It's a little late for the shoutout, but thanks to the fine folks at Mintegral for calling out The Year in Mobile Games 2019, presented by our own Dave Rohrl and Steve Meretzky as one of the six "must not miss" sessions at this year's GDC: https://lnkd.in/gT9W_mK
The slides from our GDC presentation The Year in Mobile Games 2019 are now available online: https://lnkd.in/gK2PxvY Many people told us that this year's version - presented by our owner Dave Rohrl, our senior design consultant Steven Meretzky, and friend of MGD Juan Gril, was the best version ever with some excellent insights. And this year's attendance reflected it as well - the 500-person hall was filled to capacity almost 10 minutes before the scheduled start of the session.
Now you can see for yourself (at least a bit of) what the fuss is all about: https://www.slideshare.net/DaveRohrl/the-year-in-mobile-games-2019
Cnet.com attended the GDC Mobile Summit trying to find the most important trends in the mobile gaming market for 2019. After listening to two solid days of lectures and panels, they cited two members of the Mobile Game Doctor team - Dave Rohrl and Steve Meretzky - as delivering some of the most important insights at the conference. You can read the whole article here: https://www.cnet.com/news/top-7-trends-in-mobile-gaming-from-gdc-2019/
By the way, slides from Steve and Dave's lecture (delivered with Juan Gril) should be online soon as well.
A product manager at King recently published this brilliant article about some research they did to help them understand the audience for various game genres better. In essence, they laid out the top 100 grossing mobile games, coded them for genre, and looked at the degree of player overlap between each of them trying to find clusters of crossovers. The analysis yielded some interesting results, like the fact that Candy Crush is pretty much adjacent to everything because it's so darn popular, and that metagame structure and art/theme may be more important to figuring out audience overlap than mechanic.
But for me, there are two really important lessons here. First, there is real value in making your data visual rather than just doing a huge dump of numbers. Human beings can parse these kind of visual representations not only more quickly, easily, and accurately but often more deeply - gaining new levels of understanding. Second and most importantly, it's easy to develop ideas about who the audience for your game is and what they like, but it's important to actually ask - or at least query the data - rather than work off your assumptions.
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!
I recently got a chance to attend XDS - the External Development Summit - for the first time. It’s a fun and interesting conference for both companies that provide services to game developers and to the developers that need them. Although the primary target of the conference was AAA console developers looking to outsource art, there were some great learnings for Mobile Game Doctor and our customers as well.
In several presentations both outsourcers and their customers talked about what it takes to make an outsourcing (or co-development) arrangement work, and a clear and consistent picture emerged. In order to keep both sides happy, you need to have clarity, transparency, flexibility, and outstanding communications. At Mobile Game Doctor, we try to practice all of these things.
Clarity: Before we begin any project, we invest time in understanding where our customers are and what they need. We do our best to structure most of our projects around a clear, well-defined set of goals and milestones. We’re still happy to invest our time and energy into customers who aren’t quite sure what they need - above and beyond a helping hand - but then we do our utmost to start the project off by learning more about the client and project and defining a clear, agreed-upon set of goals and deliverables.
Transparency: At Mobile Game Doctor we do our best to assign a subject matter expert to every project. We are completely transparent with our clients about who is working on what, about other workload they may have, and any project-specific challenges we may face. We are proactive about communicating any issues or challenges that we may be facing on the project, and we are honest and constructive in our feedback on the products and teams.
Flexibility: We have been in the business more than long enough to know that things can change while you’re building a game. Developing and playtesting lead you to new understandings of what of it is fun in your game (and what isn’t). Market conditions evolve while you’re developing, and your business itself may change and evolve. And all of this can lead to significant changes in your game. On all of our large projects, we include a clause in our contracts that allows our customers to change their mind about what features we should be working on or how we should deliver work, so long as it doesn’t substantially change the scope of the project. This lets us keep up with the changing demands of your project in real time without needing to go back through additional rounds of negotiation.
Communication: At Mobile Game Doctor, we like to integrate with your team’s communication channels as much as humanly possible. Our Slack apps often have 6-12 different team domains down the left-hand side. We do our best to integrate with all of our customers’ communication and documentation tools to make it as easy as possible for them to integrate our work and reach us whenever they need us.
All of these things come naturally to us as part of our commitment to our customers’ success. And our commitment to clarity, transparency, flexibility, and communication helps us make our outsource design model do great things for our customers.
At Mobile Game Doctor, we love building games that reach as many people as possible. As research firm EEDAR recently discovered, 2/3 of Americans play games, and they spend as much time playing games as consuming any other media, but the truly remarkable statistic here is that 90% of gamers play games on mobile. Not only are mobile games reaching casual players that don't engage on other platforms, but a huge share of PC and console gamers are enjoying mobile games as well.
We are proud to announce that multiple Mobile Game Doctor team members had their GDC videos placed in the free section of the GDC vault, helping the conference market to future attendees and making the videos widely available to the public.
You can see our Founder and Owner Dave Rohrl discussing the year's most interesting mobile game design trends (along with Steve Meretzky of King and Juan Gril of Flowplay) here: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1025009/The-Year-in-Mobile
And you can see Dr. Cat, one of our senior design consultants, discussing using randomness to augment fun here: https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1023562/Math-for-Game-Programmers-Random
If you have paid access to the GDC Vault, you can also find Dr. Cat's talk on managing randomness here: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1025195/Math-for-Game-Programmers-Managing
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