GDC 2018

GDC 2018 Wrap-Up

With the 2018 Game Developers Conference (GDC 2018) a fond but recent memory, it’s time to look back on what happened at this year’s event. From the latest in AR and VR to mobile marketing, there was never a dull moment throughout the week of the conference.

Sessions and Seminars

There were multiple seminars, panels and sessions covering gaming news. One highlight was a look at “The Year in Mobile Games” and best practices for launching games on mobile devices.

Of course, the sessions covered far more than mobile games and delved into a wide range of topics from game animation to AI systems to customer care. The panels covered all aspects of gaming and game creation, from conception to beyond the launch to provide a full understanding of the lifecycle of game creation.

 

GDC 2018 Expo

 

There were also multiple halls filled with exhibitors of all types, including big-name studios such as PlayStation and Xbox. These companies gave demos of upcoming games, as well as a live stream of the highly popular game “Fortnite.”

Companies and organizations of all shapes and sizes had a space for themselves at GDC. There were vendors marketing their streaming services, game animation studios, smaller studios looking to make a name for themselves, and so much more. Of course, Gummicube had its own booth, for all those interested in optimizing their app store rankings; after all, mobile games can benefit greatly from strong ASO.

Independent Games Festival

Independent developers were treated well, with a showcase space in the IGF Pavilion. Developers were also able to show off their new and upcoming games with the Day of the Devs showcase. They also displayed historical greats from MAGFest, accompanied by a keyboard rendition of video game tunes.

 

IGF Pavilion

 

Developers also showed off their game’s unique mechanics at the alt.ctrl.GDC area. One game, “Wind Golf,” had players blow into a machine to play a game of miniature golf. Another that stood out was “Puppet Pandemonium,” a multi-player game where two players took the role of puppeteers. Players had to use Muppet-style puppets as both characters and controllers and performed their lines as part of the game.

GDC Awards

At the end of the week, the winners of the 18th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA) and Independent Games Festival (IGF) awards were announced.

In GDCA, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” took home the Game of the Year award. It also won for Best Design and Best Audio.

“NieR:Automata” won the Audience Award, and was nominated for several others.

“Cuphead” won Best Debut and Best Visual Art, while Gorogoa won Best Mobile Game and the Innovation Award.

For Best Narrative, “What Remains of Edith Finch” beat out several tough competitors. “Horizon Zero Dawn” won Best Technology, and Superhot VR won Best VR/AR Game.

Individuals like Tim Schafer and Rami Ismail were also honored, who earned the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Ambassador Award respectively.

 

 

 

After Hours

Even after the exhibit halls closed, game developers, studios, publishers and more enjoyed after-hour mixers and networking parties to make new connections and meet future talent.

If you attended GDC this year, let us know your thoughts, what you enjoyed and what you learned in the comments below!

If you’re a mobile game developer looking to optimize your game for the app stores, then check out our official Mobile Game hub post for helpful tips and tricks.

google-play-update

Google is Making Waves with Updates to the Play Store

Google is at it again with new updates to their Google Play Store that seem to have come out of the blue. Within the past few weeks, users have been reporting new updates that help improve the user experience both in the Play Store and while using apps and playing mobile game. These changes will help users navigate the Google Play Store more easily, discover apps, engage better with ads and even allow users to try apps without installing.

1. Product Page Redesign Test

The first redesign varies depending on whether or not an app is installed on a user’s device. When a user lands on a product page for an app they have not downloaded, the Install button now spans across the entire screen and is followed by important metadata, screenshots and the description.

In older versions, the Install button was smaller and just above the screenshots, but by making it larger, Google is drawing the users’ attention upward and encouraging them to download faster.

However, when a user has the app installed, the screenshots, metadata and description are pushed down the page and replaced by the “What’s New” section. Most noticeably, users are reporting that that the preview video and feature graphic appear to have been removed from the top of the page, but only for apps they already have installed.

As a result of moving the majority of this metadata down, the developer’s contact information and “Rate This App” section are displayed higher on the product page. This update means that developers will have to be more active with customer engagement, as their reviews are on full display.

