What Makes A Successful Casual Game? Part 1
When we first started creating “advergames,” audiences simply enjoyed the novelty of an interactive experience. Over the years, audiences have become more sophisticated along with the opportunities for interacting with brands; as a result, branded casual games have become a standard part of the marketing mix.
We’d like to offer some tips that may help to better engage audiences through gaming.
Know Your Audience
If you’re building an HTML5 game, which will play on desktops and mobile devices, then your potential market is theoretically everyone on earth with a computer or a phone/tablet.
As soon as you start choosing your game’s genre and content (Racing pink ponies or racing cars? Shooting enemies or shooting baskets?), you immediately start to narrow your field. And frankly, most brands are targeting their own niche audience anyway, so that’s to be expected. Still, our suggestion is to make the appeal of your game as broad as possible.
In the US alone, over 150 million people play games, spread across a wide variety of social and economic , the average age of a gamer is 31, and a huge number of gamers (48-52%, depending on source) are female, especially for casual/mobile games.
There are hardcore gamers and casual gamers, and if your game can entertain both of them in some aspect, that’s golden. We realize that’s a lot to ask of a Match 3 game, but it can be done! Whatever you do, work to make the best game in your genre and field of content.
Make Something Fresh
We constantly look at other games, especially successful ones, to find inspiration. You can bet that any game that does top the app charts will produce competition in no time!
While it’s practical to borrow the best ideas from a great game, your goal should be to add something innovative to the mix. Maybe your Match 3 game employs a new type of strategy or a fresh behavior; maybe it has dazzling 3D graphics or more interesting content or more satisfying rewards for success. These differences can be small, just twists on expected elements, and still create a large impact.
Engaging a player in the client’s brand through content is a clear differentiation between your game and a brand-less one. The product has a story to tell. Can you get it across in a game? If it’s already telling its own story (through a series or movie), how can you echo or extend that story through a simple game?
The best games engage not just a player’s reflexes but also their mind. (Maybe even their emotions.)
Play, Play, and Play Again
Casual games are not the time-consuming entities that multi-player adventure games are. But they can offer something really addictive: replayability. (It would shame me to admit how many times I’ve played Montezuma 3 or Puss in Boots Fruit Ninja.)
The client wants user engagement with their brand; they want eyeballs on the product and fingers on the screen (or keyboard). The most successful game for the client is the one that gets people returning again and again to play it in their wheelhouse.
Sometimes, in thinking through a more complex set of behaviors, you may come up with a great idea. Maybe the player has to unlock something to achieve their ultimate win. Maybe they get a reward when they succeed. Does that happen every time? If so, is it fun or annoying? Or does it happen only once, in which case it may be boring after the first time through? If replayability is a huge goal, you need to travel all the way through your game experience multiple times to test its appeal.
Once a game is launched, is it done? Maybe not. Even with addictive replayability, users are going to move on eventually. If you can build the game to allow updates or extensions, you’re going to keep the experience fresh and players involved. Can you re-skin it with a holiday theme? Can you add in-app purchases? A new content module?
These factors need to be considered in cost and scheduling, but they may be worth the extra investment to a brand.
Marketing: The Other Shoe
You have a great game built. Now what?
In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll talk about how casual games are being marketed in today’s crowded app industry.