Our fourth game here at Dragon Army, Little Broken Robots is a fan favorite and even this non-gamer is a convert. While repairing sad, lonely robots is certainly an emotional pick me up (our community has repaired more than 11 million robots to date), it’s not the only reason players are picking up Little Broken Robots.

As mobile matures in 2016 and beyond, we believe that brands will seek new forms of inspiration. For us, that inspiration comes from gaming. Below are five of the biggest lessons brands can take from mobile gaming.

1. On-board me like a player
What’s the first thing you do before playing any game? You reach for the rule book. Tell me how I can expect to win.

Your customer should understand their opportunities, and limitations, from their first play session. The best games use on-boarding to make their players feel exclusive, important and prepared to win. According to research from TechCrunch, 79% of users will give apps a second chance, but only 16% will come back for a third try if it fails to impress. Make sure your first session leaves an impression.

In app design, consider how and when you might ask a user for various permissions, for example, registering for an account. Take time to move a user through your world, rather than expecting that he/she is ready for every action on first open.

2. Motivate me to come back
As marketers, we have to stop expecting a mobile app to translate to our storefront on a customer's device.

After those first few opens, chances are your customer is going to forget that they even downloaded your app in the first place. Notifications, when used appropriately, offer the ultimate invite back into your customer’s life. In our Applied Game Theory™ model, we refer to this as an appointment mechanic.

Consider not only engaging users with push messages, but also pay close attention to when in the app lifecycle you ask for permission. A recent study by Localytics found that users who complete 1-3 sessions before seeing a push notification opt-in have a 35% rate of acceptance, but that rate jumps to 70% after users complete between 4-6 sessions in the app. When used successfully, both games and apps can build an understanding how to motivate their players and customers to anticipate the return.

3. Give me a CHANCE  to get something out of this
Super Mario Bros. wasn’t entertaining because I knew I was going to save the princess at the end. It was entertaining because I knew I’d have the chance to do so…if I survived the rest of the level.

Rewards don’t have to be absolute to offer satisfaction. We are naturally more motivated by the chance of a reward, rather than the guarantee of one. This is the same rationale that drove Powerball to a record breaking $1.5B dollar prize, urging us all to buy tickets. Keep your customer guessing and energized by what you have to offer and when the time comes, make that reward valuable and personalized.

4. Let me do something other than click
Mobile gaming unlocked a new genre of game creativity not only because of its pocket size, but also because the hardware gave us new ways to play. When designing for mobile, we’re often guilty of reverting to “design for the smaller screen.” Some of the most addicting games we've come across aren’t unique in content, but are unique in how you play them.

Mmm Fingers for example requires I keep my finger on the screen for the entire play session and losing goes as far as to send a vibration paired with a graphic of a monster cutting my finger. The real life reaction is so fun, players can’t help but try again. Consider what “mobile” elements you’ve employed to your experience beyond the click.

mmm fingers

5. Evolve the challenge
In 2015, the average time spent in mobile gaming fell from 32% to 15%, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the market has matured, players have begun investing less time in progressing through experiences and more time paying for upgrades to progress more quickly. As a result, the iTunes App Store saw a record of $1.7B in sales in July 2015 and released new models for subscription revenue just last month.

While the game doesn’t change every a long-time player opens an app, the challenges should. Consider how your customer will progress through your experience. Your mobile experience should be just as useful and entertaining the fiftieth time I open it as the first, but the first and fiftieth interactions shouldn't be the same. Challenge yourself to build an experience that matures as your customer does.

As we head into the second half of 2016, we challenge you to consider what role applying insights from gaming plays in your mobile strategy. To learn more about our approach with Applied Game Theory™ at the core, give us a shout.