors, equip 3 at a time • All advisors contribute to general bonus Taps to RichesTaps to Riches IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 55. VIP Services • Give special privileges to spenders • Subscription or cumulative • Friends with benefits! Taps to Riches Best Fiends Forever IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 56. Piggy Bank Incremental monetization! • Value grows as you play, cost stays same • Player chooses when to “crack it open” Egg, Inc. IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 57. Pay to Play? • Challenging since free is “expected” • So far sales are limited, but could work for the right game IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 58. Cross-Promotion • Idle games are often high- volume, low ARPDAU (and mid-level LTV) • Opportunity to cross- promote players into higher- LTV games • Particularly nice for spin-offs Best Fiends Forever IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  • 60. Ads Are Really Important! • This is a genre of low ARPDAU, high DAU, and great retention • Ads provide light, daily monetization that is substantial when done well AdVenture Capitalist mobile revenue sources ADDING ADS
  • 61. The Standard • Watch ad for 2x bonus for 4 hours • Add randomness for more fun! AdVenture Capitalist Politicats ADDING ADS
  • 62. Variations on the Standard • Temporary boosts aimed at active play Egg, Inc. Realm Grinder Endless Frontier ADDING ADS
  • 63. Random Offers • On-the-spot deals if you watch an ad (or enable ads) • Often doubled rather than all-or- nothing Bitcoin Billionaire Best Fiends Forever ADDING ADS
  • 64. Double Return Gold • Watch an ad to double your idly-earned currency • Predictable and often a great deal He-Man: Tappers of Greyskull ADDING ADS
  • 65. Interstitial • Simple interstitial ads can be used as well Taps to Riches ADDING ADS
  • 67. Penalties • Idle games are progress machines • Moving backwards is very punishing, feels against the spirit of the game • Churn point for me Money Tree Make it Rain CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
  • 68. Wait…How Much Is That Again? • Real name • Million, Billion, Trillion, Quadrillion, …, Vigintillion • Scientific notation • 1 x 106, 1 x 109, 1 x 1012, ..., 1 x 1063 • Shorthand • 1M, 1B, 1T, 1q, 1Q, 1s, 1S, … • Abstract • 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, ..., 1aa, 1bb, ... ADDING ADS
  • 69. Wait…How Much Is That Again? Taps to Riches Taps to Riches ADDING ADS
  • 72. Spin-off Games Bush Whacker 2 Crusaders of the Lost Idols LEVERAGING CONTENT
  • 73. Spin-off Games Cloudstone Clicker Heroes LEVERAGING CONTENT
  • 76. Topical Games Pocket Politics Politicats Campaign Clicker LEVERAGING CONTENT
  • 78. Cult Classics NEW & NOTEWORTHY Shark Game Sandcastle Builder
  • 79. Cult Classics NEW & NOTEWORTHY Crank Kittens Game
  • 80. Short, Completable Idle Games ANTHONY PECORELLA Galaxia Spaceplan
  • 81. Loot-based Idle Games • Slower growth • Focused on picking best gear • It’s fun to get rare equipment! Idle Loot Quest Battle Without End Idle Duels NEW & NOTEWORTHY
  • 82. MMORPGs Infinite Hero Endless Frontier NEW & NOTEWORTHY
  • 83. Click & Conquer: Space Age NEW & NOTEWORTHY
  • 85. Previous Predictions… • Text-based idlers replaced by more sophisticated visuals • Spin-offs and licensed IP would become popular WHAT’S NEXT?
  • 86. Previous Predictions… • “Idle” becomes a genre modifier • Action Idle RPG: Nonstop Knight • Idle Tactics: Endless Frontier? WHAT’S NEXT?
  • 87. Previous Predictions… • Idle design philosophies integrate into meta-game of standard genres • Not much, but Click & Conquer: Space Age is kicking it off WHAT’S NEXT?
  • 88. Where Do We Go Now? • The genre is maturing, becoming big-budget and less indie-driven • Is there still opportunity for innovation? WHAT’S NEXT?
  • 89. Where Do We Go Now? • Multiplayer • We looked at some options, but it’s very limited right now • Can we provide deeper social connections that develop over time? • Is competitive, realtime multiplayer possible? World of Warcraft WHAT’S NEXT?
  • 90. Where Do We Go Now? • Pull idle concepts into other genres • Resetting with more power is fun…where else can we do this? • Can we use rapid growth to replace energy systems? • Are there ways to delight players upon returning to a game? Curl Up & Fly WHAT’S NEXT?
  • 91. Where Do We Go Now? • Plot?! Characters?! • We have long-retention games, let’s introduce story arcs and characters! • Opportunity for deep emotional connections to grow over time. • Demon War: Idle Rebellion looks to be experimenting with this WHAT’S NEXT?
  • 92. Thank you! QUESTIONS? • Check out developers.kongregate.com • Browser games: apps@kongregate.com • Mobile games: bd@kongregate.com • Me: anthony@kongregate.com • Slides are available at developers.kongregate.com/blog