5 common mistakes social game developers must avoid

As social games continue to grow in popularity, every developer and their dog wants to create and launch their own in hopes of making it big—FarmVille big. While that’s not apt to happen you never know which social game will explode among the masses. To make this as likely as possible, let’s look at five mistakes many new social game developers make. Avoiding this will give you the best chance to create a game that will thrive.

1. Overreliance on cross promotion.

The revenue and exposure that comes from cross promotion partnerships are important. But relying on this too heavily, especially early on, will lead you to demise. First of all, a small initial user base on your original platform, say Facebook, will let you know whether your game even has a shot. If it is barely staying afloat, take time to tweak and improve it—don’t push cross promotions and add platform compatibility when your game hasn’t proven itself on the original platform is was designed to succeed on. Stretching your resources too thin before you can establish a core foundation will likely lead to collapse. Plus, this may create much higher per-user customer acquisition costs than necessary.

2. Overreliance on viral components.

Everybody wants to go viral. That’s the internet pipe dream. But it’s not the whole story. Consider ad buys, cross promotions, social media marketing, etc. It’s yet another component of an established, successful game that is vital, but only when the pieces of the puzzle fit—force it and fail. Remember, the more players you have in your base (acquired initially from advertising, promoting, and marketing) will increase the likelihood of player-driven virality.

3. Overreliance on virtual goods.

Virtual goods, free or revenue-generating, are an important component of any social game. Allowing a player to amass virtual wealth in a game-specific currency, then, once hooked, having the player spending real money for additional benefits or rarer items—there are gameplay designs that generate revenue. But that order is important—don’t push anything on a player who hasn’t established an investment in the game. If a player reaches any sort of limit on their play before establishing an investment in the game where they feel compelled to continue progressing, they’re apt to leave. If their only option is to buy stuff with real money, what’s the point? Let virtual goods supplement gameplay patterns designed for long-term engagement, so instead of player buying on item, and then quitting shortly thereafter in disappointment, they become regular buyers.

4. Prioritizing production over social gameplay.

Production quality matters. But it’s absolutely pointless without carefully crafted social gameplay patterns that promote the interactivity, social connectivity, and compelling engagement that arises from a well designed social game. Games succeed on the overall experience players have—and while terrible graphics or a crappy soundtrack may contribute negatively to this experience, the ultimate factor is the gameplay. Players want to enjoy the actions in-game—appreciate the plot, the concept, and the social elements it brings to the table. Everything else is secondary.

5. Thinking maintenance is easy.

Once you launch your game, is it over? Hardly—in fact, it’s barely just begun. Players demand a lot in this gaming market. You need to constantly develop new content, innovate the game’s features, create real-time updates so users feel compelled to return often, and frequently crunch the numbers to determine if you’re succeeding—and if so, how, and how you can succeed further. Social games are not console games, which may offer one or two new content patches to online users during their lifetime, but often nothing. Those games have more time spent pre-launch, a lot more, because the game needs to stand on its own two feet and survive without help afterward. Social games are launched with less preparation, but the work never stops.