What does it take to create a successful mid-core game in 2021?
(What is a mid-core game, its characteristics, development trends, top performers and how the genre feels now)
You’ve heard of hardcore games like Doom, casual games like Candy Crush, and even hyper-casual games, which have become more popular in recent years. But what about mid-core games, the elusive genre that falls somewhere in between casual and hardcore? Maybe you’ll be surprised to hear that some of the most profitable games fall under this category, which is why understanding what makes a successful mid-core game could help you on your own game development journey.
So what IS a mid-core game exactly? Well, that’s the thing, there isn’t really an exact definition, but the essence is that is falls somewhere on the spectrum between casual and hardcore. This means that really, we can identify it by what it is not. Casual games are just that – casual. They allow you to sit and play for a little while without needing a long tutorial, they’re relatively easy to play, and you can usually play for however long you would like – whether that be 5 minutes or 5 hours. Hardcore games usually require a high level of skill to play, and these skills range from strategy to hand-eye coordination, and they usually require the user to allocate time to play them. You can’t just play a hardcore game for 5 minutes, you’re going to need a few hours.
Mid-core games combine elements of both, thus why they can be so hard to define because some games fall closer on the spectrum to casual or hardcore, but still include elements of the other. Mid-core games usually require a higher skill level than casual games, but are not as demanding as hardcore games. This allows them to be more of a challenge for people who usually only play casual games, but not too hard that they feel discouraged and quit playing. This also allows them to be challenging enough for hardcore gamers to provide them with and enjoyable gaming experience. It’s the best of both worlds, really. Oftentimes it’s suggested that the target market for mid-core games are people who enjoyed playing games when they were younger, but now lack the time to play time-heavy hardcore games.
Whatever the case, people love mid-core games. So let’s take a look at some of the main characteristics of mid-core games that set them apart from the other two categories and make them so enjoyable to play.
Easy to Download and Operate
Mid-core games should be easy to download, install, and run and shouldn’t take up too much
space on the device they’re downloaded to. You shouldn’t need an elaborate tutorial in order to start playing the game, and you shouldn’t need to purchase special equipment in order to play the game. All you need should be a device that you probably already own like a phone or computer, and if it’s on the computer, it shouldn’t require complicated actions to play it, either just the mouse or a few keys on the keyboard. Basically, there shouldn’t be too much in the way of you playing the game, it should be as easily accessible.
Minimal Hand-Eye Coordination and Reflexes Needed
Mid-core games are different from hardcore games in that they are more inclusive, and they do this by not requiring amazing hand-eye coordination or reflexes to play. That doesn’t mean you won’t need those skills at all, but you won’t need expert skills to enjoy some good game play.
Easy to Learn, Progresses Incrementally
As stated previously, there shouldn’t be a complicated tutorial necessary to play the game, the user should be able to pick up how to play relatively quickly, adding skills as they go. A good game will allow the user to pick up the necessary skills as they play the game and get more experience so that they progress as the game does.
Should Not Be Too High-Stakes
High-stakes games usually require a longer play time and more knowledge and skill necessary in order to beat the game. They can be fun of course, but are usually time-intensive and less attractive to those who aren’t skilled at playing games. There are a few factors that affect the stakes, this means:
- Mistakes made early in game don’t affect you later
Players shouldn’t unknowingly make a mistake and then continue to play and find out several levels and hours later that you failed due to one mistake made at the beginning of game play. It’s too complicated and much too like a hardcore game. It also doesn’t respect the player’s time, which is imperative when playing a mid-core game. You will not keep more casual users if they must constantly play with the fear that a mistake now will cost them later. Users want to have fun.
- Death or failure does not make you lose too much progress
Its normal to die or fail a level after making too many mistakes, but if dying or failing in the game is too costly, it’s going to cost you users. Death or failure shouldn’t mean too much lost progress.
- You don’t have to play the game through several times to learn how to win
Games that require you to play and lose the game multiple times before winning don’t necessarily appeal to more casual players, and you won’t be able to keep them this way. The game should be easily playable from the first playthrough, and should be enjoyable for the user.
Shorter Play Sessions
Of course, you want players to play your game for long periods of time, but having exclusively long play sessions means that users need to block out time to play the game, and for users that don’t have a lot of time, that is simply not an option. Mid-core games should allow the players to play in short bursts so that they can play the game during breaks or downtime. Shorter play sessions can be achieved with the help of the next point.
Frequent Save Spots
What will allow shorter play sessions is frequent save spots. This also cuts out a problem we talked about earlier, if death or failure makes players lose a lot of progress. Frequent save spots allow players to fail often without losing their overall progress in the game, as well as it allows them to leave the game and return later.
Clear, Overarching Goal with Sub-Goals
One of the things that will capture and keep the attention of a player is having a main goal that they will accomplish by completing the game. But the issue with that then is if that goal is too hard to complete, they won’t want to finish. Which is why having smaller sub-goals that, by accomplishing them, show progress toward the final goal, will keep players’ attention long term.
These are not the only things that make up mid-core games, but they are the main, defining elements. Simply put, midcore games offer many of the elements of hardcore games, in a more casual way, allowing you to deeply engage in the gaming experience, but not need to immerse yourself in the gaming world to do so.
