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The Rise and Rise of Idle Games


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Talk about the success, business, design, and future of idle games from MIGS 16 by Anthony Pecorella from Kongregate.

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The Rise and Rise of Idle Games

  1. 1. The Rise and Rise of Idle Games Anthony Pecorella Kongregate
  2. 2. Introduction
  3. 3. Slides Are Up Already! • You can view and download this presentation by vising INTRODUCTION
  4. 4. What is Kongregate? INTRODUCTION
  5. 5. What is Kongregate? INTRODUCTION
  6. 6. What is Kongregate? INTRODUCTION
  7. 7. Who Am I? • At Kongregate for 8 years, directing our browser-based F2P virtual goods business • Producer for AdVenture Capitalist mobile • Also an indie designer, cofounder of Level Up Labs INTRODUCTION
  8. 8. Previous Idle Game Work • GDC 2015: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games (free on GDC Vault) • GDC 2016: Idle Chatter • Blog posts: The Math of Idle Games (3-part) • All slides available at INTRODUCTION
  9. 9. What’s an “Idle Game”?
  10. 10. Core Elements for Idle Games Idling! • Progress without interaction • Modern form doesn’t require game to be open • Always progressing forward WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  11. 11. Core Elements for Idle Games Exaggerated scale • Big numbers are fun • Exponential costs + diminishing returns = prestige loop WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  12. 12. Core Elements for Idle Games Prestige (Reset) Loops WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  13. 13. Graphing Progression WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  14. 14. Graphing Progression WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  15. 15. Graphing Progression WHAT’S AN “IDLE GAME”?
  16. 16. Designing for the 4th Dimension: The Impact of Time
  17. 17. It’s About Time Time is part of the game mechanics • Instead of grinding, players just take a break • How do you model and design around this? THE IMPACT OF TIME
  18. 18. It’s About Time Time is a release valve, a (somewhat) self- balancing system • Gives players ability to decide what is “too slow” • Provides the developer with some pacing wiggle room THE IMPACT OF TIME
  19. 19. Offline Limits Why we should limit offline gains. • Monetization point: pay for more offline earnings • Activity pressure: wasting income if you don’t check in THE IMPACT OF TIME Eggs, Inc.
  20. 20. Offline Limits Why we shouldn’t limit offline gains. • Less excitement around returning after long hiatus • Reduces release valve effectiveness, increases pain points of slow growth periods THE IMPACT OF TIME Realm Grinder
  21. 21. Offline Limits Why we shouldn’t limit offline gains. • Unnecessary?! THE IMPACT OF TIME
  22. 22. Let’s Graph It! Comparison of playing actively vs. leaving and checking back in for the first time at time t (x-axis), starting at 10 lemonade stands. THE IMPACT OF TIME
  23. 23. Big Numbers Beget Big Numbers
  24. 24. Web Browsers • 4 of the top 10 most- popular games on Kongregate are idlers • We have 7 idle games that have grossed over $100k USD BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  25. 25. Steam and Downloads • Clicker Heroes peaked at over 60k concurrent users • Clicker Heroes still in top 30, AdCap in top 50, two more in top 150 most- popular games BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  26. 26. Mobile • Group of 10 of the most-popular idle games can claim a total of 75M downloads and tens of millions in revenue. BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  27. 27. Mobile • Apple continues to prominently feature idle games, even as Editor’s Choice BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  28. 28. Metrics Top-grossing single- player games by ARPU BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  29. 29. Metrics Top-grossing single- player games by ARPU BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  30. 30. Metrics Fabulous retention! BIG NUMBERS BEGET BIG NUMBERS
  31. 31. Multiplayer 0-Player Games
