Popular Piggies

One of the most important processes of mobile games is their rewards system. Most mobile games are based around quick gameplay that is easy to drop and come back to. These games have to incorporate reward systems that make their short gameplay exciting. With many of them, the rewards are achievement based with a player’s time investment correlating to an in-game item or ranking that can be saved to an online profile.

In a paper studying reward systems and their place in gameplay and gaming culture, two professors, Olli Sotamaa and Mikael Jakobsson state that achievements are an integral core component of games. They point to reward systems like Xbox gamerscores or Steam achievements as building bridges between very different games by allowing the players to monitor their achievements across platforms and games. These systems can make players more aware of how their skills rank among their peers through linking their game profiles to social networking sites like Facebook. Sotamaa and Jakobsson argue that this social networking aspect can possibly make game cultures more visible and acceptable. (Sotamaa & Jakobsson, 2011)

I feel this is especially true for mobile games that benefit from the affordances of smartphones. A good example of a mobile game using these systems is Bad Piggies by Rovio Entertainment. The angry birds spinoff features three systems for sharing achievements and game progress on social media. Players can link Facebook, Twitter, and a Rovio account to their profile and share progress updates to their respective social networks. The game even supports an in-game screen recording app that allows for players to record their various creations.

My screenshot of Social Media Menu in Bad Piggies

All of these systems helped the game achieve an astounding amount of success. Upon its release in 2012 the game reached the top of the App Store chart in a record time of only three hours. It remained a top download and paid app for over two years and many millions of players still play the 2012 app today, six years later. While the game does have great gameplay, its meteoric rise can be attributed to the social media attention it received for many years as a result of its social network based reward system.

Jakobsson, Mikael, and Olli Sotomaa. “Game Studies.” Game Studies – Special Issue – Game Reward Systems, 10 Feb. 2011, gamestudies.org/1101/articles/editorial_game_reward_systems.


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