Defining game success in terms of profits is the easiest and simplest. If game profits are higher than our investment, the game is successful. However this view does not help us know how to make a successful game: what ingredients to use and what processes to follow. How to be profitable depends on your game’s business model, which can vary widely from a free-to-play casual game to a premium VR experience. Furthermore, in some cases the success might not even be about profit, but about teaching something or about creating a change in behavior like in the case of many educational games.
- STAND OUT: First the game needs to stand out or be noticed, if nobody is aware of your game nobody will play it. Standing out is about the first impression, it is mostly about looks, no time to explain new game mechanics and stories. The challenge is finding a balance between familiarity and novelty, something the player understands but different enough from all the other apps that crowd the app store to stand out.
- CONNECT: Second, the game needs to connect with players and make them interested in finding out more. Somebody yelling in the middle of the street will get noticed, but the act of yelling itself won’t get people interested, people will only respond if they connect or resonate with what they hear. The same happens with games that get your attention in the app store. Or in the first couple of minutes of free-to-play game.
- ENGAGE: Third, the game needs to engage players and keep them playing for a while. Maybe not the case for all games, but in most cases the longer players stick around, the more profitable the game is. More chances to monetize, more chances to get subscriptions, more chances to get recommended to friends, etc.
- GROW: Finally, the game needs to find a way to scale or grow its player base. The best way to do that is by doing two things: keeping your existing players, and adding features that make them want to invite their friends and promote your game.
Knowing that you need your game to go through the sequence above will help you choose the right ingredients to fulfill each of the steps. For example, one of the best ingredients for standing out in the crowd is having unique art; and one of the best ingredients for growing your game organically is by adding social mechanics that form a community around your game.