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Free-to-play Design, Rule 2: The Starbucks test

By on August 15, 2012
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F2P-design-rules-thumbDoes your game pass the Starbucks test?

I first heard this question posed by Torsten Reil, CEO of Natural Motion, the developer of MyHorse on iOS which has now had over 11 million downloads and of CSR Racing. Both titles have been a regular feature of the Top Grossing Charts.

Torsten asked “Can you play your game and have a meaningful experience in the time it takes for a barista to make your macchiato?”

This is a critical consideration for any game being designed for a smartphone or tablet. If your free-to-play game is in the browser or on the console, it may be less crucial, but “short loops” remain key for all free-to-play games.

A short loop is an experience that you complete and have fun with in short period of time. Examples include:

Each of these jobs is short, finite and can be completed in the time it takes to wait for a bus, to collect a macchiato or even, in my case with Tiny Tower, to wait for a lift.

Does your free-to-play game have an experience that will draw people back again and again because they think it will only take a short time to achieve something?


The next post in this series will look at play length from the other side: making the game engaging for longer play sessions

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com