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1620280cookie-checkHow to build a hit mobile game
24 August 2021

How to build a hit mobile game

The mobile game market has exploded in popularity. In the last 10 years, mobile gaming has jumped from 18% of the gaming market to nearly 60% and experts suggest that it will continue to grow. So, if you want a piece of the mobile game pie, now’s a great time to go for it. But what does a mobile game need to be a hit?


The most basic rule for making a hit mobile game is that it has to be immediately enjoyable. Console or PC games that feature elaborate storylines with detailed world building that require hours and hours of gameplay to get into might be a great immersive experience but that just doesn’t work for mobile games. People often play mobile games while they are doing something else – waiting for an appointment, riding the bus, watching tv, etc – and therefore are less likely to be able to devote their whole attention to the game. This also means that the game must be enjoyable and playable in small chunks of time. If you’re listening out for your name to be called at the doctor’s office and miss an NPC revealing a key piece of lore, it’s frustrating, not fun. If your game idea will have players frequently turning to walkthroughs for help, maybe reconsider what platform you’re developing it for.

Simple but not too repetitive

Keeping the game simple without making it too repetitive is a delicate balance that is essential for building a hit mobile game. Puzzle games provide a good demonstration of how to achieve this balance. Puzzle games have one puzzle type but then find ways to make each level a bit different. Take match-three puzzles as an example – a match-three puzzle game might keep things interesting by changing how many different colored tiles are used, adding additional elements that remove rows or require multiple matches to be gotten rid of, or have a mix of untimed and timed levels. There might also be goals or rewards to work towards.

The need for simplicity was mentioned briefly above but should be restated. Since mobile games are often played in between or during other activities, they are often only played for short amounts of time. If a game is simple enough that a level can be completed in just a few minutes, it’s more likely that users will pick that game when they have a moment. A game that you have to keep pausing or need an extended period of time to play is not really suited for mobile gaming.

Choose the right payment model

Choosing how to monetize your game is almost as important for success as the quality of the game. You could have designed the greatest game in the universe but if it is priced too high or impossible to play without making big purchases then no one will want to play it. The premium model is always an option. This is the most traditional form of monetization, where players purchase the game and that’s that. This is the most straightforward model but it does require you to have a game that audiences will be willing to pay for up front.

The freemium model is possibly the most popular for mobile games. The freemium model – where gameplay is free but players may purchase upgrades or bonuses – was made popular by hit games such as Candy Crush and showed developers that offering a game that was initially free could end up being incredibly lucrative. One thing to keep in mind is that the game must still be playable without making any purchases, otherwise new users will quickly give up playing it.

The pay-to-play model works for games with adult audiences with a steady income, who are more likely to be comfortable with that system due to their ability to budget entertainment expenditure effectively. It also works well where there is an initial cost associated with a specialist audience.

Finland’s Nettikasino industry is built on this concept, and allows users to play a huge range of online slot machine games that are similar in visual design to many mobile games. The pay-to-play model works because, besides the potential to win money, these games have engaging graphics, catchy theme music, and enough variety to keep players from getting bored. Finland is a particularly good example as the industry is highly regulated, with a state monopoly on many aspects of iGaming, but Finns are allowed to play games that are hosted by companies in other countries. Catering to Finns in specialist casinos requires full site-wide translations by those companies that don’t necessarily have a wealth of native speakers in-house, thus requiring a dedicated team.

Creating a hit mobile game might seem like an easy way to get rich quick but while the mobile game market is healthy, it is also unpredictable. Who could have foreseen that a game where you throw birds at pigs would become one of the biggest game franchises? It may not be possible to guarantee success but following these tips can help make it a bit more likely.

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