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Mobile Game Design: Three Essential Elements to go Viral

Mobile Game Design: Three Essential Elements to go Viral

Today there are about 400,000 mobile games in the Play Store but only a small part of them are popular and even less become a real viral phenomenon.

So, how does a mobile game stand out from the crowd? In this article, we’re going to analyse the elements of mobile game design that have made game apps with high numbers of downloads so successful. Moreover, we’ll give you some important tips on how to create a successful mobile game.

We’ll divide the main features of outstanding games into three categories:

Let’s get started!

#1 Gameplay and design

It’s obvious that the structure of a mobile game and its gameplay are important. Each game bases its entire system on these two elements. But there is something that popular games have done better and different than all the others. Let’s find out what.

app wireframes
App wireframes. Source: Unsplash

Renew a genre

Viral games have chosen a niche or “vintage” genre and have given it a new twist. Just think of Clash Royale, which reinvented the turn-based strategy genre; or Hearthstone, which revived the collectable card games genre. How can you do the same? Refresh the concept of a classic game by applying mobile game design concepts.

Create an excellent UX

The user experience of a mobile game must meet two fundamental criteria: fluidity and intuitiveness. If your app has bugs that inhibit fluidity, don’t release it until you’ve fixed the problems. Besides, if it takes more than three taps to reach the main features, decrease the number of steps.

Above all, a mobile game must be intuitive. In other words, it should be easy to understand and without the need to read through a long list of instructions. You need to offer them the possibility to start a game within a few seconds.


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Tell a story

Especially the games aimed at casual players have some kind of a storyline. It doesn’t have to be complex and full of plot twists but here are some common elements you can include:

  • Come up with a hero and villain for the story.
  • Point out the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.
  • Make the reason for the clash between the main characters clear.
  • Explain how the hero can reach victory, what he/she has to go through.

Some games introduce parts of the story along with the release of new seasons, accompanied by new characters, skins and maps. Just think of Playerunknown’s battlegrounds, which is one of the most played mobile games in history, with 600 million players in total. The developers periodically add new content, characters and maps in order to make the game more varied and to grab the attention of the players.


  Interested in game app development? Discover where to find the best mobile game developers

#2 Psychology

Video games are one of the applications in which the psychological component is more present than ever. On the other hand, it is one of the software with the highest level of user identification with the characters. Thus, the psychology of video games is extremely important and developers use its principles to aim directly at the gamers’ feelings. Let’s see how.


Do you want to keep your users stuck to the screen? Reward them regularly. This motivates gamers to continue playing and collect even more points, badges, in-game currency etc. But also think of elements such as scoreboards, performance charts and levels to keep the user engaged.

Besides, gamification is often part of the monetisation and marketing strategy. For example, many games offer you to look at ads or short videos in exchange for bonuses. Some games with meaningful reward strategies are Candy Crush and Clash Royale. These games are structured on multiple levels that unblock rewards every time you complete one of them.

gamification element
Gamification element in an app game. Source: Unsplash


Gamers like to feel autonomous and believe that every action they take is determined only by themselves. When creating a game, always keep this in mind. For example, by allowing players to freely replay levels to improve their scores.

Another important element is to encourage the creation of a community and a place where players can get together and exchange opinions on your game. According to the psychology of video games, it allows gamers to identify with each other, and it helps to build brand trust that results in loyalty.

Cognitive flow

Designing a game’s cognitive flow means to predict and structure the way the player will react to certain events in the game. Determine the story and gameplay to fulfil the gamer’s needs at the right time. Desires are the element that allows you to monetise, but without appearing as if that’s your only purpose.

For example, make an average-skilled player buy an upgrade to defeat the bad guy at a specific point in the game; or let the gamer look at ads when he/she is out of lives.

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#3 Marketing

Sometimes the question is not only how to make a mobile game, but also how to make it popular among gamers. In order to successfully launch your mobile game, it’s essential to have a clear mobile game marketing strategy. Paid ads and ASO strategies, for example, are key.

Paid ads 

Especially in the launch stage, it’s important to use different channels to obtain new users. Social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram could be an effective way to show ads to a targeted audience. This could help to get at least the first 5000-7000 downloads.

Another method is to put ads in other video games, which will be shown through the techniques mentioned earlier. But be careful. Choosing a type of game that is similar to yours is not always convenient. Players who are already engaged with a comparable game are unlikely to switch to another. Instead, aim for games with a similar atmosphere and style, but with different gameplay.


By App Store Optimisation, we refer to strategies you need to adopt to improve your mobile game ranking in search results of the App Store or Google Play Store. There are many variables that influence your ranking. These are the most important ones to keep an eye on:

  • App name and subtitle. Define both taking into account what users are looking for.
  • App logo. Research on apps with a high number of downloads. The logo has a big influence on the user’s decision.
  • Reviews: Listen to user feedback, there is always room for improvement.
  • Number of downloads. The more downloads your app has, the higher your mobile game ranking will be.

  Keep reading: How to promote an app using ASO and SEO?


Creating the best mobile games doesn’t always require a huge dose of creativity or complexity and – if you use mobile game design at best – it could also be based on a simple concept. However, there is no doubt that developing a game app can be an exciting and profitable investment.

If you’re thinking of creating your own mobile game, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our certified experts are ready to help you out!

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