Another new year is starting and it’s time to get yourself and your games ready – if you haven’t already. And while you’ve probably already prepped for 2018, it never hurts to take a second look at your long term plans and how they fit into the current gaming landscape and corresponding player expectations.

1. Watch Your Microtransactions

We’ve all heard about EA and other companies coming under serious fire in the press and perhaps more importantly on social media for this kind of thing. So that said, it should be obvious – make sure your game isn’t even inadvertently exploiting your players through microtransactions.

Micro-transactions in this AAA title caused uproar against EA

That said, micro-transactions aren’t all bad. As long as you warn your players about what they are and how they work when they are in-game, you’re most likely in a good place. In fact, the ten commandments of micro-transactions that Forbes originally posted in 2013 are still a good idea.

Allow users to always earn the same items that they can purchase (even if it requires them to grind it out or slog through various quests to get there), don’t let paying for items give players an actual advantage, make the pricing clear (this might be the most important policy of all), don’t design games around paying to save time, every piece of new content, item, or loot doesn’t really need to be a micro transaction – you can just give your players something cool sometimes – it’ll likely work out in your favor in the end.

At the end of the day, micro transactions aren’t going anywhere despite the bad press they’ve gotten toward the end of 2017, so make sure you understand how to do them right and in a way that’s transparent for your players. Make sure that users know when they are spending actual money (not in-game money) and show the prices in the local currency when possible.

2. Use Clear Pricing Policies

No in-game currency option works as well as the almighty dollar (or euro, pound sterling, yen, or RMB), at least when it comes to transparency. While you might make more by using an in-game currency like coins or tokens, you’ll be on the good side of your audience with in-game payments that directly match the real world amounts that will be taken from their linked credit cards or bank accounts.

Keep in-game currencies and real-world money clearly aligned in your store.

While it’s tempting and easy to create your own in-game currency -and it can help transport players to the in-game world – always be sure that you’re showing the actual amounts in real world currencies as well so your users can make informed decisions about how and where they spend their money in your game.

3. Provide Unlock Codes

Do you remember how exciting it was when you discovered a cheat code that allowed you to unlock new levels and players in your favorite game? That feeling never really goes away – which is why releasing exclusive unlock codes for new levels, loot, wardrobe, weapons, or other cool things in your game is always a good way to get some buzz and renew player excitement and therefore engagement.

The Last Day on Earth releases codes and makes you note them down for later use.

Even F2P games can benefit from judiciously planned unlock codes (see the example vault codes above, occasionally found in the ‘The Last Day on Earth’). After all, a new code (and therefore level, item, or other interesting thing) can spark renewed interest in your game and get old and/or lapsed players to come back and play again.

4. In-Game Physics

Game storylines are getting more and more realistic every day, which is why the playing action or in-game physics need to get better accordingly. And as your game development gets more creative, your in-game action or physics need to get more creative and complicated too.

For inspiration how to creatively use physics in your game, check out Osmos.

Users are expecting games to mimic real life and actual physical interactions and object behavior more than ever, so you need to make sure your games meet their expectations. Understanding your in-game physics and the corresponding mechanisms – in both current and future projects –  might be the most important thing you do in 2018.

5. Creative And Complicated Storylines

Even the simplest mobile deserves a complex storyline that will have players thinking about it even when they are not actively playing the game. While super simple games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush have made their creators plenty of bank, there’s a growing standard and user expectation that newer games need a backstory and an entire world to get lost in – a game needs to be more than a catchy name and user interface.

Check out Reigns for an example of a super simple, but super creative storyline

Even the highly successful Pokemon Go mobile game doesn’t have a particularly complex storyline – or does it? There’s still plenty more updates to be released if the rumors are correct, and of course there is a lot of background to the Pokemon franchise. Users are starting to expect a rich background and landscape for their games, even if the actual mechanics are relatively simple. They want a world to get lost in, even in regard to F2P games. Besides, building a world that inspires your players to keep coming back for more can only help with monetization.

6. Smarter Monetization And Ads That Deliver Rewards

With users being more reluctant to pay for games than ever, the freemium model that most F2P games follow needs to get smarter. New monetization models that use tools like blockchain for tamper-proof recording of anything of value including proof of ownership, in-game referrals, and more, but there are simpler options as well.

Users are given the option of watching ads in Angry Birds

In-game ads are basically traditional at this point, but there’s plenty of ways to do them better and smarter. For instance, ads that deliver rewards (extra loot, bonus points, or something else that makes sense for your game) almost always perform better than traditional banners, and users like them more as well. And that’s a win-win for everyone.

7. Take Inspiration From Popular ESports Titles

We all kow that esports are a big thing, and their prominence and popularity is only going to increase in 2018. So if you’re planning on building a new game in the new year, perhaps it’s time to look at the popular esports games and adapt what works for them for your own game.

With a simple tweak to the game mechanics, Clash Royale introduced a whole new play style to master.

In fact, the popularity and engagement with esports is rivaling that of more traditional sports. And that’s not only good for the gaming world, it means there is plenty to learn from the top esports games even if your game(s) are F2P. For instance, look at the in-game mechanics of the best performing esports titles and see what you can adapt for your own games. After all, the most popular games in any category tend to set the standard and player expectations for the rest of the industry.

8. Augmented Reality

Pokemon Go might have been the mainstream part of this trend, but games with AR are starting to become standard. Does it make sense for your game to use AR? Perhaps not in the case of existing successful games, but augmented reality games are quickly becoming the new standard if you are planning on launching a new game(s) in 2018. And that technology can help you make sure your players really connect with and lose themselves in your game if you use it wisely.

Stack: a hugely popular mobile game quickly brought to AR

Accordingly, bringing AR into the games you develop might be the smartest thing you can do in the new year, and here are some examples.

Let us know what you think…

What are your game-related plans for 2018? Are you launching something that fits in with these trends, or creating something else entirely?

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