Does Sound Matter in Mobile Games?
As long as there have been video games, there have been accompanying sounds. From the rhythmic bong in Pong, to the increasingly fast thump as the Space Invaders come closer and closer, the noises during gameplay are designed to get your heart racing faster and increase your game anxiety. As gaming systems became much, much more sophisticated so, too, did the soundtracks to the games themselves. Who can’t still hum along to the Super Mario or Zelda themes?
It turns out there is a definitive rise in the popularity of games featuring an immersive and compelling soundtrack. Several of CNET’s top games of 2019 list a game’s soundtrack as a positive attribute and recommend playing with headphones. For midcore and hardcore games, no longer is the soundtrack just in the background, it can actually be an integral part of the storyline. Some industry vets go so far as to say, if the player isn’t listening to the game, the devs are doing something wrong.
Undoubtedly, there is a correlation between good sound and game quality, but when it comes to hyper-casual mobile games it may not be as essential as you think. Music can beautifully set the mood in a chilling horror game or in a cheerful farming game, but does it matter in a simple puzzler?
The answer depends on how you want your game to be played and remembered. Like with ad creatives, you’ll want to design your game to be played without sound, but provide players with an elevated experience if they choose to play with music and sound effects enabled. Another aspect often overlooked is how sound design can be linked to your game’s brand. If your game features a unique soundtrack or sound effects, players will develop a deeper brand association based on the sounds in your game.
However, if your game is meant to be played in short sessions like during a commercial break or while commuting to work, sound may not matter. Often times, these mobile gaming experiences are so fast, or happening in conjunction with another activity (we know you have Netflix on in the background!), that sound may not even be enabled during gameplay.
While there is no real, measurable ROI in developing a robust soundtrack to accompany your hyper-casual games, it is something to consider. There will inevitably be some gamers playing with headphones in and will be sorely disappointed to be playing along to a completely silent game. As a game developer, you will have to rely on the reviews and ratings to know if you really nailed it.
When it comes to whether sound design it is worth it or not, the decision is in your hands as a game developer. While a kickass soundtrack is not 100% necessary to building a better game, it certainly doesn’t detract from the player’s gaming experience. More and more apps are allowing the users to integrate music apps like Spotify or Apple Music while they are playing, but don’t let that dissuade you from building the real immersive journey. Let the gameplay guide you!