Every day there are hundreds of new games coming out on iOS, Android, Facebook, and on all the other platforms. But less than 10% of them will ever make enough money to become successful.
I myself have gone through some failures, some less failed stuff and also some real successes. Here’s a few pointers on how you can minimize the risk for your game to become a commercial failure.
1. Research Your Platform
All new games have some kind of role model out there when they come out. When you are designing your game, you should play all those role model games and try to understand why the chosen models are so successful.
It’s particularly important that the role model is on the same platform as your game will be on. If you are making an iPhone game based on a game you used to play on a PC when you were a teenager, you should look up if someone has already successfully brought a similar game to the current game market.
If there’s already a similar game on the charts, it’s a good sign! A successful competitor is good, since then you know that you are building on something that works.
2. Monetize Your Players Early On
When you get your players to pay you something early on into the game, you get them to feel more invested into the game. You can think of the investment being accumulated from three different aspects listed below.
- Player decides to install the game
- Player decides to enter the game (note, they can install but never start the game)
- Player decides to spend money
The first two are just time invested into the game, but once the player decides to do their first purchase inside the game, they’ve sort of bought the game. This accumulates more investment than anything else, followed by more investment from all the other money spending activity that will happens.
If you can get the player to spend some real money into the game in the early first few sessions, he or she will have too much invested to just quit without a good reason and they won’t forget about your game that easily.
3. Create Social Pressure to Continue
When the player starts playing the game, try to get them to connect to Facebook. This way you’ll be able to show them all their friends who are also playing the game. If the player has lots of friends playing the game, it will be a very positive signal for the player to continue playing.
If they don’t have friends in the game, think about introducing people who play the game and making virtual friendships between your players, even tough their are strangers. The players share a common interest, playing this game, and if they have similar interests, the social ties will give enough of a reason to return to the game.
Viral posts have usually been seen as spamming your friends, but there are good things that come out of this, if you provide more fun for the players who are playing with friends.
4. Do a Beta Test First With Proper Metrics
Beta tests should be conducted once you have a properly made game and you want to test the game on the masses. Most developers launch their game to beta in smaller markets. To go with a native English speaking audience, Australia and Canada are big enough testing grounds to see some results before actually launching the game worldwide.
Work on your metrics really early on, and when you do a beta test, be sure that you are getting retention numbers. Then you will see if your game works with real players. If you see low retention numbers, you can start to work on improving things like your tutorial.
If you see terrible retention numbers, it might still be possible to do a total pivot and change the game radically. If it isn’t possible, you might still have enough cash in your company to start all over and fix things.
5. Add Personality to Your Game
Lots of games fail because they look unappealing. If you make a visually appealing game with lots of personality, you’ll be noticed. Think about what kind of feelings you are providing to the players, and make your user interface work flawlessly with the visuals.
When you notice that you aren’t happy with the visuals, don’t be afraid to redo the entire graphics. I have seen player retention significantly improve when the game gets a unique look.
Quick tip: Put a lot of effort into effects like adding sun light, shadows and flowing water. Animations are an important part of creating an immersive, living world.
6. Do Focus Groups
Your game needs to have real people playing it while you develop it. If you just leave the validation of the gameplay to your team mates, you will lose much critical insights.
What I did with my previous games was that once the games were playable, I put them into the hands of strangers. I asked my friends if they had other friends who played games on the platform I was developing on, and got these people to participate in some focus group testing.
You’ll spot so many mistakes that can be corrected when a person who hasn’t been involved in the project plays the game and tells you what is wrong and what works. Remember to reward your testers after the tests. For example, I gave away two movie tickets to each participant.
7. Do Proper Promotions and Marketing When Launching
If you are a smaller developer, you might forget that you need to do lots of marketing and promoting of the game when it is launched. Otherwise, how will people discover your game? If you are only relying on word of mouth, the game will get a few dozen installs a day and it won’t start climbing the charts.
My only advice here is that you need to get funding to do paid acquisition. Most of the time, you can’t get significant sums of funding for paid acquisition, so negotiate enough funding to do a beta test that provides minimum viable metrics, then show the metrics to your investors. If you have good metrics, you will be able to do proper marketing via paid acquisition.