Guest Post: Analyzing the stickiness in Nimble Quest

Editor’s note: Arcade action game Nimble Quest is the latest offering from Tiny Towers and Pocket Planes developer NimbleBit. Kevin Oke, Lead Designer at both Adrian Crook & Associates, a social-mobile game design consultancy, and PlayRank, a second screen startup, analyzes the stickiness in Nimble Quest. He previously wrote a guest post for Inside Mobile Apps that analyzed engagement in Supercell’s Clash of Clans.

NimbleBit, creators of Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes, released their latest title the aptly named Nimble Quest at the end of March. While it’s a fun game, I’ve found four key issues described below that I believe limit its stickiness and in turn, its ability to monetize.

According to AppData, after a strong start peaking at No. 6 on the top free iPhone apps chart for the games genre, it has slid to No. 217 as of this writing. Its rank on the top grossing iPhone apps chart for the games genre is at No. 190. These positions may be at least partially attributable to the issues I found.

The Compulsion Loop

This is the biggest barrier for Nimble Quest to overcome. The nature of its compulsion loop makes for a very grind heavy experience that hinders its stickiness.

It’s a rule of thumb in game design that the shorter the loop, the more addictive the experience. By analyzing the loop (diagram above), one can see that unless the player is willing to spend hard currency, they have to restart from the beginning every time. The variable session length nature of the game means that as the player and their friends improve, it takes more and more time for them to challenge their ever-increasing high scores.

Essentially Nimble Quest is banking on players getting invested enough in leaderboard competition to start paying once the grind becomes too much to bear. This is a risky hook to rely on here, as it’s one that is much better suited to games with more of a sense of permanence and ownership, like city builders and strategy games such as Kingdoms of Camelot by Kabam. The reason being that without such permanence, it’s much easier for the player to decide to quit when the grinding gets tiresome.

As in any freemium game leveraging the player’s time for money, if the player tires of the grind too quickly and churns out, they can’t be monetized. However Nimble Quest is especially at risk here because of their compulsion loop. Fixed session lengths with level progression and difficulty determined by a party XP level would have provided more stickiness.

Arena Surfacing & Messaging

The Arena houses team-based gameplay uses a guild system. This is a great hook for stickiness and monetization. However clarity and surfacing around the Arena is not as good as it could be. In short, the Arena doesn’t feel important to my experience as a player, the benefit to me is not clear as a new player. Therefore it’s not compelling. Compare the surfacing and messaging of team-based gameplay in Nimble Quest versus Clash of Clans:


In Clash of Clans the Clan Castle is always is part of the gameplay screen, tempting the player and reinforcing its important role in the game.

The Arena is just a menu option only seen on the main menu, and not surfaced as part of Nimble Quest’s compulsion loop.

Although the team-based nature of the Arena is mentioned in the app store description, developers can’t expect players to read the description or even skim it. Screenshots are the best selling tool, so overlaying text on them to surface key selling points is effective. NimbleBit did this, but chose not to highlight the Arena or its team-based nature in any of them.