How to Generate and Evaluate Mobile Game Ideas
(This article was originally published on Udonis’ blog.)
People frequently say there is nothing new under the sun. It feels like almost everything has already been done by someone.
The same goes for mobile games.
For this reason, coming up with innovative mobile game ideas is challenging. Moreover, once you have an idea in mind, you need to evaluate it. If you don’t do this, you’re making a big mistake.
To help you out with all of this, I’m bringing you a guide for generating and evaluating mobile game ideas.
You can thank me later.
Why Are Mobile Game Ideas Important?
Behind every successful mobile game, there is somebody’s idea. The idea is a starting point for every great thing. It’s the idea that sets apart products from the competition and similar existing solutions.
Everyone thinks they have amazing ideas.
That is, until reality kicks in.
In many cases, this happens when developers try to turn their ideas into fully-functioning software pieces. This is when they become aware their ideas are too ambitious for their technical capabilities.
Others turn out to be bad when they already hit the app stores. In a lot of cases, this happens because developers didn’t do proper market research. However, by the time they realize this, it’s already too late. Resources have already been invested, and the game has been developed.
Unfortunately, ideas are not something that can be fixed later in the development process.
Many people think of product ideas as single thoughts. However, this is merely the beginning of the idea generation process.
This process should consist of a series of steps and well-thought-out elements. Only when the idea is carefully worked out is it ready for further steps. However, even considering all of this, there is no guarantee that your mobile game ideas will be lucrative.
The Story about a Mobile Game Idea: Angry Birds
Before they launched Angry Birds, Rovio was quite an unsuccessful startup.
In fact, they had 51 failed attempts at creating a successful mobile game. This is 51 ideas for 51 different games.
Consequently, the startup was on the verge of bankruptcy.
One day, one of the company’s game designers made a rough drawing of an angry-looking bird. He showed it to the other coworkers, and everyone agreed — this character will be the starting point for their next game.
Just like that, the initial idea was born.
However, the team still had no vision about the gameplay they would develop around these characters. But then, while brainstorming, someone in the team suggested that the birds should have an enemy.
That was the year the world was struggling with a swine flu pandemic. Hence, the team decided to make pigs the enemies. The pigs would steal the birds’ eggs and make them angry. This is a great example of drawing inspiration from the world around you.
Tips for Coming up with Great Mobile Game Ideas
Different people have completely different methods of getting inspired. A technique that works for one person may not work for another one.
Some seek ideas in the world around them.
Some brainstorm until they drop.
Others look for inspiration in products that have proven to be successful.
All of these methods are legit and can yield great mobile game ideas. Let me guide you through the best ways of generating mobile game ideas and the processes that go along with them.
Hay Day, a game inspired by an everyday activity — farming.
Get Inspiration from the Real World
Some players play mobile games to experience the real world in a different way. Others play them to escape the real world.
Whatever your target group is, the real world is a great starting point for mobile game ideas.
When it comes to the first group of players, look around. What seems like a boring, everyday activity that can be turned into something super exciting in a game?
For example, planting a garden, feeding animals, selling burgers, driving cars, building houses, etc.
To address the other group of players, think about all the things we don’t have in the real world but are possible in the virtual one.
For example, flying, fighting monsters with swords, fireballs, magic, etc. Besides these activities, consider fictional characters such as dragons, witches, goblins, superheroes, etc.
Get Inspiration from Entertainment Pieces
Creative people turn their ideas into great books, movies, stories, songs, etc. You can use all these as a source of inspiration for your mobile game ideas. Every time you engage with them, you can look for elements that can be used for a mobile game.
A framework from a TV show, a scene from a movie, an album cover, whatever. For example, it’s noticeable that a lot of trivia games take inspiration from existing television quizzes.
In a similar matter, different entertainment elements have the potential to be processed into mobile game features.
A Reddit thread on mobile game ideas.
Join Mobile Gaming Communities
There are different communities where people discuss all things related to mobile gaming. This includes the communities of players but also the communities of developers.
These communities can be a great source of information you may need to come up with great mobile game ideas.
