Crossroads | Play Gimmicks v.s. Play Mechanics

“Marketing took forty dollars from me; however, they lost out on a couple hundred more I would have spent over the years, had they not punked me with a gimmick.”

“With entertainment titles Step 2 aims to develop games that are enjoyable to gamers first, followed by monetization. That in mind, the play mechanic of the mech and solar charger had to be cut.”


Over the weekend while designing my concept level, I reached a major crossroad in how this game plays. The issue is that while being a key character to the story, the mech has become a cumbersome concept. Here is a breakdown of where this went wrong:

  • It is necessary to keep the mech with the player, as it is both a vehicle and its AI is a “player guiding friend”
  • The player should spend most of their time outside of the mech
  • The player has no reason to be outside of the mech, unless it needs to be recharged
  • The mech will have to rapidly drain energy in order to prompt the player to exit
  • The player will constantly be jumping out of the mech, running ahead to collect energy, and then running back. This process of “three steps forward, two steps back” will quickly become frustrating.

Good mobile/casual play should offer fun through a combination of challenges based on quick progression.

If the mech and the solar charger isn’t fun, why keep it?

The initial answer is obvious, because it is important to the game story and needs to be with the player to develop the characters. The second answer is a bit more evil. *hint – marketing =)

The concept of the solar charger always being used by the player presents me with opportunities to monetize this game. I won’t reveal the full extent of my plan in this article, other than to say that the strategy is solid; however, this strategy relies on the solar products being present and useful.

At this point in game design, the solar charger has become a gimmick. It is obviously not necessary, and has even become a dreadful player handy cap. This will cause loss of player emersion and ultimately disinterest in the game.

In-game marketing can be done successfully. For this to happen the materials must be threaded into the game in a way that makes sense to the story, the world, and enhances the player experience. If the marketing component falls short of these elements it will be seen as nothing more than a gimmick.

Gimmicks equal less repeat players

The Nintendo Wii provides us with a number of gimmicky game examples. Personally, I enjoy this system because it did usher in a new way to interact with games. The first party titles are almost all well received; however, third parties often fall flat. The reason for this is that games were not developed with the player in mind, but the new control system. The new controls offered another way to market old games.

One particular title that stands out to me is the port of “Far Cry” to the Wii. The console version is already a lesser version of its PC big brother, and the Wii version is even further stripped. While offering less, the game sold because it boasted hand gesture controls. This sounds cool on the surface, but execution was horrible.  The gestures didn’t seem to work as intuitively as advertised. Beyond the first few minutes of “wow I’m actually throwing a grenade”, I was left longing for my trusty old controller. This is a mechanic that was developed only to re-market the game. It ended up hindering the player experience and ultimately was branded a gimmick.

A marketer might say “so what, you bought the game and that’s what we wanted. We made our money”. That’s true. Marketing took forty dollars from me; however, they lost out on a couple hundred more I would have spent over the years, had they not punked me with a gimmick.

Players do not like gimmicks. Players especially hate when they feel they’ve been had by one.

Step 2 strives to turn gimmicks into enjoyable mechanics

With entertainment titles Step 2 aims to develop games that are enjoyable to gamers first, followed by monetization. That in mind, the play mechanic of the mech and solar charger had to be cut.

While these elements in their original form are scrapped in favor of player experience, I don’t want to lose the opportunity to monetize that element. I’ve developed a plan to re-introduce the robotic character and solar charger in a way that makes sense to the story, the world, and enhance the player’s ability to interact and progress.

I look forward to revealing how this gimmick has turned mechanic later this week when I begin releasing screenshots and video.

Stay tuned for media, articles, and be sure to drop your email on my list if you would like to be first to know about developments.

Thanks for reading.

*the original description for play mechanics can be found here.

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