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Ten reasons why Candy Crush Saga became a hit!

In May 15m people were playing Candy Crush Saga (CCS) every day on Facebook, it’s topped both the Google Play and App Store charts, and is currently number one on the iOS Top Grossing chart. But CCS isn’t the only match-three game out there, so why has it done so well?

1. TV advertising

Mind Candy, creators of Moshi Monsters, declared TV advertising their secret weapon. We’ve run several TV campaigns for games and every time the acquisition costs (CPA) have been fantastic. More games should follow CCS and advertise on TV.

CCS have done a remarkable job with their UK campaign, their adverts are well placed; being mass market (advertising on prime-time UK TV around shows like Coronation Street) they nail the target market perfectly. CCS even appeared in PSY’s follow up to ‘Gangnam Style’, ‘Gentleman’. it’s rumoured that King paid $1m for the Candy Crush placement which gives us an idea of the kind of marketing budget King are playing with.

Industry insiders have also suggested that the CCS adverts aren’t there to just drive play but to make the game more of a house-hold name as King seeks to monetize away from the digital product (licensing). 
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How to Maximise User Engagement

Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin, and other kids MMOs are designed for short (20 to 30 minute) play sessions. The game designers know that parents don’t want their kids playing for hours on end, nor do they want the kids to burn through all game content in a matter of days!

In this post we’ve listed our four tips for designing games that are fun for short bursts and bring kids back time and time again.
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Five things learned from five years of Poptropica

This is a guest post by James Lema, director of product development for Poptropica.

When we launched Poptropica in 2007, we had spent months doing research into other products. We discovered many of them were following predictable patterns that had become the norm. At the time, virtual worlds were popping up everywhere. We knew we needed to stand out from a growing crowd and made some decisions that were necessary for us to be lean and scale quickly. In this entry, I will detail how we came to some of those decisions.

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How to make games kids love

In over a decade of designing virtual worlds and mobile games for kids games we’ve had our fair share of mistakes – in 2004 we didn’t believe anyone would ever pay for virtual goods, we were wrong! But we like to think we’ve learned from our mistakes over the years, and because we’re not very good at keeping secrets we’re sharing our five rules for kids’ games.

1. Create fans not addicts

Moshi ShopJust because 84 million people played FarmVille at its peak doesn’t mean that the game mechanics are appropriate for children. Facebook games often use the same tactics employed by casinos to keep players coming back time and time again. But ultimately we resent that which we’re addicted to – resentful customers are not a recipe for long term success!
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It’s good to grind: choosing the right virtual currency model

Designing games for children is difficult. There are a wide spread of skills and abilities, even between narrow ages; a six year old girl is very different to a 10 year old boy. To cater to a range of players we prefer to design economies that reward grinding not just skill – we don’t want only the older, more skilful, players to be able to succeed. Grinding allows anyone (who spends enough time) to do well.

Grinding is a term relating to activity the player does over and over again in order to complete an objective or get to the next level. For example, it could be harvesting gold or completing fetch quests. Admittedly grinding sounds like a negative term, but it doesn’t have to be, grinding activities can be fun too.

Grinding games are monetized in two ways:
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Dubit’s Guide to Basic Gaming Terminology

The world of games development is blessed with a very rich lexicon. So, to help the newcomers we have designed this short guide to some of the most common terms we use in the development of our games.

If you want any further help, please get in touch.
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Viral mechanics: Sim City Social

In the first of a series of posts we’re examining the viral actions employed by some of the most important social games.

In this post we’re looking at EA’s Sim City Social. The gaming giant’s ‘Sim City’ brand used to be the biggest name in city building sims, until Zynga arrived on the scene. Now EA hopes to open Sim City up to a new market and bring existing Sim City players into social gaming.
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The 2012 social gaming glossary: the 13 terms & 8 benchmarks everyone should know

There’s nothing we geeks enjoy more than inventing new words. Performant. That’s not a real word. It’s just another way of saying efficient: the server is performant. The world doesn’t need the word ‘performant’, but at least it’s meaning easy to guess. Online game jargon, on the other hand, is not so straightforward. K-Factor anyone? A new reality TV show? A new cereal? Nope, it’s the measure of viral growth. Obvious when you think about it…

That’s why I thought I’d start the year with a social game and virtual world glossary. I’ve listed the 13 most important terms, what they mean, and benchmarks.

So if you’ve ever wondered how much the average person spends in a virtual world, or what stickiness actually measures, then this post is for you.

1. Churn

The percentage of users who leave your game each month, or sometimes measured as the percentage who leave each week. For example, if a game that has 100 users at the start of the month, and 70 of those users are still playing the game at the end of the month, then we would say the churn rate is 30% because 30 of the original 100 people left that month.
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You can’t polish a turd. Don’t iterate a bad game design

Everyone knows data driven design is important. Zynga do it, so it must be good. But it’s not a golden ticket. Sometimes a design is just bad, and as we say in the North of England, “You can’t polish a turd”. Which translates as: despite your best efforts there are some things you just can’t fix or improve.

This post is about how to not polish a turd. Or more accurately, the risks of relying on AB testing, and how find inspiration for great game designs.
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The 7 month social game gamble: 2 months design, 5 months programming, but is it fun? There is a better way

The recipe for making a new game is pretty simple: spend 2 months designing the game, 5 months of late nights and weekends programming it, fix all the bugs, and release a beta.

There’s nothing wrong with recipe, but you’ve got to remember to stick your finger in the mixture and give it a taste. After all, you wouldn’t bake a cake and never taste what’s in the bowl, it might need some more sugar! Yet that’s what most game developers do. They’ll happily spend a bucket of cash building a game for 7 months, and only after 7 months do they find out if anyone really likes the game. This is the 7 Month Gamble. There is a better way.
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