Idle Games: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games -

Idle Games: The Mechanics and Monetization of Self-Playing Games

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In this 2015 GDC talk, Kongregate’s Anthony Pecorella examine the core and metagame loops of Idle games to understand what’s so compelling, why the retention is so insanely high, and why they are even very viable free-to-play revenue generators.

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  1. This talk was the antithesis of Warren Spector's talk. These games are just using the players as money-generating machines, often using under-handed tactics (the 'Make it Rain' game especially). Every single mechanic is designed to addict players and cause them to spend as much cash as possible. There is absolutely no substance to these games whatsoever. The monetization structure of these games is almost as bad if not as bad as gambling.

  2. No mention of the classic idle games?
    PQ? no?

  3. tukkun updated anti-idle?
    how the hell did I miss this

  4. What I kinda want to have on mobile platform is some sort of "supply line management" idle game, that is similar to how you play factory style modded Minecraft. The goal is to create the highest productive system rather than having the number go high enough (because, well, you really need those UU matters in your DSU that much?)

    Maybe I would ended up making my own game but I really hope that other game devs can try such thing as well, because that's like, ultimate math exam that is actually fun rather than super frustrating, if that make sense.

  5. It's hard to call it "playing" when you open it and it just runs…
    In some strategy games or building games I often have a goal to make it idle game or I should say create equilibrium so game can run w/o any my input.

  6. The whole "he should probably get an art budget" comment kinda put me off. Joke or not, it was rather unprofessional. Decent first half of the talk, though.

  7. Some of us just doesn't have that much time to play anything anymore…and welcome easy challenge and small satisfactions from time to time. Idle games could be a slot machine or something better balanced, specially since the introduced watching videos instead of straight up paying

  8. Idle games started on IRC. They were around for years before moving to the web and other places. They were a bit different, where the challenge was to stay connected, and utterly inactive, as long as possible. If you changed your nickname, or lost connection to the server, etc, you would lose experience points or such. One that I 'played' had you gain experience over time, and also random events which occurred like battles and found items and other things.

  9. Pure satanism. Absolute Hell.

    Worse than Hitler.

  10. These idle games are just silly. Their only reason d'etre is to drive up ad revenues for webgame portals.

  11. Of course Idlegate is the one that gives the talk about money milking idlecrap.

  12. 3:33 I used to watch that stream all the time, and whenever he talked everyone got so exited xD

  13. When talking about idle game history i wonder why Ogame wasn't included there, i mean that's exactly the first idle-mmo game ever hitting the big screen.

  14. I love playing so-called ‘self-playing’ games, especially the ones with the rankings and competitions/events as I don’t have much time to spend on ‘real-games’,…Not every idle game is worth playing, but I love interacting with other players inside the game through chats,… what I lately find in War Clicks.
    Anthony, thanks for your speech, it was a pleasure listening to it!

  15. How I play idle games: play for 5 mins.. get bored… hack the hell out of the game… "win"… repeat.

  16. Clicker hero it's actually better to keep all the gilds on the same hero. It was also the worst way to spend the premium currency. The hero that gets all the gilds depends on where you are in your progression. (Highest Zone Ever)

  17. I want to find out about these 1000$ spenders. What compels someone to spend that much money on a mobile game?!?

  18. why not just go back to paying for the game – get rd of freemium and in app purchases. stop pandering to gamers whims because they demand free games. slippery slope

  19. I really like idle games, especially the ones with more to it than just clicking, waiting and buying an upgrade every now and then. But I would never play an idle game, that just wants me to spend real money. Games like cookie clicker or candy box have this "made by a programer for fun" charme and humor to them, combined with rpg elements for the candy box games and more complex mechanics, like grandmatriachs and many unlocks, like ascension upgrades and achievements, for cookie clicker. They even let you make an own idle game for free with their engine.
    In comparison many of those only made for profit smartphone games feel lifeless, even with cool and flashy animations.

