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F2P 2012: It's time to be unique, says NaturalMotion's Struan Robertson

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F2P 2012: It's time to be unique, says NaturalMotion's Struan Robertson

It's a logical enough concept the idea of serving up something original or unique but all too many developers still try to ape the success of others by imitating the hits already out there.

That's the view of NaturalMotion product director Struan Robertson, who used his talk during the inaugural Free2Play Summit in London to stress how serving up something that stands out in the crowd is the best way of delivering a hit.

Heady times with My Horse

Robertson used the example of NaturalMotion's My Horse, which on the strength of what he claims was the game's originality scored itself an official featured spot on the App Store courtesy of Apple.

This was crucial to the game's success, but only came about because NaturalMotion focused on delivering something unique in at least one of what he believes are four key areas: clarity of purpose, novel gameplay, flash visuals or slick presentation.

Make one of these areas your own, said Robertson, and you're more likely to garner attention than if you serve up your own version of an existing hit - as tempting as such a tactic may be.

"It's time to be unique," opened Robertson.

"We tried to make the horse in My Horse look as real as possible. I firmly believe we wouldn't have stood out as much if the horse was just a 2D one stood in a field."


Robertson also highlighted PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz, claiming the game's simplicity or, in his own words, 'clarity of purpose' was a key factor in its success.

"Other developers would have crowded that game with all kinds of additional features. PopCap pulled everything back and made it about posting a high score and checking the leaderboard. They stripped it right back."

Understanding the theme of the game you're making it also crucial, he said. In the example of My Horse, Robertson said the team is surrounded by pictures and films or horses so they know the subject of the title inside out.

"You need to work out why people want to spend money in your game," said Robertson of the freemium model, suggesting that not only in-app purchases need to be relevant, but also the way said objects are displayed in the game's shop and even the design of the 'buy button' is crucial.

"Give players something they think is rewarding so they don't feel bad about spending money in your game.

"Once you know what the game is about, and what players want to buy, you can use that knowledge to bring players through the game. Understand your customers, and understand your sales."