The repositioned “What’s New” section will also prove useful for instantly letting previous or returning users know what they can look forward to in the latest update without the information getting buried under the description they’ve already read.

2. Playable Ads and In-Store Ads

Advertisements are used to catch user’s attention to encourage them to buy the intended product. As such, Google’s AdMob advertising service is testing interactive ads that allow users to play small snippets of a mobile game.

The new interactive ads are a form of in-app advertisement called “rewarded ads,” where users gain rewards for watching the ad. This is typical of mobile games, where players can get an extra life, bonus item, currency or small reward for watching 30-second video advertisements. However, the new ads are interactive demos of other games, where they have to play to gain the rewards. This creates more user engagement, turning the advertisement from a passive experience to an active one.

Additionally, Google launched beta video ads in the Google Play Store, which is an extension of the videos developers already use on their product pages. These videos will appear while users are searching the Google Play Store, rather than clicking on the specific app to view its video.

Another beta feature is an extension of the Universal Ad Campaigns (UAC) tool, which will utilize Google’s machine learning algorithm to better target customers according to the game’s features. This will allow developers and marketers to find potential users whose interests align with their current intended audience and ensure that their ads reach the users that will most likely to want to download their game.

3. “Try Now” Button

Google has given game developers a gift in the form of a closed beta of their “Instant Apps” feature on the Google Play Store just in time for GDC. Currently, the beta displays a “Try Now” button alongside the “Install” button once users tap into a game’s product page. So far only six games feature the new button, including popular games like Clash Royale and Words with Friends. You have to be on the latest build of the Play Store, but it’s likely that Google will begin to offer this new feature as they continue beta testing.

The “Instant Apps” concept was first presented in 2016 but didn’t gain any ground until 2017’s Google I/O conference. The tech company addressed that they were making headway on rolling out the feature to more users. Essentially, users will be able to play a small tutorial to understand game mechanics without having to install the game.

This feature means that users can take the time to determine whether or not they like a game enough to install it. This may save developers from having higher uninstall rates when users end up disliking the game.

4. Enhanced Navigation Bar

While the rollout was slow at first, the new navigation bar under the existing tab bar seems to be here to stay. It is currently live on all updated Android devices worldwide.

This new navigation replaces the old green circles and allows users to easily select what types of apps they’d like to see based on recommendation and categorization.

Google-play-store

The new bar acts as a sub-navigation and changes depending on which tab you’re currently viewing. Users will get recommendations whether they’re looking at games, movies, books or music to help them find new products based off their interests.

The recommendations are based off user activity and history, so users who enjoy shopping apps and fruit-themed casual games, for example, will see more apps and games in their navigation bars.

In addition, Google has also placed the “My Apps and Games” option on the sidebar menu at the very top, making it easier for users to access.

Why Are These Changes Important?

Google is well-known for constantly making tweaks to the Play Store, and these changes could potentially shake up the way users view, discover and download apps.

For the changes we talked about above, it appears that the product page redesign, playable videos ads and “Try Now” button are all still in beta, so not all users are seeing it yet. Developers have some time to prepare for the change, but there’s no telling when these updates will go live across all devices. Everyone should stay on their toes to be prepared to make the most of these new Google Play Store changes.

They should ensure they have an ASO strategy in place that will help their app be sorted into the proper recommendations in order to take advantage of all these new updates.

App-UI-UX

How the UI and UX of an App Affect Users

In the competitive market of mobile games, it’s important to stand out if you want to see downloads and have active players. A forgettable user experience will drive users to play the game once and never think about it again. The games need to stick in their minds, secure a spot in their memories and continue to draw them back in.

Players tend to continue playing a game because of its user interface and experience, particularly the music and imagery. Strong visuals and a compelling soundtrack can make all the difference between a user saying, “oh yeah, I think I played that game once” and “I will never forget this game.”

User Interface: Graphics and Visual Design

In today’s gaming environment, it often seems like everyone is competing to have the most realistic graphics, even on mobile platforms. Top-selling PC and console games such as Life is Strange and Injustice 2 were able to successfully make the switch to mobile while keeping their incredible graphics, smooth animation and detailed worlds. While games with that level of detail and quality do take up a large amount of storage space, any fan would say it’s worth it for the experience they get.

