While the following may vary between different game genres, they are common to all social games with enduring popularity:
A Robust Back-End
You’re not going to get very far if the back-end of your horse doesn’t work: It will probably keel over before you reach the end of the road!
The back-end programming of your game needs to be masterful, and the top games have all come from studios where the designers and coders are very much on the ball. The whistles and bells may look and sound good for a time but they cannot cover up a lousy, poorly-constructed game engine. Developers must ask what is the basic offering and premise of the game and how will it work? This then needs to be designed expertly as the main priority, and all the other accoutrements added only once it’s in place.
Player engagement is the key to keeping your audience interested and coming back for more. This involves a little psychology: you must know beforehand who is going to be playing your game and then get inside their heads a little. Are they the same as you, the developer? Or is your game geared towards another demographic?
What do you want your players to feel when they play your game? How do you want them to react when they just miss out on the big prize? How will you make them play again?
Different sections of your game need to produce different reactions; we always feel closer to things that produce an emotional response in us, and even better if we can create a variety of responses: everyone loves an “emotional rollercoaster” really!
Unique and Customized
It is likely that your game contains many elements of other games; very rarely does a truly original game come out. Therefore it’s important to customise the standard formats and make it “your own” with your own stamp on it. Small differences can create a big impact – a new visual or sound feature when someone wins, unique colour schemes that stand out, the use of original symbols that your audience will respond to, or a dash of humour like a funny character introduced into the game. Almost no detail is too small…customise everything.
Multi-Levelled and Challenging
Lastly, maintaining interest over time means keeping the challenge alive. When players have “cracked” your game they will move on to the next one. Make sure that there is enough to keep the interest alive within your game, with additional levels to unlock and different themes to change the sensory experience.
Plenty more of course goes into creating the best games, but these are some general principles that are common to most of the successful ones. For developers, it’s worth learning the lessons from these characteristics.