What makes a good casual game?

My oldest son and I have been working on a casual mobile game app for the past few weeks. When we started thinking about the project, we asked ourselves “what makes a casual, mobile, game good?”.

After digging into a number of articles and stats around the topic, parsing a ton of random opinions online, and playing around with what we felt were the best apps out there in this general space, we landed on the following eleven questions:

  1. Is it engaging enough that players lose track of time?
  2. Is it re-playable?
  3. Does it have some form of strategic planning?
  4. Are improved skills rewarded?
  5. Can even the best players fail occasionally?
  6. Does it have a time factor or countdown?
  7. Can you unlock content or features as you level, power up, or play more?
  8. Are there points, badges, and/or achievements that help motivate players to play more?
  9. Is there a global leaderboard (can you easily compare yourself to your friends)?
  10. Does it have slot machine effects (does the computer take over for brief periods of ‘winning’ automation while the user sits back and watches the points rack up)?
  11. Does it have network effects (does the game get better as it gets more players)?

Of course this is by no means a complete list, but I think it’s a good start and covers many of the core things to think about (in terms of playability).

So, then our challenge was to come up with an idea and build a game that we could answer “yes” to each of these questions…but that was also simple enough that we could build it out with our limited resources, talents, and ideally within a few weeks.

Honestly the idea we settled on, and have been building, doesn’t have a solid “yes” to each of these questions yet…but version one will have a “yes” for a lot of them. And we’ll continue to work towards getting to “yes” across the board as we polish and evolve the game.

In the meantime, what should we add to our list to make it a “good game” for you?

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).