There are 1000s of games released each month to all the various game platforms but I seriously believe that soon, no new game will be able to achieve the great cult status of games such as the SNES titles like Mario and others like it from the late 1980s and 90s. The reason I believe this is so is because too many games these days, stop being games in a relatively short amount of time and become a daily chore. People don’t like doing chores, so if your game becomes one, then it will soon be forgotten.
This is particularly so with mobile games. They are designed to be simple games that help pass the time, but they soon become too challenging and sometimes too expensive to continue playing. This is when they become chores. How exactly do they do this you might ask?
I used to be an avid player of Candy Crush for example, but after reached level 107 the interest in the game started to wane. The challenges became increasingly insurmountable without power ups, and power ups became increasingly scarce unless you paid for them. At that point the game was no longer a game but a chore and ultimately a bit like gambling. Gambling because there was no guarantee spending $10 on powers would actually help you complete the level you were stuck on. I may have money, but $10 on candy I can’t eat does not seem like a good use of money.
The next thing new games such as Candy Crush have taken to doing is limiting the number of lives you have and you either have to wait insanely long amounts of time to get a new one, buy a new life to continue or ask a friend for assistance. Its an interesting model for generating revenue but the game developers need to understand that not all my friends play the same game as me, and if I decide to not ask them for help, or purchase the life, then I’m going to wait it out. Now what do I do to wait out the 5 – 30 minutes in order to get a new life? I play a different game. Ultimately, if that second game is just as interesting as the one I’m waiting on, I will soon forget I have anything going on the first game and probably will never return.
I currently have over 10 notifications from existing games I’ve played that say I have new lives to be used, but I can’t even be bothered.
It seems all the current casual games coming out have very little in terms story. This is different for the 3D games on consoles though. They tend to have grand and epic stories for the 1st or 3rd person action adventures. But for the small casual games, there is virtually no back story or an on going story that the players can follow in order to see the outcome. Instead what we have are a bunch of goals and achievements to attain in order to open up new levels. This however, gets old very quickly.
I recently started playing Despicable Me: Minon Rush on Windows 8.1 and loved the game. It’s an endless runner which very visually appealing but ultimately boring. After opening up the various levels and locations you can run in, all you are left with is the prospect of running and running until you attain certain specific goals like “Run six (6) times”, “Use 10 rockets”, “Collect 2 Freeze Rays In A Single Run”. These are nice challenges but the more you go on the harder these become to achieve and ultimately, it’s no longer a game but a job or task you have to perform. There is no enchantment of finding new worlds or locations to conquer just running and collecting bananas. And most of all, you need to pay tonnes of cash if you ever want to get to use new costumes for your character. I don’t mind paying for a few things but ultimately, what sense of accomplishment do I really gain by doing the same thing over and over again and then finally have to pay to do the same thing in a shiny new costume? The Iron Man game on Android recently as a terrible example of this. I only played the game for a few weeks before uninstalling it completely.
These games I describe above are all fun in the initial but quickly become stale and loose market share quickly. Endless runners (Temple Run, Minon Rush, Iron Man etc) really need to throw in a bit more in terms of story and game progress to keep the players interested. After running 5000 miles for example, players need to be able to stop and do something else, like a colour matching section and then continue with the endless running knowing they have another stop to look up to.
Colour matching games like Candy Crush, Jewel Saga, Bejeweled, etc., need to reevaluate how they setup the difficult levels of their games. Not every one has the time to waste fighting one level for a whole month just to be able to move on to another level that is even more difficult and have to spend another month trying to overcome it. People have school and jobs that are boring and laborious and they escape to these games for comfort. But If the game is harder than the thing they are trying to distract themselves from, then eventually they will go back to doing that instead.
Even racing games such Asphalt 8 also have this model where cars become harder to purchase by just winning races and accumulating coins and stars. When you do manage to purchase a car, you need to upgrade it a few times in order to win races, and some races are near impossible to win without purchasing specific cars and upgrading them a couple of times.
These are all fine for concepts, but when this becomes the only goal of the game, it quickly looses its appeal. You can bait players with daily prizes and competitions but that will not help them feel accomplished in the game. Each time you play a game, you should be able to stop at a point feeling accomplished and be able to walk away with a desire to return and accomplish more. If I play for 2 hrs but don’t accomplish anything (e.g. stuck on the same level for that whole period or could not get a needed upgrade without paying for it), then I will feel like a failure and not even bother trying again after a while.
Games should not always be hard, they should be FUN!