Idle Games: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games

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Transcript of Idle Games: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games

GDC 2005

Idle Games: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games

Anthony PecorellaDirector of Browser Virtual GoodsKongregate.comWho am I?At Kongregate for 6 years, directing our browser-based virtual goods businessProducer for AdVenture CapitalistAlso an indie designer, cofounder of Level Up Labs

What is Kongregate?Open platform for browser-based gamesFlash, Unity, HTML5, etc. 16M+ monthly unique visitors worldwideCore gamers 85% male, average age of 22MMOs, RPGs, CCGs/TCGs, TD, shooters, etc.Platform level virtual currency kreds for F2P gamesAcquired by GameStop July 2010

Some of Kongregates Partners

Kongregate is also a mobile publisher

Why Are We Talking About This?Its the birth of a new genreOnly 2 years old in modern formIt is becoming very popular!

Why Are We Talking About This?Fabulous retention statsSome of the best-retaining games on all of Kongregate.comGenerates great revenueARPUs well-above most single-player games on Kongregate.com

History and EvolutionProgress Quest (2002, Eric Fredricksen)Parody of MMORPGs stats and auto-attackA zero player game

History and EvolutionKongregates chat system created early breeding ground for idle games

Kongregate Chat (jmtb02, 2007)

Ayumilove HackerStory V1 (Ayumilove, 2008)10History and EvolutionAnti-Idle (2009, tukkun)Has both active and idleelementsHuge, with tons of contentReceiving new features andupdates 6 years laterLiterally yesterday!

History and EvolutionCow Clicker (2010, Ian Bogost)Parody of Farmville and other similar appointment social games

History and EvolutionA Dark Room (2013, Doublespeak Games), Candy Box (2013, aniewey)

Finite, can be beaten, more puzzle-like and exploration-based

A Dark Room (Doublespeak Games)

Candy Box (aniewey)History and EvolutionCookie Clicker (2013, Julien Orteil Thiennot)Parody of Candy Box

First major mainstream hitArguably created the genre in its modern formEstablished a basis for progression, upgrading, and prestiging imitated by most other idle games

History and EvolutionAdVenture Capitalist (2014, Cody Vigue / Hyper Hippo Games)Parody of capitalism and idle gamesOffline progressMore animated through progress bars

History and EvolutionClicker Heroes (2014, Playsaurus)Clearer RPG-style progressionAddition of cooldown skillsGreat visuals thanks to clever reuse of assets from their MMORPG (Cloudstone) Tap Titans (Game Hive) is a close derivative that incorporated great presentation and mobile UI

History and EvolutionMake It Rain (Space Inch, 2014)First major mobile idle gameHilarious concept, very viralIdle elements were heavily limited, requiring check-ins to progressAggressive ad strategyPretty brutal FBI monetization

History and EvolutionBitcoin Billionaire (Michael Stockwell / Noodlecake, 2014)Fantastic style, tone, and topicVery clear goals and presentationGreat use of opt-in ads Strong appointment mechanics, very limited offline progressOffline progress is actually a central monetization elementa mistake?

Other Notable EntriesDripStat (dripstat.com/game)Fantastic visualization of informationGlobal live leaderboardRealtime contributionsfrom other players

Other Notable EntriesSwarm Simulator (kawaritai, 2015)Explores a new funnel-basedeconomyProving extremely popular

Idle Game Core MechanicsProgress without interactionLow pressure experienceConstant positive growth and feedbackQuick check-ins can be very profitable by shifting up the growth curveGreat for social/mobile play patterns

Idle Game Core MechanicsProgress without interactionCreates a celebratory moment every time you return to the gameThe longer you dont the play the game, the bigger the reason to return!Forced appointment mechanics become an unnecessary element Even daily rewards arent used

AdVenture Capitalist

AdVenture CapitalistIdle Game Core MechanicsProgress without interactionRetention is often off the charts

Idle Game Core MechanicsProgress without interactionRetention is often off the charts

Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewardsLeads to increased sense of progress, psychologically fun and satisfying

AdVenture Capitalist

Swarm SimulatorIdle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewardsCore loop:Log inSpend all of your cashLog out, to return in a few hoursSound familiar?

Cityville (Zynga)Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewardsCreates a natural energy system without the need for an energy currencyMore palatable to players (esp. gamers)Has real-world analog, makes sense. Im out of cash, need to come back when I have more.Player feels more ownership over this decision. I could wait, but my time is worth more than that.

Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewardsCounter-balances offline play: yes, you get big rewards, but they grow linearlyTime loses value without interaction

Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewards

Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewards

Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewards

Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewards

Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewards

Idle Game Core MechanicsRapid growth of costs and power/rewards

Idle Game Core MechanicsTons of goals and achievementsProvides moments of joy spread out through the experienceAllow for moment-to-moment optimization and (temporarily) meaningful choices

AdVenture CapitalistIdle Game Core MechanicsPrestiging (New Game+)Choose to reset your game to get a boost the next time throughStart back over, but with much more power than before

Tap TitansIdle Game Core MechanicsPrestiging (New Game+)Provides a crucial strategic decision for the player Often tied to a separate currencyThis lets you transform exponential growth back to linear Leads to a new gameplay loop

Idle Game Core MechanicsPrestiging (New Game+)

Idle Game Core MechanicsPrestiging (New Game+)

Idle Game Core MechanicsPrestiging (New Game+)