Some communities of players can be found on Reddit, Steam, Discord, etc. When it comes to developers, they mostly hang around on forums. This again includes Reddit, but also GameFAQs, TouchArcade, VGR Forum, Android Central, etc.
You can benefit from both.
In the developers’ discussions, you can find information about hot games, different debates, answers to your questions, etc.
On the other hand, players frequently discuss what they like and dislike in certain mobile games. This can be useful for you, as you can find out what attracts and drives people away from mobile games.
Keep up with The Industry
Reading the latest mobile gaming news can also help you while coming up with mobile game ideas.
Some of the most popular destinations for mobile gaming news are Udonis News, Pocket Gamer, and Wired.
Being aware of the mobile gaming trends and happenings helps you understand the market better. Consequently, this can be excellent guidance for generating mobile game ideas.
[caption id=”attachment_215529" align=”aligncenter” width=”800"]
Mobile game idea generator by Let’s Make a Game.[/caption]
Use Online Idea Generators
Need something to help you spark your creativity?
Give online mobile game idea generators a shot. These tools generate random game ideas using a random set of tags. For example, they can give you a random combination of genre, rule, setting, and theme for a mobile game.
In most cases, the results will be, well, odd.
No, these generators won’t give you the world’s best mobile game ideas. However, they can help you think better and broaden your imagination.
Some popular game idea generators are BAFTA YGD, IndieGameDev, and Let’s Make A Game’s Generator.
Top mobile games on Google Play in November 2021. Source: App Annie
Analyze Mobile Game Market Leaders
Want to get some inspiration from the games that have already proven successful?
One of your first destinations should be the app stores’ top charts.
By looking into them, you can keep track of which mobile games are popular at the moment. You can analyze which are the top downloaded games, the top-grossing games, and top-selling games.
Moreover, you can analyze the categories and genres these games fall into. You can also look into the players’ reviews to find out what players like and dislike about them.
Another thing you can do is to keep track of the top charts for a while. This way, you may spot some kind of a pattern of how trending games come and go. As a result, you may decide to focus on a game category you see the most potential in.
Play Some Games
Sure, observing how different games perform is important. However, playing different games is even more effective for generating mobile game ideas.
If you decide on this strategy, it is crucial to play various games. For example, games from different genres, trending games, old-but-gold games, indie games, etc.
The more, the merrier.
Only this way can you learn about their differences and similarities, advantages and disadvantages.
From the players’ perspective, you can get a whole lot of valuable insights.
First of all, you should consider everything you like and dislike about a game. For example, the interface, user experience, how it makes you feel, etc. Moreover, you can observe the game’s strategies, mechanics, and unique and not-so-unique features.
Based on this experience, you may decide to go into a particular genre with a new and original idea. Or you can get inspired to recycle an existing game.
If you decide on the latter, know there is nothing wrong with basing your framework on an existing game. However, it is important not to be a complete copycat. Numerous games out there tried this approach, and most of them didn’t get much out of it.
Consider All Combinations
Okay, now you know how to track down successful games and how to analyze them.
Now, you can play a little bit.
For example, you can try combining two tried-and-true mobile game ideas into a new one. Create a list of successful mobile games and pick out two random games. Then, play and analyze these games.
Next, think about how you would blend them together. For example, how you would combine shooter mechanics from Call of Duty: Mobile with match-3 mechanics from Candy Crush Saga.
I know. It sounds super weird.
The point of this is — don’t be afraid of playing with conflicting ideas. Some of them may actually turn out to be valuable.
Try Out the SCAMPER Technique
If you’ve decided to base your mobile game on the existing one, you should know about the SCAMPER technique. It is a brainstorming technique that dates back to 1953 and is still very much relevant today.
Obviously, the word SCAMPER is an acronym. It stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Purpose, Eliminate, and Rearrange. Use the technique by thinking about how you can improve existing products with these seven prompts.
The technique is suitable for many product ideas, including mobile games. One of the games created on this approach was Color Switch — a hit hyper-casual game.
You can simply apply this list of transformations to an existing mobile game idea. Analyze a mobile game and see what you can combine, eliminate, rearrange, etc.
What’s the point?
