One small change Nintendo recently made to their eShop interface highlights one of the growing issues with the platform: a simple indicator of how many games are listed in the “Great Deals” section showed us that this week alone there were over 1000 titles on sale. When Piczle Lines DX was launched there were around 200 titles in total on the eShop. Publishers have long used the sales section to give some extra visibility to their games and hoping that even pushing a game with a massive 90% sale might push it into the top sellers category.
So what else is one to do to give visibility to their game on this crowded marketplace if you don’t have access to millions of dollars of advertising budget? One aspect I have toyed with before, with limited success, is to create shareable moments that make use of the Switch’s built-in capture and sharing system.
The ideal is to create a scene or situation that impels the player to press that “capture” button on the controller, and then or eventually switch out to their gallery and tweet the image. A few of these situations I tried to design purposefully.
When the player clears the main story in Piczle Cross Adventure they are given a “certificate”, which shows everybody they completed the game and at what percentage they did so. This certificate is deliberately screen-filled and includes the name/logo of the game. I found quite a few players chose this moment to press that capture button and share on Twitter they had completed Piczle Cross Adventure.
What I didn’t quite expect was that people would also instead share the map screen, where there is also a completion counter. Perhaps navigating back to the certificate in your inventory and pressing A to view it is a few steps more than just pressing the map screen button and capturing it right there and then. On top of that the map screen also includes other stats, like secrets found, number of puzzles and steps taken. Most of these are rendered irrelevant if you’ve cleared the game 100% but it’s a fairly popular place to share a screenshot. Had I anticipated this I’d probably have tried to sneak the game’s name into the map screen somewhere as well.
Another potential way, though much more risky, is the comedy jokes. I tried to be very droll when writing Piczle Cross Adventure and by the look of some shared screenshots it worked! Not everybody has the same sense of humour, of course, and I am certainly aware that what I find lovably precocious in Score-chan someone else might find aggressively arrogant. This is to be expected of course. You can’t be all things to all people. But I did notice that some people shared captures of things they felt were particularly funny or notable in Score-chan’s dialogues.
The LEVEL UP sequences did seem to tickle a few people into posting a capture, even though I also noticed it confounded a few players. Their only real purpose was to delight and amuse, and I think all things considered they did that job well enough.
Then, more from observation than Piczle games themselves, you will also notice that games that rely on procedurally generated content, physics-based gameplay or manic hectic multiplayer fun tend to get screenshots and short clips shared of particularly exciting / fun / beautiful / chaotic moments. No Man’s Sky comes to mind with users sharing gorgeous vistas, or Rocket League where users share particularly hectic moments of beautiful chaos. These things will be very hard to design on purpose, especially in games like the Piczle series, but it is certainly something designers need to keep in mind.
Finally, and I found this mostly…only in Japanese players of Piczle Cross Adventure, for some reason, are the tongue-in-cheek moments (even if entirely imagined). There were more than a couple of players who posted a screenshot of the bollard puzzle stating they were expecting it to turn out as “something else” (tee-hee). It is an interesting insight into the mindset of Japanese players, I think you’ll agree, haha.
You can set it up so that any capture from your game automatically adds a hashtag of your choosing to the Twitter text if players decide to share. I highly recommend you do this and keep a sharp eye on what exactly players find shareable, and what they don’t, despite your intentions. It is a great way to get extra visibility amongst the followers of your players, as well as offering some fun content for social media browsers to encounter.
It should be a bullet-point in any game designer’s design document that shareable moments are a thing to be considered!