Appszoom for Developers

5 Ingredients of a Great Mobile Game

Posted by on 10/05/2017

Video games divide opinion. They get criticized for promoting violence, inactivity, and antisocial behavior. We’ve seen common media narratives of the game that pushed a terrorist over the edge, the game that’s keeping kids away from the soccer field, and the game that led to a couple’s break-up.

On the other hand, they’re praised for delivering artistic value, increasing coordination, and reducing stress. They get preserved in a shared nostalgia—Tetris, Super Mario Bros, and Tomb Raider have become markers in time, helping us to access the past and recognize their role in shaping our lives.

Mobile games are more popular than ever, and bring in more revenue than ever before. In 2016, US mobile game downloads generated 3.31 billion dollars, up from 2.03 billion dollars in 2013. If you’re looking to make it as an app developer, gaming could be a good place to start.

At Appszoom we’ve reviewed thousands of games. Many miss the mark, and only a special few get things just right to deliver a memorable mobile game experience. We’ve used our experience to create a list of ingredients for a top mobile game.

Already made a mobile game? Discover the do’s and don’ts of testing it.

Super Mario Bros by Nintendo: Shared nostalgia

The toughness sweet spot

Pleasurable gaming experiences make you mad. At least, that’s what Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto concluded after studying addictive arcade games such as Pac-Man. He learned that players need to understand the limits of their power in the game world. If players can quickly get to grips with a control system and understand those limits, it creates a compulsive gaming experience—one that infuriates if the difficult level is set just right.

Why is an infuriating game often a pleasurable experience? Because you’re left knowing there’s a possibility of success even when you fail. Ramping up the challenge can create a compelling environment. But if it’s too hard? Players won’t make any progress and feel like the odds are stacked against them.

Flappy Bird (R.I.P.) is the best modern example of a game that hit the toughness sweet spot. Controls are simple—tap to flap a bird’s wings to keep it airborne as it flies horizontally. Limits of the gamer’s power are obvious—green pipes create barriers with small gaps through which the bird can fly. The challenge is set—tap too soon and the bird hits the upper pipe, too late and it collides with the lower one. People playing for the first time often need 10 tries before they even make it through the first gap. But progress can be made, and it’s that mix of infuriation with that faint glimmer of hope that keeps you coming back for more.

Your game doesn’t have to be a simplistic as Flappy Bird. However, simple games with recycled mechanics work well on mobile because of limitations to the platform.

Flappy Bird: Get used to seeing this screen

Give me some space, will ya?

One such limitation is storage space. Modern games on any platform are getting bigger in size, owing to our appetite for more realistic graphics and cinematography. If you’ve watched the documentary Indie Gamer, you’ll know that games are an artistic labor of love for many developers. They hone in on the small details, ensuring that shadows shift accurately, grass bends in the breeze, and character animations are elaborate. Models, lighting, and texture all add to the weight of the game.

On mobile, the expectation for blockbuster graphics isn’t there. While nice visuals are important, that shouldn’t necessarily mean realistic, sprawling 3D worlds. Often, the best graphics are pleasing yet light on memory.

Even if you have app that’s taking little storage space, it’s worth considering how much data you’ll need to store on a user’s device. A phone takeover from one app and its endless hunger for MBs is never fun for users. The Simpsons Tapped Out is a perfect example of this. The app itself is around 45MB, while locally stored files may rack up to 500MB and beyond.

Consider this before you start developing your game, not after. Does your game concept require you to store heaps of data on the user’s device?

The Simpsons Tapped Out: Tapping out my phone memory

Be original

Gems Crush, Ice Crush, Fruit Crush, Toy Crush, Lollipop Crush, Cookie Crush, Diamond Crush…the list of imitations of popular genre-leading games is endless. Imitation, admittedly, doesn’t mean you won’t be successful. Many popular games evolve out of a long history of games with similar mechanics. Angry Birds is nothing new—it comes from a line of aim-and-fire games like this one featuring Gorillas.

The difference is that Angry Birds breathed fresh life into old mechanics. An intriguing storyline, colorful graphics, entertaining animations of stuff getting destroyed—all this contributed to a fresh perspective on a tried and tested formula. Adding a different word before “Crush” and changing the puzzle game’s icons to match that word doesn’t constitute originality.

