The game loop is the game. That's the most important thing to remember.
I took a film class in college where the professor said "If you take my class you'll never look at a movie the same again." Well what he was trying to say was that once the unsexy tactics were exposed of how its made, the end product was never viewed the same again. Same thing was true in building a viral social game. Once you remove the sexy outer shell you have this extremely mechanical perspective, where every movement is calculated against the outcome your expecting. Understanding these mechanics down to the very decimals that make up the conversions rates are the holy grail of profitability.
VPs of Monetization don't ask "why" they follow the data and constantly test multiple scenarios to see which ones perform the best. In other words which one makes the most money. Seven weeks after launching Trivi.al and we find ourselves here, asking for the next release, how can we increase acquisition, how can it be more viral? What tweaks can be made to increase the k-factor?
When we set out to build our game, understanding the mechanics of the game loop was by far the most critical of elements to pay attention to, or so we learned. We knew having a free-to-play model meant our customers hadn't yet invested a dime and so we're going to have to convert them. So, we wanted to get them in, get them playing; playing leads to eyeballs and engagement and if they enjoyed the game opportunities to convert them to paid users. These paid users would be in the form of converted via free-to-paid or the Holy Grail
in app purchases (IAP.) Whichever it was we knew we had to understand how to navigate the user through the model and keep them moving through it constantly. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.
Our core game loop looks something like this:
Playing the game consumes coins. If a player challenges their friend, coins are used and an uptick of their IQ is exchanged. Increasing your IQ gets you more challenging questions in which you may need to use power ups. Power ups are purchased with coins. Once the player is out of coins there are these three well known options: wait, invite or buy. Players are driven back to the game via timer mechanics (wait for coins to increase) every 24hrs or they buy if they can't wait. Once back in the game they repeat this cycle.
Measuring the effectiveness of your loops and where users are dropping off will help you tweak your model and increase engagement. We want 95% of our users coming back into our game to create new games, so making sure this is clear as the priority path is something we're in the shop working on and testing constantly.
I challenge anyone of you to rip apart your favorite game or anyone of Zynga's popular titles and discover the "loop" and start to understand the mechanics of the game that lead them or any other app developer to monetization.