If you dream of owning a big house and a nice car, you study hard and slowly find the ladder with pure effort and determination.
But you need not work so hard.
There is an easier way to make much more money, much, much faster. The door to your success is in making a mobile game, and keys, we will soon discover.
But you must be thinking “Isn’t the market already pretty flooded?” and the answer is yes, incredibly. But nearly all of your competition has failed, miserably.
Too Generous, Too Original, Too Honest
There is always more space for those that carefully follow the lessons to come. Just look at the hundreds of best selling slot machine apps. Each is just a slightly different face to the basic game, but they are all incredibly successful.
How much do you think Candy Crush makes in a year? 1 Million Dollars? 5 Million? 50 Million?
Candy Crush makes over a BILLION DOLLARS a year.
They are doing something very right. Either Candy Crush is the perfect realization of the art of game design or, it is really good at exploiting your brain.
So, what tricks of psychology can we learn from the very best?
You will soon find that they are no more difficult than taking candy from a child.
How to make a Mobile Game – The Abstraction of Money
If you have ever played these games you may have noticed that they all have their own currency. Instead of paying real money to save your characters life or change his appearance, you pay with Gems or Coins or Stars, which you buy with real money.
This is no accident.
By abstracting real money into made-up currency, players are distanced from the consequences of their choices.
“I’m not paying $2 for this virtual hat, I’m paying 500 Coins which happen to cost $2.”
If you don’t think anyone could possibly be that stupid, think again. We all do this to some extent; we see a $10 item, which simply cost real money, and not what we are actually paying with. Like, say an hour of minimum wage work.
Casinos use this trick all the time. Paying with tokens feel different than paying the same amount with dollars. And instead of constantly asking to buy this or that with real money, tokens make the occasional moment of weakness enough to make a handsome profit.
So instead of selling 1 Life for a Dollar, you can sell packs of coins, the cheapest of which is more commonly $1.99 or $4.99 or $9.99.
The player is forced to buy a handful of coins when they only need a few for they really want.
The smartest games multiply this effect to create even more abstraction. In Clash of Clans, you can buy Gems, which can be used to buy Gold, which you can then used to buy Items.
The more indirect, the more you collect
How to make a Mobile Game – Create a Dependence
Every game has two kinds of players. Those that play for free (Apprx. 98%) and the tiny fraction that buys enough to make it up for everybody else.
Your goal is to create as many of the second category as possible. You want them to be dependent on your game for satisfaction. And to do that you need to create ROUTINE.
The player who pays a lot is the one who pays a lot. In the morning, on the commute, at the dinner table, basically everywhere.
Reward players for opening your app every day, and create a streak system that gives prices for playing the game for X amount of days in a row.
It doesn’t take long before this creates a regular habit, some would say an addiction. And when it does, players can justify paying even more.
“Sure, I’m paying a ton, but I’m playing this game a lot.”
And don’t let anyone escape your grasp. If you notice a player has taken a break, lure them back with the notification or 2, or 30.
How to make a Mobile Game – Pay Not to Play
People will happily pay for more levels, spins, and characters, but your ultimate goal is to monetize EVERYTHING.
If you can make your players pay to play, you can also make them pay NOT to play.
If you intentionally create ‘annoyances’ and ‘time sinks’, parts of your game that are no fun but necessary, players will pay to skip them.
It may sound ridiculous that someone would pay money to play less of the game they have paid for. But it works.
To players, it will feel like any other purchase and you will make money even when your game is boring.
How to make a Mobile Game – Eternal Monotony
If a casino has a thousand Dollars for prize money, it would rather give a hundred $10 prizes than a single thousand Dollar prize.
Too much happiness at once leaves the player satisfied, more likely to cash out and leave. So too with your game, your goal is not to make the players happy, you will often actually want to do the opposite.
So space out the enjoyment of your game enough to keep people interested, but never enough to truly be satisfied.
And there shouldn’t be a single goal but a series of objectives. Always replace with another when you complete the last.
The most successful games aren’t with a story arc and gratifying ending, but eternal tasks with fake accomplishments.
To take this a step further, create many similar games so there is always another app for people to download. A good developer makes a single game which they then change just enough to sell again, and again, and again.
These are all tactics used by the most popular games in the world. By understanding what they are doing, you are now less susceptible to their deception. But there is also more to this story because it wasn’t always this bad.
When the App Store began, it was common to see 5 or 10 Dollar games that sold quite well. So what changed in the nearly 10 years since then? Is there a way to return to more honest software?
These questions we will explore in another article. For now, we hope you can take away some key factors to consider when making a mobile game.
Thank you for reading.