Making the Game That Goes Viral

Making a killer video game can win a person wealth and success. But how is it done? Can a person try for such a thing?

By Drew Kuske

It is often said that the “American Dream” means everyone stands on equal ground economically. This means that even an average person can be as rich as any millionaire. However, many people don’t have the privilege of starting a company while being both rich and smart. So how does one person become famous and rake in millions of dollars? One path to this success is video games. There are many more people with skill in coding than people with skill in investing or in complicated tech design, and the possible income from one video game can be close to the profit of billion-dollar companies. The only issue is that the video game market is volatile and many game designers are left in a development nightmare trying to replicate the success of popular games. So how should one person go about replicating that type of popularity?

One possible answer to this dilemma is following the popular trends. Fortnite was a response to Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, abbreviated to PUBG. PUBG was the poster child of the exploding battle royale genre, and Fortnite wanted in on the craze. Fortnite wasn’t even initially made for the battle royale genre, the game developers just decided to create a quick battle royale in their game and it took off. But I and many others don’t understand why–what led to such an explosion in popularity? Speaking objectively, the battle royale genre can be considered really boring. You run around a map for half-an-hour only to lose in your first firefight. Many people can think of tons of video games that are more entertaining than Fortnite. So why was Fortnite the PUBG killer? It may have been peer pressure. Some people decided to play Fortnite purely because their friends were playing it. Playing a game with friends can easily make it way more enjoyable and therefore popular.

Another major factor to consider is what will appeal to a large audience over a long amount of time. Minecraft is one of the oldest video games that is still seeing large popularity. Its creation in 2009 resulted in explosive popularity and the game has seen a prosperous life over the last 11 years. But why – especially after those 11 years – is the game still so large and competitive in the market? Most people experience a feeling of boredom after playing a game for too long because they feel that they have experienced everything the game has to offer. Why hasn’t Minecraft experienced this phenomenon? I think this has to do with the nature of the game itself. Minecraft is a game about creativity. The possibilities are nearly endless as you can craft, build, and code in whatever idea you have. The game is only limited by the player’s imagination. This makes the game infinitely replayable and truly makes the game last longer.

These developers weren’t making their games because they wanted to make money, they made them because people would enjoy them.

Some factors of a popular game are unexplainable. Five Nights at Freddy’s is another viral game that was very hot a couple years ago. The goal is to survive 5 nights in a security room while animatronics try to hunt you down. Five Nights at Freddy’s is classified as a horror game because when the animatronics succeed, they jump scare you. But the novelty of the jump scare is always brief and soon enough you stop finding the jump scares so scary. So how does a game with mediocre horror and tedious gameplay get so popular? The first game may have been another case of peer pressure, but the reason I think the game has survived this long is because of the vast sequels it has gotten. Five Nights at Freddy’s was a breakout hit but the creator of the game knew that that popularity would not last long due to the game’s nature so he quickly decided to make a sequel. Then he made a third one. Then a fourth. We are currently on the tenth entry into the series with an eleventh in the works. The developer used the momentum of the first game to launch himself into so many sequels.

So, what is the common factor? Each game seems like they forged their own path to success in a different way. It is near impossible to replicate all these factors without sacrificing something crucial. The truth is you don’t need to replicate any of these factors. These developers weren’t making their games because they wanted to make money, they made them because people would enjoy them. Creating a great product comes first, the fame and fortune will come as a natural byproduct of a great product.

Photo: Fortnite by Nishan Lakmal on Flickr