Ok, I have some free time. What should I play? Maybe I’ll launch up Steam and look for something for myself. Perhaps I’ll go back to that RPG I’ve been playing for two years? Hey, wait a minute – you can get something new on Epic… but that’s it, I’ll relax for a while, lie down with my smartphone, talk to my friends and play… exactly, what should I play?
That’s how our recipient thinks – roughly. We know him well because we also know ourselves and our habits. But what makes us pick up this game and not another? And what will make us stay with it for longer?
If you’ve read one of my previous articles, you already know how big the world of computer games is. The fact that Hollywood and the global film industry can’t compete with our industry right now is excellent, but… at the same time, it poses a problem. How can we convince a player to choose our game, given the number of games being released? How to attract him in such a way that he will stay with us for longer? In the previous article, I wrote about what characterizes our audience groups: Millenials and zoomers. One of these characteristics is also impatience and the inability to conduct long gaming sessions. This also implies difficulty.
But it turns out that skill-based games have one effective mechanism that is very helpful in our case.
Have you ever wondered how many games are released per day? Or how many of them already exist? I haven’t either! But when you design games, you need to change your mindset. Learn to ask the right questions and find the correct answers. That’s how we work at Reality Unit.
To start with some numbers: if you quit your job today and could only play games for the rest of your life (sounds fantastic!), you still wouldn’t have a chance to play them all. And I’m only talking about the ones that have come out by the time this article is written. On Steam alone, 3,031 games have been published since the beginning of the year and 48,606 since the platform’s inception. On GOG, there are, to put it lightly, over 5,000 releases, and in 2020, Epic Games could boast 471 games in active distribution. To this, we can add games from Battle.net or EA Origin… but we do not have to be so precise now because the number of games intended for IOS or Android completely changes our picture: in the first quarter of 2021, there were 316,802 games available on the App Store. On the Google Play Store: 477,877. In 2019, gamingshift.com found 1,181,019 existing games on the global market. Each of these productions is fighting for the attention of the player. Each has aspirations to win the largest possible audience and attract them for longer. How to do it? First of all, you need to offer a good quality product – that’s obvious. I won’t try to prove that we at Reality Unit have the best of the best games because – let’s be honest – there will be many teams that create good quality games. However, by offering specialization in skill-based games, we have a factor that only a few have.
I have said it many times – skill-based games are not gambling games. They differ in their mechanics – you don’t place a bet and wait for fate to smile, but you influence your result. Your result depends on your skill. But apart from that, skill-based games draw on the exact mechanisms that gambling games also draw on. The stakes are real, and so is the money you win. This is the key to success.
In gambling, it works like this: the game triggers an emotional response and then stimulates the reward system. Many gamblers specify that it’s the game itself – not the winning – that matters for them. Why? Because betting gives a relationship between tension and discharge. First, the gambler picks or bets, and then there is tension associated with risk. As he waits for the outcome, the pressure rises, just before the very end, it reaches its highest level, and the moment the result is announced… it drops. Insensitive people, joy turns into euphoria, and defeat turns into despair. In both cases, the player wants to experience this state again – it is the release of tension, not the reward itself, that gives pleasure. Why does failure also motivate in the same way? Well, it hits the player’s self-esteem – the player wants to prove to himself that he is a valuable person, that he can do better – so he has to start another game. This cocktail of wins and losses is also present when the random factor disappears.
In the case of skill-based games based on monetary reward, the player wants to win the prize, the tension rises during the game, and since the award depends on his skill – the player keeps the most attention on the game all the time. Every micro-defeat, or every micro-win, means releasing a dopamine substance, which can be secreted up to ten times more than usual when gaming. The final win doesn’t mean the end of the game at all – you can always be better and get more. Final defeat motivates you to try again – unlike gambling, the more often you play, the more likely you will win. You know this intuitively. Your result doesn’t depend on how the lottery machine sees it – it’s in your hands, and the quality of every human being is that they can learn to become better in every game.
When you play skill-based games, you know that the system is not designed against you but for you. And that, in my opinion, changes everything.
About the Author:
Michał Stonawski (born 1991 in Kraków, Poland) – writer, publicist, game designer.
Originator and co-author of the anthology “Map of Shadows”, author of the ebook collection of short stories “Strange Days” (published by Ebookowo 2018). In July 2020, he debuted his first full-fledged paperback book; “Paranormal: True Stories of Hauntings” (published by Znak), which gained bestseller status.
Proudly working with RealityUnit as a game designer.