How is this game so good at killing my productivity?
Many know the feeling. Angry Birds. Fruit Ninja. Tiny Wings. Draw Something. Words With Friends. Temple Run. Temple Run 2. The list goes on. What starts as a harmless romance turns into quiet determination, then blatant obsession, and most inevitably, a messy break up.
Mobile game addiction has always been somewhat of an enigma from a consumer standpoint. When it comes to developers, however, a proven method for success has started to emerge. According to a study by Flurry, the most successful companies in the new mobile economy very closely monitor consumer behavior differences by game genre, enabling them to make informed decisions when it comes to developing apps with high retention rates and solid monetization strategies.
Based on the x-axis (90 day retention) and y-axis (Frequency of use per week), landing in quadrant I is the goal of all mobile game developers. This symbolizes games that build a loyal following through social means (Words With Friends – 15.1 Million monthly avg. users), or catch fire on their own and succeed monetarily through the ever-popular freemium model (Temple Run 2 – 20 Million downloads in four days). Let’s be real—you’ve at least been tempted to buy more gems after falling off the edge in TR2. Don’t worry, we won’t judge if you did.
Quadrants II-IV are the genres that either fail to maintain longevity with users, don’t engage users enough short-term, or both. Strategy games often capture a fan base well, but for only a short time—i.e. Letterpress. It’s fun, but the charm wears off quickly. Quadrant IV represents genres that are the opposite—poker games, Solitaire, and “endless” games like Drop7 (think Tetris with numbers)—which don’t have a lot of depth, but users return to over a long period of time. Finally, Quadrant III represents genres of games that along with a low frequency of use, don’t present as many opportunities for monetizing the user because the content and game mechanics can be more involved (i.e. “skill” games like The Walking Dead).
Taking this data into account, it would seem that the best practice is to abandon genres such as action, card battle, and casino, and focus on implementing a social element into whatever idea strikes one’s fancy. This is not necessarily the best course of action to take — what it really comes down to is leveraging this information about genres and applying it to a few key golden rules when getting down to the dirty work:
- User experience is crucial: Mobile game developers (MGDs) that ignore the in-app experience ignore both their potential user base and the prospect of gathering revenue. If users aren’t attracted to the experience of using your app, they’ll spend less time in it. This hurts retention rates, which in turn makes it difficult to display advertising to users or engage them with in-app purchases.
- Deliver relevant advertising in a nonintrusive way: If you’re relying on ads to generate revenue, know your user base so you can deliver them ads that won’t detract them from wanting to spend time within the app. Don’t frustrate them by showing ads at the height of the gaming experience.
- Keep them coming back: Regardless of the genre you choose, your game will benefit from rewarding users who come back. Whether that’s the “just one more level to see some cool stuff” effect, or the fact that all their friends are playing (Fear of Missing Out, a.k.a. FOMO, is a real thing), you need to instill some kind of longevity into your game.
So if you’re a developer, it’s valuable to take note of these points if you’re taking a swing at trying to create the next big game. As the mobile industry continues to expand, there’s bound to be a great deal of jostling amongst people like you trying to land a slice of the pie. If you’re a player, it’s important to realize that no matter how sick you’re bound to get of said next big game, there will always be another one ready to draw you back into a tumultuous relationship. Can’t stop, won’t stop.