From fast-paced action to strategic gameplay, shooter games are one of the biggest mobile gaming trends. If you’re a game developer or publisher trying to figure out what makes top shooter games so irresistible, you’re in the right place.
In this article, I’ll dissect the elements that make these games not just popular but profitable.
First up is PUBG Mobile – the top-grossing shooter game of 2023 so far.
Since its release in 2017, PUBG Mobile has been a cornerstone in the mobile gaming community, especially in the shooter genre. It virtually kicked off the battle royale craze and popularized it as a new multiplayer survival subgenre.
Its key elements include a wide array of gun and vehicle mechanics, customization options, varied game modes, and a robust health damage system.
Key Lessons for Developers
1. Innovative Game Mechanics
PUBG Mobile doesn’t just offer a run-of-the-mill shooting experience. It elevates the game with a variety of mechanics that are both diverse and realistic.
What does this mean for you?
Well, if you want to step into the big leagues and compete with top shooter games, your game mechanics need to be well-thought-out and refined. Players are always craving new challenges, and unique mechanics can be your ticket to long-term engagement.
2. Clever Monetization Strategy
We can’t ignore the business side of things.
PUBG Mobile incorporates various customization options, from skins to accessories, that players can acquire through in-app purchases. This creates a revenue stream while enhancing user experience.
3. User Acquisition
PUBG Mobile had the advantage of timing. It was one of the first mobile games to venture into the battle royale space, which enabled it to capture a massive user base almost immediately.
If you’re looking to acquire users at scale, never underestimate the value of timing and innovation. Being first or among the first to offer something fresh can give you a competitive edge that can be incredibly hard for others to overcome.
4. Engagement and Retention
Player engagement is the holy grail of mobile gaming. PUBG Mobile uses dynamic team matching to ensure players of similar skill levels are paired together.
This not only makes the game more enjoyable but also encourages players to come back for more. For your own project, consider matchmaking algorithms that promote balanced play; this will likely enhance both engagement and retention rates.
5. Technical Optimization
Last but not least, PUBG Mobile is a hardware-intensive game. While this might deter some, it also sets a benchmark for quality.
As a developer, you must strive for a level of optimization that allows your game to run smoothly across a range of devices. This not only broadens your audience but also provides a better user experience for all.
Call of Duty: Mobile
Call of Duty Mobile is a powerful extension of the long-running Call of Duty franchise, tailored for the mobile experience.
At its core, it’s a First-Person Shooter (FPS), but it comes with an optional Battle Royale mode to shake things up.
The game features a detailed Loadout system, a Gunsmith for weapon customization, Killstreak and Scorestreak rewards, as well as roles and factions in multiplayer modes.
Key Lessons for Developers
1. Deep Customization
One of the standout features of Call of Duty Mobile is its deep customization. The Gunsmith and Loadout systems not only give players the freedom to tweak weapons and equipment but also open up new avenues for cosmetic monetization.
As a developer, if you can build a comprehensive customization system that adds value to the gameplay, you’ll likely see a boost in both user engagement and in-game purchases.
2. Reward Systems
Short-term goals can be just as essential as long-term ones for player retention. The Killstreak and Scorestreak rewards in Call of Duty Mobile are a prime example. These rewards give players something to aim for in each session, feeding into a sense of accomplishment.
Incorporate similar short-term objectives in your game to keep players coming back for just one more round.
3. Multi-Mode Support
Call of Duty Mobile doesn’t put all its eggs in one basket; it offers multiple modes to cater to a wide array of player preferences.
While the FPS mode is the game’s bread and butter, the optional Battle Royale mode adds variety and can attract a different audience. For your game, offering multiple modes can be a strategic way to expand your user base and prolong engagement.
4. Community Building
Being part of a well-known franchise like Call of Duty can be a double-edged sword. It provides a ready-made community, sure, but it also sets a high bar for quality and accessibility.
To navigate this, make your game inviting to newcomers even as you leverage the franchise’s established fan base. Create tutorials, offer beginner modes, or implement other onboarding strategies to ease new players into the ecosystem.
Free Fire has carved its niche in the fiercely competitive mobile battle royale scene by doing things a little differently.
Designed for 50 players, the game offers various modes like Solo, Duo, and Squad. It features a loot system for weapons and armor, along with shrinking Safe Zone mechanics to ratchet up the tension.
The game also adds a layer of depth with its Guild system and Luck Royale mechanics for character development. Inventory management and visual customization through cosmetic items round out the experience.
Key Lessons for Developers
1. Adaptive Gameplay
One reason Free Fire remains captivating is its ever-changing gameplay dynamics. The game offers multiple modes and integrates a shrinking Safe Zone that keeps players on their toes.
This constant need for adaptation keeps players engaged, as they can’t rely on a single strategy for long. In your game, consider incorporating elements that require players to think on their feet, ensuring that each play session feels fresh.
2. Simplified Mechanics
Free Fire’s streamlined mechanics make it more accessible than some other battle royale titles, especially on mobile devices.
The takeaway here?
Complexity isn’t always better.
Sometimes a simplified approach can open the door to a much larger audience who may find more intricate games daunting.
3. Loot System
In Free Fire, the loot system is both straightforward and effective. It encourages players to explore the game world and take risks.
Crafting a balanced loot distribution system can add an extra layer of excitement to your game. It gives players short-term goals to strive for and rewards them for taking risks, which in turn keeps them engaged.
