You find a game that looks interesting on the app store and download it to your favourite smartphone. You tap on the icon, the game comes up and you start playing. The graphics are good, the gameplay is solid and suddenly – a little notification at the top of the screen informs you that you are out of energy, or stamina and that you need to wait for it to refill. Why do mobile games have energy? Or stamina?
What is energy in mobile games?
How do energy systems in games work?
Think about it this way, let’s say you and a friend are playing a game called Pimple Breaker Simulator 2022 HD. It’s a game about popping pimples. The more pimples you pop – the higher the score. And the game has a leaderboard. You start the game and both of your quickly rise through the leaderboards. Just as you’re getting “in the zone” a pop-up appears: “No more pimples available. Pimples will regenerate in 60 minutes”. You have three options:
- Purchase 100 pimples now for $1.99
- Watch an add to get 10 pimples.
- Wait 60 minutes for 100 pimples to regenerate.
You decide to do other things and play other games. Your friend who (probably) isn’t as patient as you drops $1.99 and proceeds to advance further. When you return to the game an hour later, your friend is way ahead of you in the game having dropped almost 10$.
You don’t want to pay money to advance in the game so you go down the ad route. And after 10 ads you reduce the gap between you and your friend.
The real reason why mobile games have energy systems?
Your friend gets bored of the game and uninstalls it. He spent a total of $10 on the game, played it for an hour or so.
You, who had to work and sit through ads decide to keep playing the game casually, without any purchases. You log in 3-4 times a day in order to completely annihilate 5-600 pimples. And you watch an average of 10 ads / day.
At the end of the week you grow tired of this pointless game and decide to stop. How much revenue did you generate for the developers/publishers? At an average price of $0.16 / interstitial (in the US) we have the following calculations:
10 ads / day * 0.16$ * 5 days = 8$ generated for the developer. With an average CPI cost of $3.6 for the US (that’s the cost the publisher pays for advertising to bring you in the game) you just generated a profit of 4.4$. Your friend? After the store’s cut on his payments? Generated 7$.
If you were to play for up to 1 week you would have generated more money than your friend for the publisher or game developer.
This is why games have an energy system – to either annoy users to spend money up-front to experience the game fast with the risk of getting bored due to the pay gates. And for those not willing to spend money up-front? Well they can “cheat” the system, and return to the game a few times a day, watch ads and generate revenue.
Can you make a mobile game without energy systems?
Yes you can make mobile games without energy systems. For a long time energy systems weren’t used in any types of games. A lot of good smartphone games do not rely on them and instead choose to monetise through different means:
- Upfront cost to purchase (what the industry refers to as a Premium Game)
- Subscription cost (pay $X every Y days to keep playing, usually monthly)
- In-App Purchases (pay to unlock content, characters, items)
We reviewed good games that don’t rely on Ads or Energy systems for this website before. A good recommendation for a premium game would be QB Planets or Thumper: Pocked Edition.
Is there a good game that uses a stamina system?
It’s important to remember that having a stamina system does not make a game inherently bad or the developers greedy. Energy and stamina have actual GOOD, ETHICAL use cases.
For example, games could tie stamina systems to characters. Having a character be “tired”, unable to use after getting badly wounded during gameplay. This wouldn’t lock the player from playing the game further and would allow him to experience more diverse characters he wouldn’t normally use.
Games like XCOM use a similar system to this. It makes the player want to perform better and take more care of their characters. While also helping make the game feel more challenging, especially when all your high level characters are in the medical bay and you have to play using rookies who don’t know how to point a weapon.
Congrats, you made it to the end of the article and learned why mobile games have energy. I hope it was beneficial to you. It’s also beneficial to us to have you stick around the blog more. If you want to learn more about ways in which publishers and game developers make big bucks without requiring your credit card details you can read our article title “How do free mobile games earn money?“.
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