Game developers and designers have always been experts in User Onboarding and we didn’t even realize it!

Developing a successful video game is much more than just software. It’s about creating a process of onboarding so well-thought that will make users fall in love from the moment they sign up.

The onboarding phase is indeed complex and time-consuming but it’s the most important phase for a gamer. If he/she doesn’t understand the goals or how to play it, the possibility of he/she actually playing it is very low.

So what can we learn about User Onboarding from our experience in video games?

They allow creating an identity

Like music, movies, and art, Video Games also influence players on an emotional and psychological level. Such digital worlds allow users to take decisions by themselves, create different personalities and even explore new behaviors.

In other words, most of the games allow you to create a profile, character and choose your own way to do things, giving a great sense of freedom as you can do whatever you want in that specific world.

This may look inspiring but this is actually a great onboarding strategy. To give users the possibility to create an identity and, in many cases, a character affects the user psychologically. Just think about it, if you spend 2 or 3 hours creating a character you might as well try the game.

Like in real life, usually when you put a bit of effort into things you are more likely to enjoy it.


They guide users interactively

One of the most important lessons we can take from Video Games is: you can only learn by playing it. Game developers provide users the opportunity to practice basic movements in a first experience.

They can introduce it through a tutorial, where the user is guided step by step while playing a match, taking as example successful games like Overwatch, League of Legends and the mobile game Clash Royale. Some games introduce tutorials automatically when they recognize a first time user, and others just have this option available and it’s up to the user to decide if he/she wants to take it.

Another great strategy is to create a basic level that is perfectly designed for the player to try off control buttons and get to know the game, like the case of Super Mario Bros. To guide interactively is an easy and effective way to onboard new users because they are learning and having fun at the same time. (Click to tweet)

Once the player realizes what they need to do, it becomes their game.  – Shigeru Miyamoto


They motivate users through rewards

Like in real life, everyone likes to be rewarded for what they do. What’s the point of doing something that doesn’t pay off? What are my gains with this? The same happens when playing a video game. Game developers need to remind users that they are not wasting their time, well at least right away.

Introducing early win states increases motivation. It makes users feel that they are doing well and, therefore, they should keep ongoing. “Wow, I just got a new armor for completing this mission? Awesome! Let’s roll.” Offering a reward system is a great way of onboarding because users will want to come back and explore a little bit more.


They introduce scarcity and difficulty

If you want to build the perfect onboarding strategy, this aspect has to be well done. At this point in the onboarding phase, it’s no longer about making users understand your product but making them hooked. Creating a video game that is able to capture the user’s attention to the point they come back at it by habit.

As human beings, we are ambitious and like to put up a good fight. We don’t like easy things. For that reason, video games often introduce scarcity, this means, making the user feel that he needs to go further in the game to get something that isn’t available at the current level.

The need to complete or need to do is one of the most powerful strategies of onboarding because it creates a sense of responsibility towards your app. The user will feel that he/she needs to get things done and complete every mission.

Besides scarcity, video games introduce difficulty as it goes by and it’s obvious why it’s important. People will get tired of your game if everything seems too easy. Create some powerful and tricky bosses that will make users crazy when they lose 5 times in a row… As soon as they get it, they will be amazed.

Top photography by Robert Paul


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