However, it is also very possible to have a hit game that goes the opposite direction. Many games draw users in because of their “retro” style, using 32-bit sprites, or 2D animated graphics. Look at the ever-popular Plants vs Zombies franchise and its cartoon sprites. Not only does the game keep users of all ages engaged, the game’s design and characters are instantly recognizable, and properly set the tone for a humorous and addictive game.

While there’s no one specific style of graphics that converts and retains users, game developers need to find the style that best suits their game. The tone and mood are influenced heavily by the graphics, so the style, designs, lighting and color all play an immense role in providing the user with the exact experience that the game is aiming to give them.

 

life-is-strange-ios

 

User Experience: Color Psychology

While developers know their game’s features and gameplay can be important, setting the proper tone with colors that are brand-specific and engage with users is also vital. Through the use of specific color pallets, developers can apply the psychological aspect that comes from color psychology, a tactic commonly used in marketing and branding.

The general idea is that certain colors invoke specific emotions. It’s not just the fact that “bright colors are happy,” it also connects certain colors and shades to emotions commonly felt by people looking at those colors.

Color psychology is why users will often see recurring colors on similar apps while browsing the app store. Developers look at what colors engage with users best and try to apply them to their own game. If you look through the puzzle games category, you’ll notice a lot of them use green or blue backgrounds in their creatives. This is not a coincidence – it’s an intentional choice by app developers to affect players on an emotional level before they even download the game.

Developers need to utilize color schemes that make the brand and game easier to recognize. Angry Birds, for instance, has a recognizable color scheme and design that features a vibrant red bird on a blue background. The color red tends to invoke passion, excitement and energy and is also a contrasting color to blue. Its design and color scheme are iconic and can be seen repeated throughout each iteration and spinoff of the app.

 

angry-birds-ios

 

User Experience: Music

While the visuals may be key to setting the initial tone, it’s the music score that carries it throughout each moment of the mobile game. As with the graphics, it should match the style and carry a certain motif throughout, but should have different scores for various levels, in-story moments and menus.

A memorable score, even if it’s just the start menu, can make a big difference. If players find themselves humming along with the theme song, or re-hearing it later with a feeling of nostalgia, then you’ll know your mobile game is a hit.

A great example of a mobile game that uses music effectively is Kingdom Hearts Union X [cross]. This game is a mobile addition to the Kingdom Hearts console game series that has an easily recognizable score. From the moment the game loads, players hear an instrumental version of “Dearly Beloved” by Yoko Shimomura. The familiar tune, a constant throughout the franchise, brings them back to their times spent enjoying the console games, which can serve as nostalgia when playing a different game within a series they love.

Hit games like “Candy Crush” have catchy tunes that play from the start menu and at the end of each level, setting the tone and awarding the players for completing levels. Some games have a soundtrack that changes depending on the tension, emotion or success. The “Ace Attorney” games, which are available on mobile devices and Nintendo DS systems, have different tracks designed for various aspects of the games:

  • Different character themes
  • Investigation music
  • Dramatic beats
  • Variety of songs set in the courtrooms

The tempo or style of the music can help convey if the players should feel “Cornered” in the courtroom or if they selected the right piece of evidence. Music that can quickly change depending on success or failure engages with users and lets them know that they’re headed in the right direction when playing the game.

A Good Experience from the User Interface

The UI and UX can play just as big a role as the gameplay itself when determining the success of a mobile game. The graphics, color scheme and music all set the tone throughout the entire game and can be the reason why players keep coming back and recommending it to their friends.

These concepts should also flood over into other aspects of the game, such as their app store listing. While color, experience, and sound can make a game last forever, a strong App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy will help get the users started in the first place. If they don’t apply the thinking that occurs due to ASO, then they’ll never understand what engages with their users best.

