game design

 Crazy Clickable: The Future of Game Design

Goat Simulator and Cliff Bleszinski’s Superhot are leading us into a future of crazy clickable games. 

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With the ever present influence of Youtube, the revolution of Twitch, and the recent news that Steam is adding streaming to their service, it’s clear that video games are becoming as much about watchability as playability. We’re witnessing the birth of “Made to watch” games, the future of the gaming industry.

For both indie games developers and AAA studios, being able to put your game directly in front of viewers is immensely important. After all, the more people who see your game, the more people who are aware of it, the more people will potentially buy that game. Amazon are so certain about the importance of game viewers that they purchased Twitch for $970 million, and on the basis of this business transaction helped to secure their rise in the gaming industry. Subsequently, the Amazon Fire TV games console has now secured its place in the market.

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Meanwhile, Youtube views are perhaps even more important than Twitch. In an interview with IGN, Cliff Bleszinski stated that the way games look on Youtube is having a direct effect on sales. In fact, Bleszinski has even stated that he is designing his games in a specific way to make sure they look great on Youtube. Bleszinski’s upcoming games Superhot and Blue Streak (both of which are shooters) are being designed in such as way as to guarantee that they will look good on Youtube.

Twitch and Youtube are now vital parts of game design and marketing. Naturally, this leads us to the question:  How precisely will Youtube and Twitch change the way game developers make games?

The answer all comes down to hits. Game developers want to guarantee that Youtube and Twitch viewers click on any video that shows their games, because doing so leads to free advertising. Essentially, viewers equals potential customers. By making sure more people see videos that showcase their games, developers get free advertising. How, then, do game developers get more hits on Youtube and Twitch? The answer is delightfully simple: A thumbnail image and a clickable title.

Everything on Youtube and Twitch comes down to the click. In order to get a view, people must click on the image (or title) in order to watch the video. It’s not without reason that PewDiePie uses over the top images for his thumbnails. PewDiePie looks crazy in every one of his thumbnails, because bizarre images get more clicks. The same can be true for sexualised images and for funny images. They equal clicks. Clicks equals views. Views equals advertising. Advertising equals bottom line.

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The final factor is shareability. Game developers want any videos showing their games to get upvotes and Facebook and Twitter shares, which all feeds into them garnering more views and more free publicity. There’s no better example of this than Goat Simulator. Initially, Goat Simulator was a joke. But no sooner had Coffee Stain Studios released the joke video than Goat Simulator went viral, thus proving its potential to market itself. The result, several months down the line, is a game that’s earned its developer over a million sales.

 

Crazy, clickable games. That’s the future for game design. But the illusive problem is this: Game developers can’t directly control the thumbnail image a Youtube channel uses in its videos. When users upload videos to Youtube they’re given a few choices for the thumbnail (and can also upload a custom thumbnail). In other words, most thumbnails showing a game are going to show a random gameplay moment. The only way, then, to ensure that Youtube videos of a game use clickable thumbnails, is to ensure that near every frame in that game looks clickable. The way to do that is with specific graphics styles.

Take Cliff Bleszinski’s next game Superhot. It’s not a coincidence that Bleszinski is opting for a limited colour palette. That hot red against the cool grey and silver creates a heck of a lot of contrast in any frame of the game. Contrast and a limited colour palette have been proven by graphics designers to be the keys to creating clickable images, why? Because images with high contrast stand out (for more on this see here).

goat simulator game

Bliszinski is, and always has been, ahead of the curve. He knows where the industry is going and knows how to make the most of current trends. His games have proven this time and again, and Superhot is not different. By guaranteeing that games have high contrast graphics and immediately recognisable characters, game developers can in turn guarantee more views on Youtube and Twitch, thanks to the clickability of static images of their games.

We’re entering an era when commercial success is less about the quality of the product and more about its ability to succeed online, where click, votes and shares are everything. We’re entering the era of Crazy Clickable Games.