From time to time, I hear developers talking about how Pokemon Go was a flash in the pan, but they are just dead wrong. Even though some of the game’s early adopters have moved on, the game remains a fixture in the top 10 grossing slots. Earlier this month at Seattle’s Geekwire Summit, a couple of Pokemon Go team members gave a great talk on how they evolved Pokemon Go to keep it relevant and interesting for a wide range of players.
One of the key directions they discuss is the addition of social features to Pokemon Go. They have added a number of social features, including raids (where groups of people gather together to bear powerful bosses and earn rewards), friend lists, and gifting. Players have really attached to and engaged with these features; I often see groups of people outside my office at nearby boss raids.
The power of this kind of social feature is not unique to Pokemon Go. Casual games like Hay Day and Pearl’s Perils have added social features to let dedicated players interact, and midcore games like Clash of Clans have relied on them from day 1.
There’s a reason that this design pattern is so widespread. Players play games to have fun, but there are many different kinds of fun. And almost all the researchers that have looked at the different kinds of enjoyment that players derive from games have recognized cooperative social interactions as one of the main drivers of player interest.
Even in single player games, the impact of social features on your game’s outcome can be huge. When well executed, they can improve not only retention but also engagement and monetization. For the health of your game, make sure to think hard about social features!
DeltaDNA recently released an article talking about the changes in payment patterns in free-to-play games. There’s lots of interesting news in there, but one exciting number really stood out to us at Mobile Game Doctor.
According to DeltaDNA, over the last 3 years the percentage of paying players in North America has increased by ⅓ (and in Europe by ⅕). This trend is incredibly healthy for mobile game developers as it shows developers are getting better at monetizing a wide base of players and reducing their dependence on whales.
As many developers can tell you from hard won experience, making your living off a small number of whales can be extremely dangerous. A few people changing their mind can significantly impact your game’s revenue stream. And if those players organize themselves, they can effectively hold your game hostage, demanding changes that may or may not be healthy for the overall game and community. Moreover, too much focus on those whales can make teams focus too much on elder game content and features, stealing resources that might be better used to improve parts of the game that more players will see.
Focusing on efforts to convert more of players to payers (gently, positively, and willingly) has some other positive impacts on your game as well. Players who pay - even a small, one-time payment - tend to engage and retain significantly better than players that don’t. And players who pay once have a much higher propensity to buy again than players who have never purchased. This comes partially from the fact that players who love your game are much more likely to buy something, and partially from certain cognitive biases (like the Sunk Cost Fallacy) that come into play once a player has spent.
So getting that first purchase can be a crucial piece of building a strong relationship with player. It’s important to present things like having a great new player offer, making sure that early purchases offer substantial value to the player, and making sure that players understand what that value will be even before they purchase. Following these kinds of best practices will help get you more payers, keep your game healthier, and get you in line with important industry trends, so make sure you implement them in your game. Doctor’s orders!
Mobile Game Doctor is a boutique game design and production consultancy that partners with game developers worldwide to help improve games, teams, and processes. Dave Rohrl is its Founder and one of its Principal Consultants