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Tips for how to design and develop free-to-play games

This post shows some tips on how to make your HTML5 free-to-play games attractive so you can monetize them via ads, the purchase of virtual goods or any other way. For example, the first tip is about making short game loops.

Free-to-play games, or F2Ps, are one of the types of video games that is currently generating the most business. They’re games that are offered free at first to an ever larger audience. These games monetize primarily via advertising, the purchase of virtual goods or powerups within the game itself, or with a combination of both.

The way to conceive and plan the design of a free-to-play game is quite different than for other game models, like pay-to-play or P2P games for example, which are bought and downloaded with all their content and functionalities already activated. In the case of the F2P games, it’s very important to hook the player from the first instant, since the monetization of the game largely depends how capable we are of making a game attractive enough so that the player will want to repeat the experience many times.

At WiMi5, we’d like to offer the following tips on how to make your HTML5 games attractive so you can monetize them.

  1. Make short game loops

One of the most important parts of a game is the game loop. Basically, this means that all the important game stuff should happen inside that loop. Most of the time, it’s everything that is the game itself, excluding other parts of the game, such as menus, optional screens, etc. When we recommend short loops, we mean that you should try to keep each match short, especially at the beginning of the game. This allows the player to quickly see what the game is about, and what types of challenges and rewards they can get. A great example of a short game loop, in this case a super-short loop, is the extremely well-known Flappy Bird.

tips for free to play games

  1. Make the game fun

It seems pretty basic, doesn’t it? But sometimes you can forget that the game should be about having fun. Each player has their own way of having a good time; for example, some people like to be scared to have good time. For others, having a good time means solving complex mental puzzles. However, in casual games, you usually tend to make the game fun as a formula to make the player to have a good time. This fun is in itself a kind of reward so that the player feels more attracted to the game. For example, Matt Coombe differentiates between several types of fun that we can find in a game like this. So, jumping to catch coins could be fun, but so is finishing a game level, or scoring more points than your friends.

make the games fun

  1. Make the game never end

Many games are organized by levels, so that the player keeps going up levels that tend to get more complex or that demand the payer already have acquired certain skills. There is always the possibility of adding more levels as the players start finishing them off. On occasion, the players may get different scores (normally stars) in the levels depending on whether they played well or poorly. This encourages the player to repeat levels to get better scores. The more time someone is playing your game, the more possibilities there are of your game generating income. Does anyone know how Clash of Clans or Candy Crush end?

  1. Design your game for both the players who want to pay and the players who don’t. 

The players who don’t pay are just as important as those who do. They provide many things, and are essential for creating a community where both types of players can exist. What’s more, they’ll talk about your game, participate in the rankings, and make up the largest part of your game’s player community. Therefore, your game should be attractive both to those players who will never spend a cent and to those who pay €100 a month.

make the game never end

  1. Make games for everybody.

Try to make your game for all audiences. Look for simple mechanics that are apt for less experienced players but which also hook the more demanding players at the same time. Your game should be able to be played by very different audiences who have different gaming experiences. In this respect, it’s very important to carefully choose your platform; try to use as many as possible. Thanks to HTML5, this is possible, since it allows your game to be on several platforms, such as mobiles, tablets, PCs, laptops, consoles, or even smartTVs.

  1. Make great graphics 

And if you don’t know how to, and neither does anyone on your team, collaborate with a professional or subcontract an experienced illustrator. Graphics in casual games are everything. They are essential to get people to fall in love at first sight. They make up the first hook that will draw in players and show them the game’s basic concept directly and immediately. A simple and intuitive design that is accessible to anyone eliminates any entry barriers there might be to playing, such as not knowing how to play, for instance. A tricky design or an interface that isn’t clear and which doesn’t instantaneously clarify the game’s mechanics adds barriers instead of eliminating them.

These are some recommendations, but there are many great tips on the Internet. Here are some interesting links:

An analysis of game loops

An infograph about the science behind addictive video games (like Candy Crush)

An analysis of the fun we can find in a game

On the psychology behind addictive video games and this

Tips for creating casual games

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