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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.