  20. Interesting talk. It's nice to see that unlike a lot of mobile games, many idle games have mechanics that naturally encourage retention. Artificial restrictions grate on me, especially since they always give you the option to pay real money to keep going.
    I have mixed feelings when it comes to monetization. On the one hand, they need to make a buck somehow since free games still cost money to make, publish, and keep running. Still, some of this stuff is flat out exploitive. What he describes in idle games is less bad than what I've seen in other games, but that doesn't really make it good. So many games, even some paid games, seem to have intentionally slow progression that you can accelerate at the in game casino that costs real money to play (loot boxes and gatcha systems where you're basically stuck gambling for progress). In my opinion, you should feel good about spending on a game, enhancing your experience, rather than feel like you're being blackmailed into it if you want to make any progress.
    Also, bragging about designing an ad that pops up right where a player is going to be clicking/tapping is digusting. Getting hijacked from an enjoyable activity to some webpage doesn't make me want to buy products there. All it does is make me mad and spur unhappy tickets. Considering every game I've played that stooped to using that tactic stopped after less than a week, I can only assume that I'm not the only one who reacts that way.

  21. lets not pretend that playing idle games isn't embarassing

  22. Evolution of game length (years not entirely correct because of satire reasons).

    1976: Get your 1 minute arcade games at home now with this Atari system!
    1986: Sure, you can beat Super Mario Bros. in under ten minutes, but it has good replay value!
    1996: Here is another 80 hours hardcore game for dedicated players.
    2006: Here is some paid Horse Armor, so your horse looks better while you play through our 250 hours RPG.
    2016: You can buy multipliers for your idle game, so you play even less while you don't play our 5000 hours idle game.
    2026: We made the augmented life simulator so you can live in real-time while you live in real-time. With a playtime of up to 100,000 hours you can start playing at birth and end at death.
    2036: Our AI has created the ultimate game. Unfortunately we don't understand anymore how it works, but all other AIs love it. As it's self-evolving this will be played until the end of time.

  23. What are the names of all of these games

  24. I'm watching this while playing universal paperclips

  25. @28:40 They do now! hahahah by the way im a game dev and love these videos, im doing youtube too.

  26. kongregate was pretty cool but those idle games are poison man

  27. I just played Adventure Capitalist. Why the hell is it so addicting? I dont even get addicted to any mobile games. That game made me click on 2 rewarded ads. I've always wondered why people play mobile slot games, and I still do. This game is nothing like slot games. If you can implement this into a slot style game, then you'll hit a jackpot. Slots have a larger group of players.

  28. Thank God for Cheat Engine and Game Guardian.

  29. The first Idle game (that we could find) is called Ganymede. It was made in 1982 for the Commodore VIC-20 and was rediscovered by reddit users u/avatarofentropy and r/JadeE1024. There’s currently a port being made by Jade.

  30. I wonder if these numbers still hold up today 2020

  31. Pretty sure the first questioner was the CEO of Pied Piper

  32. speaker: "some games have you prestige as fast as once per day!"
    Antimatter Dimensions players: those are rookie numbers, you gotta pump those numbers up

  33. The important thing to take from this is how monetization strategists figured out how to add an energy systems to ANY type of game without actually putting an energy system in the game.

  34. So sad to see how many people call these "games", that are everything but a game.
    Very talented developers spend years and lots of money to make cool games and no one cares, while these things not only gets more and more popular, but also make lots of money.

    I don't even see adding anything valuable to people's life, compared to many other games.

    Perhaps I am getting old and not understanding new generations…

  35. You can literally pay to watch a number go up. Wow.

  36. Idle games are basically a drug, you feel like you're doing something, without actually having to do it. The perfect artificial high. Why's it so so successful? Same reason any drug is. The escape from reality. The unmet desires and needs we have. Bodes well for the future innit.

  37. 3:07 I may have spent more time playing the incomplete cookie clicker I'm making than actually making it…

  38. 47:43 That was my first idle game, and one of my first mobile games. Loved that game! Still have an old phone devoted to that save specifically. (I should go dig that out)

  39. Humans love seeing numbers getting bigger

  40. the more this guy talks, the more of a shit human being he sounds like. he is well aware that hes exploiting addiction, and he is perfectly fine with that.

  41. I loved seeing the cahrts about progression, i feel like so many mmo rpg need to have this level of thinking. Then the microtransactions is cool to hear but definitely not as fun to watch as a gamer

  42. I think Tamagotchi was also an idle game back then…

  43. i beat adventure capitalist by cheating and not paying a single penny for the dumbass game. Thank you for getting me to learn stuff like memory addresses and pointers, i guess. I find your character, questionable and suspicious. Seems like wasted talent

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