Join us as we delve into the nuances of mobile game design, examining the key factors that define a successful game. From stunning art and level design to a seamless user experience, we'll cover all the essential elements that make a game stand out.
TL; DR – Creating a successful mobile game requires a combination of engaging gameplay, appealing design elements, and effective business strategies. Developers should focus on factors like user experience, level design, art, and sound, while also considering monetization and market research to ensure a game’s success and provide players with a memorable experience.
In the vast and competitive world of mobile gaming, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available. With so many games vying for your attention, it’s important to know what separates the good from the great. What makes a game truly engaging, both from a consumer and a business standpoint?
That’s where we come in. We’re delving into the nuances of mobile gaming design, examining the key factors that define a successful game. From stunning art and level design to a seamless user experience, we’ll cover all the essential elements that make a game stand out.
“I’ll let you in on a secret: Game design doesn’t sell games. Art, sound, characters, the experience of playing the game is what makes people fall in love.
But game design is what keeps them around.”
– Andy Schatz, Owner, Pocketwatch Games
Designing for Success
The success of a mobile game depends on how well it balances various design elements that work together to create an engaging experience. Among these elements, art, level design, and user experience are crucial to the success of a game.
Art and graphics are often the first things players notice about a game. A game’s visuals create an immediate impression and help establish the game’s identity. According to DeltaDNA, the initial impression of a game is crucial for retention, with most free-to-play games losing 20% of installs within two minutes of launching the application. To engage players quickly and easily, game sessions should be designed to be more engaging in the first hours of gameplay. Mobile game designers should prioritize creating a visually appealing and engaging experience from the outset to maximize player retention.
In mobile game design, different types of visuals can be useful for different stages of development and use. In a survey among consistent gamers, 79% stated that they pay attention to art style in video games, with 53% indicating that they make game choices based solely on art style. Different art styles in games impact players’ emotions and engagement. A visually appealing game not only attracts players but also increases their engagement and retention. A game’s art style should match its gameplay and narrative, creating a cohesive and immersive experience.
When designing your mobile game, keep the following in mind:
Level design plays an equally important role in crafting a good game. Levels should be challenging enough to keep players engaged but not so difficult that they feel frustrated. Well-designed levels offer a sense of progression and reward players for their achievements. Good level design should also encourage exploration and discovery, allowing players to interact with the game world in unique and exciting ways.
While there are no hard and fast rules for good level design, Dan Taylor utilizes Dieter Rams’ classic design principles to outline “Ten Principles of Good Level Design”. He emphasizes the importance of clear visual language, implicit storytelling, player empowerment, and efficient use of resources. The design should also be surprising, constantly teaching the player new things, and allowing players to control the difficulty.
According to Rudolf Kremers, author of Level Design: Concept, Theory, and Practice, level design is the implementation of game design. It’s important to remember that level design is a dynamic and multifaceted process, influenced by various factors including designer expertise, game genre, target audience, and overall game objectives. By embracing thoughtful and deliberate level design practices, game developers can craft engaging and captivating gameplay for players.
Consumer Opinion Matters
While a good mobile game can provide players with hours of entertainment, avid players know that the details make a difference: a great game goes above and beyond to create a memorable and lasting experience. Here are a few things that can set apart a great game from a good one:
Emotional impact: A great game can evoke strong emotions in the player, through a storyline, characters, or overall atmosphere. Research indicates that video games can evoke both enjoyment and meaningfulness, with enjoyment linked to gameplay and meaningfulness associated with narrative. A game that can make the player feel a sense of connection or empathy with its characters or world can offer more than just enjoyment and can contribute to personal growth.
Innovation: A game that introduces new and innovative gameplay mechanics or elements will really stand out from the crowd. “As a game developer, one of my rules is there will be at least one thing in every game that I worked on that no one on the planet has seen before,” says Warren Spector, the mastermind behind games like Deus Ex and System Shock. As a passionate advocate for immersive simulations and groundbreaking concepts like emergent gameplay and player collaboration, he emphasizes the importance of pushing boundaries. When developers take risks rather than relying on formulaic or repetitive gameplay, consumers take notice.
