Facebook, Bejeweled Blitz, and Lay’s Potato Chips
By Ian Schreiber
Continuing my food theme, it occurs to me that not all successful Facebook games follow the Farmville model of forcing the player to come back. In fact, on reflection, I think this strategy will backfire in the long run. If players come back to a game regularly because they feel forced (rather than because they want to play), once they break out of that endless feedback loop they will not play another game like that again.
There is a class of other games that predates Farmville, but that seems equally popular. Bejeweled Blitz is the canonical example.
Continuing with my snack food theme, consider potato chips. Lay’s even mounted a whole advertising campaign on how you couldn’t eat just one. Because each chip is so small, you just eat one more. Then one more. Then one more. Until the bag is empty.
This model works well for very short games (1 to 3 minutes). You play once, you get your result, and then you get this nice shiny “Play Again” button. So you play one more time. These games need enough variation and enough of a luck factor to give occasional big wins, but enough depth of skill/strategy that you don’t feel like you’re just mechanically clicking away arbitrarily.
So, you can spend a minute there or an hour. Your call. But it will suck up as much of your time as you have available. And then when you do leave, you’ll be thinking about it until you come back to your next game.
Once you break away, how does the game give you incentive to return? Mostly, it seems like weekly high-score lists are sufficient. Each week you have a new chance to beat your friends (and beat your personal best). In some of these games (not Blitz) there are explicit rewards for daily logins. I do not generally see any kind of experience-point-based progression system (Blitz does have “levels” but they have no gameplay effect), and I wonder if a game that added such a mechanic would be even more compelling… or if the progression would somehow cheapen the experience, as players would know that persistence would count at least as much as skill. It would be an interesting experiment, at any rate.
I see the “potato chip” model as being much less likely to cause player backlash than the “Milano cookie” model, because each play experience is still designed to be fun, and if you stay it’s because you want to, not because you feel forced to.
See Facebook, Farmville and Milano Cookies for my previous food themed article.