Aiming to design the next big mobile game? Hoping to cash-in on the success of games like Pokemon GO, Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, HQ trivia or Fortnite?
Mobile video games are a $40.6 billion industry and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down. More people are playing on mobile devices each year.
That said, dreaming of a great game and designing one are two different things. It’s not always as simple as it seems.
To help you create an engaging and financially successful mobile game, here are 10 design tips you should consider:
1. Intuitive Controls
Designing for mobile devices differs from traditional gaming platforms like consoles and PCs because of the lack of a physical control scheme. Your audience doesn’t get the luxury of analog sticks, left and right triggers, or a D-Pad. You have to design everything around what a mobile device can offer: a touchscreen and a gyroscope.
If you have to place a digital D-Pad then there’s something wrong. You’re making people adjust to something not made for touchscreens. It can emulate the real thing but there’s no physical feedback, making it awkward to control.
2. No Overbearing Tutorials
Teach players how to play the game through intuitive level design and controls. If your game is a little too complex for that, make sure you don’t flood their phone screens with multiple text boxes for tutorials. You don’t want to overwhelm people with tutorials and new mechanics.
Roll out new mechanics and tutorial boxes slowly. Let these things come as natural as possible to keep the pace of the game going.
3. Engaging UX
Think beyond the confines of a traditional gaming User Interface (UI) and focus on how it affects the User Experience (UX).
This means checking if the menus are the right size, and if the controls feel intuitive, and if the menus don’t open up to another set of menu options. Mobile video games depend on quick taps and small screens so make sure players don’t have to wrestle with the system to enjoy the game.
Your goal is to design the UI in a way where it doesn’t interfere with the gaming experience. Mobile games with a lot of random pop-up ads and long loading screens often get deleted and never played again because of how they ruin the experience.
4. Fun, Addicting Gameplay
Before designing a story, character, or visual style to your game, make it a habit to start designing a core gameplay mechanic. Come up with a fun, new way to play and then design the whole game around that.
Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind franchises like Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, starts designing each game this way. Take Mario for example. Each game’s design starts by figuring out how he moves and what new ways people can play with his traditional move set.
This is why in the now-famous Super Mario Bros. for NES, Mario only has one main mechanic: jumping. He jumps to cross platforms, get over gaps, kill enemies, and hit blocks above his head. Even when he has the Fire Flower power-up, Mario has to jump in order to fire at a precise angle because the projectile doesn’t go in a straight, horizontal line.
Another great example is Plants vs Zombies, a mobile game. The game only requires simple taps to plant, collect resources, and target specific enemies. The whole game revolves the concept of placing different plants to defend a single territory.
This is simple, intuitive, and easy to work around to add new elements of gameplay.
5. Avoid the Skinner Box
That said, making a fun and addicting game shouldn’t resort to using the Skinner Box system.
A Skinner Box, in the most basic explanation, is when you deliberately make false rewards to stimulate a player and make them feel like they accomplished something. Skinner Boxes work because they often randomize when rewards payout, making players scramble to find a pattern when there is none.
Games with Skinner Box designs will try to make players want more by giving things out such as loud and colorful “achievement” rewards, congratulatory messages, and fireworks displays. These make the player feel like they did something great when the reality is they didn’t really hit a milestone in the game yet.
6. Know Your Audience
If you want your mobile game to find success, don’t try to design it for everyone. People have different tastes in games and genres of games. Adults won’t enjoy games often made for kids and vice versa.
Do the research and identify who your audience is. Understand the niche corner you’re aiming to sell the game.
If you’re aiming to design mobile video games for kids, you might want to focus on bigger menu buttons and simpler mechanics.
Designing a game for adults? You may need to dial down on microtransactions and add mechanics with more meat to keep them engaged.
7. Keep Your Mobile Game Simple
Even when designing a game for adults, remember the limitations of the mobile platform. Keep your game simple and put a heavier emphasis on the fun factor for it to remain addicting and engaging.
Again, look at Nintendo how handled Super Mario Bros. when they released a mobile game version. The developers understood that tapping the touchscreen was the only means of controlling Mario, hence they automated his run but still gave people control on how the character jumps.
It’s simple and easy to learn but it still lends itself to challenging level designs.
8. Tread Monetization with Care
Monetization is important, there’s no doubt there, but you will want to approach it carefully.
Free-to-Play systems, microtransactions, DLC, and loot boxes all started from mobile video games before they found their way into traditional console and PC platforms. That said, you should tread monetization tactics with care. Otherwise, players may avoid the game.
Loot boxes, in particular, are gaining notoriety after their implementation garnered negative feedback all across the globe. Countries like Belgium took this to the next level, deeming loot boxes illegal. They state loot boxes are essentially a form of gambling disguised as a form of video game entertainment.
9. Add Social Interactivity
One of the best ways to keep a mobile game addicting and fun is to add an element of social interactivity. You don’t have to make the game rely on multiplayer but adding it as an option is a good design choice. It lets people play solo when they want but also with friends when they’re available.
Don’t add false interactivity. Zynga became infamous for this tactic, where their games made people buzz their friends on Facebook for items but that was the extent of the multiplayer experience. Players never could really interact with each other outside of lending items or clicking on a bonus button.
10. Memorable Visual Flair
Many modern games try to look as realistic as possible. You don’t always have to go down that route. A memorable art style can trump realistic visuals.
Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Stardew Valley don’t use realistic graphics but they still garner praise because of their visual style. The art style and fluidity in their aesthetic make them appealing to the eye.
This becomes even more important for the mobile platform. Phones are powerful but not as strong as a gaming console or high-end PCs. Don’t let this limitation harm your game and focus on a fun, artistic aesthetic that won’t cause the game to lag or glitch.
Innovate, Design, Earn
These 10 tips will help you make better, more profitable mobile games. Don’t stop here though. Discover new ways to earn and new ways to design mobile apps or games that can set new trends.
Test what’s out on the market. Download and play some of the most popular mobile games out and make a list. What makes them successful, addictive, and fun to play?
Looking for new ideas and new ways to play? Visit us today and discover how you can succeed in the mobile market with techniques like implementing VR technology and other new trends in gaming.
Have an exciting game app idea you want to discuss? Contact us to get started today!