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Not an idle games expert? Here’s everything you need to know!

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Idle games: a new gaming frontier

Hello community, we’re back with a new blog entry! We know it’s been a long time since the last blog entry, but we’re finally here to make up for the lost time.

This time around, we’ll talk about a new game genre that has had great success in the last few years, especially among young people: idle games. But what are they? How do they work? If you’re not an expert, keep reading: you will surely have learned a little more by the end of this article!

Definition and main characteristics

Generally speaking, we define idle games as all those games that do not need constant interaction from the player to progress but are perfectly capable of continuing to run independently in the background, which is why they are also known as background games. Other names often associated with them are incremental games, self-playing games, clickers, and the like – you get the gist. The idea behind it is to click or tap on the screen to get resources that the player can later spend on upgrades to increase the number of resources produced both automatically and by clicking.

Therefore, idle gaming is quite flexible: it can be done actively (clicking) or passively (waiting for resources to accumulate or getting rewards for returning to the game). The most important thing is that at least some of the game mechanics need to occur idly, while the player is not playing, to be part of the category.

In most idle games there is no “game over”, but rather the possibility of starting a new game, which resets game progress in exchange for benefits on the next playthrough, such as the ability to store resources faster than the first time or similar features. This means that players can keep playing as long as they want … there is no real end to the game!

Fun fact? As explained in an article of Quantic Foundry published by Nick Yee (here’s the link to the original article), these games take inspiration from two games born to make fun of already existing game mechanics: Progress Quest by Eric Fredericksen, born as a parody of MMOs like EverQuest, and Cow Clicker, a satirical game created by Ian Bogost.

(Source: Progress Quest)

(Source: Cow Clicker)

Progress Quest poked fun at the monotony of having to grind to level up by having the game do that on its own, while the whole point of Cow Clicker was clicking on a cow every 6 hours to collect “Mooney”. From these two games descended Cookie Clickers (sounds familiar?), which combined both idle and click mechanics.

Clickers, minimalist, zero-player … what’s the difference?

As described in the book “The Pleasure of Playing Less” by Alharti et al., we can use different names to refer to this category of games based on the amount of interactivity required, which can range from little to none. Broadly speaking, we can identify three types of idle games:

  • Clickers
  • Minimalist games
  • Zero-player games

Clicker games require the highest amount of interaction since the player needs to tap constantly on the screen to obtain resources; minimalist games, on the contrary, try to reduce the number of actions the player can perform by decreasing the activities available or in general by minimizing the interaction, which gradually becomes less and less required. At last, we have zero-player games, characterized by the fact that they do not need the player’s involvement at all. They are capable of running in the background on their own, ready to be picked up at any time.

But why do idle games work?

Think about it: in idle games, you make money (or resources that work like money) by basically doing … nothing. You can quit the game whenever you desire knowing that when you will come back, you will have more money than when you left. Pretty neat, right?

At the same time, though, as underlined by Mindstudios’ article, idle games still provide a few challenges to the player, mostly because upgrades get more expensive as time goes by. This means that the player needs to become more strategic about purchasing upgrades, trying to figure out which ones will be more profitable in the long run and which are the best combos. As for the main reasons for the success of this category of games, Aaron Le Conte in his article “Idle Games, Everything You Need to Know!” summarized them as follows:

  • The player feels rewarded for his inactivity and for coming back to the game
  • A sense of continuous progress in the game
  • Less physical input is suitable for lazy players
  • Trophies and achievements help the player feel accomplished
  • Upgrading conveys a sense of growth (people like watching numbers increase)

Best idle games (mobile or PC)

At last but not least, here is what we are sure you were actually waiting for: a list of what we believe to be the best idle games around. Let’s get started!

Cookie Clickers (mobile)

Well, we are obviously going to be biased since our favorite idle game in the clickers category is actually our own game: Cookie Clickers.

The game is pretty simple: you need to bake as many cookies as possible by tapping on the giant cookie in the middle of the screen. The faster you tap, the more cookies you bake! When you have enough cookies you can decide to buy upgrades that will help you bake even faster, like the “AutoClick” or “GrandMa” upgrades. Like a true idle game, upon returning to the game the player can collect the cookies baked in his absence. Also, a few golden cookies will drop from the sky every now and then and give the player extra points when caught in time!

