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Five Tips to Keep People Playing Your Game

Looking at the most popular games downloaded so far in 2013, we explore what factors these games have in common that keep people coming back for more.

Maria Baeta, Blogger

November 7, 2013

3 Min Read

We collect a lot of data at Softonic. The data show us which apps – from games to utilities – are downloaded most and, more importantly perhaps, which have the most loyal users. For example, worldwide, Softonic users have downloaded more than 285,000,000 games so far in 2013. In the race for top game downloads in the U.S. Slender: The Eight Pages is narrowly beating Minecraft as the most downloaded game on the Web, with more than 700,000 downloads in 2013 so far. Subway Surfers is by far the most downloaded mobile game with almost 80,000 downloads.

These are great numbers but what do they tell us about the games themselves? What is it about Slender, for instance, that keeps people downloading and playing it? I recently attended GameLab, an international exhibition of video games and interactive entertainment, where speakers gave some insight into the success of their games. I took away five reasons why those games are a hit and have loyal followings. Here they are, along with some examples of what I think are games that meet the standards.

1. They have a unique story line: One of the most important elements is a game’s story. There are two kinds of stories:  designer stories and player stories. Designer stories relate to the immovable plot of the game, scripted events and everything that the user cannot change. Player stories, on the other hand, are those that vary according to the user's game. A good story comes from balancing the two types of narratives. For example, killing a character, taking one path or another or answering A or B are part of these stories, and will make each experience unique or, at the very least, one of hundreds of variations.

Examples: Slender, Surgeon Simulator 2013, Minecraft

2. They challenge gamers: Make sure it’s not too easy. Gamers want to be challenged and then rewarded for their efforts. It’s also fun for users to be able to see how they compare to others playing the game for some added competition.

Examples: GTA V, Temple Run, Despicable Me: Minion Rush, Surgeon Simulator 2013

3. They offer a surprising twist: When you’re not expecting something, you get more pleasure from it. That’s human nature. So don’t give everything away. Build up anticipation by not releasing too many details before users play/find the twists themselves. When we compared the sales of games that were released following demos and trailers, to those that released only a trailer, the games without a demo sold more (generally speaking).

Examples: GTA: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV, GTA V

4. They are available anywhere on any device: One platform isn’t going to cut it. Let users go back and forth between playing on their PC at home to their mobile device on-the-go, without having to start over each time. Keep in mind, though, despite the rise of mobile gaming, the days of the traditional format aren't numbered because the TV is still the center of the home. So, playing on a home console won’t disappear, it'll just have to share the space with ever more portable devices.

Examples: Minecraft, Slender, Temple Run, Subway Surfers

5. They are free or offer flat/fixed fees: Let the user pay a flat fee and have access to everything. In total they may be paying more than they would by making micropayments, but their perception is that they have more freedom and access to the entire world that the game offers. Don’t surprise gamers by charging more later on. Charge a flat/fixed fee for access to everything all at once to keep players from quitting midway through.

Examples: Grand Theft Auto IV, Farming Simulator 2013, Slender, Subway Surfers

While we continue to seek game nirvana - the "perfect" game with impressive graphics and plot, a comfortable interface, fair payment system, complex artificial intelligence and options for interacting with friends - keeping these five attributes top of mind will get game designers started on the right path.

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