7 game dev tips from Bowmasters’ success

Megacool
Mar 7 · 9 min read

Bowmasters is a turn-based aim-and-shoot game developed by Playgendary. Released in 2016, the game has proved consistently popular and is a regular in the top 100 US Games charts as well as the top 20s for Action and Arcade. With its accessible gameplay and colorful, playful style, it’s also been a regular pick for store featuring.

Bowmasters features plenty of modes and unlockables on top of its lively multiplayer gameplay. Playgendary has also kept supporting the game with new features, characters and weapons released in the form of updates.However, Bowmasters’ success isn’t purely down to the App Store’s editorial team taking a liking to it and giving it prominent featuring. Instead, Playgendary’s title combines simple pick-up-and-play gameplay with colorful visuals and a smooth first-time user experience (FTUE).

In our video below, we walk through the FTUE of Bowmasters, from its listing on the App Store to its social features. We’ve also laid out some of the things that Bowmasters can teach us about making a successful mobile game, and some areas that we think it could improve.

What you can learn from Bowmasters

Bowmasters is a colorful, playful and streamlined mobile game, with very few barriers for the player to clear before they can enjoy the game. Let’s take a look at some of the specific points that we can learn from Playgendary’s title.

1. Incentivize video ads in creative ways

Bowmasters makes use of video ads in ways that are appealing for the player. It makes them part of other retention mechanics, such as daily rewards and free chests.

After claiming a daily reward, players can skip ahead and claim tomorrow’s reward in exchange for watching an ad. You can also claim 2x the amount of reward items by watching an ad.

This has the double effect of getting players to engage with those mechanics, as well as incentivizing them to watch an ad.

2. Give exclusive items for completing certain actions

Bowmasters comes with a wide range of playable characters which can be unlocked with in-game currency or IAP. However, there is also a number of characters that can only be obtained when the player completes certain actions. These include following Playgendary’s social media accounts and sharing the game with a certain number of friends, asking them to join the game.

Not only will these actions help to swell the number of Bowmasters’ players and followers on social media, but it will also create additional reasons for players to keep playing the game. They’ll see news and stories on a regular basis via Playgendary’s social channels, and also have the strong social hook of their friends playing too.

3. Don’t overload players with too much info too early

While Bowmasters’ core loop is straightforward to learn, there are plenty of other mechanics in the game that could overwhelm the player if presented too early. There’s IAPs, character unlocks, daily gifts and quests, achievements, and a Diamond Membership.

All of these are drip-fed to a new player, rather than bombarding them with too much information up front. It’s only after several rounds of Bowmasters that they will learn about the Membership or quests. Similarly, Bowmasters only asks players to rate the app once they’ve been playing for 20 or 30 minutes — long enough for them to get to grips with the game and give it a meaningful review.

4. Be clear about why you ask for permission to collect player data

The first thing a new player sees upon opening Bowmasters is a permissions request for sharing data with ad partners. Crucially, it lays out the reasons and benefits for asking for this information — to deliver “high-quality content that is relevant to you”. It’s clear and honest and may result in more players accepting this data use than a less explanatory message.

5. Use eye-catching text when sharing to social

Bowmasters allows players to invite their friends to the game using a range of platforms, including messaging services and social media. The default text is fun, friendly and eye-catching, making heavy use of emojis. It also contains a clear call-to-action.

This will make the content stand out on social feeds. It also looks personalized by default, as opposed to being automatically generated by the game. This should all feed together to make the shares more engaging, and increase the chance of a referral.

6. Achievements double as player stats

Bowmasters hands achievements and medals for tons of actions completed in the game. Some are larger-scale, such as dealing 5,000 damage to opponents, whereas some are much smaller such as headshots or comeback wins.The game takes achievements one step further, by having them be repeatable. Every headshot you earn is tracked and numbered in the achievements section. This means that the achievements themselves double as player stats, giving players the ability to track their progress over time and potentially keep them playing for longer.

7. Subtle cross-promotion

Among the character choices, Playgendary has snuck in native cross promotion for their other games. Here’s an example of their cross-promotion of their other game Party Master.

