One of the day one talks at Develop Brighton had MAG Interactive's Alice Bowman take the stage to share some insight surrounding adding a narrative and story element to your video game. Doing so can help create a more loyal player base and keep retention rates up.
In the talk named "Narrative design for mobile games: storytelling on the very small screen", Bowman, who has nine years of experience on mobile and is currently writing a dating sim as a solo dev, highlighted the "high risk, high reward" factor of adding narratives to your mobile title.
Bowman notes that the market is tough right now, given tracking and privacy changes and therefore adding a story focus to your game can help to "bring in the right users."
"Average daily usage for mobile phones in top markets is the highest its ever been at five hours a day on average. These players are gaming more than ever on mobile and expecting more from their games. These players always want more content, so doubling up on your pipeline and adding story elements gives them more reason to stick around."
A story incentive
Bowman states that a narrative addition to your game can help to give you a unique selling point in a saturated market and grants a longer retention tail. Developers can take inspiration from TV soaps, where storylines are long-running and even when one ends, another begins. Bowman states, "If you recreate the feeling of a TV series, books, or soaps people will return because they now feel invested.” Where there are rewards, of course, risks follow, Bowman touches on the fact that adding a story can be a big learning curve to find what works and what doesn't, and it makes a more heavy content pipeline.
Finding what does work when adding narratives to your game is key, something Bowman notes and shares tips on. This includes having a light narrative, as players on mobile tend to play in shorter bursts and this should be kept in mind when adding story elements.
Bowman also comments that "the player should be able to keep up and understand what is happening in the story whilst being out ordering coffee." Developers should also be conscious of keeping the character limit small and stories should be open ended with continuous updates. Bowman used titles such as Homescapes, Merge Mansion and Lily's Garden as good examples of narrative storylines that work well in mobile games.
We recently saw MAG Interactive's in-app purchases grow by 54% after a shift that saw them focusing more on maintaining and expanding upon the player base within its existing catalogue of games.