Note: I would like this to be specific to mobile and web games, since they have easier distribution methods than other models.

Based on the examples in my interfaces question, it looks like (as expected) there's a lot of work cut out for me; there's a lot of room to improve that old, hoary chemistry game.

But should I?

In fact, when should (and shouldn't) you revisit old games and improve them significantly?

I can definitely think of a couple of reasons not to do this:

  • You're going to write a sequel (improve that instead)
  • You don't have players howling for your blood (or for improvements)
  • It's a one-off type of game you're unlikely to code anything similar to ever again
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you framing this in an economic sense? \$\endgroup\$ – Tetrad Oct 9 '11 at 6:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tetrad no, but that might be part of the answer. I'm assuming game developers who have the freedom to choose what games to work on. \$\endgroup\$ – ashes999 Oct 9 '11 at 7:28

Assuming that you have a title out there, or any title for that matter. Restricting discussion to mobile isn't necessary, the marketing cycles are much faster but the core issues remain the same.

If you're not focused on economic issues then the answer is "Who cares, do whatever you feel like" and you can safely ignore the rest of my talking points. In fact, please ignore the rest if that's the case =)


0) Crash fixes or matching to new hardware customers inquire about. 1) Its visibility in the market has gone way down, doing an update refresh its presence. 2) Existing customers appreciate free updates and new customers perceive that it isn't abandoned. 3) Test run a new feature/idea to see if existing users like it enough, before you add it to a brand new title. (ie. market research) 4) Create a tie-in with another, new title of yours, leverage your presence to feel bigger to the customer.


0) Opportunity cost. Look that up, it's important. 1) If the title is good enough then don't mess with it just because you feel like messing with stuff. Your customers value consistency in their purchases and hate to be jarred out of their complacency. 2) If the title just plain sucks and needs improvement it's better to abandon it (withdraw entirely from the market even), cut your losses and move onto something else less sucky. 3) People love new stuff, they give new stuff a much higher priority than news of version 314 of old stuff that they've already played to death. Adding significant features to old stuff is nowhere near as exciting as something new with that same feature.


Like it or not, bury your head in the sand, plug your ears and yell "I can't hear you" over and over but the very second that you mention Distribution and expect other people to use your title (for money or not) everything is about economic choices. There's nothing Evil about money, nothing compromising about wanting to make people happy with your work. Marketing is not beneath you, it's simply a word to describe how you present yourself and your work and who you decide to do that work for.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree. In fact, I've even heard that on mobile, the industry expectation from players is a stream of updates over time (it's certainly true on Kongregate, for example). \$\endgroup\$ – ashes999 Oct 14 '11 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for the Con argument 1, take a look at how much hate Facebook gets every time it updates, and realize that churning out a constant stream of updates comes at the cost of not producing anything New. Except for reasons mention in the Pro arguments, you'll make more money and more people will see your work if you spend effort on new instead of rehashing old. Take a look at what Zynga has been doing lately, massive effort going into new development and skeleton crews on existing games. I'll go check Kongregate to compare updates versus new titles, I may learn something new and that's cool =) \$\endgroup\$ – Patrick Hughes Oct 14 '11 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PatrikHughes Facebook breaks its API, that's different; that's not a game. Check out Kong, especially comments/versions on games that have badges. They evolve. +1 because you have good points. \$\endgroup\$ – ashes999 Oct 15 '11 at 0:47

I take it that you mean, when should you revisit an unfinished idea.

I worked on a game for years, refactoring it, recreating it, making it awesome -- until I realized it would make me very little money compared to some other ideas I had. Even though I had spent so much time working on it, I dropped it like a rock after this realization.

The good news was that I had learned a whole lot about game design and programming in general through the experience, so it wasn't a loss by any means. In fact, it put me in the position to be able to analyze it in that way.

I would say that the total complexity of the game also has an impact. It may not be the best idea, but if it's orders of magnitude easier than your best idea, that might be a good reason to carry it.

So, determine your motivation, and figure out the relative complexity of all your ideas. Then weigh them all in this context.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, I mean finished ideas. Unfinished ideas are a totally different beast. As a specific example, when I posted screenshots of my old chemistry game on GameDev.SE, I got a lot of good improvement ideas; how should I decide to revisit the game or not? Extrapolate that into a general process. \$\endgroup\$ – ashes999 Oct 14 '11 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ashes999 using my answer as a guideline = instead of wasting time fixing up an old product you should instead work on a brand new Chemistry Game and remove the old one before relaunching the shiny new one. \$\endgroup\$ – Patrick Hughes Oct 14 '11 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PatrickHughes why would I remove the old one when it's getting me traffic and visitors? That just doesn't make sense. Besides, there is scope to improve it; the question is how to decide. If your answer is "never," that's fine. \$\endgroup\$ – ashes999 Oct 14 '11 at 18:33

The main issue to consider here is the cost vs. return. Cost can be tangible (money) or intangible (time, effort, pain and suffering from a horrible debugger/platform/environment).

So it boils down to this: do you get more out of the extra effort than what you put in?

If you have an awesome game, and with some tweaking it'll become much better and attract a higher grade (or quantity) audience -- then by all means, go for it.

If you won't get much out of it, then why are you spending time on it? Go work on another game instead.


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