Traplight Games started creating user-generated content (UGC) games about five years ago somewhat by accident, and since then we’ve studied the genre and player behaviour quite a lot.
Our first UGC game Big Bang Racing, launched in July 2016, approaches UGC from a social media perspective: the levels are designed and created by the players for the players.
Like in social media, the level creators receive social validation for their work in the form of likes and follows. Top creators have amassed tens of thousands of followers and millions of likes inside the game.
Through our experiences with Big Bang Racing we have realised that some specific emergent features of UGC make it extremely valuable for us.
Here are our top five reasons to develop UGC-based games:
UGC means high quality content
Our debut title Big Bang Racing has eight million user-created levels, of which our team members have created less than 0.0002 per cent.
Around 100,000 of all the levels are of extremely high quality. Soon after launching Big Bang Racing in 2016 we realised that neither the amount nor quality of levels created by the players were going to be an issue.
To have even a fraction of players creating content results in tens of thousands of brilliant levels. The top creators make so much high-quality content that a game studio could never compete with their output.
UGC is engaging
In Big Bang Racing players who create levels are twice as engaged and monetise better than non-creators.
By creating you participate and participating makes you more involved with whatever you are doing. You put a little of yourself into everything you make. There is something called IKEA effect in play; people who create or participate in creating something value the end product higher than they would otherwise.
Players get inspired by other players' levels. They iterate and combine things found from the game, keeping it fresh.
Players who create also invest a lot of time and social energy into the game, which makes them even more engaged.
UGC is inherently social
When players in Big Bang Racing create levels, they expect to get feedback on their levels from other players.
Feedback happens in the form of social validation: likes and follows. Players are also interested in seeing what others have made and want to give out social validation about those creations.
One of the most requested features by creators was the possibility to edit already published levels based on feedback they received from their clan members. This tells us how inherent the expectations for social validation are for players of UGC games.
UGC keeps your game fresh
Players get inspired by other players' levels. They iterate and combine things found from the game, keeping it fresh. This behaviour also forms trends when something new and exciting is found: everyone wants to take part in that movement.
In Big Bang Racing we had a few moments where players had exhausted the potential from the available tools. We decided to add creative tools that gave new functionality and repurposed some of the old. The result? The game was instantly fresh for non-creators and full of potential for creators to invent new trends.
In social media, where the creation tools (e.g. cameras) are completely in the hands of the users, it’s much harder for developers to contribute to keeping the content of the platform fresh.
In UGC games however the creation tools are part of the game, and by releasing new updates the developers play an integral role of setting new trends and helping creators innovate.
UGC makes your game stand out
A game that is based on UGC has a unique feel to it. It has a promise of something more than just playing. Highlighting these creative aspects of the game makes it easier to distinguish from the competition.
UGC has also given us synergy with social media influencers. YouTubers, like Nickatnyte, EthanGamer and Annoying Orange, have created videos about the Big Bang Racing and many others have hosted tournaments with their custom-made levels.
We feel that UGC games have a huge, yet undiscovered market potential. Lately this has been shown in successful storytelling, home decoration and fashion designer games targeted at a female audience.
There are still many genres and markets to be discovered with UGC games, so it’s definitely worth considering adding UGC elements in your games as well.