Improve Visibility for Mobile Games

Cheat Codes to Improve Visibility for Mobile Games

The App Store and Google Play Store are teeming with millions of apps, a great deal of which are mobile games. The gaming industry has come a long way since old-school arcade games and even home or portable consoles. In fact, games have been accessible on-the-go since the original 1976 version of Snake launched on mobile devices in 1998.

 

arcade-games

The mobile gaming industry has boomed, generating $59.2 billion dollars in 2017. Additionally, Google reported $4.5 billion dollars in revenue in Q3 of 2017 alone. This explains why competition has skyrocketed within the industry over the past few years.

Game developers want to take advantage of this lucrative industry, but to do so, they need a way to beat their competition. In order to stay competitive in downloads, search results and players, developers need to utilize App Store Optimization (ASO), which will help put their game ahead of the competition.

How Do Developers Improve Visibility for Mobile Games?

A strong ASO strategy starts the same, no matter what category your app falls under. However, it’s imperative that game developers evaluate their competition and the current market. Starting here will help them get a better understanding of how to optimize their games to reach their potential audience.

For a mobile game to become more discoverable and relevant within the app stores and its respective category, developers need to create a well-thought ASO strategy that pays close attention to the app name, keywords, description and creatives.

1. Attract Users with a Unique Name

The app name is key – it highlights the game or brand’s name along with its most important feature. Developers should start by optimizing their app name to get a better understanding of what keywords to target and integrate throughout the other pieces of their metadata.

2. Become More Relevant with Keywords

Users tend to search in 2-3-word phrases regarding the type of game they want to play. With this in mind, developers know where to start when choosing their keyword selection. Looking at casual games, for instance, the most obvious keyword to target is, of course, “casual.” However, since many games can fall under this umbrella, developers should also choose more niche keywords that are relevant to their app’s core features and functionality. Depending on the type of game, developers can include terms such as:

  • Classic arcade games
  • Puzzle games for free
  • Match 3 RPG
  • Action adventure games

If users search for the term “match 3 RPG,” they’ll notice that the third and fourth games feature that keyword in their title. This is a good start, but because they aren’t ranked top for that keyword, they should bring more focus to the keyword and integrate it within other areas of their app’s metadata to improve their visibility.

 

match-3-rpg

 

3. Explain the Game with the Description

The description is the largest area for developers to explain what their game is about. Developers can go into the storyline, core features, functionality and more, but they need to make sure that they get the most out of the time spent highlighting these features and gameplay by integrating high-volume keywords.

Since there is so much competition, it’s crucial to incorporate relevant keywords to increase a game’s overall ranking and visibility. Developers need to be wary of how they place keywords, however, as they don’t want to stuff them where they don’t belong; that raises a red flag on both the Apple App Store and Google Play. If keywords are used more naturally, users will be more inclined to download the game.

4. Entice Users with Creatives

When it comes to mobile games, users want to see what the game will look like. That means that the interface, artwork, graphics and more should be highlighted through the icon, screenshots and preview video(s). It’s important to have stunning creatives that wow and entice users, or else they’ll be less likely to convert.

Developers can start this process by breaking down creatives and asking questions like:

  • Does the icon feature a branded image?
  • Is it recognizable and memorable?
  • Does it clearly highlight the app’s core feature?

 

video-game-icon

 

  • Are screenshots featuring colors that are consistent and on-brand with the game’s identity?
  • Is character art or in-game content displayed?
  • Does it feature a call to action that incorporates high-volume keywords?

 

final-fantasy-dissidia-mobile

 

  • Does the preview video meet any guidelines or requirements?
  • Are different core features being highlighted?
  • Is the poster frame relevant to the game or does it not display a key feature?

 

creatives-for-mobile-games

 

Asking these questions creates a helpful starting point for game developers. From there, they can create stunning creatives that capture users’ attention and clearly highlights their game’s core features.

Thoughts Moving Forward

Mobile game developers need to create an ASO strategy to make their game more visible in the app stores and stand out against the competition. Having a solid strategy will not only help mobile game developers compete against big-name game companies but also help them see larger conversion rates and increased revenue.