Well, every time you cross something off the SCAMPER list, your mobile game idea becomes slightly more original.
Example of Using the SCAMPER Technique
Probably the best way for you to understand the SCAMPER technique is to exemplify it.
Let’s say you want to get some inspiration from one of the world’s most profitable mobile games — Coin Master.
Based on the SCAMPER technique, you may set some of the following questions:
- Can I replace the pig protagonist with some other character? Should I replace the spin button with a pull lever? (Substitute)
- Is it possible to connect the game to some other social network other than Facebook? (Combine)
- Which new elements can I add to the slot machine? Does it make sense to add another currency (Adapt)
- How can I revamp the interface? Should I make the background music less fun and more dramatic? (Modify)
- Can the game be put to other uses other than playing? Should I also make it a communication platform? (Purpose)
- Which of the current Coin Master features would I like to eliminate? Maybe lose the Pet collection meta-layer? (Eliminate)
- Are there any processes or features that can be entirely switched? If so, what would the effects be? (Reverse)
Remember, there are no stupid questions or ideas here. The purpose of this method is to create a selection process to find the best ideas and develop them further.
Evaluating Mobile Game Ideas
Okay, you finally have your idea, and you’re ready to roll.
Before going all-in with investments and development, you should evaluate whether the idea is viable.
You don’t want to find out the idea is not-so-good when the game is already out and is performing poorly.
Did you know that approximately 10,000 new games appear in the app stores each month and get ranked at least once? This can happen in the least impressive category, in just one country, or just for one day.
When this happens, each of these games gains something. Some get a temporary download spike, while others experience a sudden revenue increase.
A lot of these games come with great gameplay, UX, art, etc. However, only a percentage of them will earn over $100 thousand in their lifetimes.
For all others, the stars just never align.
Even though these developers were convinced their ideas were great, and their games even got ranked, they still didn’t work out.
It’s possible these developers didn’t evaluate their mobile game ideas properly. You don’t want to fall into this group, so let’s go over the steps for assessing mobile game ideas.
Are There Already Similar Games on the Market?
Decided to take inspiration from a mega-popular game like Gardenscapes or Lords Mobile?
Sure, you plan to make your own version of it.
However, many other developers out there are thinking the exact same thing. For this reason, you will need to check out the existing clones of these games as well.
There is a fair chance that someone already had an idea similar to yours. If this turns out to be the case, you should see if these games had any success and whether it makes sense to create another similar game.
There are two popular ways to find similar titles.
1) By Keywords in the App Stores
This method works exceptionally well in the Google Play store. It has a lot to do with how the store ranks search results and competition for a keyword.
For example, if you search the term Gardenscapes, Google Play delivers +200 results. The results include other Playrix’s games, Gardenscapes’ clones, but also other not-so-similar match-3 games.
2) By Subgenre
Some useful mobile game market analytics tools give you the option to search for games by subgenre. Some are paid (e.g., App Annie), while others come with some free features (e.g., GameIntel, Sensor Tower, AppMagic).
Based on your search, you can create a list of the most prominent titles from the target subgenre. Analyze their designs, monetization strategies, UI, player motivations, player tasks, gameplay features, etc. All of the things that make these games successful and less successful.
Most importantly, use these findings to evaluate whether your mobile game idea can compete with the most successful titles you’ve come across.
Assessing the Success of Similar Titles
When analyzing variations of the same game, you have another important task — detect what the others did wrong.
This can also be done with most game analytics tools on the market.
The first thing you should be looking into is the games’ revenues. When it comes to this, you should know that the top-grossing charts mainly consider IAP and subscription revenues.
Advertising revenues are much more difficult to estimate, and no analytics tool can give you the exact data on this.
However, there is something that can help you with this — looking into downloads by country.
If a certain game has a lot of downloads, you should analyze where the majority of the traffic comes from. If most traffic comes from tier three countries like India or Pakistan, the ad revenues are probably low.
For example, the average LTV for ad-monetized games in India is between 0.01 to 0.05 cents. On the other hand, they can reach $1 to $2 per player in tier one countries (Elite Game Developers).
In other words, don’t let high download numbers deceive you.