If you are curious to find out more, our game is available on mobile for both iOS and Android 😊

My name is Mayo (PC and PS4/PS5)

For the clickers category, but available only on pc and PS4/PS5, there is also My name is Mayo by Green Lava Studio.

(Source: My Name is Mayo)

The concept, as for all clickers, is that of tapping on the big mayonnaise jar in the middle of the screen to open the flask. Unlike Cookie Clickers, however, no upgrades are available to facilitate or automate clicks, you must reach the goal manually! On the other hand, it is possible to unlock achievements as you reach a certain number of taps on the screen or you can unlock fun facts or stories (tales of romance, anecdotes, etc.) which are released piece by piece. The more you tap the more you uncover!

Surely a strength of the game is the customization: the player can customize the jar of mayonnaise, dressing it as a rockstar or making it become another sauce, such as ketchup, for example.

AdVenture Capitalist (PC and mobile)

Available for both pc and mobile, AdVenture Capitalist is a game developed by Canadian studio Hyper Hippo as a satire against capitalism.

As a money-making simulator, your goal as a player is that of building a financial empire starting from a lemonade stand. From this single stand, you have to press a lemon button to make the profit meter move until it delivers money to your savings. After having earned enough money, you can buy other stands to increase the profit or even hire managers to manage said stands. After having built enough lemonade stands, you can move to a new business, and so on and so forth.

To increase earnings, it’s possible to buy time accelerators and other upgrades, as well as clothing and accessories for your character. Pretty nice, huh? Capitalism simplified.

Fallout Shelter (PC and mobile)

Speaking of idle games, an honorable mention goes to Fallout Shelter by Bethesda Softworks. It’s a free-to-play installment in the Fallout series, created for mobile gaming and later adapted for pc, too.

In this installment, you have to create your own vault and become an overseer of its inhabitants. You need to take care of water, food, and power, with the ultimate goal of increasing inhabitants and therefore the number of rooms in your vault. In order to obtain extra resources, you can send some of your inhabitants to explore the wasteland and then craft items with the materials they come back with (if they manage to survive the trip obviously). Ah, you also have to try to keep them happy by having them marry, pursue personal goals and find them their ideal job… not so easy in a post-nuclear world, right?

As underlined by Alex Rowe in his review of the game, what makes Fallout Shelter an idle game is the fact that there is no real difficulty to speak of: the game progresses by itself, you just need to check what the inhabitants are doing every now and then and try to provide them with what they need. It’s great if you want to relax!

(Source: Fallout Shelter)

Idle Miner Tycoon (mobile)

Lastly, we have Idle Miner Tycoon by Kolibri Games. Similar to AdVenture Capitalist, this is a mobile simulation game in which the goal is becoming an industrial tycoon.

To build your empire you have to make investments to extract as many resources as possible: gold, coal, ruby, moonstone, amethyst, crystal, jade … and many others! You can automate your workflow by hiring managers to increase the motivation of your miners and make them work even while you are not playing – if you like offline gaming and idle cash, this is perfect for you. To expand your empire and therefore your profits, also, you can buy and manage different mines and by completing seasonal events and event mines you can gain lots of money and upgrades to boost your production. Not bad, right?

Well, we have reached the end of the list! What do you think? Will you give a chance to idle gaming? Let us know in the comments!

We hope you found this article useful and that it helped you learn something more about idle games. Remember to subscribe to our blog if you want to stay updated on gaming curiosities!

See you next month!

Creating the marketing stuff for Tap Galaxy was super fun!

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As you may have noticed, Tap Galaxy – Deep Space Mine from our Tiny Games label is out in the stores and we’re very happy about the game. Developed by our inside staff (3 people, 1 designer, 1 visual artist and 1 Unity developer) in 4 months, the title is our new clicker game, and you know we’re the masters of clicker games ;), with a more step on the throttle of management simulation games. But today we’re not here to talk about why this game is a must have and why you should play it. We’re pretty sure you have downloaded it yourself already after seeing the trailer above.

