The Psychology behind Addictive Mobile Games [Infographic]

Do you know what makes people spend hours matching candies or growing virtual farms? Have you ever wondered what made a simple game like Flappy Bird a craze? In this post, we have brought an infographic for you that explains the psychology behind mobile gaming addiction.

You spend a lot of time and effort in developing and marketing a game for people to download and play. But if your game doesn’t engage your users, it takes no time and very little effort to uninstall the game. Understanding how biggest mobile gaming successes like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans pull in users and make them come back repetitively would help you develop ideas on how you can make your own game addictive, fun and a monetary success.

Psychology of an addictive mobile game


Let’s now analyze how the most popular and biggest mobile gaming hits have created a user experience that is fun to repeat.

1. Freemium Revenue model

If you look at the top grossing iOS games in above infographic, you will observe that all these games use Freemium revenue model. Technically these games are free to download which expands their reach and brings in more downloads. But once people get addicted to the game and want to progress quickly without waiting, they will need to do in-app purchases (IAPs) for example, to get ‘gems’ in Clash of Clans or extra ‘lives’ in Candy Crush Saga.

2. Positive Reinforcement – Encourage to Play More

Have you noticed the positive feedbacks like ‘Delicious’ & ‘Sweet’ you get when you clear rows of candies in Candy Crush Saga, or over-the-top ‘noise’ slot machine makes when you win in Slotomania? These positive feedbacks make people feel accomplished and happy. They serve as positive reinforcers and encourage them to keep playing.

3. Influence Subconscious and Connect Emotionally

Bright colors and animated treats in Candy Crush Saga engage people emotionally. Candies or fruits in slot machines appeal to us at the subconscious level, they remind us of their sweet taste. And who does not love sweets? At least as kids, we all did.

You can read our earlier posts on psychology behind colors and font psychology to understand how they affect our moods and emotions. This will help you make proper decision on using them in your game and influence the subconscious mind.

4. Be Social – Make Sharing Easy

Integrating your game with social platforms like Facebook and Twitter allows you to grow your reach of game through these social channels. When people clear tough levels in a game, they’ll want to show off their accomplishments on their social networks. Or when they run out of lives or gems, they will send game requests to their friends, doing free marketing for your game.

Do not forget integration with social sites like Weibo of China and to target Russian users. You can read our earlier post to know more on how to make your games a success in emerging markets like India, China and Brazil.

5. Make them Wait

The longer we wait for something, the more our craving builds. Clash of Clans uses this concept by making players wait before they can start another build or upgrade. While Candy Crush Saga provides limited lives; people need to wait before their life refills and they can play again.

The more people are addicted to the game, the less they would want to wait. Lesser they want to wait, the more likely they will do in-game purchases. Or, in case of Candy Crush Saga, they will send requests to friends on Facebook for extra lives. Some of my friends even sent me Facebook messages to accept their game requests and send them lives in Candy Crush Saga :). Such is the level of addiction this game has!

6. Design for Convenience

While planning your game, do not assume that people will give your game their full attention. Design your game interface that allows people to play it with one-hand without constant attention. Consider the example of Candy Crush Saga, people can conveniently play this game with one hand even while they are commuting. This increases the opportunities casual gamers turn to games like Candy Crush.

7. Endless Gameplay

According to studies, addictions flood brains with the neurotransmitter hormone dopamine, which makes us feel happy. Dopamine levels go low when not playing and people crave to go back to their smartphones and play. And by adding new levels and conquests, game developers offer new challenges. This helps retain users and makes sure they keep coming back for more.

We cannot predict what the next “big” game will be. However, most likely it will be a game that embraces at least a few of these addictive game elements.

Game development studios like King and Supercell have shown what makes a game unputdownable. Their success can be a good learning for you if you want your game to leave a mark in this highly competitive mobile game market. You can now get back to your game development armed with these insights. But before you go, don’t forget to share it with the game development community :).

2 thoughts on “The Psychology behind Addictive Mobile Games [Infographic]”

  1. I realize the one handed game is an advantage to the game maker and will sell and earn more.

    I would only ask that these companies consider the dangerous impacts of one-handed phone operation.

    My kid brother dies because someone was playing a game and driving.

    While I realize this was a personal choice on the player’s hands, she got in no trouble as no law would get her.

    So I would think it’s an Industry obligation to at least educate players on the 10 times more danger than drinking and driving danger is.


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