From time to time, I hear developers talking about how Pokemon Go was a flash in the pan, but they are just dead wrong. Even though some of the game’s early adopters have moved on, the game remains a fixture in the top 10 grossing slots. Earlier this month at Seattle’s Geekwire Summit, a couple of Pokemon Go team members gave a great talk on how they evolved Pokemon Go to keep it relevant and interesting for a wide range of players.
One of the key directions they discuss is the addition of social features to Pokemon Go. They have added a number of social features, including raids (where groups of people gather together to bear powerful bosses and earn rewards), friend lists, and gifting. Players have really attached to and engaged with these features; I often see groups of people outside my office at nearby boss raids.
The power of this kind of social feature is not unique to Pokemon Go. Casual games like Hay Day and Pearl’s Perils have added social features to let dedicated players interact, and midcore games like Clash of Clans have relied on them from day 1.
There’s a reason that this design pattern is so widespread. Players play games to have fun, but there are many different kinds of fun. And almost all the researchers that have looked at the different kinds of enjoyment that players derive from games have recognized cooperative social interactions as one of the main drivers of player interest.
Even in single player games, the impact of social features on your game’s outcome can be huge. When well executed, they can improve not only retention but also engagement and monetization. For the health of your game, make sure to think hard about social features!