The subject of today is our thought process when we created and developed all the marketing materials on Tap Galaxy. Some people may think that marketing is all about numbers and boring stuff, but often this is far from true. I will show how enjoyable and creative a marketer’s work can be in the gaming industry.

Everything started with the name: Tap Galaxy – Deep Space Mine. Do you remember Star Trek: Deep Space NineOf course you don’t, you’re too young. 🙂 It’s one of the Star Trek series aired in 1993. Pixel art is often used to do “parodies” or “altered” version of something. There are several memes on the web and also in the real word, where pixels are used to picture something in a funny and different way. We’re thinking about the cover (or videos) of new video games reproduced with pixel art.

That said, it was simply natural for us to drive the marketing aspects of Tap Galaxy in that direction, even if in the game itself we couldn’t do that much: of course, beside the title that is an explicit parody of Star Trek as you can clearly see.

The visual artist behind everything in the game (Francesco Segala, we’re going to get an interview with him ASAP) is a big film fan and so we decided to drive our marketing campaign with this idea in mind. It was easy to choose some movies, old ones and new ones, about far away galaxies or something like that after we settled on the core idea…

Our first work was this GIF.


Yeah, we know, it’s awesome and it’s Gravitysomething not quite in the spirit of Tap Galaxy, but when we released this first GIF, no one ever saw any pixel of the real game and we really liked to joke on the fact that the continuously tapping on the screen could go with the movie claim “don’t let go”. One thing we didn’t like was using a movie that was not quite recent. After that we began to reveal something about our game and we used a movie that was in theatres when we published our game.

the martian

The astonishing work of Matt Damon in The Martian inspired our second GIF for the game. In this one we revealed one of the characters, the chimp, and we used a actual sprite from the game for the drawing of the martian himself while he is trying to water the planet. We prefer not to use the “bring him home” claim of the film because that was really the opposite of what we’d like to communicate. In the game you have to mine galaxy after galaxy, and you don’t want to come back home for any reason: you’re trying to expand your possessions. Anyway, the mining topic is respected: the player has got to mine the planet for resources, and The Martian has got to make some resources grow in his planet too. Personally I think this work from Francesco is the best one but we’d like to know what you think in the comments after seeing the next one…

Star Wars

Guess the date in which this GIF went public? Yes, you guessed right, the 18th of December, the date of the release of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. We don’t think is useful to describe the saga by which this GIF is inspired. If you don’t know any of the Star Wars movies, it’s time to exit the cavern and begin to live. That said, you will notice that we used an old sentence from an old episode of the saga and not the claim from the last one. The point is that we got “droids” in the game and we would like to show something about the game this time too. We didn’t reproduce the parody version of R2D2 and C1P8, we used our own machines in the GIF to make the people begin to think about what they are going to find in the game. There’s some sort of a Jedi in the distance that we don’t have in the game, but… maybe it’s just a guy with a fake laser sword, can it be? 🙂

Let’s go to the next GIF, the latest one.

Star Wars

We came back to an “old” movie here because the release of the game was very near and the sentence was perfect, PERFECT, for marketing reasons. “Everybody ready to say goodbye to our solar system?”, and so be it, take the game and fly with your imagination to another galaxy. Thanks to Interstellar for the quote and for the beautiful poster. In this one we were not able to show something we didn’t show before, we just summed up everything (the protagonist chimp and the machines) and tried to be as more “teasy” as possible. This aired just one day prior to the release of the game.

Besides these GIF material we created a gameplay trailer, that is the one in the beginning of this post and 2 teaser-trailers. We didn’t release them yet on YouTube, so you can see them on our Facebook Page or Twitter AccountAnyway, they not so beautiful as the pixel art GIFs were even if they received an huge success between you, our fans and maybe, as usual, with a video you can do something that a thousand words cannot do.

We hope you enjoyed the reading and stay tuned: the interview with Francesco is coming very soon. While you wait, just play Tap Galaxy, it is free!