February 21, 2023
4 tips to help your games achieve success
By Munira Rangwala
To say that the mobile game market is booming would be an understatement. In the last few years alone, several games - both by indie developers and huge corporations - have broken records, changed paradigms and gone on to proclaim themselves as successful and rightfully so. Here’s an interesting fact – The mobile games' revenue is projected to hit $315.9 billion in 2023 with over 3.7 billion mobile game players worldwide. Crazy, right? That’s why we’ve put together a simple playbook outlining some pointers for indie mobile game developers.
- Create an anchor character
An anchor character can simply be described as an icon that users identify your game with. Take Angry Birds, for instance. When you think of ‘Angry Birds’, an immediate image of a round, red bird pops in your head who is furrowing his thick, black eyebrows and staring down at you through his huge yellow beak. See what I mean? Angry Birds is associated with this anchor character that they’ve built and marketed from the inception of their game launch. Games with anchor characters are more likely to catch attention since the human mind filters repetition and noise. In fact, the character of Angry Birds looks interesting to the extent that the franchise went on to make cartoons, toys, and other merchandise. Once your anchor character is famous, you can even cash in on user-generated content. A huge community was built around Angry Birds. In addition to playing the game, users shared their achievements, thoughts, and ideas with other fans. All of this hoopla and buzz was possible because the brand focused on creating a strong anchor character.
- Test early, test fast, and test often
Market testing is a crucial step in mobile game development. Coda data recently revealed that only 3% of prototypes actually pass the first market testing. What gives an edge to hypercasual game developers is that they test early, test fast, and test often. Here’s how you do it too – Try creating the first gameplay video in under five days and use it to gain an initial idea of the market’s reaction. There are mobile game development forums on Facebook that you can be a part of. You can also test your game on Discadia - a platform where gamers test games, give feedback and contribute to making games better. GameDevHQ on Discord is yet another community-driven server that helps its members with game testing. For every game that has been touted as successful, there is a hyper-casual developer who has tested at least 15 prototypes prior. And the best part? You don’t need to have a fully completed game to run an accurate market test. You can even test the marketability of your game with a simple gameplay video.
- Focus on quick iterations
Did you know, in order to launch the best games possible, Wooga works on roughly 40 concepts and prototypes each year? Of these 40, 10 go into production and seven see a soft launch. Ultimately, only two games make it to a global launch. According to Shai Sasson – a senior publishing manager at CrazyLabs – the timeline for hypercasual games should be weeks, not months or years. Wooga’s ability to quickly iterate games that are under development as well as those that are live is key to their business model. Wooga rolls out new updates and features on Android first, before they get to other platforms. As an indie game developer, you can ensure quick prototyping with tools like Unity and Unreal Engine. Unity, for instance, gives you a raw product which is highly flexible, well-documented, and extensible to build any genre of game you can think of. While you’re at it, test monetisation models during prototyping and game testing so you kill two birds with one stone. This way, you are laying out a roadmap for marketing even as your game is still developing.
- Build an online game community
Creating your own online game community is time-consuming, but it will ultimately yield greater rewards, especially if you weave in advertising elements and native marketing. Remember, players are more likely to stay and play your game when they feel like they are a part of a community of people similar to them. You can start by creating a group on Discord for mobile control. Once your online gaming community gains traction, you can use it for game announcements and to engage your users to increase retention. Such communities also help with gathering feedback from users with the purpose of enhancing game mechanics. If you are new to the concept of gaming communities, you can start by being a part of third-party communities.
For example, Fluffy Fairy Games – the studio responsible for Idle Miner Tycoon – discovered that its most passionate players were on its Facebook page. Due to this, Fluffy Fairy Games shifted its marketing efforts to maintaining and growing its Facebook community. They used this community to share upcoming content releases as well as highlight the personalities behind their game. Communities provide developers with relevant and valued feedback from the most passionate gamers who will advocate for your game.
Sure, the indie game market is teeming with developers looking to make a neat profit, but all game devs will agree that there’s no better feeling than finishing development and releasing your game for the first time. Learning something new takes time – and we aren’t just referring to creating a game, something that most developers are familiar with anyway. We are talking about the other aspects that follow once your game is ready - like marketing. Truth is, the fate of your game depends on how well you are able to market it. The path leading up to the release is long and full of complications. But in the end, you will have a game you can proudly call your own!