Digital gaming is a massive space teeming with its own unique set of user experience challenges. The EchoUser team was specifically interested in the casual gaming experience and focused on assessing the first-time gameplay experience “stickiness” of the mobile phone and tablet game, Badland. Our objective was to discover what makes players stick to the game as time progresses, as well as to correlate user experiences to how successful the game is in the competitive gaming market.
Our primary goal was to assess the game’s first-time experience. We focused our assessment on studying the Badland’s appeal, leading us to analyze and evaluate what engages players and causes them to return to the game, pay money to continue playing, or conversely repel them from playing the game, at all.
We conducted quick participant interviews to gain insight and contextualize their relationship with casual gaming, investigating broad topics such as what types of games they like to play as well as when and how often they take the time to play them. Next, we ran a usability test that began with the user discovering the game on the App Store. This allowed us to assess the participants’ experience regarding the game’s presentation and online description before downloading it. The test then proceeded with the user moving into actual gameplay, concluding with a retrospective evaluation of the gaming experience.
Through our research, we gained specific insights into the aspects of Badland’s gameplay that increased participant retention and the likelihood of users to play the game on a long-term basis — for example, beyond the first 5-15 minutes of initial play. These insights helped diagnose specific design improvements that would improve the first-time game experience for new users, and ensured the maintenance of the aspects of gameplay that already contribute to the participants’ positive experiences.
At a higher level, this study represents the early steps into identifying the key factors that game designers should focus on to optimize the casual gamer’s experience.