“I’ve never heard of candy crush”, says no one ever.
Developing a viral casual game is many developer’s dream. In the past, game studios used to sell us $40 a game, and didn’t care how long we played it, as long as we liked it enough to buy the next one. With the rise of freemium games, the gaming industry has to shift their strategy to make sure that players stay in the game as long as possible; to make sure that we play and eventually, pay.
As a developer, you can either make games targeting specific groups or go for the whole world… and go casual.
And what exactly makes certain games so addictive?
We all love encouragements.
Nobody gets praised enough. We as human beings yearn for approval and acknowledgement. Like a kid who keeps doing the same task that his mom compliments him for doing, we naturally get hooked on the game that keeps saying “Sweet!” and “Excellent job” and offers positive reinforcements generously each time we clear a level. Dopamine is released in our brain every time we’re rewarded, and over time, we need more and more ‘game fixes’ to enjoy the same level of dopamine release and gratification.
Keep it light and crispy!
The majority of the most viral casual games have really short levels - Candy Crush, Angry Bird, Flappy Bird…as each level is short, players go from level to level quickly; like eating potato chips, we take one after another and before we realize, we finish the whole bowl in no time (and want another refill).
Good things come to those who wait…
Candy Crush, for example, lets us go through levels really quickly in the beginning, but the higher level we go up, the longer we have to wait once we run out of lives. Instead of being discouraged from continuing playing, the game designers know that we would’ve reached a level where we’re too addicted to quit, and like the allure of the forbidden fruit, we’d be longing for it so much that we’re quite likely to spend money to cut the waiting time.
A really successful casual game has to be universally loved. Instead of trying to make your game appeal to a certain demographic, a better way might be to approach your target inversely. Is it going to turn off a female player? When you struggle with adding or taking away a certain feature, think - Will it make a certain category of people not want to play the game?
The bottom line: don’t limit yourself to one type of player. If both your 10 year-old nephew and your 70 year-old grandma love playing it, the world will probably love it. ;-)