Jetpack Joyride by Halfbrick Studios has been a smash hit on mobile. But besides fun core gameplay and an overall high level of polish, what did they do right?

Engagement for Everyone

The portability of mobile brings with it highly variable and often short play times. Therefore it’s important that as often as possible, the player can close the gameplay loop whenever they start a new play session, and get some sort of reward for their effort, regardless how much/little time they’ve put in.

  • With the three-star tiering for missions, no matter how much time the player has for the game, there is almost always a mission available to suit their needs:
  • Short-term: 30 sec-2 minutes
  • Medium-term: 2-10 minutes
  • Long-term: 10-30+ minutes
  • The player is never put in a situation where they would like to play JPJ, but don’t have time
Engagement For Everybody

Mission System

The mission system is used to great effect to guide the player experience and keep it focused.

  • Great variety that serve to introduce the player to different facets of the game
  • Only the three missions on current display can be completed. This further focuses the player experience, and ensures they won’t become confused by unexpected mission unlocking
  • It’s specifically worth pointing out that some missions require the player to purchase an item/jetpack in the Store. A great way for players to get a first hand look at what is in the Store, and get them on the road to converting over to being paying players

Streamlined UI

The UI is focused on presenting the key, most often used functionality, and hiding the rest in sub-screens.

  • Beautifully simple, uncluttered, easy navigation
  • This of course comes back to the simple nature of the game: one character, one currency type, and lack of an XP-based leveling
  • Easy to get into game play – one tap from the title screen, absolutely no menus to wade through
  • Just as easy to replay after death – the results screen comes up quick, and again it’s just one tap to go back into gameplay
Jetpack Joyride

Simple Gameplay

Understanding the platform, what is core to the experience, and what isn’t:

  • Halfbrick resisted the temptation to implement additional mechanics, weapons, and increased functionality that would have meant more complicated controls
  • The different jetpacks don’t change the core gameplay at all, and are simply cute visual tweaks that sometimes change how the scientists get killed, but they don’t affect the controls or physics. This decision made it easier for Halfbrick to concentrate on tuning the game and for users to know what to expect, and not get bogged down with too much choice

Player Empowerment

While not a tangible metric, JPJ’s “cool factor” helped it stand out in a sea of competing action games.

  • Usually in games, the player starts off with a wimpy pea shooter – that’s boring and certainly isn’t empowering
  • Considering the saturation of titles (especially free) on mobile, empowering your player early on with a cool hook is a great way to improve retention
  • In JPJ you start with a chaingun used as a jetpack – Hard to get more cool or empowering than that!

Counterfeit Machine

The counterfeit machine is a unique MTX item that has proven to be a success for Halfbrick.

  • After purchasing, every coin the player picks up thereafter is worth double
  • It’s a brilliant idea as player will naturally be attracted to it with stars in their eyes of the possibilities for huge profit long-term
  • As of writing this post, the counterfeit machine is the #2 IAP for the iOS version of Jetpack Joyride

Counterfeit Machine

Pacing

Excellent pacing ensures a tension rise & release ramp to fit short play times on mobile.

  • Built around the vehicles acting as pace breakers
  • These pace breakers are doubly effective as the vehicles are fun and empowering, and there are many missions based around their usage

Going Free to Play

Halfbrick recognized the potential of F2P, and traded in short term profit for getting the game on to more devices and monetizing players for more profit in the long term. It’s clearly worked for them.

In addition, they’ve done an outstanding job of releasing large, free updates to extend the game’s life.