Replayability: A great game has high replay value, meaning players want to come back and play again, even after completing the game. This study on the replayability of video games identifies difficulty, completion, social aspects, randomization, and unique experiences as the primary drivers for players to replay a game. This can be achieved through multiple endings, randomized variables, branching storylines, and procedurally generated content that keeps the game fresh and interesting.
Community: Great games foster a strong and positive community of players who can connect and interact with each other. Andy Schatz, owner of Pocketwatch Games, shares that these communities cater to a variety of player desires, such as role playing, social interaction, and intellectual challenge. This can be promoted through in-game features, social media, or other platforms where players can share their experiences and engage with others who love the game.
Consistency: A great game maintains a high level of quality throughout the entire experience, from the early levels to the endgame. There are no weak spots or sections that feel rushed or unfinished. Every aspect of the game feels polished and well-crafted.
Beyond the Fun: The Business Side
Creating a great mobile game isn’t just about providing an enjoyable experience for players – it’s also about ensuring its success as a business venture. A great mobile game needs to be able to generate revenue, attract and retain players, and stand out from the competition.
Here are a few key factors that can contribute to the success of a mobile game from a business perspective:
Monetization strategy: A great mobile game needs to have a solid plan for generating revenue. This can be through in-app purchases, ads, or a subscription model. According to data.ai, mobile games contributed to around two-thirds of app store revenue, primarily driven by one-time in-app purchases, which accounted for a staggering 98% of the revenue. When incorporating in-app purchases, it is essential to strategically integrate them by carefully timing their introduction and placement within the game, ensuring they align with player progression and challenge levels. This approach allows for a fair gameplay experience for both paying and non-paying players while offering the opportunity for players to gain a competitive advantage through their purchases without feeling obligated to spend money for enjoyment or progression.
Marketing and promotion: Even the best mobile game won’t succeed if no one knows about it. A strong marketing and promotion strategy is a must when it comes to attracting new players and retaining existing ones. According to the GDC 2023 Report, social media is the primary marketing method for game studios, with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn being more commonly used than Instagram or TikTok. Influencer partnerships, email marketing, in person events, and word-of-mouth campaigns are also commonly utilized to increase discoverability.
User retention: A great mobile game needs to have features that encourage players to keep coming back. This can include daily rewards, limited-time events, or social features that allow players to connect with each other. The Unity 2022 Gaming Report found that including ads in games, especially those that give in-game rewards, increases player retention by 26% after one day, 8% after seven days, and 3% after 30 days of game play.
Data analysis: Developers need to be able to collect and analyze data on player behavior and preferences. This can help make informed decisions about updates, new features, and monetization strategies that will improve the player experience and generate revenue.
Strong community management: A great mobile game needs to have a dedicated community management team that can engage with players, address concerns and feedback, and foster a positive and welcoming community. They can even act as a liaison between developers and players; a vital aspect of game development is paying attention to the wants and needs of your audience. A strong community can help drive word-of-mouth promotion and keep players coming back for more.
By focusing on these key factors, developers can create a great mobile game that not only provides a delightful activity for players but also succeeds as a business venture.
The Power of UX
In the world of mobile gaming, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for creating a great game. It’s a combination of engaging gameplay, visually appealing art and level design, seamless user experience, and effective business strategies. By focusing on these aspects, developers can create standout games that leave a lasting impression on players.
From a consumer standpoint, it’s important to look beyond a game’s surface level and evaluate the design elements that make it truly great. A mobile game with a clean and intuitive user interface, challenging yet balanced level design, captivating art and sound design, and technical optimization is sure to provide a satisfying and enjoyable experience.
On the business side of things, it’s essential to consider factors like monetization strategies, user acquisition, and market research to ensure that a game has a chance to succeed. By creating a game that is both entertaining and profitable, developers can continue to create new and innovative titles that push the boundaries of what’s possible in mobile gaming.
Ultimately, the success of a mobile game is determined by a combination of both its design and business strategies. By understanding and prioritizing each of these elements, developers can create games that stand the test of time and provide players with an unforgettable experience.