Even though the mobile market is a relatively new place to find entertainment, it has thrived. Through games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope and Draw Something, we have seen that even if your game is on a mobile console, you can still have a lot of success. Hell, Angry Birds has had more downloads than any game to date. 1 Billion downloads makes you kind of a big deal. That being said, the mobile market is a lot more complex than the console market. Making it big in the mobile market is much more “hit or miss”, and the requirements to do so become a lot less outlined. What do I mean by that? I guess you are going to find out.
As I said in the previous paragraph, I think that making it big in the mobile market is a lot more “hit or miss” than people seem to think. Instead of following the basic rules of games, which revolve around great stories, stellar graphics, and engaging gameplay, mobile titles have a very different model for what is considered the norm. Mobile games can’t be made to model console titles. It is just too far outside the technology of mobile devices. There are only a very few full blown games that have thrived on the mobile market, and it really shouldn’t surprise anyone. People sit down on their mobile devices for short periods of time, so playing a full game like Infinity Blade can be difficult. That’s why these smaller, simpler games strive. That brings me to my first point about what makes a mobile game able to climb the ladder. K.I.S.S.
I know it is kind of cliché, but K.I.S.S definitely applies to mobile games. Keeping it simple is a key to making a mobile game that people can enjoy on the fly, which is when most mobile gaming takes place. Lets take a look at some of the recent titles that have definitely caught on.
1.) Angry Birds – Okay, everyone at this point should know about Angry Birds. As I said before, after 1 billion downloads world wide, you become a big deal. If you look at the overall mechanics and aspects of Angry Birds, there is almost nothing to see. You sit there, shoot birds across the screen, ram them into pigs, get points, and that is the extent of it. It’s an over glorified flash game, but obviously numbers don’t lie. Angry Birds kept everything really simple, and it created an opportunity for people to sit down, and give it a play whenever they had a bit of time on their hands. Waiting for the bus to pick you up? Well, there’s a good 6 levels down. Is the chinese you had last night not agreeing with you? There’s another 8-10 levels down. You don’t have to set 30 minutes aside to play Angry Birds, which is what makes it so ideal for mobile devices.
2.) Fruit Ninja – I know that I always loved chopping fruit, and Fruit Ninja gave me the prime opportunity to turn it into something that will give me absolutely no monetary gain. That sounds pretty good to me. Fruit Ninja is another one of those games that has a really simple premise. All you have to do is cut fruit with your finger, something that should not be considered hard for anyone of even below average intelligence. Making use of the touch screen featured on mobile gaming devices, you just slide your finger across the screen to cut fruit. You can drop up to 3 pieces, and the goal is to cut as many pieces as you want. With online leaderboard and tons of unlockable swag, Fruit Ninja keeps everything super simple while also giving the player a reason to keep playing. Are you starting to see why Fruit Ninja was so successful?
3.) Draw Something – I will be the first one to admit that OMGPop’s Draw Something is one of the most fun games that I have ever played on a mobile device. Just like the aforementioned titles, Draw Something has a really simple concept that allows people to play it on the fly, or from the comfort of their own bathrooms (I hope I am not the only one that plays mobile games whilst relieving their bowels…). All you have to do is pick a word from a list of 3, and draw it. Then, the person whom you are playing with has to guess what you drew. They have letters, so it makes it a little less hard. At first, the game proved to be absolutely fantastic, turning into such a successful title that Zynga picked up OMGPop as their own (even if that turned out to not be such a good decision). Draw Something was easy to play, fun, and convenient to play on the go. That’s one of the biggest reasons that kept it on the top for as long as it was there.
As you can clearly see, the above games all have very simple premises to them. They are made to the point that you can play them for about 5 minutes or less, turn them off, and then continue later. While this can happen with any game, mobile games like these are meant to be played in short increments, with little to no sense of continuity being lost. This simple playability is one of the biggest keys to making it in the mobile market, only to be rivaled by replay value.
I would say that after keeping it simple, replay value is the second big thing that can make it or break it for mobile games. In order to have a successful game, you have to create a scenario where people actually want to keep playing your game. Yes, I realize that this applies to most games in general, but it applies especially to mobile games. With a huge AAA title like Bioshock or Dead Space, you can get away with making it so players only have to have one play through to completely experience the entirety of your creation. If you are playing a mobile game that takes 5 minutes to beat, and you can only play it once, what is the point? That’s why you see success with the games we see above. Each and every one of them has a lot of replay value attached to them. Whether it’s unlockables, in game currency, or online leader boards, each of the above titles had a lot of replay value that, if without, would not have been received as well by the general public.
Now that we have two of the big things that aid to a mobile games success, let’s take a look at what happens when they are sitting upon their throne.
There is really only one thing you can do when you are at the top to secure your position, and it is really simple. The answer is regularly released content updates. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at two of the more successful mobile games, and how one stayed at the top while the other took a plunge like none other before it. Angry Birds is one of the best supported games, and is definitely the most well supported mobile game available today. Rovio went ahead and released three expansions of their hit title, which has helped them stay at the top of the mobile world. If they would have sat back and let their success get stagnant, which they very well could have done when you consider how well the original Angry Birds did, the game could have very well taken a huge dip in downloads. With the release of Angry Birds Seasons, Angry Birds Rio, and Angry Birds Space, Rovio kept everything freaky fresh which kept Angry Birds entertained through the years. Unfortunately, that was not the case for (at the time OMGPop’s) Draw Something.
Draw Something has went through one of the weirdest cycles that I have seen a game take. To go from one of the most downloaded game over a period of time to being virtually inexistent within a period of months is unheard of. Well, it’s not unheard of, but it certainly was strange. One day, everybody I knew who had a smart phone was playing Draw Something. It looked like so much fun, but alas I had a flip phone. Then, when I finally picked up my iPhone, everyone was already done with it. It only took a few months, but I completely missed the trend. It almost makes you wonder what happened, but the answer is quite obvious; OMGPop completely dropped the ball when it came to updating content.
The biggest problem with Draw Something was that it was so convenient and fun that people played it religiously with their friends. I was talking with some friends, and they literally would just write out 3 coin words in order to buy colors. While not everyone did that, they did play it continuously, and this made them go through the words quite fast. People would play so much that they would have seen every word, and guessing them became easy. I think that OMGPop should have foreseen this happening, with all their sales data (as well as their analytics), and they should have released a content update sooner. By the time they finally did released their huge update, everyone had already decided to put the game down. Maybe they decided to go back to playing Angry Birds. Draw Something was here and gone just like that, and Zynga was there to attempt to pick up the pieces, which didn’t work out too much in their favor either.
As I said in the beginning of this piece, the mobile market is a pretty strange place. The rules and regulations run differently than the AAA scene that we are so used to, and because of that, mobile developers have to try and do different things to shoot their games straight to the top. Some game have it, and some games dont. Some games rise, and some games fall. Can some mobile developer please create a game that kicks the crud out of Angry Birds now? Please?