Getting ideas for original games is hard. But it’s possible. Use experiences from everyday life, and remember that there are no barriers to gaming—genres exist but so do unexplored genres. Just how would you classify Ryan and Amy Green’s game about their son’s battle with cancer?  The idea you think would never make a good video game might just be a groundbreaker.

That Dragon, Cancer: A game about a child with cancer. Really.

What’s the point?

Gripping games give players a reason to come back for more. A sense of purpose can be drawn from a player in a number of ways. Many games use engaging storylines—point-and-click titles like Yesterday, Gemini Rue, and The Lost City all contain twisting plot lines that deliver mystery, suspense, and intrigue. Players return to these titles like they would a good book, urged on by a fascination for what’s coming next.

But rich storylines don’t work for every game. Some games employ a loose story, but rely on the gameplay and rewards handed out as you play. Think Cut the Rope—there’s a story, more or less, but the real draw comes from those rewards.

By rewards, we’re not just talking unlockable power-ups and levels. Rewards can also be psychological. Games that keep you hooked prompt the release of small amounts of dopamine in your brain. This is achieved by making rewards uncertain—in Cut the Rope you slash strategically and wait a few seconds for your reward (Om Nom munching the candy). Positive feedback, such as the sounding of chimes as you collect stars and the crunch of the candy as it reaches Om Nom’s mouth, adds to the feeling of being rewarded.

Discover the secret of “sticky” apps right here.

Other games help players feel a sense of purpose through something called “peacocking”. Farmville, for example, taps into our innate need to show how good we are at taking care of things. A well-tended garden, expansive city, or impressive theme park visually represent how dutiful and responsible we are. A competitive drive to “look” better than others keeps us coming back for more.  

Farmville: My harvest is more bountiful than yours

Ease of use

Players won’t hang around if your game is full of bugs or difficult to get to grips with.

Sort out any bugs through user testing. When the app’s in beta, have a simple way to report bugs through the app’s interface, the app store, or your website. There’s nothing worse than a frozen screen, or a game that completely crashes, losing all progress.

Ease of use isn’t the same as difficulty level. It essentially asks the question: “how easy is it for a new player to understand the mechanics of the game?” A big part of this comes down to onboarding—how the player is introduced to the game. Is there a tutorial? Do dialogue boxes appear, drawing attention to something? Do you first present the player with the simplest puzzle possible?

This is down to you. Again, Cut the Rope is a good example of effective onboarding. Watch the first minute of this video. You’ll see that the player is launched straight into the gameplay, faced with the simplest puzzle possible and very little text to interrupt the flow of the game.

Develop for yourself

Miyamoto said that he always created games that he himself would enjoy. Don’t make the mistake of looking at the top-rated games in the app store and copying them because you think most people will enjoy yet another version of Candy Crush. Develop something that you’d download.

Make it challenging but not impossible, light on memory, easy to get to grips with, bug-free, original—and give people a reason to come back for more. With these ingredients, you might just be on your way to a great mobile game.


Topics: App marketing, App promotion

How To Become Invisible: 3 Simple Secrets of Sticky Apps

Posted by on 09/01/2017

Take a look at the things you use every day: a chair, a water bottle, the internet. All of these things were designed. And standing behind them, a designer—someone whose brain mapped out a solution to a problem. These people are able to imagine a world in which their product slips into the fabric of everyday life. Most people don’t concern themselves with envisioning products that help us make progress as a society—what could be possibly be any better than sitting on the ground, collecting water from a fossett, and staying connected by calling people?

A successful product is an invisible product. It’s something that’s so useful in your life, you no longer notice it. The same goes for apps. The most successful apps become so integral to daily actions, they never get dragged over to the uninstall button—a dream for any app developer.

So how can you make your app invisible? Here’s a list of things to consider.

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Topics: App promotion

How to Write Great App Microcopy

Posted by on 07/03/2017

If copy and design met on Tinder, they’d both swipe right and hit it off.

That’s because good copy and good design go hand in hand. Good copy reinforces smart design and improves the user experience (UX). Good design reduces the need for lots of text—reducing friction and also enhancing the UX. You shouldn’t have to write two lines of text to explain what the user needs to do.

But what the blazes is microcopy?  

