Most social games are either farm or arcade games. Creating your own farm, planting new veggies or clicking stones away seems the perfect theme for a social game. But among them there is also another type of game, which is quite influential but sometimes overlooked: brain games.
In this type of social game you can play different mini games to train and expand your brain abilities. On Facebook there are three different brain games: “Brain Buddies” created by Wooga, “Who has the biggest Brain?” created by Playfish and “BrainJewel” created by TribePlay. In all of them your math, logic, visual and memory skills are tested.
So how to make a good brain game? There are four rules that you need to follow.
Rule #1: Create funny Artwork Brain games need funny artwork!
It is better not to present your game in a scientific way, even if the player will learn something. Make a cute cartoon character that will interact with the player. By using this way, you are not only drawing the players that are really into the concept of brain games, but you can also attract quite a few other players. When presenting math with a funny cartoon character, people tend to like it more and they won’t see the calculation they are doing. The player will focus on the setting of the game and your chances of frighten him or her away are potentially lower. Most games use cartoon characters to explain mini games or to interact with the player when he or she gained certain achievements or finished a mini game with a high score.
Rule #2: Try out different approaches in the game design
In “Brain Buddies” and “Who has the biggest Brain?” the player will compare him/herself in different brain categories like logic or visual. Especially “Brain Buddies” is really successful with this concept of comparing categories. The player can choose games out of this category and then compare their scores. “Who has the biggest Brain?” has the biggest selection of mini games, also sorted by categories. “BrainJewel” takes a slightly different approach with sending the player on a journey through Ancient Egypt. While unlocking more and more mini brain games, the player can improve his/her skills and earn more jewels to buy power-ups.
Rule #3: Emphasize the challenge with friends
The most important part of all of the brain games on Facebook is clearly the competition with your friends. This is their key to success and the main reason people tend to come back. While a player might easily pass all the mini games in a fairly short amount of time, what really makes brain games addicting is when he/she can compare with their friends. Being smarter than your friends always makes you feel proud, so players try to improve their skills in the different games. The player can either compare the size(Who has the biggest Brain?) or weight(Brain Buddies) of his/her brain or can compare its ability to solve the brain games in unlocking more min games and ranking up to become the ultimate Archaeologist(BrainJewel). Comparison should be offered in each – total score and for each game or category. To add virality in the three games the player can send messages to his or her friends and brag about their wisdom and ability.
Rule #4: Work together with the Brain game community
The most interesting part about Brain Games is truly the strong community behind them. Many players come back daily for already many years and discuss in own groups how to improve one’s skills and give each other tips in the different brain games. It is amazing what scores these players are able to get and how much effort they put into a game to improve they skills. The community also creates pages where the best players of the entire world compare their scores or where you can see rankings by the country of users. This might be good ideas to offer in future brain games. In BrainJewel by TribePlay such features are already planned.
Nevertheless these games are not that easy to monetize and thus not so attractive for big game developers. Just recently “Who has the biggest Brain?” has announced that the game will be taken offline by the end of September after several years on Facebook. But “Brain Buddies” is still one of the more popular games on the Facebook platform with 2 Million MAU and the emerging new brain game created by TribePlay – BrainJewel - is growing steadily with a MAU of 5000 after one month online. The strength of these games is clearly that they can generate a lot of traffic and attract many users. The best examples are Wooga and Playfish, who both got big with their brain games and are now among the most influential developers on Facebook. Hope TribePlay can be next!