Most Players Won’t Finish Your Game – And That’s A Good Thing!
We will talk about a cool subject, which is Why Most People Will Never Make It Through Your Game And Why That Matters. This has been a kind of a common theme throughout a lot of the videos that I’ve created and a lot of blog posts that I’ve written. There’s a section in my upcoming book about it. It’s a topic that is so critical to game development because a lot of people don’t know this simple concept.
The vast majority of people don’t finish games. What does that mean for a game creator? Why does that matter? What are some things that you can learn from it?
I think the important part about this whole thing is that you really have to understand why people play games. They play for entertainment, for escapism; they want to experience something that they can’t experience in real life. That’s why the game experience is so important. A lot of times people will lose that excitement or the desire to play a game half way through. Sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes things come up. When you save the game, you really mean to get back to it but it doesn’t happen. So you’ve got to understand that that’s fundamentally how games work. Most people just don’t get to the end and that’s just a normal part of how it works.
As a game developer, you have to plan for that. You have to make sure that you understand that concept. You have to put plans into action assuming that that’s going to happen because it always does. One of the things that I’ve talked about a couple times with regards to planning in game development, planning through the process, and preparing from the player not to finish, is starting with the WOW. What I mean by that concept is you want to start with something that really WOWs the player. You want to open up with an epic battle scene, or some pivotal moment in a politically world, or some crazy mechanic, or an introduction to a crazy story, or something visually pleasing that the player really like gets into. Anything at all that will grab your player’s attention and make them say, “Wow! This is cool! This is something that I want to play!”
Another thing that you should look at, if you go over the statistics of games is that, there’s a lot of very highly rated games that have very low finish rates. So how is it that people will rate games, give a game five stars, but don’t finish it all the way? That’s because they’re rating the game based on their experience of the single part of the game that they played. So it makes more sense to put more focus on the beginning part of the game. The closer to the beginning, the more focus you put on it, the more specific it is. I’m not saying you should make a shit ending, have your game end in a shitty way, or put no effort at all into how it wraps up.
I’m saying that the most important part is the beginning of the game. You have to understand that you need to start with the WOW. You really need to WOW the player upfront. You really need to make sure that they understand this cool thing. You want to build anticipation. Anticipation is one of those beautiful things. It’s a beautiful tool in all kinds of entertainment movies, games, and all kinds of stuff. When you use anticipation correctly and you build up to a moment, you’re going to keep the player engaged. And studies have shown the anticipation is actually more important than receiving a reward.
So anticipation of an event or reward in this case can actually be more intriguing and more interesting to the player than actually giving them something or showing them the event. It wires our brains differently. You should build your game in sequences of anticipation, open with a WOW, and build anticipation to the next part.
It’s the same with TV episode. If you watch your favorite TV show, usually the last minute or two of the TV show sets up a crazy event that there’s no way that that could happen and it’s crazy you’ve got to watch the next episode. I really got into the Vampire Diaries for a long time for that very reason.
I was like, “Holy shit!” At the end of every episode, something happens and I’d be like, “No way! That can’t happen!” That show dragged on for like 5 seasons and I was like, “Okay, I don’t have time for this shit.” Good entertainment keeps you hooked with anticipation.
If you understand that most people don’t finish your game, it should be your goal as a game developer, and one of your main design decisions in the game to build anticipation as routinely, and as long, and as often as you can to keep a player moving through your game. Ultimately, you want people to finish your game. But most people won’t.
You need to keep in mind that that’s almost going to happen by default. So it’s your job as a developer to build something that will increase the likelihood of them finishing, that will show them the path of how they can do it, and that they will be rewarded for continuing. I think it’s really important to understand that because that’s what makes a great game—even if you don’t go that far.
Even if you don’t build in the anticipation and do all these different things to kind of get players to go farther in your game, creating that first little nugget of AWESOMENESS in the beginning, can really make or break your game; because if a player only plays 10 minutes of the game, they never pick it up again. If those 10 minutes are the best part of your game, they’re going to talk very highly about your game to all their friends, and on Steam reviews, and all kinds of stuff. If those 10 minutes are boring, people will quit right there and they’ll talk shit about your game and they’ll leave bad reviews. That little chunk is the most important part of your entire game.
So you really need to understand that if you want to design a great game, and I think most of us here do. So that’s all I have for today, I just want to share it with you guys. I would love to see your comments below on this because I always love to hear from you guys.