How to create a successful mobile game. Part 1

Sergei Terekhov

Written by Sergei Terekhov | Thursday, 13 March 2014

How to create a successful mobile game? I think it is a kind of question for answering which you can get the Nobel price. Well, if not the Nobel price, all mobile game developers may club together and reward you at least. So far, there is no universal and always working recipe how one can develop a mobile game hitting top lists of Google play and AppStore rankings. That’s why my article is not a “to-do” list but rather a thought about the most important points one should take into account when developing a mobile game. It is based on articles and discussions I read in Internet and on my personal experience as a gamer.

3. At first, I should mention the term “retention”. In general, it is the ability of a game to keep a user and to make him return and play again and again. In other words, retention is what makes us grasp our smart phones every free minute we have because not all pigs are still killed or the garden is withering without our care.

Retention is especially important for developers of freemium games because their income directly depends on how often users play the game. If users download the mobile application, play a couple of times and then forget or even uninstall the game, its monetization has failed and the developers earn nothing for their work. To make a user buy something inside the mobile game, you should first motivate him to regularly play it. But how?

Here is a small list of features influencing users’ involvement in a mobile game.

1. Game world.

It may sound obviously, but the most popular mobile games possess catchy, unique game worlds (think e.g. of “World of Goo”). An involving, colourful atmosphere created by proficient mobile software developers and designers will impress the user and give him a matchless game experience he’ll be likely to repeat again and again. I should admit, however, that generating an original idea is maybe the most difficult part of the whole game creating process. It requires a lot of fantasy, imagination and inspiration – and money for implementation of this idea. But originality is also a certain step to game success. Single-type games are easier to develop but they quickly get displaced by other clones and then forgotten at all.
2. Story and characters.

Give users a possibility to do something in your mobile game what they can’t do in their real lives – to save a princess, to drive a space ship, to kill pigs with eggs J In that way, you can create a game for everyone or concentrate on a certain target auditorium (for example, city dwellers would like to hold a small mobile farm). As for game characters, they shouldn’t be repulsive or ugly. Make them funny and sweet, even bad characters (a wonderful example is Angry Birds).

3. Game progress and awards.

Show the user his current tasks, goals and achievements clearly. He should know what he has to do to get to the next level and be able to do it, too. So, mobile app development pros don’t give tasks like “Collect 10 000 eggs” :) Don’t forget that people play mobile games in 2-5 minute turns, somewhere in a bus or subway. So, it would be great if you fill your mobile game with many short various levels. And award a user always for his success! Stars, medals and other items of this kind are pleasant to the eye and not difficult to design. However, these awards shouldn’t come easily – or they’ll lose their value. If a user gets showered with stars every time he finishes a level, he won’t soon notice them at all. Making awards useful for further game process is also a good idea. Give users items that increase the game’s quality (e.g. advanced weapons) or bring additional possibilities.

So, you see that there are many essential points mobile software developers have to consider when creating their games. Next time, I’ll tell you why you should sometimes punish users for neglecting your game and how unexpectedness feature may affect users’ behavior.

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