Microcopy is the text that silently guides you through an online experience. It’s the guy or girl who glides around the party, quietly topping up drinks (and maybe puts you in a cab later when you’ve had one too many). It can take the form of an error message when you complete a field incorrectly, a button that submits a request, or a confirmation message when something’s happened. It’s the kind of thing you never notice, but really miss when it’s not around.

If you’re a regular Facebook user, you probably stare at the same piece of microcopy at least once a day:

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Topics: App promotion

Keep the Noise Down: Calm tech in the age of distraction

Posted by on 06/02/2017

In last week’s UpVote podcast by Wired, there was a very telling story from Raj Samani, Chief Scientist at McAfee/Intel. He was asked about the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack: “I started to get emails in my inbox and my phone started to blow up […] I haven’t really slept since that day. I was on about 400 messages an hour […] I was with my daughter, who’ s 11 years old, and she put her phone next to mine—mine was like a Christmas tree—and she said “Daddy I can’t wait ‘till the day I get 400 messages an hour.” I couldn’t stop laughing, and a said: “I wish I was getting zero like you”. This is becoming the norm now.”

Blow up. Christmas tree. 400 messages an hour. A non-stop audiovisual assault. And an 11 year-old who aspires to being in the midst of it someday.

The language we use when describing what our devices do is exaggerated. But the feeling we get isn’t. Our senses are constantly bombarded, often by unnecessary or repeated messages, leading to distraction and panic.

We need calm technology.

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Topics: App promotion

How Facebook is Framing the Future of App Development

Posted by on 05/03/2017

Around two weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg sauntered onto the stage at Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference to deliver his keynote speech. Aside from delivering the usual bouts of trademark creepy laughter, he also delivered significant news for developers that will change the way we think about applications.

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Topics: App promotion

The Internet of (Expensive) Things

Posted by on 04/04/2017

You’re driving home, 80s rock blaring from the car speakers. It’s raining out; in fact the temperature has dropped significantly over the last few days.

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Topics: Uncategorized


Posted by on 03/01/2017

We’ve all done it.

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Topics: App promotion

5 tips to boost your mobile app marketing in 2017

Posted by on 02/01/2017


Mobile accounted for more than 44% of digital advertising in 2016, and 2017 is slated to be the year mobile takes over desktop. Meanwhile, with mobile user habits and trends are constantly changing, it is becoming harder to acquire and retain users.

This is why you need a well-planned mobile marketing campaign more than ever. In the ever shifting landscape of mobile apps, here are a few tools that can improve the efficiency of your mobile marketing efforts in 2017.

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Topics: App promotion

The best of 2016 trending in mobile commerce

Posted by on 12/13/2016

commerce trends mobile

There is no doubt that our lives have been completely changed after the introduction of mobile phones. In a modern world in which we’re constantly seeking to deepen our connectivity to the internet, we’ve reached a point where life is impossible without smartphones. Everyone has a least a few apps downloaded on their smartphone, and lives seem to come to complete standstill without the internet. In 2015 we witnessed amazing leaps forward in mCommerce app development. There was, however, more room for development and 2016 has proven to be even more exciting with further advances unlike anything ever seen before

Research shows that there are 2.6 billion smartphone users in the world, and this number is forecasted to increase to a whopping 6.1 billion by 2020. Furthermore, 90 percent of all users enjoy 24/7 access to their mobile phones, and as a result, to the Internet. The need for more mobile phones has intensified, and 2016 saw demand grow exponentially. In 2015 many business realized the potential and began switching their priorities to mobiles. This trend continued in 2016 and many experts believe there it will carry through to 2017 and beyond.

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Topics: App promotion

Five simple methods to boost your mobile app development process

Posted by on 11/29/2016

five simple methods to boost mobile app development process

Aspiring software creators can find the process of mobile app development truly rewarding. However, like everything else in life, it can be quite difficult if you lack proper planning and resources, and can soon turn into a frustrating experience. Many people run the risk of overcompensating in the early days; development teams tend to devote too much of their time to ideation and design, all the while forgetting to devote time and effort to back-end operations. The same applies to key process stages, such as support and maintenance. Below are five steps that we consider best practice when it comes to mobile app development. This includes streamlining, optimizing, boosting the overall process, and of course, significantly elevating your chances of getting linked with users and providing an engaging experience for them.

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Topics: App promotion

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