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Announcing my new book: The Pyramid of Game Design

By on April 23, 2019

I am delighted to announce that my new book, The Pyramid of Game Design, is now out, published by CRC Press.

Subtitled “Designing, Producing and Launching Service Games”, the book is a comprehensive guide to, well, designing, producing and launching service games.

The world of game design has changed significantly since I started GAMESbrief 11 years ago. In 2008, I started GAMESbrief to talk about new business models in the video games industry, which inevitably focused on free-to-play. F2P was, at the time, in its infancy in the West, and many developers were dismissive of its likely impact on the games industry.

Today, of course, everyone accepts the impact of this business model has been massive. But I carefully didn’t focus The Pyramid of Game Designon F2P games: I focused on service games. Because the impact of F2P has extended far beyond those games whose initial price point is free.

The biggest design change I see in the industry is the focus on the Session. All games are competing for attention, not just with other games with the panoply of consumer content ranging from Facebook to films, from Twitter to TV.

Managing the session is about making it easy for a player to choose your game over other content choices. It’s about making sure that the entertainment value of the game matches the “activation energy” it takes to get into the experience. And it’s about making sure that when players choose to leave your game (or are nudged out), they have a compelling reason to return.

This “session” thinking is spreading far beyond mobile and F2P games into traditional AAA design thinking.

The session is just one of the concepts I explore in the book. I identify three layers of game play – the Base, Retention and Superfan Layers – and explore how they are related and connected by the Core Loop. I look at production issues too:

  • How to foster creativity
  • How to prototype and when to pivot
  • The principles of the Minimum Viable Product and how player expectations have evolved to demand a Minimum Awesome Product.
The Pyramid

Any service game needs to have a live strategy. You need to know how to bring it to market, what metrics to evaluate and the basic principles of how to market it. So I cover those as well.

Finally, I devote a whole chapter to the ethics of service games. There is growing disquiet amongst regulators about the role of loot boxes and gacha mechanics in game design. I believe that we, as an industry, have a responsibility to consider these concerns and to respond to them in a way that protects individual freedoms while also protecting the vulnerable in society. In the end, I believe regulation is inevitable, but I hope that you find my logic and justification useful in setting your own strategies for monetisation design.

The Pyramid of Game Design is a distillation of more than a decade of service-game design. I do hope that you find it a useful addition to your bookshelves.

And if you do, as all authors will tell you, I would very much welcome a review on your favourite book-purchasing site or location.

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: