There are a handful of terms that describe idle games, including clicker/clicking games and incremental games, but they all amount the same concept. Idle games employ simple actions, usually clicking or tapping, to obtain currency. That currency is then invested in buildings and resources to help currency accrue at a faster rate until players decide to reset and rebuild their fortunes from scratch, but with some extra bonuses to help them. This simple concept has made for some incredibly addictive games, chief among them being AdVenture Capitalist.
In AdVenture Capitalist, you start with a single lemonade stand, and you grow your empire to include oil and you even get to take your business to the moon. The game, which is available on mobile, PC and console platforms, has a charming sense of humor that keeps thousands of players coming back for more. Now its developer, Hyper Hippo, and publisher Kongregate are preparing to expand the AdVenture brand with a sequel, AdVenture Communist, which is expected to launch later this year.
AListDaily sat down with Emily Greer, CEO and co-founder of Kongregate, who proudly admitted to spending long hours playing AdVenture Capitalist and stated in a press release, “I knew that AdVenture Capitalist was something special when I looked around the office and realized the entire office was playing it!” She talks about the upcoming sequel, provides insights about the appeal idle games, and describes how there’s fun to be had whether you choose to play as a Capitalist or Communist.
How does AdVenture Communist compare to the previous game?
It has the same theme, humor and charm, but it takes the systems and makes them more intricate. There’s more of a crafting element too, and there are more strategic decision points for resource management.
What inspired the development of a sequel, this one based on Communism?
We and the developer, Hyper Hippo, were sort of riffing on it from the launch of AdVenture Capitalist. It was such a natural idea that we both came to it separately, along with ideas like AdVenture Philanthropist and all sorts of AdVenture things. When you start thinking about different economic systems and idle games, it’s fun and easy to think of different paths you could go down. Hyper Hippo’s long-term plan is to build out the AdVenture brand and think through a series of different types of games. But Communism was such a natural foil to Capitalism that it was an easy decision for a sequel.
What keeps idle games engaging, considering their simple gameplay?
It gets to the heart of one of the reasons why we all love games, which is that sense of progress and achievement. Games sort of trick that part of our brain that makes us want to work. So, it’s this steady drip of progress, using those elements, and making it fun and rewarding. Part of the thing with idle games is that whether you come back 15 minutes, an hour or a day later, you always return to more currency and you feel a rush of progress as soon as you enter. It all makes for a very positive experience, which I think is different from a lot of games that sort of punish you for leaving and coming back a long time later.
The other thing is, I think the whole mechanic of resetting prestige is really engaging and fun because whenever you play a game, you’re always thinking about what decision to make, and sometimes you regret some of those choices. But with the reset, you get to make those choices again, but at a faster pace. You get to experiment with different strategies to see what works better. Idle games let you remake decisions and they only reward you for doing them.
Idle games are popular on multiple platforms, including PC and mobile. Why do you think so many people are attracted to them?
They are these wonderful progress engines that are easy and fun to play at any amount of time that you have to give—whether it be two minutes or two hours. But the other part is that it’s a truly new genre, so there has been a tremendous amount of experimentation and innovation there, and that’s been very engaging for players. They get to play something new and see a genre quickly evolve before their eyes. That has helped drive their popularity across different platforms. Kongregate.com is an open platform, and it’s been a great place for idle game makers to experiment, test for an audience, and iterate. We’ve seen an explosion in the number of people making idle games over the last few years. You sometimes see this sort of thing happen with genres—several years ago, it was tower defense.
Do you expect players to migrate from AdVenture Capitalist to Communist, or do you think the sequel will attract a new audience?
I think both. AdVenture Capitalist has a very large audience, so we certainly expect that a lot of them will migrate and even more may play both at the same time. But Communist is a different enough game that we expect that it could pick up an additional audience and introduce them to the AdVenture brand so that they’ll play Capitalist. It can go both ways, and any game that you play first should be engaging and fun enough to make you want to play the other one.
Will there be cross promotion between the two games? Will Capitalists get to compete against Communists?
Yes, that’s definitely part of the grand master plan between the two games. We hope to look at it as AdVenture players—having the two games combined and how they work together for individual players and as a business.
How will you be getting the word out to fans when the sequel launches?
All methods possible. A very high percentage of players are registered with Kongregate, so email and other types of contact will be big parts of it. We’ll also have elements in AdVenture Capitalist, along with all the Kongregate properties and Kongregate.com, to promote Communist. GameStop will also be supporting the game, and Hyper Hippo will be promoting from their end. That’s all in addition to mobile ads.
How would you describe the Kongregate brand of mobile games? What do you want people to imagine when a new game comes out?
I want them to think that it will be fun and broadly accessible. What we try to focus on are games that have a lot of depth and charm, but are approachable to all audiences. That includes people who play 40 hours a week on PC and consoles or more casual players. Both can look at a Kongregate game and say, “This is for me. This is fun and worth playing.”
What is the key to standing out in the crowded mobile market?
It’s a combination of things, starting with quality. Quality doesn’t necessarily mean elaborate 3D graphics. It means style, charm and attention to detail that makes for a smooth experience. Innovation also matters. Something that feels unique and interesting, which goes along with that polish, is important. Our perspective has been to take a broad look at the market and try to focus on games that are for everyone. Mobile is a mass market and we think that games with broad appeal are best suited for the medium. But niche games can also do well, and we continue to publish those. We continue to try to push into new genres and ideas. They help us stand out.
What are your thoughts on a subscription-based model for Kongregate’s library of games?
I think those are tricky for the same reason they’ve been tricky on the PC in general. They don’t necessarily align well with how people consume games. The idea of subscriptions inspired by services like Spotify and Netflix, where people are consuming a lot of different content that they would normally buy one at a time, works well for that kind of audience. But with games, what you see is that a lot of people want to play one game for a very long time. That doesn’t necessarily match with subscriptions because it can cap investment.
If you look at where subscriptions have been most successful with games, they tend to be MMOs. But even there you run into problems because there’s a pent-up demand for economies and you end up with a big grey market of currency and other things being sold, which is inefficient for game developers and problematic for everybody. On the big hobby games, I don’t see us going back from free-to-play, which I think is better suited to the nature of the game. With free-to-play being so dominant on mobile, it’s hard for paid games to compete. If people aren’t paying for games on a regular basis, then an all-you-can-eat subscription won’t work well either.
Free-to-play will continue to dominate on mobile, but ad-supported games have become much more viable over the past two years. So, you’re getting a little more variety on the types of games that can be successful by including ad revenue. That certainly has been the case for AdVenture Capitalist.
In a battle between Capitalism or Communism, which would you choose?
I was a Russian and Eastern European studies major in college, so I spent my college years examining that. As an entrepreneur, I would say Capitalism. But in gameplay, both are equal.