Top puzzle games by country in the Apple App Store. Source: GameIntel
Looking into the State of the Target Genre/Subgenre
As you know, mobile gaming trends come and go rather quickly. For this reason, you need to regularly analyze your target market segment.
Is it growing, stagnating, or maybe dying?
Here’s how you analyze this and what it means for your mobile game idea.
Different game analytics tools give you insights into genre performance by country. You should pay special attention to the countries that traditionally bring in the most revenue.
If you notice a sharp decrease in the genre or subgenre, there is a couple of questions you should be asking yourself:
- Why are the games in this subgenre losing their market share so rapidly?
- Is it because no new titles are entering the market?
- Is it because the quality of the existing games in the subgenre is poor?
If these questions don’t give you the answer that clarifies the situation, there is something else to think about.
There is one common reason why games, genres, or subgenres are stagnating or decreasing.
And it is — publishers in this market segment are failing to buy enough traffic to reach a positive ROAS (return on ad spend). For a subgenre, this means that games in other subgenres that attract similar players are stealing their audiences. Why? In these subgenres, the publishers can afford to pay more for a single install.
All in all, if you see a decreasing subgenre trend, it is a dangerous move to develop a game in this market segment.
Before turning your mobile game idea into a product, make sure the market segment you’re targeting is growing or stable.
From time to time, the mobile game market gets an unexpected shake-up.
This happens when a game appears from the blue and breathes life into a market segment. For instance, when a new mechanic appears.
A great example of this is merging, which first appeared in Merge Dragons in 2017. Ever since then, this subgenre has been growing, and multiple games in it have succeeded.
When revolutions like this happen, they open up new doors. For this reason, you should keep an eye on successful new titles in different genres and subgenres. This might be your chance to hop on a trend.
What Are Your Chances?
Pay attention if the leading titles in the genre/subgenre change over time.
It is a bad sign if the same games take the top ten positions for an extended period. However, if they change regularly, the new entrants have better chances in the competition.
Reaching the Players
Do you believe that once players see just how great your game is, they will just spread the word around, and you won’t have to invest in marketing?
Me: “Sit down, you just got an F for your knowledge of mobile gaming.”
You: “But there are examples of games that became viral without buying traffic?!”
Me: “That’s ancient history. The chances of that happening today are worse than winning the lottery.”
The thing is, back in the day, there were plenty of empty niches in the mobile gaming market. In such conditions, it was possible to get a whole lot of free (organic) traffic.
However, today you shouldn’t rely on organic traffic. Instead, you should see it as a nice addition to your user acquisition campaigns.
Once you’ve validated your idea and created a product, you need to get it out there. Your user acquisition campaigns should hit the right ad networks and target the right users with the right creative assets.
You can try to manage all of this in-house. However, this is quite a complex job, so we strongly recommend you to connect with a well-referenced user acquisition agency.
How Rovio Approached User Acquisition
Let’s get back to the example of Rovio’s Angry Birds I’ve started the article with.
After embracing the initial idea, there was still a lot of work in front of Rovio. When the game was first launched on the App Store, it didn’t get much traction in the world’s biggest mobile game markets.
Yet, in its homeland, Finland, the game performed well. Therefore, the publisher made the right decision and changed the user acquisition strategy. Instead of the big markets, they focused on the smaller ones. In these markets, the game started doing better.
However, it was still struggling to succeed in the big markets. But then, Rovio got lucky. The game got featured as the UK App Store’s game of the week, and the rest is history.
This was the tipping point the game needed to become a viral hit. And probably none of it would happen if the publisher didn’t adjust the user acquisition strategy at the right moment.
Wrapping up on Mobile Game Ideas
Whether you’re thinking about your first game or a new addition to your portfolio, you need to be strategic about the mobile game ideas you choose.
Hopefully, this article provided the guidance you need on your journey to a successful game.
Since 2018 until today, Udonis Inc. has acquired over 150 million users for mobile apps & games. We’re recognized as a leading mobile marketing agency by 5 major marketing review firms. We helped over 20 mobile apps & games reach the top charts. Want to know how we make it look so effortless? Meet us to find out!