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

The principles that make app engagement marketing simple

Posted by on 10/18/2016


These days, the mission of most companies is plain and simple: putting every effort into increasing their value to the highest peak possible. However, there is another viewpoint that does not consider the product, the brand, or even the team to be the most valuable asset. In fact, the most important asset is sitting right before your eyes, the person that’s always right: the customer. The companies that enjoy the most success follow a simple line in each and every stage of their customer lifespan: during the acquisition of new buyers, in escalating the lifetime value (LTV) of each buyer, and during their conversion process into advocates of the product.

In today’s world it is the duty of the marketer to act as guide to the journey their customers are on; to establish bonds with each and every customer no matter where they are. This may involve making contact using social media, providing a unique experience through various devices, or providing personalized criteria and communications.

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Topics: App marketing

Advanced app user retention 101

Posted by on 10/11/2016

mobile phone woman

Two very distinct yet related measures of application success are mobile app retention and engagement. A recipe for failure consists of low app engagement, while you know you’re onto a winner if you have growing engagement and retention.

Here’s what you need to know.

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Topics: App marketing

How to choose between mobile app and mobile web for marketing campaigns

Posted by on 10/08/2016


Deciding between mobile app and mobile web is most probably the most common dispute in the mind of marketers. When a growing number of people across the globe own a mobile device or smartphone, the issue at hand becomes even more important.

With profit often as the goal, how can brands master the art of communication with their customers while not forgetting to respect the user? Can brands merely build a mobile app and consider it done?

If the objective is mobile advertising effectiveness, vital factors must be considered when deciding between mobile app and mobile web.

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Topics: App marketing

How top brands are using mobile apps to promote their services

Posted by on 09/23/2016


Brands are always looking for new, innovative ways to create more efficient ads and improve conversion rates. Trends quickly shift and what works today might no longer be effective tomorrow. For instance, at their dawn, banner ads were one of the most effective advertising mediums. Today, they’re one of the most invasive types of ads with the lowest click through rate.

Presently, mobile advertising is on the rise. Brands and companies are increasingly embracing mobile marketing campaigns. This is especially important since more than half the total internet traffic comes from mobile devices, a figure that is slated to rise in the future.

Today, about 49 percent of digital ad spending is allocated to mobile ads, and by 2019, the figure will rise to 72 percent. With trends leaning toward mobile advertisement, companies are learning to use the personalized experience and unique features of mobile apps to create marketing campaigns that are engaging for their audience and generate better return on investment.

Here are four successful examples of how mobile apps are changing the marketing landscape.

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Topics: App marketing, App promotion

How to improve app marketing through social media monitoring

Posted by on 09/20/2016


With their propagation and growth, social media platforms have proven to be an indispensable tool for many professions, including app marketing. With social media networks, you can connect to new customers, trigger public conversations about your app, offer new channels to communicate with your brand, and provide a unified place to share your content globally.

The openness of social media is improving transparency and accountability and is driving more authentic and informal conversations about apps.

But while there’s no doubt about the power hidden behind social media marketing, you need to have the means to monitor your efforts in order to be able to use your social media accounts to their full potential.

Monitoring social media efforts can help you stay ahead of your competitors, keep your customers engaged and make sure all mentions of your brand and app are properly dealt with. Effectively, you get the biggest bang for the buck while also mitigating risks and controlling damage.

In this article, I will touch upon the basics of social media monitoring in different domains of app marketing.

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Topics: App marketing

5 tips for writing better press releases for your mobile app

Posted by on 09/16/2016


Reaching out to the media is an important step of your app marketing efforts. No one will automatically learn about your app in the endless, roiling sea of apps that are vying for user attention and smartphone real estate. But a well-placed article or blog post can generate lots of traffic to your app, give you an SEO boost and amplify your marketing efforts like nothing else. A good press release is one of the things you need when you want to pitch your app to the press.

But since thousands (if not millions) of other developers and publishers are doing the same thing, writing a killer press release that will make your app stand out from the competition can be a challenging feat. Here’s how you can write a press release that will put you on a better footing to draw the attention of bloggers and journalists.

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Topics: App marketing, App promotion

How to come up with app ideas that sell

Posted by on 09/13/2016


Creating software is a risky business in general. You spend hundreds and thousands of hours developing your application, and then you have to keep your fingers crossed, hoping against hope that it will produce the buzz and excitement that you expect. Successful mobile app projects are even harder to pull than traditional software. Mobile devices are more limited in memory and real estate in comparison to other computing devices, and you have to have a good reason to convince users to install and keep using your app.

A lot of it hinges on the idea behind your app. Is it something that hasn’t been done before (like Pokemon Go)? Is it a personalized version of a famous tool (like the Facebook app)? Why should users choose your app over the millions of others that are available out there?

But contrary to popular belief, great ideas are not the product of divine intervention or the minds of the gifted few who can foresee the future and decide an impeccable course of action. Successful app ideas are the result of meticulous, step by step action which can identify problems and find solutions to those problems.

In this piece, I will share a few recommendations that can aid you in defining the path of your app idea generation process, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned developer.

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Topics: App marketing

How to grow your app’s email marketing list

Posted by on 09/10/2016


You’ll hear a lot about email marketing having become passé, a thing of the past, a tool to ultimately avoid… You’ll also hear a lot about how mobile push notifications are your salvation and can bring you tons of downloads, leads, and customers (which is true by the way).

The truth is, email marketing has been put to so much ill use that it has fallen from grace, like many other things (banner ads anyone?). But anything done wrong can turn into a disaster, including mobile push notifications. Push notifications can become intrusive on their own, especially since smartphones are extremely personal devices, and users can quickly get annoyed when targeted with untimely and irrelevant ads, and subsequently turn off notifications and block you out forever.

Placing your bets on any single medium to reach out to your user makes it easier to lose touch. So you should value every channel you have to connect with, and engage, your potential customers. That includes email lists.

Fact of the matter is, email lists are far from dead, and if used properly, they can turn out to be one of your most effective – and favorite – app marketing tools. In this post, I will show you how to grow your email list and put it to good use.

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Topics: App marketing

What is mobile app deep linking?

Posted by on 09/09/2016


URLs and links have become all too common in the world of web. Find a page that you like, copy the web address, and send it to a friend via social media, email or SMS, and they can instantly point their browser to the same location and share the experience with you.

Imagine if you could do the same with the contents of a mobile app. This is something that is made possible through “deep linking,” a development technology that hasn’t been given its proper due over past years, but is fast gaining popularity both among app developers and marketers and was predicted as one of the mobile app trends to impact 2016.

In this post, you’ll learn about the basics of deep linking, the benefits and caveats.

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Topics: App marketing

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