What Bowmasters can improve

As successful as Bowmasters is, there are a few areas that we think it could do even better. Let’s take a look.

1. Increase the amount of social features

Bowmasters is fun to play, with colourful visuals, ragdoll physics and a playful tone with its fatalities and arrows-to-the-knee. This combination of exciting moments and cute, sometimes-surreal graphics makes for ideal opportunities to share to social media.

However, this is an opportunity that Bowmasters currently misses. The game gives players the chance to invite others using social and messaging, but very little else. There’s no opportunity to share after completing a match, getting a new achievement, or unlocking a new character. These are all things that players should be encouraged to share, not only to give a sense of pride in their success in Bowmasters but to potentially increase brand awareness and bring in new players.

2. Use visuals when sharing to social

While the messaging used when sending game invitations to friends is friendly and emoji-packed, there is no accompanying imagery which is another big missed opportunity. For a game with such an eye-catching art style, any share to social should at least have an image from Bowmasters to go with it to better show off the game.

This could be a snapshot of their winning moment (player characters often end up cartoonishly-impaled with everything from spears to baguettes), or their character dancing the victory salute at the end of every successful round. Making use of visuals here will increase engagement when shared to social, and boost the conversion rate at which players click the link to try the app.

Even more impactful would be to make use of GIFs for shares and friend invites. We’ve seen first-hand the power of GIFs when it comes to marketing, and Bowmasters is one of the most GIF-able games on the App Store today. Each action (a shot) takes just a few seconds, and the consequences are usually funny or dramatic: either a direct hit or a near miss. Those moments make perfect GIFs, which in turn make for great social content for players and for Bowmasters itself.

3. Implement referrals

Although Bowmasters allows players to send out invites to their friends on social media or via messaging apps, it lacks a proper referral marketing mechanic. Players can send out an invite, but there is no way for Playgendary (or the player) to track how many friends follow the link and download the game.

At Megacool, we’ve looked at referral marketing for mobile games in detail, and there are plenty of ways in which Playgendary could improve Bowmasters in this area. With proper referral tracking, they could offer tiers of rewards to players based on how many of their friends join the game. For example, when a friend joins, they could receive some in-game currency; when 5 friends join, they could unlock another new VIP character. This would motivate the player to refer their friends and to drive them to the game.

On top of that, Bowmasters could use deeplinking to customize a new player’s entry point into the game. They could use this to automatically add new players to a “friends list” for whomever sent the original invite, or even instantly join a multiplayer match with that player.

This is a huge acquisition upside to referral marketing for mobile games, especially a multiplayer game like Bowmasters. For more information on best practices for referral marketing, check out our blog post.

4. Inform players about multiplayer

Bowmasters keeps its multiplayer mode gated until they have achieved 10 wins in the game. This is not explicitly explained to the player, who may assume that Bowmasters is purely player-v-AI despite.

Not only that, but multiplayer should be a big draw for players to stick around and play Bowmasters for a long time and trigger them to bring in friends to play with. The fact they need to win 10 games to access multiplayer could be used as a carrot for players to strive to achieve. Bowmasters should do more to inform and highlight this to the player. For example, In the achievements menu they could add “Unlock real-time mulitplayer”.

5. Incentivize players to follow Playgendary’s social accounts

Currently, Bowmasters gives exclusive items for liking posts on related social media accounts — but nothing for interacting with Playgendary’s official accounts. It’s possible to access the Playgendary Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram via the Settings menu, but this is tucked away from the casual player, and they may never notice it.

Bowmasters could offer incentives to players to like their official accounts, or simply do more to push players towards them and build up more of a social audience for future marketing and re-engagement activities.

Other game dissections

If you enjoyed this game dissection, why not take a look at some of our others? We’ve taken deep dives into some of the biggest mobile games in recent years, to see what made them successful and what (if anything) they could do better:

Thanks for reading and watching! If you want to more know about Megacool, our products and our insight into gaming growth, please get in touch — we’d love to hear from you: hello [at] megacool.co!


Originally published at megacool.co on March 7, 2019.

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