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5 Traits of Successful Video Games

Why are some games runaway hits while others are complete flops?  While it may seem like it is just random luck, there is much more to it than you might think. 

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5 Traits of Successful Video Games

What’s in a game?  Why are some games runaway hits while others are complete flops?  While it may seem like it is just random luck, there is much more to it than you might think.  Believe it or not, there is actually a science to making video games today, and game designers know exactly what makes a good game, and what does not.  When creating video games, game creators spend a great deal of time focusing on what makes a game good or even great and what causes them to fizzle into nothingness once they hit the market.

Today, we will look at exactly what makes a game great and what doesn’t.  These traits of successful video games are the key that unlocks the potential for success when you release games on the market.  Of course, there are still no guarantees, but if game makers are successful at incorporating these traits in to their games they are much more likely to be successful in the market than if they just slap together a game haphazardly and then release it to the public.  So what traits am I talking about?  Let’s take a look at what makes a game truly great.

Traits of Successful Games


There are several traits that all video games that are truly great share with one another.  If you are looking for a new game to play, you should seek out games that contain all of these traits to one degree or another.

Great Gameplay

This is the most important aspect of any video game created, but it is one that is often ignored by game designers.  They spend so much time creating cool worlds and writing an interesting story, that they forget the most basic aspect of any good game.  The gameplay is what the player will spend most of his or her time doing in the game, so if it sucks, the game will too.  It doesn’t matter how great the story is, if playing the game is painful players will stop caring about the story altogether.  If your game is frustrating to play, it could end up thrown out the window.  Game designers must spend time perfectly the gameplay to make it both challenging and fun while making it easy for gamers to control with gamepads, keyboards and mice if they hope to create a game that will not only be a success but continue to endure in an already crowded market for years to come.

Compelling Story

The world of video game story telling really changed with the release of Final Fantasy IV so long ago.  With its release, it offered one of the most impressive stories filled with surprise revelations and betrayals along the way.  While other games had tried to offer stories before Final Fantasy, most of the time they were simple stories that involved killing a bad guy and saving a damsel in distress.  Today, the stories in video games have evolved to become even more complex that a Quentin Tarantino movie.  If you are a game designer and you want your game to be successful, you must create a unique world and story surrounding that world.  Without a story, there is no motivation to continue playing a game, so it doesn’t matter how great the gameplay is, if you can’t motivate the gamer to continue what is the point of your game, anyway?

Impressive Visual Style

Notice I did not say that the games had to have impressive graphics?  That is because they don’t.  The fact is you can create a compelling game as long as every other trait in this list is followed and you create an art style that is impressive and immersive to a gamer.  This means that they could be simple 2d sprites on the screen or even impressive high definition graphics.  The key is style.  Look at World of Warcraft.  In the grand scheme of graphics today it is fairly simple, but it is unique and visually impressive at the same time.  Games that truly shine have compelling graphics that gamers want to look at whether they are in 2D or 3D.

Challenging Gameplay

In the 80s, video games were far simpler, but much harder.  There were no saves, you had 3 lives and you were done.  If you couldn’t beat it, too bad.  Today, many games have swung the complete opposite direction walking the player through every level in some way or another.  The truth is, the best games mix these two gameplay designs.  Players want to be challenged and don’t mind working for the rewards they receive in game.  At the same time, they want to be able to save so they don’t have to start from the beginning.  Hand holding gamers is always a mistake as most gamers want to feel a true sense of accomplishment when they complete a level or get past a certain area to get a reward.

Depth and Immersion

A truly great game will not only give you stuff to do for hours upon hours, but it will also suck you into the world and make you feel like you are a part of it.  Sure, every good game needs to provide hours of content for you to absorb, but this content can’t be boring and repetitive.  It needs to meaningful and immersive to create a player experience like none other.

So What Goes Wrong?


If there is a science to creating video games that will be successful, why is it that so many video games fail in the market or at least don’t quite live up to their hype?  There are many reasons why this is the case, from when the game is released and even what platforms are chosen for the game.  Some games do better on consoles while others perform better on PCs, for example.  However, there are two main reasons why games fail when they hit the market.  Let’s take a quick look at why this happens.

Failure to Include These Traits

One of the most common reasons games fail, is the developers fail to include all of the five traits that we have discussed above.  For example, a game might have fantastic gameplay, but a complete lack of story while other games have a great story but simply aren’t challenging enough to hold gamers interest for very long.  Sometimes, developers can get away with being weak in one of the areas, but if you leave it out entirely or simply fail to implement them successfully, you can pretty much guarantee that your game success will take a hit.

Gamers’ Opinions

While game makers do strive to include all five of the traits we talked about, sometimes what they think is a successful implementation of this trait is seen quite differently by the gamers they hope will buy their game.  Developers can spend hundreds of hours developing an intricate story that they feel is engaging, fun and interesting.  But once in the hands of gamers, they may have a very different opinion.

The opinions of gamers can change at a whim as well.  What gamers love today, they might find boring or uninteresting in a year or two.  Since games often take years to hit the market, a developer could simply be late to the part or just plain out of touch with what they want.  Whatever the reason, it is well known that gamers can be a fickle bunch, and you have to be prepared to adapt your game with the changing winds of video gamers.

So How Do You Choose?


So, now that you understand what makes up a good game, how can you tell which one will be a good fit for you?  That can be a difficult choice.  Let’s examine what you can do to narrow your choices.

Know Your Likes and Dislikes

Chances are you have been gaming for a while.  This means that you probably already know what types of games you like and which ones you hate.  When you start your search, use this to guide you as you make your selection.  After all, it doesn’t matter how great a game is, if you simply don’t like that style of game, you won’t enjoy it. For example if PC gaming isn’t your thing there are many websites online that offer some great casino style experiences.

Looks For Games That Have the Traits

Today, most of the very best games are what we call franchises.  These games have developed a reputation of always including the traits of what makes a game truly great.  Use this to your advantage to find the right game.  That doesn’t mean you should ignore new games that don’t have a history, though.  Learn about the games ahead of time by doing a little online research and you will have a good idea about what to expect.

Read Reviews

As I just said, you need to do your homework before you buy a game.  Don’t just run out and buy a game on release day unless you are confident that it will be good.  Instead, wait a few days and let the reviews pour in on the net.  If you just wait a couple of days, you will quickly find all the information you need from others about the game, both good and bad.  These opinions can help you form an opinion of your own before you buy the game.

Give a Game a Chance

When you do make your decision, be sure you give the game a fair shot at impressing you before you give up and say it is bad.  Some games are like good books, they take a little bit to get into.  You also need a chance to get comfortable with the controls and learn how to play before you really can make a fair decision on whether or not a game is bad or good.


Wow did we ever cover a lot today.  Video gaming is without a doubt a science and there are several traits that must be included in a game if it is going to be great.  From gameplay to story and even the graphics, all of these come together to create an entertainment experience that will keep you coming back for more.  Knowing how to spot these traits and make the right game choices is key.  Shop carefully and keep these traits in mind.  If you do, you should be able to easily spot the games that are great or have the potential to be great before you invest any of your hard earned money in them.  Knowing these traits and understanding the difference from what makes a game good and what makes it bad can help you make the right gaming purchase decisions so you enjoy your game time instead of being frustrated with something that you bought for hours at a time.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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