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This post was written by Parag Jain, an inventor-in-residence at Click Labs. His company, Gamifyd, recently released Candies With Friends, a game that depends on the virality of the social graph for user acquisition. If you would like to write a guest post for our blog, send an email to contact@click-labs.com

The rise in user acquisition cost makes it difficult for indie game developers to acquire more users. It’s already clear that regular social channels are not as rewarding as they were a few years back, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them.

Utilizing the Social Graph

Utilizing your social graph for making your game bigMost people assume that the successful companies have grown by pure word of mouth, but that’s only part of the story.

The rest is that these companies built games incorporating features that went viral on the social graph to make their game discoverable, improving user acquisition.

A survey done by Applifier shows that the ‘Sharers’, a highly valuable player segment, comprise about 1/5 of online gamers. They’re the ones who download more games, play socially and convert users to paying players.

While developing Candies with Friends, we looked through hundreds of these successful games and found several underlying methods behind their success:

1. Incentivised Facebook login: When you dig into the success of recent games, you realize that Facebook provides an incredible opportunity. Getting connected through Facebook offers access to the social graph.

Subway Surfers did a great job here. The game functions well without connecting through Facebook, but users who sign up through it are rewarded with extra coins.

2. Facebook Activities: In the cut-throat online gaming market where lots of money is spent on advertising a game, Facebook activities save time and money while improving user acquisition.

Candy Crush Saga shows Facebook users their friends’ progress in the game through news feeds, notifications and wall posts.

3. Competing head on: Gamers enjoy being on top of their social circles. Adding challenges to a game motivates users to play more and compete with other users.

A similar feature has been added to Candies with Friends, where a leaderboard shows your position in the game. This keeps the passionate gamers motivated to beat the score and move up in the rankings.

4. Sending requests/getting lives: Games have to get their monetization right to stay viable. A game designer gives an option of paying directly to proceed a game or sending requests and getting lives from some user from the social graph. Either case here is a win-win situation, resulting in indirect monetization.

Candy Crush Saga does this particularly well through its 5 lives or pay option, and by unlocking additional levels through earning (or buying) extra lives. This results in higher conversion rates than merely sending lives.

5. One-on-one gameplay: Made popular by word games like Scramble and Ruzzle, the challenge isn’t to clear a particular level, but to defeat your friends one-on-one. This was our strategy with Candies with Friends on Android, which covers a candy-focused gaming aspect not taken care of by similar games like Candy Crush Saga.

6. Chats: Games have to be interactive. Inspite of so many good messaging apps, it still makes sense to add a chat functionality so user groups can interact with each other without leaving the game.

7. Incentivised Invites: One of the biggest challenges in turning any mobile game into a hit is making it viral. Offering incentives is a well-known tactic for offline marketing. Zombie Jombie rewards players with incentives for inviting their friends to play the game. This results in viral installs, thus decreasing the user acquisition cost.

The reason behind the success of any social game is consistent user acquisition. Social games are rapidly maturing with higher user engagement, and players spend endless hours playing with fellow users.
In order to make your game viral, social features like Facebook activities, competing head on, one on one gameplay, and incentivised invites need to be taken care of.
While making Candies with Friends, we have experimented with all such channels of user acquisition in order to make the game a success.

Do you have a social game? How do you take care of consistent user acquisition? Tell us in the comments.

Read more about social gaming.

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