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How to use trends in mobile games

Sometimes finding an idea for a game can turn into a daunting task. And then it’s worth looking at social networks as a source of inspiration, since new trends there are emerging every day.

We created Fidget Toys Trading, a hyper-casual game based on a TikTok trend, that became one of the most downloaded games. We believe our experience could be useful for both gamedev companies and indie developers. So, where do you find a trend and what should you take into consideration in the process of development?

Step 1. Team

Firstly, think about the team. The number of people in a gamedev team may vary depending on the game type and product strategy. If your team is quite large, it may be reasonable to divide it into micro teams: one of them may be engaged in the main project, another one may experiment with mechanics and graphics for creatives, and another one will analyze the first version of the game. This approach will allow you to quickly scale up the game. Also, to stay current, it’s important to hold weekly discussions of popular projects and their creatives that have reached the world top or show impressive results. Ideally, the entire team should be involved in such discussions. Each team member has their own experience and vision, which contributes to a more holistic view of the project under review and helps get insights. For example, programmers can identify the technologies behind the physics and mechanics of creativity and suggest where to apply the same technologies in their own product to make it even more interesting.

Step 2. Trend Sources

Where to look for trends? In general, you can search for trends everywhere from social networks to Google Trends. We have identified the following main searching tools:

  • Storeglide—tracking new games on the App Store and Google Play. This platform helps you follow what is happening in the market and understand the main development tendencies.
  • Sensor Tower—an analytics platform that enables you to do competitor analysis and see what creatives are being used by other companies.
  • YouTube—a platform where you can follow bloggers.

We distinguish the following three categories on YouTube:

The first category is review channels. Don’t limit your scope: study various reviews of challenges, games, funny or viral videos. Bloggers compete with one another and strive to make content that gets the most views. Therefore, choose a few top reviewers and keep an eye on them. This way you will stay in touch with the latest and emerging trends.

The second category consists of people who create handicrafts, pictures, or engage in other art forms. Their activities are also a great source of ideas.

The third category is made up of reviewers of hyper-casual games. Their reviews save time: in a couple of minutes you will learn everything about the game without having to download it. By the way, it’s a great tool to use after a global launch. You can watch the way players interact with the game and see if there are any situations where they don't behave as expected, as well as if they have difficulties at any stage. This way, you will know what to improve.

  • TikTok is a platform where trends appear almost every day. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to explore new content here.

In general, TikTok is a very useful tool for scaling up and marketing, and the better you understand its audience, the easier it will be for you to develop the project. The platform has a section called Discover, which contains trending hashtags—take the time to analyze them. Another good exercise is to follow the accounts that post hyper-casual games and try to understand why some videos go viral and others don’t.

Life hack: comments under the posts can give you an idea of what the audience loves, why a video gains likes and reposts, and why other videos are not so successful.

Step 3. Development

Our Fidget Toys Trading project is based on a TikTok trend—toys exchange (#fidgettrading, 1.3B views).

When you develop a product based on a trend, there are several important aspects to consider:

1. User retention

To begin with, try to understand whether the play mechanics connected with the chosen trend is deep enough to prevent the player from getting bored. Perhaps, in addition to one type of mechanics you should use several others to make the user immersed in the game even more, while trend-related mechanics should serve as an attraction tool.

We settled on one type of mechanics—collecting things. It is a strong motivator that shows good performance in metagames.

2. Content

Choose the content from the trend that you are going to use and decide which of its characteristics you will transfer into the game. Start looking for the right elements and items that are currently popular or gaining traction.

In #fidgettrading, toys exchange usually focused on ASMR toys (antistress toys), so our goal was to transfer these antistress properties to the project. Therefore, we chose pop-it, simple-dimple, and squish as the main toys.

3. Development speed

In the current market realities, it’s important to understand that sooner or later others will notice the trend and begin to develop an almost similar project. In this case, it is important to build a development process based on your resources and plans.

4. Creatives

In addition to the fact that trends become obsolete quite quickly, keep in mind that not everyone is familiar with them. Therefore, prepare promotional videos in advance: use various graphics options, camera views, and stories to make people interested, even if they haven’t seen the trend.

Get your creative baggage ready before the global launch. This way, after the launch you will be able to concentrate on making changes to the game metrics.

Recommendations

  • The CPI will be constantly rising, so try to reduce or suspend its growth. And don't stop improving the game metrics even after going global.
  • Watch real-life events and integrate them into your games. For example, on the eve of Halloween, we prepared some holiday-themed creatives, and they performed better than most of the creatives we had done before.

Summary

  1. Organize the development process in such a way that you do not have to rebuild it abruptly when you start scaling up.
  2. Always keep an eye on products that enter the market, as well as competitors and their creatives. Analyze what is interesting about them, what is implemented poorly, what are the errors. This information will help you develop your own creatives and reduce your CPI.
  3. Analytical platforms, social networks, and video hosting are some of the main tools for finding trends.
  4. Assess the trend by various criteria: the depth of the mechanics, the content used, the speed of distribution, the awareness of your target audience about the given trend.

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