In my time as an iPhone owner, even I’ve had a hard time keeping up with THE game of the moment. One day it’s Words with Friends, the next it’s Draw Something. By the time I’ve downloaded the game and started to get into it, my friends are all talking about some other new game. All of it has led me to wonder…what makes an iPhone game take off?
First, let’s review some of the biggest iPhone trends:
- Words with Friends—This game is most famous for being so addictive, Alec Baldwin was kicked off a plane for refusing to stop playing when it was time to put his phone away. Who could ask for better publicity than that? Words with Friends allows you to play Scrabble with other users—friends or strangers, your choice. When the other player makes a move, you have to make a move back, bringing out that competitive streak that makes it hard to put your phone away.
- Angry Birds—Who wasn’t playing Angry Birds last year? What makes Angry Birds so unique is that it combines a comical, fun design with the serious competitiveness of other games. Because the line between success and failure is often a matter of just adjusting your angle a little, a person is prompted to continue to try, over and over, until someone is calling that person “addicted.”
- Draw Something—This is the new craze. Or at least it was the last time I checked, but I’m sure that may have easily changed by now. Draw Something combines the same concept of Words with Friends with Pictionary. You draw something on your screen with your finger and other people try to guess what you drew. This is probably more fun on an iPad, where you have a bigger canvas, but iPhone owners love the app, too.
These apps all have a few notable similarities—notable because those designing the apps of the future need to keep them in mind. One of the biggest common factor is that they are all simple. If you’re creating video games for PS3, you can make things far more complex. The iPhone, on the other hand, has you working with a smaller screen, using only touch screen commands. iPhone owners are drawn to simple concepts that are easy to play in short bursts, while waiting in doctor’s offices or hanging out at home.
Interactivity is another factor that makes for a popular iPhone game.
Some of the games I’ve liked best are ones I downloaded because a friend wanted to play it with me. If an interactive game wins over one user, you can bet that user will tell others and encourage them to download it.
A bug-free design is a must. Speaking as an iPhone gamer, I will tell you that we have very low tolerance for bugs. If I’m really hooked on a game, I might put up with the occasional crash or glitch, but come on. If your app is crashing every five minutes, you can bet you’ll be deleted from my phone almost as soon as you’ve been downloaded. If you aren’t going to put the money and time into developing a professional, stable app, don’t waste your time.
That said, in the end, gamers just want to have fun. PCMag’s Jill Duffy said it best.
Games can challenge us, sparking our problem-solving skills into action, and they can relax us,” Duffy wrote. “They make us laugh, and let us connect with friends. Sometimes we even learn something about ourselves.”
Create an app that helps us do all that, and you’ll have a winner.