In recent years, there has been a rise in mobile games that have little or no storyline attached to the gameplay. Games like Hearthstone and Gwent are hugely popular and have mainly succeeded due to the interesting mechanics and the competition involved. While there is no clear narrative to follow in these games, there are some story elements and lore attached to the cards. This helps to keep players engaged and adds meaning to the gameplay. So how have CD Projekt Red and Blizzard Entertainment gone about achieving this?
Hearthstone is one of the major players in terms of bringing fantasy card games to the mainstream. It is a turn-based card game in which players try to destroy their opponent’s hero in order to win. Within the games, there is not much narrative involved. But each of the cards and characters has a unique backstory and a reason why they can perform their abilities. This is because the Blizzard Entertainment title was created as a direct spinoff of World of Warcraft and is set within the same universe. Players who have played both games, therefore, have a better understanding of the card game, and playing it enhances their experience of the Warcraft world.
The same was done with Gwent from CD Projekt Red. The more recently developed card game, which came out of its public beta in October 2018, came directly from the open-world console offering The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Gwent features cards with characters from all the Witcher games and novels, and their abilities also reflect their storylines from the other media. It is a competitive game with no storyline during normal matchups. But for players who are hungry for more narrative, the Polish developers also released Thronebreaker alongside it. Experiencing all the other offerings can serve to make Gwent more enjoyable.
The iGaming industry has flourished by following the same model. Slot games are enjoyed purely based on their gameplay mechanics and not because of a storyline. But to attract players to the games, developers have found that it has helped to use themes from popular culture or simply give the slot a backstory. When users play Enchanted Prince slot titles at Magical Vegas, they are met with a narrative introducing them to the game and detailing how it’s about a princess living with her father after the sudden death of the queen. Other titles like Game of Thrones succeed because of the popularity of the source material, and these don’t require as much backstory at the start of the game.
Developers thinking about bringing a new game out for the mobile market should look to these games for inspiration on how to engage players when there is no opportunity for a narrative. For a fully immersive and enjoyable gaming experience, it is always helpful for the games to have some backstory involved or take elements from other things in popular culture. If there is no story at all, sometimes players may wonder what the point of playing the game is.