The end of the lonely gamer
Deep links are everything to everybody in mobile these days. Except games. There is little doubt among anybody who has been paying attention that the future of the mobile ecosystem involves a more deeply intwined app-to-app experience. Whether that’s through Facebook’s App Links, the plethora of deep linking startups or Apple’s own Extensions the value is to clear to ignore. Ecommerce, social, news, utility- nearly all apps work indisputably better when leveraging deferred deep links.
Games are a fundamentally social experience and it’s always been that way. In analog games all of the eternal classics require at least one friend. Chess, Bridge, Go, Othello, Mancala, Poker. Rare exceptions like Solitaire are the exception that proves the rule. Early console video games were sometimes a single player experience, due to limitation of design and technology, but even then the sacred rituals of fair controller passing were widely known and respected.
Games are a fundamentally social experience and technology makes that easier. Consider the leaderboard, both as we now know them, spanning globes in Clash of Clans or in their historical purity as bragging rights for the neighbourhood arcade- in both cases they were technology that added no core gameplay value and yet drastically increased retention in games. Fuel Powered is a social SDK for single player games adding asynchronous multiplayer and tournament game play- resulting in powerful upswing in KPIs.
Those players have 9 percent more days played per week and their 7-day retention goes up 5 percent to 20 percent. Additionally, in a test case study in a game with over 5 million monthly active users, Fuel found that multiplayer had a direct correlation with a 24 percent increase in revenue.
Venture Beat on Fuel Powered
Even rich and personal single player games are shifting to a social experience. Journey was nearly Kotaku’s best game of 2012, a haunting and beautiful solo player PS3 game that echoed ideas like loneliness and joy through flat screen TVs. More than perhaps any other game it forced self reflection- and yet it was social. Always running through the same world as you were the ghosts of hundreds of other players, you could see every one but affect no change with any- communication limited to aimless hops and spins, two strangers trying to etch meaning into the game and hurdle it across the void.
Personal games on mobile are going the same way. Monument Valley was Apple’s Best Game of 2014. In a sea of competition it rose to the top for a stunning commitment to polish- it was beautiful, thoughtful and offered delightful moments in every level. It was also an abstract narrative, another example of a game using nebulous story and and quiet honest moments to make the experience more personally relevant. And yet the only non critical UI options were to share your screenshots socially. It is a sincere, powerful and personal game meant to be played alone- but shared with friends.
The future of mobile is deep links. In nearly all other fields games have led the charge on innovation (growth/monetization/design) in mobile but in deep links they haven’t seen the clear value add yet. As the technology becomes ubiquitous and the seamless inter-app experience becomes commoditized in the consumer’s mind the opportunity for forward thinking games to build sophisticated growth and engagement technology into the core of their experience will help the stand out in the crowded mobile game space.
Achievements, once the brilliant meta-game innovation of xbox live accounts have become so de facto as to being a necessary part of successful Game Centre integration on iOS. In the same way, interconnected flow of gameplay data, metadata and communication facilitated through deep links will become the gold standard of engaging mobile game design.
Jetpack Joyride took a familiar and highly repeated game play mechanic, the endless runner, and turned it into a monstrous long haul winner through compelling engagement focused design on their achievement system.
Future big winners in the gaming industry will find captivating ways to work deep links into the social DNA of their game. Tapstream’s Onboarding Links are the first step.