Idle Game Core MechanicsPrestiging (New Game+)

Idle Game Core MechanicsPrestiging (New Game+)

Idle Game Core MechanicsPrestiging (New Game+)Ladder climbing Start over, but get a rung higher each time Gives a great sense of progress, flying through early content quickly. Feel incredibly powerful

Idle Game Core MechanicsRegular updatesSimple design and code allows for rapid iterationBalanceUI/UXFeatures & contentTrue for every successful idle game on Kongregate.com

Swarm SimulatorIdle Game Core MechanicsMake It BumpySmooth curves are boring, lack surprise and delight

Idle Game Core MechanicsMake It BumpySmooth curves are boring, lack surprise and delight

Idle Game Core MechanicsMake It BumpySmooth curves are boring, lack surprise and delight

Idle Elements in Other GenresReal-time social and strategy gamesProgresses while gone, though with hard caps (crops planted or max resource storage)

Hay Day (Supercell)

Mafia Wars (Zynga)Game of War (Kate Upton)Game of War (Machine Zone)Idle Elements in Other GenresChinese MMORPGsCurrent trend is becoming heavily auto-playCan include afk mode

Mythborne (R2 Games)Idle Elements in Other GenresChinese MMORPGsAbout min-maxing stats, making decisions optimize power gainsWestern audiences seem to be resistant to thisExpectation management?

Wartune (R2 Games)Idle Elements in Other GenresLaunch gamesTight-loop prestige systemsUsually no choice over prestige point, but similar feel of ladder-climbing progression

Curl Up and Fly (John Cooney / Kongregate)MonetizationCash infusion Get a percentage of current rateTime warpSpeed multipliersBuy a permanent x3 multiplier

AdVenture Capitalist

Clicker HeroesMonetizationInstant prestigeProtection against negative eventsBribe money for FBI (Make it Rain)Shield for your heroes (Tap Titans)Gacha system (random pulls of upgrades)Event currencies

AdVenture CapitalistMonetizationBanner/Interstitial adsOpt-in adsShort burst of cashSmall bit of premium currencyBrief powerful boostRelief of a negative statusMedium-length small boost

Bitcoin Billionaire

MonetizationBanner/Interstitial adsOpt-in adsShort burst of cashSmall bit of premium currencyBrief powerful boostRelief of a negative statusMedium-length small boost

Bitcoin BillionaireCase StudiesIdling to Rule the Gods (Ryu82, 2014)Branched out with some new mechanicsMany new systems added post-launchMade a ton of UI changes early on to address player concerns

Case StudiesIdling to Rule the Gods (Ryu82, 2014)Branched out with some new mechanicsMany new systems added post-launchMade a ton of UI changes early on to address player concerns

Case StudiesIdling to Rule the GodsComplicated interactions with deep, dense systems and lots of content

Case StudiesIdling to Rule the GodsMonetization is heavily focused on God Power premium currency, buying permanent boostsTemporary (90 min and until-prestige) boosts exist, but only about 12% of revenue

Case StudiesIdling to Rule the Gods

Case StudiesClicker HeroesDoes a great job spreading value across heroes

Case StudiesClicker HeroesUse of RPG-like cooldown skills provides quick action gameplay and very light strategy

Case StudiesClicker HeroesPrestige system involves a currency system (Hero Souls) with a trade-off between DPS bonus and ancient summoning

Case StudiesClicker HeroesCash infusion and instant prestige

Case StudiesClicker HeroesSimple but effective gacha systemAllows for multiple, valuable purchases

Case StudiesClicker Heroes

Case StudiesAdVenture CapitalistAppeal to both browser and mobile audiencesHeavy use of theme, tone, and humor

Case StudiesAdVenture CapitalistAppeal to both browser and mobile audiencesHeavy use of theme, tone, and humor

Case StudiesAdVenture CapitalistEffective ad implementationFits the theme wellProvides high value to playerIs relatively scarce, keeps tolerance high from playersHas some bugs, people complain that they cant watch ads!

Case StudiesAdVenture CapitalistEarly purchase of a x3 multiplier is extremely compellingOne of the highest buyer percentages on Kongregate.comUnlocks bulk multipliers over time

Case StudiesAdVenture CapitalistEarly purchase of a x3 multiplier is extremely compellingOne of the highest buyer percentages on Kongregate.comUnlocks bulk multipliers over time

Case StudiesAdVenture Capitalist

Case StudiesAdVenture CapitalistMobile retention held up well

Case StudiesAdVenture CapitalistAs did mobile ARPPU

iOS

Android

Kongregate.comCase StudiesSpender categories let us see distribution

Each game has $1000+ spenders

AdVenture Capitalist

Clicker Heroes

Idling to Rule the GodsCase StudiesRevenue distribution shows a very different picture

This picture is common for successful games though

AdVenture Capitalist

Clicker Heroes

Idling to Rule the GodsWhats Next?Classic spreadsheet-like idle games lose favor to more sophisticated visualization and presentationIdle spin-offs of games and brands

Adventure Quest: Dragons (Artix Entertainment)Whats Next?Idle becomes a modifier like RPGIdle Tactics, Action Idle RPG, Idle Match-3Idle design philosophies integrate into meta-game of standard genres

Puzzle Fuzz: Idle Stories (Andrew Pellerano / Kongregate)Thank You!Check out developers.kongregate.comBrowser games: [email protected] games: [email protected]: [email protected]gate.com