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I try to avoid the term “sticky.” In today’s competitive era of gaming, it seems antiquated and simplistic, and creating a game with enduring popularity is about much more than that. Instead it’s about providing gamers with an experience that keeps them interested long-term and generates real engagement.
Driving and then maintaining that engagement is what will make your game popular. My experience is in social casino and casual games in general, but this advice applies to just about any apps. There’s no one magic formula to achieve success, especially since it varies significantly between different games categories. But there are a few guidelines that always good to keep in mind.
1. Start with a solid core
The basic proposition of your game will always remain the most important factor. Within social casino for instance, one of the most fundamental aspects tends to also be the least visible, at least to users — that’s the math model sitting behind the scenes. You could have the best graphics and most visually engaging slots game. But if your math isn’t optimal, you’ll struggle to keep your users engaged or to generate any significant revenue. Although they don’t see it, users actually feel it and can easily tell a good slots experience from a bad one.
Obviously, this isn’t enough in itself, but it’s worth calling out because it’s too easy to start focusing on the smaller details and to forget to check back on the initial premise of the game.
2. Get into your player’s head
This sounds like an obvious one, but knowing in advance how you want the player to feel — in reaction to particular events or features — will be of great help in making the correct product decisions. Of course, the scientific and data-driven approach will take over with time, once you know exactly how your players are behaving. But that first “soft” approach of putting yourself in your players’ shoes is very important.
It’s easy when you, as a developer, are your own audience. It’s somewhat harder when you’re not. For example, social slots and casino games predominantly have an audience of middle-aged women. It’s hard for a 24 year-old male developer or designer to understand her mindset. But there are still a lot of things you can safely assume about players. For instance, within slots, as important as the frequency of winning is the frequency of near-wins. The emotion you create in the player when they almost win is one of the things that keeps them spinning, and ultimately, coming back. This psychological approach is crucial to creating a good game.
3. Make it scientific but customized
Once your assumptions about your players’ behaviors are set, start testing to confirm or inform them with solid data. This also sounds like another obvious one. But the point I’m trying to make here isn’t only that you should rely on data, but rather that the range of your users’ behavior is going to be very wide. Finding the right balance in the user experience between your casual and your hardcore gamers is going to be crucial. And ideally what ends up happening is a very granular personalization of the experience depending on each user’s engagement level — the natural extension of which becomes the customization of the “prompt to pay” experience through which you’ll be able to maximize revenue.
Lastly, I’d say: Don’t overlook even the smallest of details. Things that may seem inconsequential sometimes have a major impact. For example, with slots games, any producer will tell you that the quality of the audio and the special sound effects surrounding a win or a near-win are almost as important as the event itself. To keep users engaged, the full sensorial experience is a must. It’s definitely worth spending a good amount of time and money on ensuring you get these details right from the beginning.
Raf Keustermans is the CEO and co-founder of Plumbee, a social casino games company based in London. He wrote this piece for VentureBeat and GamesBeat.