Before you can develop an iPhone app, you’ve got to have something to create. The conceptual phase of application development can be split into two parts: idea collection and idea generation.
In the previous article we covered ways of capturing you’re app and game ideas. Today we’ll explore the sexiest part of game development: idea generation.
What We’ll Explore
In this and the next post I’m going to lead you through I developed the concept for my first game – LOB. All of the resources discussed here are freely available to you. You just have to take the time to conduct a little market research.
The methods I present here can be used to create your own app and game ideas or you can use them to validate an idea you already have.
Designing the Next ‘Smash Hit’
To have a successful mobile game, your game doesn’t have to be totally unique. Most of the ‘smash hit’ games are in fact variations on some other game theme.
Originality doesn’t guarantee success. And it can actually prove to be a hindrance. The top ranking games are successful for a reason – they take what people like and they either expand on the concept or they improve it.
With that said, lets look at some of the ways you can gain inspiration for you first iPhone game. Then we’ll have a quick look how you can improve the user’s mobile gaming experience.
As I said before, to have a successful game in the App Store you don’t need to come up with a totally unique game. The simplest and easiest way to create a concept for a new game is to take an old game and improve it.
Two of the fastest ways to undertake your market research is to use:
Online Game Sites
Online game sites can be a great source of inspiration. These sites have a great mix of old and new games. Many of the popular mobile games are either old video games converted to a mobile game or old video games ‘rebirthed’ with a few new tweaks to modernise the user’s experience.
Taking the time to browse through a few game sites can produce a heap of wonderful ideas just be careful not to spend a lot of time playing the games – remember the point of the exercise is to conduct research!
The App Store is a perfect place to conduct your research. You can search through the top free, top paid and top grossing lists for ideas. Another way you can use the App Store is to research your idea by analysing similar games, paying particular attention to Customer Reviews.
When I designed LOB I researched similarly themed games for ideas on how I could improve on these previously successful games. Then I incorporated these ideas into LOB.
What sort of things should you be considering when you undertake your research?
What to Analyse
1) What’s Hot
The first thing to consider is what is hot. Take a look through the top free, paid and grossing lists paying particular attention to the types of game themes that make up the top app lists.
2) What’s Working
Next, again using the top free, paid and grossing lists you’ll want to make a note of the most popular gameplay types.
Looking at what’s hot and what’s working will give you a feel for what people are playing presently.
3) Game Feedback
The last thing you’ll want to do is to research the ‘big hits in the same game genre as your game to identify ways you could improve the user’s gaming experience.
To do this I use the Customer Ratings and Customer Reviews for a game or app. What I want to know is:
- What do they like and dislike about a game?
- What are some of the suggested improvements users have left in the comments section?
The absolutely fantastic thing about the App Store is that this information is readily available and free! How good is that? Targeted market research can’t get any better than that!
When I researched LOB, I literally trolled through hundreds of Customer Reviews carefully recording the pro’s and con’s of the games types I was considering.
Yes this may seem tedious, but the information you’ll glean from the user comments is invaluable. Think about it, you are actually using this feedback to design a game that users are telling you they want!
At the end of this exercise you should have an idea of the most popular game themes and gameplay types currently in the App Store. You should have also collected some priceless information on what users like and don’t like about particular games.
Armed with this information you can now design your game with the aim of improving the user’s gaming experience.
How Can You Improve on the User’s Experience?
There are a number of ways that you can improve the user’s game experience. Some are a little more costly than others, but you don’t have to make massive changes to a popular game genre to have a hit.
For example, you can make any of the following improvements to a pre-existing gameplay type or theme:
- enhanced graphics
- build a 3D engine
- add Powerups, Utilities and Upgrades into the game play or
- use social integration (turn based, multi-player functionality.)
Each of these options can be used to build upon an existing gameplay type or theme – each one has the ability to improve your chances of creating a game that goes viral.
So let’s quickly recap the two step process I used to create the concept for LOB.
I researched online game sites and the App Store looking at what’s hot and what’s working. Then I used feedback left by users to identify ways I could enhance the user’s experience.
- Your game doesn’t have to be original to be a smash hit.
- Use freely available online sources (App Store, online game sites) to conduct your research.
- Look at what’s hot and what’s working.
- Customer Ratings and Customer Reviews are free, targeted market research – so use ‘em!
- Take an existing game theme and improve the user’s experience
If you’re interested in following the development of my first game LOB or you’d like to be notified of the latest post, you can sign up to receive the ‘itcanappen’ newsletter.
As a bonus for signing up, you’ll not only be notified of the latest development in LOB, you’ll also gain access to a variety of checklists (as I release them) to help you develop your very own game.