Designing a great game takes immense skill, precision, and patience. From mechanics to aesthetics, mastering the intricacies of creating a consistent, compelling and unique experience can take a lifetime.
As if the challenge of creating products for an ever-changing audience wasn’t great enough, the struggle to stand out in an already oversaturated market can be the final nail in the coffin for even the most promising and talented studios. Ultimately, though, the market defines which games succeed. Very few are a “guaranteed success”, like cheaply-made movies in a beloved franchise. For small development teams, the feat is next to impossible.
Against odds like this, you simply cannot design around a hypothetical, nonexistent audience; you must create one organically. Social networks are the answer.
But beware: many games struggle to seamlessly incorporate social media and entertainment, and a high percentage fail due to the wrong type of integration or simply the wrong approach. They key is to naturally integrate social features into the core game loop, without being detrimental to user experience.
Let’s learn how. Follow along as we discuss three major hotpoints when optimizing offline engagement.
Playing with social reminders is a dangerous game
In the age of Facebook integration, many browser and mobile games try to achieve a viral following by prompting players to send non-stop notifications to their friends in exchange for digital goods. While it sounds like a win-win arrangement on the face of it, especially to designers, this functionality is quite often developed with a careless disregard for user experience.
It’s an unfortunate fact that few UX designers understand how to effectively walk the line between generating compelling viral content and simply generating spam. While we’re all taught to design for whales, a good way to ruin your public image (negatively impacting your community and risking revenue loss) is by shamelessly badgering users to play your game with intrusive and un-targeted notifications.
So design with the user in mind - not your bank account - and loyalty will follow. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a thoughtful notification system, and when expertly implemented it can bring in a significant amount of additional revenue.
Facebook integration is key
As long as it doesn’t detract from the user’s overall experience, implement the option for social network login. Not only does it allow for SSO in your application, but it gives you authorization to obtain valuable information about your userbase.
With this simple behavior tracking, you can accurately determine demographics of the people using your application. You can then use that data to more effectively market your game by targeting key users to grow your digital community. By reaching out in this exact way, you’re more likely to see a positive reaction from a greater percentage of users.
As the most powerful data broker in the world, it’s no surprise that so many businesses encourage Facebook integration. Simply put, friend lists are incredibly influential. As long as you design notifications carefully and explicitly offer users ways to easily suppress them, there is no way you cannot benefit from the goldmine that is Facebook data.
Networks vs “networks”
There’s a big difference between designing for social networks and designing for audience networks. While the former will certainly increase your digital footprint and ensure some level of online community, the latter is where true value lies.
Even the largest studios create attractive gameplay bonuses for playing with friends. A great example of this is Blizzard, which offers exclusive bonuses for users who play with members of their Battle.net friend list (or recruit friends to play). The genius of this is that it carries over, regardless of whether they’re playing Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft, or World of Warcraft.
Designing bonuses around playing with friends creates an even stronger bond in the long run. It not only makes users want to play your game more often, but it makes them want to play with friends more often. Combine addictive content with the hypothetical 6 degrees of separation and you could be looking at a massive, organic audience.
With the recent resurgence of local multiplayer games, it’s important to keep an ear to the ground in your community. Has there been a fundamental shift in interest? Are users seeking more personalized experiences in an oversaturated market?
If you can effectively demonstrate that you value your players’ offline relationships (and cater to them without ostracizing solo players), you’ll have a powerful motivator to transform offline users into your game’s best spokespeople..
Did we miss anything you’d like to add? Tell us your best tips for optimizing offline engagement.