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…
- How many buildings do you have?
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!