4. Cosmetic Customization
Cosmetic items are more than just eye candy; they serve as another avenue for monetization.
Free Fire’s extensive range of cosmetic items allows players to express themselves while generating revenue for the game. When designing your game, think about how you can integrate cosmetic items that resonate with your target audience and offer them a means to personalize their experience.
5. Community Features
Free Fire’s Guild system and other community features offer a sense of belonging and camaraderie among players. Creating community-driven features in your game can translate into longer engagement periods and even morph casual players into loyal fans.
Features like guilds, teams, or even live events can foster this sense of community.
Knives Out is another contender in the fiercely competitive Battle Royale landscape, but it manages to stand out with subtle but impactful features.
A 100-player battleground where scavenging and survival are key, the game also places emphasis on priority items such as helmets, backpacks, and body armor.
Players must also master the map and make efficient use of the mini-map. Developed by NetEase Games, Knives Out follows a free-to-play model and operates on multiple servers for better gameplay performance.
Key Lessons for Developers
1. Map Design
Knives Out takes the concept of map diversity seriously.
The addition of a separate island off the northeastern shore connected by bridges offers players an alternative strategy and keeps the gameplay interesting.
If you’re building a game that relies on environmental exploration or player movement, don’t underestimate the power of a well-designed, varied map. It can make the difference between a game that captivates players and one that feels monotonous.
2. Customization and Control
Offering customizable controls isn’t just a fancy feature in top shooter games; it’s a necessity for modern gamers who demand a personalized experience. Knives Out excels in this department, giving players extensive options to tailor their control settings.
Customizable controls can significantly impact player satisfaction and long-term retention, so make this a priority in your development process.
3. Priority Items
Knives Out highlights the importance of certain survival items, encouraging players to seek them out actively. This not only adds an extra layer of strategy but also teaches players about prioritizing resources in a do-or-die scenario.
As a developer, focus on creating items that feel essential but not overpowered, maintaining a balanced gameplay experience.
4. Cosmetic Items
Sometimes it’s the small details that capture attention. In Knives Out, that’s the wingsuit. While it serves the same functional purpose as a parachute, the wingsuit adds an aesthetic flair that makes the game feel unique.
When you’re in a crowded marketplace, small but distinctive features can set your game apart from the competition and land you among top shooter games.
5. Server Management
No player likes to wait in a long queue or experience lag during crucial gameplay moments. Knives Out addresses this by offering multiple servers, optimizing gameplay performance, and reducing waiting times.
Robust server management can go a long way in elevating the player experience and can be a crucial factor in the long-term success of your game.
Brawl Stars, developed by the acclaimed Supercell, stands apart with its third-person top-down shooter mechanics and an array of game modes.
Each brawler in the game has its own unique skills and specialties, and players can even practice in a Training Arena. As players progress, they can acquire new characters, update their stats, and get access to new game modes.
5 Key Lessons for Developers
1. Diverse Game Modes
What makes Brawl Stars especially compelling is the range of game modes it offers. Each mode has its unique set of rules, keeping the gameplay fresh and interesting.
By offering a diverse selection, you can appeal to a broad spectrum of players and keep them engaged longer. Multiple game modes can also open avenues for seasonal or special events that give your game longevity.
2. Skill Progression
In Brawl Stars, the concept of skill progression isn’t just an afterthought; it’s an integral part of the gameplay. Each brawler has a unique set of abilities that can be honed and improved.
This provides players with both short and long-term goals, serving as a continual motivation to play. A layered skill progression system can add depth to your game, making it more appealing for players who enjoy mastery.
3. Social Integration
Brawl Stars leverages its social features to keep players coming back. The guild system and team play options foster a sense of community and camaraderie among players.
Social features can be potent tools for player retention and it’s what distinguishes top shooter games from the rest.
They can turn what might be a casual gaming experience into a communal one, potentially transforming short-term players into long-term fans.
4. Tutorial Importance
Onboarding is crucial in any game, and Brawl Stars gets it right with a well-designed tutorial that not only teaches but also provides initial resources to new players. A strong tutorial isn’t just a teaching tool; it’s your first interaction with the player.
Make it informative, engaging, and rewarding to ensure a smooth start to their gaming journey.
5. Practice Environments
A Training Arena is one of those features that doesn’t seem essential until you realize how incredibly useful it is.
Brawl Stars includes a space for players to practice their skills and try out new strategies without any stakes. Offering a risk-free environment for experimentation can keep players engaged and help them advance their skills.
5 Key Trends for Shooter Mobile Games
To finish off, I’ve put together a list of features that can be found in most top shooter games.
- Diverse Game Modes: One of the significant trends is the inclusion of multiple game modes. Games like Call of Duty Mobile and Brawl Stars offer various modes, from Battle Royale to team-based objectives, catering to a broad audience.
- Deep Customization: Customization features, particularly related to weapons, are becoming increasingly popular. These features not only enhance gameplay but also serve as monetization avenues.
- Community and Social Features: Games like Free Fire and Brawl Stars include guild systems and other community features that foster a sense of belonging and engagement among players.
- Reward and Progression Systems: Titles like Call of Duty Mobile have intricate reward systems like Killstreak and Scorestreak, which provide short-term goals and a sense of accomplishment, thereby increasing player retention.
- Accessibility and Simplified Mechanics: Games like Free Fire are designed to be more accessible, especially on mobile devices. This trend is likely to continue as developers aim to attract a broader audience by simplifying game mechanics without sacrificing depth.