Mistake 1: Focusing on higher production quality rather than on social game-play patterns
While the production quality of social games has steadily risen over the last few years, most are still not as high quality as casual games. Many assume that higher production value games will help them compete with existing social games. Often, this means higher focus on art and sound at the cost of creating a game that utilizes players’ motivation to connect with their friends.
Mistake 2: Overreliance on cross promotion as the main game distribution mechanism
Although the revenue and exposure from cross promotion partnerships are important, they do not replace the need for traditional distribution mechanisms: 1) ad buys on Facebook and Facebook application ad networks and 2) viral mechanics within the game. In doing so, developers inadvertently reduce the pool size of initial users that can spread their game, as well as fail to assess if a customer profile different from that available from their cross-promotion partners has better-monetizing users. Additionally, in some cases such actions lead to drastically higher per-user customer acquisition costs than necessary.
Mistake 3: Overreliance on viral measures
Another common mistake, particularly among smaller developers, is the reliance on viral mechanics exclusively in the absence of ad buys, cross promotion or other forms of marketing such as social media. Like overreliance on cross promotion, sole reliance on viral methods reduces the pool of users that can spread the game virally and increases the time needed for the game to grow to a size needed to allow substantial monetization.
Mistake 4: Indiscriminate addition of virtual items
Many assume the best way to implement virtual items is to add lots of opportunities for the user to spend on virtual items, yet this can lead to game balance and retention problems. For example, if the user hits their max pay limit before they have developed a strong investment in the game. If there is no choice to proceed in ways not involving paying, the user may exit rather than pay to continue playing.
Indiscriminate addition of virtual items also leads to lost monetization opportunities due to the production scheduling. Not all virtual items are created equal. Some monetize better than others due to user appeal and the point in game flow at which they enter. By using constrained developer resources to create and launch virtual items indiscriminately instead of basing decisions on virtual items testing, developers lose the opportunity to maximize monetization.
Mistake 5: Failing to model and tweak user in-flow and spending
Social games rely on repeat direct revenue from a customer for the same game, so it is vital to base game updates on actual real-time user growth and spending instead of big picture assumptions. . This mistake prevents developers from taking part in a critical organization of areas of focus and priority needed at different points in the lifecycle of a game. In addition, some developers do not tweak the growth and spending flows based on real information of how their games are acting. They, therefore, are unable to organize user reactions in a way that allows decision making on the real-time data. Lack of focus on real-time data is often the reason why developers with large bases of users are unable to monetize effectively.
Having analyzed, written and spoken on dozens of social apps and consulted on the social design and marketing strategies of dozens more, Sana N Choudary is considered a true social mobile expert. As the business development executive, she is actively engaged in game design, development strategy and deal structure with some of the most competent and innovative game companies in the world, including Flying Wisdom Studios and MTV Networks.
She is also considered one of the most connected people in the games industry. This is evidenced by her wildly popular monthly game event series the San Francisco Game developer’s workshop. The events cover key topics on the production and business of games and give attendees a chance to network with fellow designers, developers, business people, and others in the gaming ecosystem. If you haven’t checked these out yet, you must. You’ll be glad you did!The Top 5 Mistakes You Should Avoid in Social Game Development | By Sana Choudary,