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Going Viral in the Mobile Gaming World: Strategies for Long-Term Success

As one of the fastest-growing entertainment sectors, the mobile gaming industry continues to see massive, exponential growth for both established game studios and indie developers. As a result, though, there are now millions of games available in app stores, making it more of a challenge to stand out from the crowd and create a viral hit that achieves long-term success – having a clever idea is no longer enough.

Today we’re going to talk about what developers can do to increase their chances of creating a viral hit game, and, if you should hit that lucky jackpot, how best to leverage success to achieve long-term growth and staying power.


Case Study: Backrooms – from meme to game

An excellent example of viral success is Backrooms, a mobile game by Indian developer Sibi Chakravarthy, based on a popular urban legend meme that originated on the imageboard 4chan before gaining notoriety on Reddit. From there it morphed into a fun, popular trope that developers built games around – an alternate reality consisting of endless, poorly-lit rooms inhabited by entities that may or may not be hostile to humans.

Case Study Backrooms from meme to game copy

Via Oculus

In Sibi’s game, players explore an endless maze of rooms, avoiding dangerous entities in search of the exit. While the game is not directly tied to the original Backrooms lore, it draws heavily from its themes and aesthetics. Initially developed for Oculus (VR), the game gained popularity on TikTok as enthusiastic players shared their experiences and helped to spread the word. With this clear indicator of potential in mind, Chakravarthy created a version of Backrooms for mobile, which was soon featured on the app store in Saudi Arabia, attracting an even wider audience.

Backrooms for mobile copy

Via TikTok

Increase your chances of viral success

What did players love about Backrooms and what lessons can we glean from this case about achieving viral success? As mobile game publishers with over 10 years and 1.5 billion players under our belts, a few fundamentals are clear. While it goes without saying that implementing these elements cannot guarantee success, getting the basics right can significantly increase the chances of achieving an organic viral boost. Let’s explore.

  • Multiplayer games have a strong social appeal: as people play together, they love to share the experience with other gamers, essentially free advertising! The mega-hit Among Us achieved its “overnight success” this way, in part.
Increase your chances of viral success copy

 Via Epic Games

Compatibility across devices and platforms: How people play games varies from region to region, and across demographics. The more people are able to access your game on their device of choice, the more you’re expanding your potential reach.

Solid gameplay mechanics: This is key. Something simple that works well is far better than a glossy, error-filled gaming experience.

Social media optimization: While it’s important to be active on social media yourself, building features that lend to shareability, particularly on fast-paced platforms like Tiktok, is a critical component of any viral success. Create opportunities for shareable moments. A good example of this is how players can easily share screenshots of new animals in Rodeo Stampede.

Capitalizing on viral success copy

Insight: The key to achieving viral success is not about following a set of guaranteed steps. Rather, it’s in realizing that viral games aren’t accidents, but share key elements that increase their chances of taking off. These elements amount to algorithm velcro.


Capitalizing on viral success

So you’ve followed these steps, and now there is a solid core of players who love your game and are telling others about it. What next? Here are some ways to build on that in order to achieve the sustained success that keeps your game at the top of the charts.

  • Players are more likely to stick with your game when there’s regular, fresh content coming out. Build a pipeline of content releases (which you can post about and discuss in your community–see below); give your faithful players a reason to keep coming back.
  • Quickly deal with crashes and ANRs; it goes without saying that monitoring and reacting in real-time is key. Make your game as stable as possible so that when that influx of players comes, you’re ready for them.
  • Build a community where players can build a meaningful connection to the game, connect with other players, and even help shape the game’s future direction. If done currently, this leads to loyal fans who will be your biggest cheerleaders.
  • Stay on top of your store reviews. Feedback from players is vital to help you improve and localize your game for various regions. Feedback of any kind—positive or negative—is an amazing way to learn what works and what doesn’t and is key to iterating the game and producing content that will help it to grow and improve over time.
  • If one of your games gains traction and attention, capitalize on it to pull traffic via your community to other, similar games in your portfolio, whether sequels or games in the same genre.
  • Finally, be aware of and adapt to regional differences, particularly in regard to monetization strategies when a viral success results in a large influx of users from a specific region. It’s vital to strike the balance between in-app purchases (IAP) and in-app advertising (IAA), as those factors can vary widely. So, do your research to find the right monetization solution or partner that can help you configure and optimize the best networks for each ad unit in order to get solid eCPM and performance.

Insight: Sustained long-term growth doesn’t have shortcuts. Whether your game goes viral or not, putting in the right effort with consistency is the foundation of any successful mobile game. 


Scaling up growth

To scale up your game successfully, you must develop a deep understanding of your players over time. Diving into your analytics and understanding your players more deeply can lead to tremendous insights: where are you trending and why? Gaining this kind of awareness of player behavior patterns and demographics will uncover paths for continued growth.

And of course, ASO and UA will be key as you continue scaling up.

Check out our video on increasing your downloads with ASO:

Not budgeting enough for UA early on can also hamper growth. You might not think you can afford it, but it can certainly be well worth investing in and testing UA, even if you have to start with a smaller budget. UA testing, ROI aside, will help you understand how to scale up your game and what you should be spending the most time and effort on; it’s like your R&D department.

Insight: As your game grows, you will gain an ever-more precise (data-driven) understanding of your players, and an intuition for what works and what doesn’t. That means fully leveraging growth to generate the insights that will unlock your next stage of growth.


Give yourself the best chance to succeed

Success doesn’t come with a guaranteed blueprint, but diving headfirst into the strategies we’ve covered will help tip the scales in your favor and prepare you to ride the wave of momentum when your game takes off.

Also remember that there are no shortcuts, particularly when it comes to growth over the long term. Developing a curious and iterative mindset will drive you to make data-driven decisions that resonate with your existing players, fueling your next level of growth.

Learn more about how Yodo1 helps game developers at all stages grow their games here.