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F2P 'idle clicker' games are making the jump from PC/mobile to consoles

F2P 'idle clicker' games are making the jump from PC/mobile to consoles

August 16, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

Industry watchers, take note: The rising popularity of free-to-play incremental or "idle clicker" games appears to have carried them on to modern consoles, as Hyper Hippo today released its popular F2P PC/mobile game AdVenture Capitalist on PlayStation 4.

What's intriguing here is that this genre of game -- so named because players predominantly sit and click on things to make gauges go up, often as a background activity while doing something else -- started as a goof, and has now become a popular (and presumably profitable) niche of game design.

While these sorts of games have risen to prominence in recent years, you can trace their roots back to parody games like Eric Fredricksen's 2002 release Progress Quest and Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker, a travesty of Facebook games he released in 2010. 

AdVenture Capitalist was released in 2015 with a similarly satirical sheen: the game's Steam page describes it as "the game you play while playing other, better games," adding that the game can even "play itself" while the player is away. While this self-playing feature may have been a bit more of a goof when the game was released, it has since become a standard of idle/clicker game design. 

This means that there's now at least one game on contemporary home consoles that's explicitly designed to play itself, one that exhorts the player to perform well so they can earn enough to hire in-game automated managers and have to play the game less.

"It’s almost a genre that doesn't want to exist; they are often jokes that then propagate and grow the genre," said Kongregate's Anthony Pecorella during a talk on the striking rise of idle games at GDC earlier this year. "The rewards grow linearly, and the game becomes about min-maxing stats and making decision that optimize your existence inside the game -- a distilled version of designs that we are familiar with from many other types of video game."

Devs might be surprised by the player profiles of idle games, too -- analytics consultancy Quantic Foundry recently analyzed the audience for games like AdVenture Capitalist and found that rather than being big casual game fans, people who play them also tend to play things like Fallout 4Diablo III and The Elder Scrolls Online -- games typically perceived to be "hardcore" games.

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