South Park recently released a hilarious episode that outlined the process of creating a free mobile game but did so in a way that made mobile game developers look malicious.
Although certain parts of the episode are accurate, I’d like to take the time to explain why mobile developers shouldn’t be labeled the “Canadian Devil”.
Step 1 – Create a Simple Game Loop
According to South Park, the first step to creating a successful freemium game is to use an extremely simple game loop. While this is true, it’s done for the benefit of the players. Here are two reasons why mobile game loops are kept simple:
1) Ensuring that a game’s basic mechanics are easy to understand and rewarding keeps players interested in the game. In the mobile industry, more than half of a game’s players stop playing after the first day. Therefore, it’s extremely important to keep them interested and excited from the beginning.
2) The average session length for a person playing a mobile game is only 6.8 minutes. Most people will only play whenever they have a spare few minutes on the bus, waiting in line, etc. As a result, game designers need to make sure mobile games are fun and rewarding even in short doses.
Step 2 – Compliment Your Users
I feel like this point was a bit exaggerated. Very few games blatantly tell users how amazing they are for completing a simple level. I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t want users to have fun and enjoy our games. Adding fun rewards, exciting music, and over-the-top animations is part of the job.
Step 3 – Implement “The Switcharoo”
As with any business, mobile game developers do aspire to make money. We aren’t trying to fool players though. For example, using “coins” instead of “dollars” to play a slots game just makes more sense.
In most games you never even need to purchase this fake currency. In fact, 98% of players never spend a dime. They earn the currency through daily rewards, watching advertisements, or simply grinding for it. It’s the users who want to play quickly that choose to spend money.
Step 4 – Play the “Waiting Game”
The “Waiting Game”, as South Park puts it, is a monetization strategy that makes users wait in certain parts of the game. They can then choose to spend money if they’d like to avoid waiting. As an example, in Candy Crush Saga a player receives 5 lives. If they run out, there is a 30 wait minutes to get more (unless they want to pay).
I believe that the “Waiting Game” is actually a pretty fair way to monetize a game. A player can play through the whole game of Candy Crush Saga completely free. It’ll take awhile, but it’s definitely possible.
Step 5 – Make the Game “Just Barely Fun”
This was less of a serious point from South Park and more of a jab at Family Guy’s mobile game. The truth is, as game designers we work in this industry because we love games and we want players to love our games. We want to create experiences that keep you coming back not because you’re addicted, but because you’re genuinely having a good time.
So as you can see, the design process behind a game is not malicious. Developers are not the “Canadian Devil” who prey on people with addictive personalities. We aim to create fun, enjoyable content for players in addition to being profitable to ensure our business and the mobile industry continues moving forward.
Oh and on a completely unrelated and ironic note check out South Park’s new mobile game complete with YES…In-App Purchases.