No, you aren’t good at Candy Crush or Clash of Clans

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Illusion of skill

Mobile gaming is massive. It brings in a ton of players and a ridiculously large amount of cash for developers. Some fans even go so far as to brag about how much they’ve progressed in the various games, much like sharing levels achieved in RPGs or K/D ratios in shooters. However, the progress you make in mobile games doesn’t really have much to do with your skill.

Tilting Point VP, Jesse Divnich spoke to Games Industry ahead of a talk he’s giving at the Montreal International Game Summit next week. He explains that unlike games like FIFA or free-to-play MOBAs, your progression has little to do with skill and more to do with time and money:

No one is actually good at Candy Crush, but some people actually believe they are,. In these non-skill-based games, you can tell me how many hours you’ve played, how much money you have spent, and I should be able to tell you within a good degree of certainty how far you are in Candy Crush, what level your town hall is in Clash of Clans, how many times you’ve ascended in Tap Titans. For some, it is a scary thought to know that the most commercially successful games on mobile are really just well-designed rollercoasters. It’s not a negative concept, it is simply what works in free-to-play mobile.

Divnich stresses that the illusion of skill shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing although long-terms gamers may have an issue with it. Looking at the top 30 mobile games, 26 don’t rely on any actual skill for progression. But that doesn’t mean that people can’t have fun:

As gamers, we are hobbyists and have an entirely different perspective of gaming. We grew up in an era where skill-based, high intensity action was the norm. That still exists and thrives today, and that is not going anywhere. However, with the penetration of smartphones, nearly everyone is a potential gamer and we have to understand that what excites them and what drives them to engage in games is much different than what drives a traditional gamer. This concept of controlling the pace of progress is not disappearing anytime soon nor do I believe it is a mechanic that hurts enjoyment. You have to put yourself in the shoes of those consuming the content and if they’re having fun, that’s more important to them than whether the games they love require real skill or not.

In application, Divnich explains that mobile gamers need to keep this aspect in mind if they are seeking commercial success with their games. Most developers want to make the types of games that they would enjoy playing, but most mobile gamers fall into another group. These gamers want to enjoy the gameplay experience and feel rewarded for the time that they put into it, regardless of any actual skills or abilities. In much the same way that children’s sports competitions are starting to give out trophies just for taking part, it seems that mobile gaming is all about making a fun and rewarding experience for players, even if all they did was tap the screen in predictable ways.

Now I wonder how many hard core games are the same. Is it all just a pre-build rollercoaster that I’m enjoying, or do my hours of gameplay really result in improved performance and reward?

Last Updated: November 12, 2015

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