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OUR RECIPE FOR AWESOME MOBILE GAMES

By Romulo “Je” Alipio, Executive Producer, Games

OK, so you’re a games developer and you’re looking to make it big in mobile. What, you ask yourself, do we need to do to be one of the most popular mobile games? At least that’s what you should be asking. Unfortunately, some games-makers simply try to copy a console game and put it on a smaller screen. Good luck with that.

In the month of March, only our second month in operation, BuzzCity’s Djuzz games portal delivered 750,000 games to 1.2 million unique users.

If you take a look at the best performing games – and have a listen to what Djuzz users are telling us – five trends become clear.

1. GRAPHICS ARE KEY
Gamers’ attention spans are quite short. If a user isn’t interested within three seconds, he’ll move on. The trick is to produce size-defying pixel art and smooth animations that look good on a handset which is smaller than a person’s palm. You could have the most exciting game in the world, but if the graphics aren’t good, forget it.

From the splash page to the game credits, the way in which games are rendered on a device is critical.  The text, graphics and animation need to blend smoothly so gamers can enjoy what you’re offering.

Compare these examples. Curry in a Hurry, Sachin Cricket and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles: Fast Forward use simple color tones. They make good use of the limited space available. And the graphics and text do not compete with each other for attention; the text is easy to read.

Mad Cow Martha and Round About, on the other hand, don’t really work. When you view these images on a phone, it’s hard to decipher the essence of the game.

In Roundabout, you need to look really close to see that there are cars going around a circle. With Mad Cow Martha, the colour of the text contrasts well with the background, but the background is too busy (are those leaves, houses or what?) and as a result it’s hard to read the text at the first glance.

2. EASY GAMEPLAY & SIMPLE CONTROLS
Let’s face it — playing a game on a mobile handset is completely different from playing Nintendo or Wii. Mobile gaming can still give you an adrenalin rush (personally, I love Top Gun: Air Combat; it’s killer, man!) but the game controls are completely different on a handheld device.

For starters, successful mobile games can normally be played with just one thumb (and a lot of skill!). One of Djuzz’ top arcade games – BomberXmen – is a great example of this. Trust me, it’s not easy to place bomb-traps neatly on one-lane alleys when a bunch of angry cyborgs are chasing you. But you do it with just one thumb.  Some other great examples are Arcade Park and Battleline Okinawa.

On the flip side, we’ve tested some promising games with cool storylines and graphics, but they’re just not right for mobile. For example, take a Real Time Strategy game where the cursor is controlled by the directional pad, tasks are assigned to units by punching the numerical keys, the Heads Up Display to changes weapons, view maps, etc. is pulled up with the hash and asterik keys and the Main Menus (to pause, save a game, etc) are accessed with the other soft keys. This just overwhelms the user. The game might be functional, but it’s not really usable. (And for the record, there are mobile Real Time Strategy games that can be played with just one thumb.)

3. CAPTURE EYEBALLS WITH CATCHY DESCRIPTIONS
With just a few words, you need to engage the imagination. Describe the essence and objective of a game, but in a fun way. Here are four examples. Which ones would you download?

It delivers a completely innovative gameplay experience and brings features not seen on mobile phones before.

You go around the forest to collect berries, beware of the big bad werebear.

In Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, not only can you flip, grab and grind your way to the top, but you can also choose the way your characters career will evolve.

Playing the part of one of the PowerBabes, the player is out for a fun night on the town and seeks a boy to accompany her.

The first example was probably written by a nice copywriter. But it tells you nothing about the game itself. The second example, well it’s just boring. Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground and PowerBabes . . . this copy speaks for itself!

4. BRAND IT!
Gamers gravitate towards well-known brands. Popular icons signify quality even before the game has been downloaded. So if you can get the intellectual property to turn a popular movie or song into a mobile game, do it! Some examples that are already out there are All Powerful Policemen (Ice Cube), The Legend of Hero (Bruce Lee), Police Story (Jackie Chan) and Tomb Raider.

5. CONSUMERS WANT MORE
A lot more. Mobile surfers and gamers are hungry for more content. Based on the queries that we receive every day, plus a scan of key word searchs, we can see that consumers are currently demanding:

  • More Puzzle Games (Sodoku, Zuma, TicTacToe, if it’s a good puzzle, people want it!)
  • More Movie & TV games, like Avatar, Batman, Ben10, Harry Potter, Spiderman and WWE
  • More Branded Titles including Contra, Grand Theft Auto, Mario Bros, Metal Slug, Pacman and Sonic.

For more about the most popular mobile games, join us over at the Djuzz blog and take a look at the March edition of The Djuzz Report (which has a special section on gaming in Vietnam).

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