Mobile gaming is a notoriously difficult market to break into. There’s currently a huge number of developers eager to make successful games, and as such the app stores are being flooded with new prospects, many of which are destined to fade into obscurity. For a mobile game to become successful, it’s essential that the developers know the ins and outs of what the user wants from such an app.
Including a social element to games appealing to players’ essential human competitiveness. In games like the massively popular Words With Friends, developers included a system which allowed players to challenge their friends and view their scores on a global leaderboard. This is always going to draw players back to a game – it’s human nature to want to climb the leaderboard and prove yourself to your friends, even in something as simple as a mobile game.
Whilst some developers are tailoring their games towards smartphones with increasingly powerful processors, the most successful mobile games tend to be relatively simple. Take a look at games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Candy Crush, Tetris, etc. The one thing that all these games have in common is that they are very easy to play, allowing players to enjoy a quick game whilst on the bus, in a waiting room, or sitting on the toilet. Online casino games have even started to recognise this trend, with for example Snap Poker by 888poker offering players quick-fire rounds of the classic game to take a chance at winning without having to invest a huge amount of time. This is perfect for trying your luck at winning a bit of cash on the fly.
That being said, there is a subset of games being developed that are taking this simple gameplay style to new levels by capitalising on the impressive hardware of modern smartphones. Dawn of Titans by Natural Motion offers stunning graphics that you might not be accustomed to on your little mobile device. The company behind the game is well versed in graphics, having started off building animation engines that were used in Grand Theft Auto V as well as the Lord of the Rings films. The company was so successful that they were bought out by casual-gaming giants Zynga in 2014.
With mobile gaming, as with any other market, it is essential to find the right audience. Sometimes a game can be massively successful only because it appeals to a certain fringe of the population. The case in point is the hugely successful Pokémon Go which, despite lacklustre gameplay and a wealth of problems coming from server crashes and bugs, created a media sensation and will be remembered as the biggest game of 2016 as it breathed new life into an old franchise.
As mobile gaming is a relatively new field, developers can fall into the trap of trying to appeal to more hardcore gamers by emulating PC games, or alternatively to more universal games of the Facebook variety. The secret lies in trying to find the sweet spot in between these two categories: creating a solid game that is engaging to play, whilst also being relatively straightforward.