In an increasingly chaotic and fast paced world, casual and hyper-casual gaming provides a much needed escape for many players. Whether that is winding down from a busy day at the office, relaxing in the evening or simply passing the time in a queue, reports reveal that since January, hyper-casual games have seen an average of 17,6 million daily installs. This is equivalent to around 12.5% of total game installs.
The current ‘lockdown’ situations taking place across the globe as a result of the novel Coronavirus are encouraging more people to download and play mobile games to help pass the time or distract their wandering minds from the stress and uncertainty of current events. In fact, news reports suggest that mobile game downloads shot up by some 39% in February as a direct result of the Coronavirus lockdown and self-isolation.
The ability to escape and simply switch off is all part of the attraction when it comes to hyper-casual gaming, and naturally, predictability plays a huge part in this process. That said, successful games must still be able to surprise and delight in order to keep users engaged, and for longer, otherwise they’ll simply get bored. Some have suggested following the 90/10 ratio when it comes to adding that all important twist to game design, whereby 90% of the gameplay is predictable and 10% offers something just a little bit different. Game developers are naturally keen to understand exactly what kind of twists are most welcomed by players and thanks to Coda’s free market intelligence dashboard, it has never been easier to analyse in detail these particular trends.
If you are considering how to add the crucial elements of surprise and delight to your game design, here are a few options to explore:
Add bonus level unlocks
Even with the most basic or repetitive of games, adding a little variety ensures that players don’t cross over into boredom. Bonus level unlocks are one of the easiest ways to retain engagement, giving players both an incentive to keep progressing through the game whilst also providing a brief change of scenery, both of which help to keep interest at its peak.
Encourage players to strive for perfection
Encouraging players to feel emotions such as joy, anticipation or excitement could be the difference between them switching off and engaging in a game for hours. This can be achieved by ensuring that the highest marks or bonuses are only gained by playing in a certain sequence, time frame or order. The need to repeat the same activities over and over in an attempt to achieve a top score, or to receive a particular bonus is a sure fire method to keep players engaged as they try to better their score with each turn.
Switch up the game mechanics
‘Tap and Timing’ continues to be one of the most popular mechanics in hyper-casual games, but there are a number of elements that can be added to inject some diversity into the game including: stacking, turning, rising or falling, swerving and merging. Adding dexterity challenges is also a great way to focus attention, as what can be a relatively simple manoeuvre when performed slowly can become more tricky to achieve when players have to do it quickly or within a limited timeframe. Simplicity however, remains the name of the game, so it really is about finding that perfect sweet spot.
Change the music or environment
A simple change to aesthetics or music tempo can help to give the impression of progression throughout the game, even if the mechanics remain unchanged, Perhaps achieving a certain score leads to a background colour change, or reaching a new level is met with different music. Such changes are subtle but allow the player to continue enjoying the game whilst gaining that much needed variety which is essential for keeping players in the game for longer.
Even when following these best practice tips, it can still be difficult to get it just right. It is extremely rare that developers will hit the high retention metrics (ideally 40% + D1 retention) on their first attempt and there are a number of reasons why a game still fails. The most common is simply being too greedy and designing a game which forces the player to watch ads or buy coins in order to succeed. Other factors include poor development quality, repetitive or boring level progress, poor marketability and slow speed to market. Remember that competition is high and it is highly likely that someone else is working on a similar concept at the same time, so getting to market quickly is vital.
Thankfully, Coda is on hand to help address all of these factors. Our dedicated team of data scientists and product managers can help studios to understand their game metrics more granularly and provide detailed suggestions for how to improve their game’s performance. In addition to providing a set of analyses to our partner studios which cover level metrics, churn, fail and completion rates for each level, our A/B test structure and expertise encourages partners to test and iterate more, thereby succeeding much faster.
In summary, getting the perfect mix of elements to catapult your game to dizzying heights is no mean feat and whilst there is no blueprint for guaranteed success, understanding the various internal and external factors which could influence a game’s performance is essential to making sure you put your best foot forward.