How to make a mobile farm game? And why do you need to make one, in the first place? We’ve asked Ivan Gorelov, Producer at Glu Mobile and former General Producer at Game Garden.
Image Credit: Farmdale
So why do you need to do yet another farm game?
The thing is that almost all popular or top grossing titles are based on mechanics of currently successful games or old ones. For instance, Clash of Clans adopts all great features from Galaxy Life, which used to be popular on Facebook and Web. Well-known Angry Birds borrowed the mechanics of a famous flash game Crush the Castle.
The market is quite stable now, a new niche is unlikely to appear. So if a new game has distinct features of its’ genre or a successful combination of several genres, the chances of success are much higher.
What to consider before development?
Ask yourself the following questions before developing a game:
- How can a player find your game?
- Why should he install your farm? He is sure to have a couple of farms on his phone already.
- How do you keep him interested so that he comes back the next day?
- How do you make him play your game for a week at least?
- Don’t forget that he should make some purchases, but you’d better think about retention first.
Today’s market is very demanding.
Five years ago you could just release a farm without any quests and everyone was happy .
Four years ago a game without any viral features could easily gain traffic from catalogs.
There were no friends’ invites. No need to talk about viral quests, sharing or competitions. There were only a catalog and a word of mouth, but the apps managed to get up to 3000 organic installs per day.
Just for comparison, today’s developers are happy to have 300 organic installs per day in App Store before they start any traffic engagement campaigns.
A couple of years ago developers could just add a couple of IAPs in exchange for hard currency and sleep well.
Today a game has to be armed with various mechanics, marketing support, community and user support management in order to fight its way to the top. And even then it’s not guaranteed to pay back.
High standards rise the price. Two years ago $200K was enough to develop a nice game, now $400K – $500K including marketing seems to be not so expensive as it could be.
Keep in mind that development process isn’t fast and it takes at least a year before launching. By that time, the standards will be even higher.
What’s the current situation?
So what can be said about today’s farm games?
First of all, they should have a couple of outstanding features. The game should be as intuitive and user-friendly as possible.
Stay away from all the features that gained ill fame like paywalls. Monetization should be very delicate, don’t try to rob the player.
For example, in Farmdale we almost abandoned “Dying Plants” mechanics. Negative emotions after a long absence made players give up the game and refuse to come back. As soon as we got rid of it, the number of users who passed 20 levels (3 gaming sessions) increased by 50%.
For similar reasons the daily bonus doesn’t disappear if you missed a day.
On top of that, the game should have basic virality mechanics to interact with friends and compete with them.
What to do?
First of all, stand out your main competitive strengths. You should offer your player something ten times better that your competitor does. Try to guess what drives the player and makes him stay. Focus on your strengths, it could be the story, unique mechanics, new viral features, touches of other genres and so on.
Don’t create a Frankenstein out of all possible features and mechanics that are nice separately but together create the hell of a mess. Choose 1-2 basic functionalities and clear game loops.
Track all your competitors’ games. Analyze every step they take, try to find the reasons. Don’t forget to read reviews.
The game should be soft launched as soon as possible to gather enough users’ reviews and have enough data to analyze.
No need to remind about maintaining the dialogue with the players. Create a positive thinking community, this will ease your development and interactions with players.
Don’t hurry to release the project. The hard launch should be flawless in order to attract as many traffic as possible. But everything has to be reasonable, don’t leave the game in soft launch for years, that won’t make any good.
For example, Farmdale had day 1 retention – 25% and day 7 retention – 10% in soft launch.
We had been collecting logs and stats for about 3 months. We added several mechanics and more content so the game improved a lot.
After the worldwide release, the game had day 1 retention – 35%, day 7 retention – 15%.
Don’t neglect the technical part. Some say you don’t need powerful servers to maintain a game for kids or women. That’s not true. Even though farm games are less demanding than shooters, the niche is also highly competitive.
Check that your game is less than 50Mb to get more organic installs.
People got used to fast download speed, stability, and cross-platforming. And remember: when it comes to purchases, everything should be as safe as houses.