Skip to content

Mobile f2p 4x starter

One of the most beloved genres of mobile games is 4X. In case you don’t know, the genre was born on PC. 4X means eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. 

I watched this beautiful deconstruction of a popular title these days. Deconstructor of Fun is deconstructing the fun again, I have to say!

It is an expensive genre to develop especially if you are giving it for free, for example using the free-to-play business model, it is better to think well in designing each part scalable and monetizable.

The game loop

In the following diagram, I resume the typical game loop for mobile f2p 4X games and detail the three typical metagame loops associated with:

The economy of these games is generally based on:

  • Resources: usually represented with raw materials such as wood, iron, and so on. The basic building block for everything.
  • Buildings: you need to build to grow your empire, useful to eXploit the land
  • Crafts: the technology you can use to craft
    • Craft rate: the speed of crafting using buildings
    • Craft options: the kind of things you can craft
  • Troops: a consumable used to eXplore and eXpand
  • Heroes: characters that lead the troops, useful to eXplore and eXterminate
    • Hero XP: often represented with shards, useful to level up the heroes
    • Hero gear: useful to power up the heroes
    • Hero Level: the level of the hero


“Monetize or die”, says someone. And I cannot agree more with that statement. Remember you are giving a sophisticated piece of software for free. You need to think that a very small part of the audience will pay for that. To do that, you should have a very deep spend depth in your game. Here are some classic methods:

  • Build: the build loop uses resources to build new structures after waiting time
    • Resources can be monetized
    • Time (speed up) can be monetized
    • Builders (building slots) can be monetized. They are often part of the starter pack, the succulent first euro you are supposed to spend into the game. Very valuable.
  • Upgrade: to upgrade your building you use the same things as for building.
    • You can add a layer of ADs for freemium players to watch and speed things up, especially when they have little time remaining.
  • Train: you need troops to attack others, and those are created using time and slots
    • You can monetize the time to speed up
    • You can make the players purchase extra slots. This can be also part of some high-conversion item
  • Level-up Heroes: heroes are key for certain missions and special features, like social features or battle modes
    • You can monetize heroes directly (not recommended), but you can offer them in loot boxes/gachas
    • You can add them in a season pass, some subscription service that unlocks heroes with progress
    • You can sell special gear from them
    • You can have specific shards for hero level-up or get special shards
  • 4X: this is the real goal of the game and permits to have more opportunities to monetize all the rest
    • How many buildings do you have?
      • How many levels can you upgrade them?
    • How many heroes do you have?
      • What are the chances to get those heroes?
    • How many troops do you need to attack?
      • What is the cost in time to get them?
    • And so on…


I hope you liked this brief introduction, my intention is to communicate that you should stay aware of these concepts:

  • The Game Loop: the sequence of features that the Players should engage with over and over in order to progress through the game
  • The Meta Loops: the things that make your players think about your game where they are not playing.
  • The spend depth: every member of the game loop has to be monetized! 

Monetization is not a bad thing, it is what keeps your Players engaged!

Published inGame Design

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *