Narrative Design for Mobile Games: The Power of Storytelling
At Develop Brighton, MAG Interactive’s Alice Bowman shared valuable insights on the importance of adding a narrative and story element to video games. Not only does it help in creating a more loyal player base, but it also improves retention rates.
In her talk titled “Narrative design for mobile games: storytelling on the very small screen,” Bowman, a mobile game developer with nine years of experience, emphasized the “high risk, high reward” factor of incorporating narratives into mobile titles.
Bowman acknowledged the current challenges in the market, such as tracking and privacy changes, and argued that adding a story focus to games can attract the “right users.”
“Average daily usage for mobile phones in top markets is at its highest ever, with users spending an average of five hours a day on their phones. Players are engaging more with mobile games and expecting more from them. By doubling up on your content pipeline and incorporating story elements, you give them more reason to stay,” explained Bowman.
The Story Incentive
Bowman highlighted that adding a narrative to your game provides a unique selling point in a saturated market and leads to longer retention. Drawing parallels from TV soaps, she explained how long-running storylines keep viewers invested, and the same principle can be applied to games. “If you recreate the feeling of a TV series, books, or soaps, people will return because they now feel invested,” said Bowman. She did acknowledge that there are risks associated with adding a story, as it requires learning what works and what doesn’t, and it increases the content workload.
Finding the right approach to incorporating narratives is crucial, and Bowman offered some tips. She suggested opting for a light narrative since mobile players tend to engage in shorter bursts. Additionally, the story should be easy to follow even when the player is occupied with other tasks, like ordering coffee. Bowman also emphasized the importance of keeping character limits small and making stories open-ended with regular updates. Several successful mobile games, including Homescapes, Merge Mansion, and Lily’s Garden, demonstrate how narrative storylines can thrive in the mobile gaming space.
MAG Interactive recently witnessed a 54% growth in in-app purchases after shifting focus towards maintaining and expanding their player base within their existing game catalog.