Action Games: Genre Showcas

Genre Showcase: Action Games

There’s nothing quite like an action game – the intense concentration, the quick decisions that determine victory or defeat, and the feelings of joy when you finally complete a level or conquer a challenging foe. Mobile action games are a very popular genre, meaning that the market is teeming with competitors that are trying to encourage users to download their game instead of yours. Those that stand out from their competition leave the rest to uncover what tactics they took to succeed.

There are many App Store Optimization (ASO) factors at play, but one of the keys to standing out is a strong description. Not only does it highlight the game’s core features and encourage users to download, it needs to be formatted to engage the audience on both the App Store and Google Play Store. Developers can achieve this level of engagement by utilizing high-volume keywords that draw in users and make them interested in downloading.

Keyword Combat!

Everyone wants their game to stand out, which means they need to play the ASO game and incorporate keywords throughout their metadata. If you want a great example of an ASO description at work, then look at Zombie Gunship Survival. It’s a new entry in a popular franchise, but it also utilizes high-volume keywords in its title and description to ensure users will find it.

On both the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store, anyone searching for “zombie” or “survival games” will find it quickly based on how well it incorporated those keywords into its title, subtitle (iOS) and short description (GP) alone. In the long description, it sprinkles important keywords like “zombie apocalypse” and “tactical operations” throughout to achieve a better reach.

While the description does have a focus on keywords that are relevant to the game, it also makes sure to integrate them properly into each line. It doesn’t try to cram in keywords whenever they have a change, but instead integrates them when it’s appropriate. In doing so, the game ensures it will not only be found, but appeals to the specific audiences searching for games of that genre.

 

action-games-zombie-gunship

 

Intense Formatting Action!

While targeting keywords in the description will help users find the game, it also needs to encourage them to download. As such, the descriptions should be formatted in a way that are quick to read so the general idea of the game is easily comprehended.

Descriptions can also incorporate quick feature sets or bullet lists so readers can easily understand the game’s core features at a glance.  Lengthy sentences can appear as frustratingly large blocks of text, so it’s important that the descriptions be kept short and sweet.

Take a look at MARVEL Contest of Champions – the first line users see before clicking “read more” is just “The biggest names from the Marvel Universe are ready to battle!”

 

action-games-marvel-conquest

 

This sentence is quick, to the point and already entices users by addressing the game’s core features: fighting and their favorite Marvel characters. The description namedrops familiar names such as Wolverine, Deadpool and Iron Man, which can also be keywords. None of these sections are more than two sentences, although they still take up a good portion of the screen.

The description also has sections dedicated to each aspect of the game, with bullet lists that cut right to the key features. Even without reading the lists themselves, the all-caps introductory titles for each section clearly tell users all they need to know.

It’s All About Tone

Action game descriptions should portray a sense of the action to let the users know what features they can expect. If the tone of the description is dull when explaining how users will fight or even explore levels, then it does nothing to entice them to download.

Developers need to think of the description as a sales pitch to get users hyped for “ferocious fighting challenges.”

Look at Cat Quest – it boasts “a grand adventure of dragons, magic, and cats,” while adding dramatic flourishes like “risk life and limb delving into dungeons for epic loot.” These quick, intense sentences add hype to its features while explaining them.

Another key point to address is that a game like Cat Quest incorporates cat puns like “pawesome real time combat” and “faster purr-formance.” These puns represent the overall tone of the company/game, incorporate keywords and effectively portray the game’s features.

 

cat-quest-action-game

 

What the Critics Are Saying

If a game reaches a big enough audience, it’s almost certain to be reviewed by a gaming website. Don’t be afraid to share the critical acclaims you receive, especially if it’s from a trusted or renowned source.

The same goes for any awards the game may receive. If the game starts receiving praise, you can update the description as acclaim and awards begin to accumulate. Positive reviews, awards and acclaims will encourage potential players to make the leap and download.

ASO: The Unseen Action

Action games need to bring all the intense gameplay and intense fight scenes alive with a proper description. While the ASO techniques listed above may not be as big and flashy as the games themselves, they play an important role in a game’s success. Any developer that leverages an ASO strategy is sure to win the coveted top spots among action games.