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Idle Games: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games

Dec 04, 2019

Unveil the secrets of self-playing games and learn the ins and outs of the most common monetization and mechanics strategies.

What is an idle game? Not everyone can answer this question correctly, although almost everybody is sure to have played these games or games based on the mechanics inherent in idle games at least once. An idle-game, self-playing game or incremental game is a computer or mobile game that involves simple actions such as mouse clicks or screen taps. By doing this, the gamer gets a reward or so-called in-game currency which in turn can be spent on the purchase of in-game items that increase the speed of receipt or the amount of reward. With the purchase of various game improvements, there is a possibility to receive the reward even without the participation of the player. This game logic implies an increase in a player’s profits by an exponential model. However, the rise in prices for in-game purchases is also developing exponentially. Thus, the time the player spends to receive a third-level object equals or exceeds the time spent on the receipt of a second-level object. Some games are based on a system of reset progress. When you reset, the player gets some currency that can be used to buy improvements that increase the speed of receiving a reward or the reward itself. This improvement does not disappear on subsequent resets.

This type of game caught on in 2013 after the online idle game Cow Clicker was released. Cow Clicker was developed by Ian Bogost and currently is viewed as one of the best idle games that ridicule social games. It managed to gather an audience of 50,000 players within a few days after its release. Today the genre of idle browser games is not as popular as it used to be, but new idle games still appear on many platforms.

How to choose an idle mobile video game monetization strategy

The most common idle mobile game monetization model is in-game purchases. It is the easiest way to immediately buy the necessary amount of in-game currency. Rewinding time allows you to skip the wait time for action and immediately get the desired effect. A multiple increase in speed allows you to increase the speed for all processes occurring inside the game. From time to time, you speed up progress regardless of in-app purchases. This is an effect of exponential growth, and in fact, the overall speed of advancement in the game does not change.

Premium currencies are necessary for getting permanent bonuses and increasing the chance of falling down in random in-game events. Buying a variety of currencies and in-game events items is also a sort of protection against negative effects applied in some self-playing games backed by aggressive mobile game monetization strategies. They slow down the development of players and urge users who do not want to lose their progress to pay for protection against such threats.

Another monetization strategy is the use of internal advertising such as banners and advertising inserts. The user is rewarded for viewing ads. Typical rewards include premium currency, reduced waiting time, protection against negative effects, small accelerations, and multipliers. This method is also good at dealing with a negative user’s loyalty. The reward allows you to quickly increase your loyalty.

It is worth noting that the profit from in-game purchases and advertising integrations accounts for 30 and 70 percent respectively, based on data from the Kongregate game portal. Users who are willing to pay more than $10 make up only two percent of the total mass of players. These statistics are true for all markets. However, the total amount of money spent by players on the self-playing games varies in different regions. The Asian market in this aspect is the most profitable and responsive to various ad campaigns.

Mobile game ads are an important part of mobile game development. It is proved that the more time the user spends in the game, the more their interest and the more they bring benefits to the creator. The developer’s efforts should be aimed at keeping the user engaged in self-playing games.To do this, the game must be filled with content and a variety of events. According to the polls, most players who spent more than $10 on the game and lost interest in it are ready to return if there is new content. It was calculated that the optimal period of updates is about 5 to 6 weeks. This interval allows keeping user engagement in the game at a high level and gives space for developers to implement new ideas and mechanics.

Another way to keep the player’s interest is a huge variety of achievements and tasks. Achievements in the self-playing games give a person a sense of accomplishment as well as effort justification. The top idle games have a leaderboard. People want to be the best and the basis shows itself perfectly. Players who have achieved success cannot help playing the game because otherwise someone else will get ahead of them. The analysis showed that the average income per active user will increase to 30 percent.

Another source of user motivation is additional rewards given to the most active players on the leaderboard. This method is used in the most profitable mobile games. Statistics show an increase in average income per active user to 50 percent.

What’s new with the advent of this genre on the video game market?

One of the core mechanics of games is the lack of punishment for missed time in the game. This type of game allows you to advance in the game without playing regularly. It is for this reason that it is called a self-playing game. The profit generated during the player’s absence is also calculated by the exponential model in the opposite direction. One week of inactivity gives the sum of as many as two days of active play. One month of inactivity brings about the same profit as 3 days of active play. Thus, the more the player is not in the game, the more reward is given in return. This method gives positive results in the long run.

Idle games are actively distributed on various platforms such as Google Play Market and Steam. Each platform regulates the number and type of monetization adequately, be it steam idle games or any other digital distribution store.

For the economy of the game to work, it is necessary to balance the amount of profit earned and spent. The cost of new improvements grows in direct exponential dependence and does not allow the player to accumulate too much currency.

After a certain period of time, the user will see that their progress has slowed down, which will require them to take some actions. The player can buy a currency or accelerator and use them to increase their income. Likewise, the user can use the mechanics of resetting progress. Reset allows you to get a premium currency for which you buy bonuses of a constant type of action, they do not disappear on the subsequent reset. At the same time, the player sees how fast he or she goes through those stages of the game that used to take several days. This happens until the user again does not reach the point where the price increases much higher than the growth of profits. This process can be repeated endlessly.

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