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The Pyramid of Game Design: Designing, Producing, and Launching Service Games

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Games are changing.

Game developers have vast experience crafting polished, enjoyable and profitable games. Yet people who have worked on these games often struggle to make a successful transition to service games.

The Pyramid of Game Design provides a new framework and new tools to help you make better service games.

This book shows you how to:

  • Make games more fun
  • Generate more profit
  • Take on less risk

Discover the frameworks and techniques that you need to be successful.

Amazon US

From $45

Amazon UK

From £35

CRC Press

From £19.50


The Pyramid at a glance

The Pyramid is a lens for viewing the components of service success.

  • The Base Layer is the heart of the game. It is the moment-to-moment gameplay. It is a match in Team Fortress 2, a level of Candy Crush Saga or a narrative level of Uncharted.
  • The Retention Layer is what keeps players playing for days and weeks and months and years. It is progress and unlocks and tech trees and narrative and achievements and leaderboards and more.
  • The Core Loop connects the Base and Retention Layers and can usefully be thought of as a Gearbox.
  • The Superfan Layer is where the game has become a hobby for a subset of players. They play this game more than any other game, and it occupies a huge amount of their time and possibly money.
The Pyramid

Master all layers of the Pyramid to maximise fun and profit, when designing, producing, and launching service games.

Amazon US

From $45

Amazon UK

From £35

CRC Press

From £19.50


About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas Lovell is a game designer, consultant and writer. His books include The Curve (Portfolio Penguin), The F2P Toolbox (GAMESbrief), Design Rules for F2P Games (GAMESbrief) and How to Publish a Game (GAMESbrief). Since 2008, he has advised more than 50 companies on adapting to service games, with a particular focus on freeto-play. Clients have included Bandai Namco, Bohemia Interactive, CCP, Exient, Firefly Studios, Madfinger, nDreams, Rebellion, Rovio, Square Enix and Supersaurs. Since 2017, Nicholas has been Design Director at Electric Square.

What are service games?

Service games are designed to provide:

  • Ongoing, compelling experiences to players
  • Ongoing source of revenue for game makers

The most significant business model for service games has been free-to-play, but service games may also use other business models, such as subscription. Service games are continually developed. Many features may not have been developed at time of release to public. The marketing team focuses on user acquisition over time.

In contrast, when a product game is launched, the game makers’ work is done. The marketing team focuses on creating the biggest launch possible, with no ongoing relationship with players.

Product and service games can learn a great deal from each other. The Pyramid and the other tools introduced in this book improve both product and service games, though they are much more important for service games.


Learn how YOU can make better, more enjoyable, more successful and more profitable games.

Amazon US

From $45

Amazon UK

From £35

CRC Press

From £19.50