I am talking about Tetris, of course! Created around 1984-1985 has been a best seller for more than 20 years.
Every time a new console comes out one of the first games to be released is Tetris (plus some variants) and what is amazing is that it just keeps selling!
In the mobile space it’s not different. If you check out the monthly chart published by ELSPA, for example, you will see that the February 2007 UK mobile chart lists Tetris in third position and was second last month.
How is this possible? Well, I think that Tetris shows how all the most important rules of Casual Games should be applied and demonstrates that if they are well balanced will generate an endless interest from gamers in all times.
Here’s a blog post by Tom Hume written after “Casualty Europe” 2006, it’s from a presentation by Jason Kapalka of PopCap called “10 ways to make a bad casual game“. I remembered Tom’s post, but while searching on the web I also found another post from a Microsoft person, Kim Pallister, Casuality Session: Designing casual games.
My favorite rules (deduced from the worst mistakes according to Jason) are number 1, 8 and 9. I really think that the winning combination of a casual game is to make it easy to pick up (so no need to read or really just 1 minute to know the basic rules) and hard to master. Easy to pick up means that users will start playing quickly and see how the game works and get sucked into the game world, hard to master will make sure that users don’t get bored too quickly. Hard to master does not mean it is complicated, but that with many little things you can achieve a higher level, more points, better rewards.
Games like racing or war with too many power-ups, for example, are fun for a few hours or days, but then become boring. It must be something that you get little by little.
I think that Tetris matches the most important rules, SUPER easy to pick up, years to master. Simple graphics, you don’t need a modern computer with 4 processors to run it (it was designed in the Eighties!).
If you checked out the ELSPA chart you will have seen Puzzle Bubble in that list. The game is younger (1994), but same rules apply. Needless to say these are among my favorite games (and also the only ones I still play).
It comes as no surprise that in the mobile space these are the games that still sell the most, even if sometimes the phone keypad is not the best joystick even for these games (think of when it starts running fast!).