How to make your users hate you in 5 easy steps
“Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering” -Yoda
Hate. Such a strong word. A word I don’t like to use often. Unfortunately, when it comes to mobile gaming, there are certain aspects that make me hate. Luckily, I have not yet added Force Choke to my arsenal, so simply deleting your game will have to suffice. Let’s cut through the surface level reasons gamers hate you (Buggy updates, Ads in premium games) and dive deeper.
I don’t like to hit animals, especially cute, puppy-like animals…it makes me feel like an awful person inside. Unfortunately, when game developers make the conscious decision to plague me with an artificial roadblock 30 minutes into my game, I get puppy-kickin’ mad. I understand that you want to monetize your game, and users not spending money means you aren’t monetizing. While not monetizing is certainly a problem, perhaps it may be best to take a deeper look into the goods or purchase options you offer and where in the game you’re offering them. What are you doing to make me want to purchase? If you ask yourself this, and the answer always comes back to game progression, perhaps re-evaluating your goods is in order. Luckily, I have seen less and less of this trend in freemium games over the last year. Your users will spend money if there is actually something compelling to spend money on; forcing the issue will not help any.
Forced E-mail/Facebook Login
This is the number one, fastest way for me to delete your game and never come back. E-mail/Facebook logins should always be optional, not required. One of the main reasons I have an email account entirely for spam is because I play a decent amount of games (both for fun and for work), and there is an increasing number of them requiring me to login through email or facebook. Instead of forcing, why not give me a compelling reason to share my Facebook information with you. Can I quickly find and play with my friends via Facebook? If yes, great! Can I get a special item or some sort of non-crucial added benefit for logging into Facebook? Well that’s great too! There are so many creative ways out there to incorporate obtaining your users E-mails and Facebook logins that it makes me cringe when a game requires me to do so.
Time-based gaming mechanics have become prominent in the world of Facebook and mobile gaming. So much so, that it seems I can hardly find a game these days without some kind of time-based element. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely against time-based games, however, I am against games that give me 30-45 seconds of play time before I have nothing left to do unless I purchase some virtual currency. Look game devs, we don’t need the whole pie, but give us at least a reasonable slice. It seems counterintuitive to me if your goal is maximizing In-App Purchase revenue to allow your users to play your game once every hour (or 12) to actually progress.
I’ll make a quick reference to PokéMon here, as I think it can apply nicely to time-based freemium games. One thing that PokéMon has done better than almost any game on the market to date is appeal to any gamer, at any level of gaming dedication. It’s rare to find games in which 8 year olds and 28 year olds can both find equal levels of enjoyment, but perhaps in completely different ways. An 8 year old may be excited to play for 30 minutes a day and catch an awesome Snorlax. A 28 year old may find joy out of walking through the same patch of grass for 36 total game hours to find the Shiny Abra, or pouring through PokéMon stats to find that perfect competitive lineup. The reason I use this analogy, is because PokéMon gives everyone something to do, no matter if they are casual or hardcore. Simply giving the finger to gamers that want to play for more than one minute without making a purchase is not the right approach.
Exorbitant Number of Clicks or a Frustrating UI
Listen…I get it – keeping us clicking, keeps us playing. Keeping us playing increases your overall user session time, and high overall user session time helps you get acquired by larger companies. Sorry, perhaps that was a bit cynical. In all seriousness though, I’ve played so many games where the number of clicks required to complete a menial task is so grossly inflated, I can’t decide if it’s just terrible game design, or terrible people behind the game design. While you may not see iTunes reviews based solely on this aspect, I can guarantee it’s a part of your user’s subconscious. Now perhaps I am being biased coming from the PC side of gaming, but there, pride was taken in how seamless and intuitive your UI was. When forced to navigate through an awful UI or inventory screen, frustration was often voiced loudly in user forums. I’m not sure if the mobile crowd is just not vocal enough, or if they are just not accustomed to some of the beautiful layouts and UI designs that you see in the PC space. Bottom line is, making menial tasks overly complicated to artificially inflate your user session time is frustrating and will eventually make your users lose their patience, and likely their interest.
Paying for Power in a Competitive Game
This is a topic I could talk all day about (and perhaps I will in a future post). I think some serious questions come to mind when discussing the simultaneous rise in both competitive gaming and freemium gaming. As someone who has high hopes for the competitive gaming scene over the next five to ten years, seeing mobile gaming enter the competitive scene is both exciting, and frightening. While there are certainly games that nail what a freemium competitive game should be, these are few and far between. With mobile revolutionizing the gaming industry; will we see console and PC gaming shift away from the niche markets to capitalize on where the money is? Sorry, I digress; let’s get back on topic. With freemium being basically the standard for new mobile games, we have seen a massive influx of multiplayer and quasi-competitive games on the market giving us the ability to progress faster than our friends, crush our foes in heated battles, or collect the strongest deck of cards simply by shelling out a couple of bones. Unfortunately, if you plan on marketing your game as competitive and have obvious ways for users to pay to get an advantage, backlash can be tremendous. Paying for power should be a big no-no if you are looking to make a seriously competitive title.