Mid-core games have been around for a while now, but regarding how they’ve developed, it’s mostly been with the times. As certain genres of games get more popular, like MMORPGs and augmented reality games, those kinds of mid-core games tend to pop up and dominate the scene for a while. The great thing about mid-core games is that they will probably stand the test of time, as they appeal to such a wide audience and are such a broad genre. With the advancement of technology, we’re likely to see mid-core games with better narratives, better graphics, and more online playing options.
The biggest development in mid-core gaming trends is that for years, many mid-core games needed to be purchased, or a subscription to play needed to be purchased. But Fortnite burst onto the scene in 2018 and was free-to-play, giving anyone who wanted to join the ability to play and changing the way mid-core games monetize. Now, monetization schemes tend toward the free-to-play (F2P) model, raking in money from in-game purchases, in-game ads, and reward monetization.
Monetization Scheme Tips
If you weren’t aware, most gaming apps currently with the highest revenue can be considered mid-core games. It’s a highly lucrative gaming genre. Mid-core games that need to be purchased, or need a subscription in order to play are not bad monetization schemes, but they are harder to sell to people if the game doesn’t have an already established user base. Which is why the F2P model became such a popular model for mid-core games, as you can build your audience by allowing them to play for free and getting them hooked, then allowing them to make their gaming experience better by spending money or watching an advertisement.
We touched on monetization schemes in our article “How Much Do Apps Earn From Advertising,” so check out that article for more information on the specific schemes. In this article, we’d like to give some tips on how to make your monetization scheme more successful.
- Avoid Pay-to-Win Schemes
The whole point of a game should be to win it off skill alone, and you will lose users if they need to pay in order to win the game or even pay to gain the skills or tools necessary to win. If they wanted winning the game to be behind a paywall, they would simply purchase a game. You can obviously offer paid ways to advance yourself in the game, but players should also be able to achieve that by playing as well, even if it means extra playing time.
- Players Love Customization
What can really drive revenues is giving players the ability to customize their gaming experience through purchasing different things for their avatars such as costumes and weapons. This gives players the chance to enjoy the game while playing to their strengths and likes.
- Advertisements Shouldn’t Interrupt Gameplay
In fact, they should expedite it. If you choose in-game advertisements as your monetization scheme, they should add to the ecosystem of the game. For example, shooters and MOBAs take advantage of players’ desires to skip over timed lock-downs of the game by allowing them to view an advertisement. Your monetization model should work seamlessly with your gameplay.
- One Word: Microtransactions
A game that’s free-to-play, but then ends up charging astronomical amounts for in-game purchases will quickly turn players off. It’s better to keep costs low, but efficient. Sell to players why spending that small amount is justified because it will dramatically benefit their gameplay. If you can do this, they will keep coming back to spend those few dollars here and there and it adds up.
- Community Adds Value
In games that allow players to play in teams, oftentimes players will be willing to spend money to buy something that will benefit the team as a whole. Options like purchasing a power up for yourself, and everyone on the team getting a small power up as well. Don’t discount the power of social benefits. Players love to win as a team, and are more willing to spend for the collective benefit.
To end the article, we thought we’d go over some popular examples of successful mid-core games.
Clash of Clans
Clash of Clans is a mobile strategy game where you build a village, raise a clan, and then battle other clans. The game is considered freemium, meaning it’s free to use, but you can buy things in-game to speed up the process. Clash of Clans is a great example of microtransactions. Everything is really cheap in the game until you get deeper into it, but at that point you’re already invested and don’t have a problem spending the cash.
World of Tanks
World of Tanks is a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) where you battle mid-20th century era combat vehicles. It also ascribes to the freemium model, where you can buy things to speed up game play, but there has been criticism online that users are not necessarily interested in doing this faster, as opposed to wanting to be able to customize their tanks more. World of Tanks is an example of a game that could greatly benefit from implementing our tip about allowing customization. They have also been criticized for being pay-to-win as some tanks are considered overpowered, and you need to buy things in order to beat them.
Smashing Four is both an online and mobile PvP turn-based multiplayer strategy game where you send your hero into battles for trophies and orbs that contain rewards such as hero cards and gold. You can buy in-game currency to buy things like orbs and gems, which help you in the game. Like Clash of Clans, Smashing Four utilizes microtransactions, which end up helping players strategically upgrade their heroes.
As you can see, choosing the correct monetization strategy like Clash of Clans can not only lead to improved gameplay, but also encourage players to spend more as they play more. World of Tanks is a great example of a game that has a good monetization strategy, but one that could be improved and end up making the game even more of a success.
A successful mid-core game not only encompasses a monetization scheme that seamlessly fits into gameplay, but also brings in players from both the casual and the hardcore gaming spheres. They’re a huge market currently as they are a great jumping-off point into a deeper world of gaming for a lot of newbie gamers. A well-designed game can keep users playing for years. Clash of Clans and World of Tanks have been around since 2012 and 2010 respectively, for reference.
And as technology and the internet advances, who knows where we could see mid-core games go? They’ve already demonstrated that they’re here to stay, and it’s likely that they’ll only become bigger, especially as the world moves more online. But even as big as they’ve become, success in the mid-core gaming sphere remains relatively constant, the biggest element being an engaging and challenging concept for your game. So if you’re designing your mid-core game, keep that in mind. It can be tempting to focus on how you’ll make money, but the most important factor is drawing customers in and keeping them, which you do through enjoyable gameplay.