  32. 32. Social Network Mechanics • Ask friends daily for some currency Taps to Riches MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  33. 33. Social Network Mechanics • Can see friends in front (and behind!) you • Game would challenge you to beat friend with time limit • Leaderboards per area Best Fiends Forever MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES Best Fiends Forever
  34. 34. Social Network Mechanics Other ideas • Get persistent income generation from friends based on their progress • Set up trade routes to for different resources with friends MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  35. 35. Cooperative Systems • Mad CEO: Every prestige you can paste a code into chat • Everyone gets a bonus! Mad CEO MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  36. 36. Cooperative Systems • Turned out to be extremely compelling! MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  37. 37. Guilds. Always Add Guilds. Guilds are extremely powerful • Collaborative and cooperative • Positive social interactions • Supportive environment • Desire to perform well for the group MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  38. 38. Clicker Heroes Clans • Raids together for shared benefits • Damage based on a different calculation, slightly reigned-in Clicker Heroes MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  39. 39. What would a Cookie Clicker guild look like? • Guild baking quotas • Players generate cookies at a rate based on heavenly chips (prestige currency), must check in to ”deliver” • Meeting quota gives bonus to all players and sets higher one for next time period. • Same-size trade bonuses • Similar-sized cookie shops generate bonuses for each other. Incentivizes coordinated prestige and growth. MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  40. 40. PvP and Competition Balancing huge numbers is difficult • Use something like prestige currency to keep things more controlled Endless Frontier MULTIPLAYER IDLE GAMES
  41. 41. Keeping the Lights On: The Business of Idle Games
  42. 42. Idle Game Monetization “As an experiment you could certainly try this, but I want to keep expectations realistic that you're not going to be able to make a lot of revenue from this model.” - Anthony Pecorella to Hyper Hippo IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  43. 43. The Basic Three Time Warp • Jump ahead by hours/days • Immediate gratification Best Fiends Forever IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  44. 44. The Basic Three Time Warp • Scales perfectly with progress • Predictable impact • Can be priced with large discounting for long warps (thanks to exponential growth!) IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  45. 45. The Basic Three No-reset Prestige • Claim prestige benefits without starting over AdVenture Capitalist Taps to Riches IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  46. 46. The Basic Three Taps to Riches cleverly surfaces this feature after resetting! Taps to Riches IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  47. 47. The Basic Three Permanent Bonuses • Generator multipliers AdVenture Capitalist (original) IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  48. 48. The Basic Three Permanent Bonuses • Generator multipliers Taps to Riches IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  49. 49. The Basic Three Permanent Bonuses 2.0 • Lots of options for permanent boosts • More complex and expensive Realm Grinder Eggs, Inc. IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  50. 50. Gacha • Random draws of permanent bonuses • Allows for repeat purchases and chase rewards Clicker Heroes IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  51. 51. Gacha • Collect advisors, equip 3 at a time • All advisors contribute to general bonus Taps to RichesTaps to Riches IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  52. 52. VIP Services • Give special privileges to spenders • Subscription or cumulative • Friends with benefits! Taps to Riches Best Fiends Forever IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  53. 53. Piggy Bank Incremental monetization! • Value grows as you play, cost stays same • Player chooses when to “crack it open” Egg, Inc. IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  54. 54. Pay to Play? • Challenging since free is “expected” • So far sales are limited, but could work for the right game IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  55. 55. Cross-Promotion • Idle games are often high- volume, low ARPDAU (and mid-level LTV) • Opportunity to cross- promote players into higher- LTV games • Particularly nice for spin-offs Best Fiends Forever IDLE GAME MONETIZATION
