I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve played almost all of the downloadable games on Big Fish. Since Big Fish releases a new game every day, it’s not such a big commitment if you think about it. The games are free for an hour, so technically, I don’t have to purchase a game. Since I don’t have much time to play games anyways, I could just play a new game every day.
But that’s not what happens. With some games, I stop playing after two or three minutes. It’s kind of scary, if you think from the developer’s point, that the first couple minutes of gameplay affect whether or not I will continue for the rest of the hour. I think this short timeframe is because these games are casual in nature and most casual games are in series of levels that increase in terms of difficulty, but don’t change substantially in terms of play mechanics.
There are various reasons for why I stop playing after two minutes. I don’t think it’s one thing, but a combination or interaction effect of several different factors, such as graphic design and difficulty. Most factors, however, pertain to some game mechanic or other. For instance, if there is a lag after I click, or if the game is too easy or the graphics too lame, I won’t even bother playing the full hour. Since a lot of the new releases on Big Fish seem to be hidden object games, some examples of games that I lost interested were: Flux Family Secrets- the Rabbit Hole, L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Journalistic Stories. I especially don’t like hidden object games where I’m looking for random stuff in a cluttered room (I’ve talked about this in a previous post on hidden object games). It really baffles me why items such as umbrellas, binoculars, pocket watches, and cigars are popular hidden objects across all games. So weird.
While I’ve talked about the importance of narrative in a previous post, I want to add another ingredient that makes me want to buy the game. Certainly an interesting narrative makes me curious about what is to come, but it is not enough. What really helps me decide whether or not I want to buy the game after the hour has a lot to do with audio, because at that point, good narrative and playable mechanics are already assumed to be part of the game. For example, I really enjoyed The Great Gatsby because of the honky-tonk piano (or whatever the instrument was) playing 20s music. It was extremely enjoyable to listen to the music while playing. I usually turn down the volume when I play, but not with this game. The game was also nice in that you were looking for hidden objects in a scene that seemed natural (not a cluttered closet with random items) although some items were indeed out of place.
It’s not just the music. When executed well, I actually prefer games that have voice-overs. Of course, this is very difficult to execute well since the voice actors may have annoying voices and/or bad acting skills. Also, if the voice sequence is too long, I would want to skip it. I guess this creates a lot of trouble for developers (ie., costs more) but i have never actually bought a game that did not have an audio component. It wasn’t because i was actively looking for it, but in hindsight, I think that audio was the secret sauce that triggered me to make that purchase.