Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Simplicity Wins in the Top 25

Most of the Top 25 free apps on the App Store are games. But what kind of games are the winners?

You'd think that the Top 25 free Games would be high quality, high production value, immersive, made with love. Things like the airplane fighting game Skies of Glory:

Or how about Skater Nation, where you get to skateboard, grind, and jump like the pros?

You'd think these games would be the winners. But you'd be wrong. It turns out the games in the Top 25 is mostly simple, OK quality stuff. FallDown (at number 9), makes you move the ball down the screen faster than it scrolls the background. A great iPhone developer could write this game in a few days:

Another incredibly simple game in the Top 25 (at number 20) is Traffic Rush. All you need to do is keep cars from crashing on an intersection. Once again, super easy to write - a good programmer and a decent graphic designer could crank this out in half a week.

So why is it that these simple games win, and the high-dollar productions lose, at least in terms of number of downloads? I believe it's the iPhone audience and how these devices are used:

  1. iPhone users are casual gamers: this is no PSP Portable. They just want to waste some time on a subway ride, and don't care for learning the ins and outs of an airplane fighter game.
  2. Anything that takes more than 30 seconds to learn falls by the wayside.
  3. Each level should take no longer than a subway ride. Gameplay that develops over blocks of 10 minutes and longer is a non-starter.
  4. Startup time is a huge issue: It easily takes 20 seconds just to load Skies of Glory. Unacceptable to most users, since they know that their gameplay could be interrupted at any time by a call or text message.

The take-away? Simplicity wins. Dumb it down, make it load fast, gratify immediately, keep the gameplay fast-paced, keep each level short. And they will come, download, and play.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Great article, thanks!!