  56. 56. Adding Ads
  57. 57. Ads Are Really Important! • This is a genre of low ARPDAU, high DAU, and great retention • Ads provide light, daily monetization that is substantial when done well AdVenture Capitalist mobile revenue sources ADDING ADS
  58. 58. The Standard • Watch ad for 2x bonus for 4 hours • Add randomness for more fun! AdVenture Capitalist Politicats ADDING ADS
  59. 59. Variations on the Standard • Temporary boosts aimed at active play Egg, Inc. Realm Grinder Endless Frontier ADDING ADS
  60. 60. Random Offers • On-the-spot deals if you watch an ad (or enable ads) • Often doubled rather than all-or- nothing Bitcoin Billionaire Best Fiends Forever ADDING ADS
  61. 61. Double Return Gold • Watch an ad to double your idly-earned currency • Predictable and often a great deal He-Man: Tappers of Greyskull ADDING ADS
  62. 62. Interstitial • Simple interstitial ads can be used as well Taps to Riches ADDING ADS
  63. 63. Constructive Criticism
  64. 64. Penalties • Idle games are progress machines • Moving backwards is very punishing, feels against the spirit of the game • Churn point for me Money Tree Make it Rain CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
  65. 65. Wait…How Much Is That Again? • Real name • Million, Billion, Trillion, Quadrillion, …, Vigintillion • Scientific notation • 1 x 106, 1 x 109, 1 x 1012, ..., 1 x 1063 • Shorthand • 1M, 1B, 1T, 1q, 1Q, 1s, 1S, … • Abstract • 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, ..., 1aa, 1bb, ... ADDING ADS
  66. 66. Wait…How Much Is That Again? Taps to Riches Taps to Riches ADDING ADS
  67. 67. Leveraging Content
  68. 68. Licensed IP Games LEVERAGING CONTENT
  69. 69. Spin-off Games Bush Whacker 2 Crusaders of the Lost Idols LEVERAGING CONTENT
  70. 70. Spin-off Games Cloudstone Clicker Heroes LEVERAGING CONTENT
  71. 71. Spin-off Games LEVERAGING CONTENT
  72. 72. Spin-off Games LEVERAGING CONTENT
  73. 73. Topical Games Pocket Politics Politicats Campaign Clicker LEVERAGING CONTENT
  74. 74. Innovations, Variations, and Noteworthy Games
  75. 75. Cult Classics NEW & NOTEWORTHY Shark Game Sandcastle Builder
  76. 76. Cult Classics NEW & NOTEWORTHY Crank Kittens Game
  77. 77. Short, Completable Idle Games ANTHONY PECORELLA Galaxia Spaceplan
  78. 78. Loot-based Idle Games • Slower growth • Focused on picking best gear • It’s fun to get rare equipment! Idle Loot Quest Battle Without End Idle Duels NEW & NOTEWORTHY
  79. 79. MMORPGs Infinite Hero Endless Frontier NEW & NOTEWORTHY
  80. 80. Click & Conquer: Space Age NEW & NOTEWORTHY
  81. 81. What’s Next?
  82. 82. Previous Predictions… • Text-based idlers replaced by more sophisticated visuals • Spin-offs and licensed IP would become popular WHAT’S NEXT?
  83. 83. Previous Predictions… • “Idle” becomes a genre modifier • Action Idle RPG: Nonstop Knight • Idle Tactics: Endless Frontier? WHAT’S NEXT?
  84. 84. Previous Predictions… • Idle design philosophies integrate into meta-game of standard genres • Not much, but Click & Conquer: Space Age is kicking it off WHAT’S NEXT?
  85. 85. Where Do We Go Now? • The genre is maturing, becoming big-budget and less indie-driven • Is there still opportunity for innovation? WHAT’S NEXT?
  86. 86. Where Do We Go Now? • Multiplayer • We looked at some options, but it’s very limited right now • Can we provide deeper social connections that develop over time? • Is competitive, realtime multiplayer possible? World of Warcraft WHAT’S NEXT?
  87. 87. Where Do We Go Now? • Pull idle concepts into other genres • Resetting with more power is fun…where else can we do this? • Can we use rapid growth to replace energy systems? • Are there ways to delight players upon returning to a game? Curl Up & Fly WHAT’S NEXT?
  88. 88. Where Do We Go Now? • Plot?! Characters?! • We have long-retention games, let’s introduce story arcs and characters! • Opportunity for deep emotional connections to grow over time. • Demon War: Idle Rebellion looks to be experimenting with this WHAT’S NEXT?
  89. 89. Thank you! QUESTIONS? • Check out • Browser games: • Mobile games: • Me: • Slides are available at