Music and sounds are crucial parts of video games, whether it be PC or console. How about mobile games? Do users mute the sound of games while playing on their smartphones? More importantly, can sound design directly impact the success of a hyper-casual title?
Azur Games has done an extensive study on the topic and shared some helpful information on the effects of comprehensive sound design on gamers, specifically in the hyper-casual genre. Sound Designer Valentin Smirnov contributed with valuable comments as well on the research.
First off, the company has found out that over 50% of hyper-casual gamers play with the sound turned on. Another discovery is that good quality and distinct sound design boosts LTV by 10% on average. At the same time, Azur states that it hasn’t encountered any detrimental effects of sound design performed by a professional.
Steps of comprehensive sound design
Azur states that working with a professional sound designer is necessary in order to avoid unwanted sounds and have complete control over the process. Azur brought in a sound designer to its game State.io for the first time, and even though the game’s metrics were already doing well, the difference was noticeable. LTV increased by 7-10%, R1 by 2%, R7 by 0.5%, and average playtime improved by a whole minute.
The company shared the process of working with a professional sound designer in five steps:
- The developers, the producer, and the sound designer gather in a Slack chat.
- For two to three weeks, the sound designer works on the game by playing it and creates a musical arrangement along with a variety of sounds.
- The producer and the developers review the work and give feedback.
- If the end product is satisfactory, the developers integrate the design into the game. If not, the sound designer produces iterations of the work according to the feedback from the project team.
- The sound designer provides support for any technical issues or requests of other varieties.
Improvement in numbers and details
Azur Games suggested creating the sounds and music simultaneously to create complete coherence, then making demos to ensure there aren’t any unwanted overlapping. The company mentions that, along with the team’s expertise, it also uses console and PC game soundtracks to create a comparison and gain inspiration. Valentin Smirnov chimed in with these comments:
“The defining feature of sound in games is that it’s mostly non-linear. If it’s a movie or a live show, the audience hears the music once and never returns to it, while in games, the same sounds can be repeated for hours. The sound design in games should be practical first, but at the same time, you shouldn’t forget about the artistic value. This is the main challenge of working in game development: finding a sound that complements the gameplay and doesn’t annoy the players after they hear it for a few hours.”
While some titles got huge LTV boosts of up to 15%, some games only escalated by 3-4%. Azur states that comprehensive sound design has helped increase the numbers of every single game with no negative outcome.
For Archery Bastions, LTV increased by 12-14%, R1 by 2%, R7 by 0.5%, and average playtime by 60 seconds. State.io had the exact statistics, only with a lower LTV at 7-10%. State Connect put up an LTV boost of 2-3%, as R1 increased by 1.5%, along with an average playtime increase of 20 seconds.
Sound design of State.io
Azur concluded the research with an example from the sound design process of State.io, as the company found the first iteration of the sound design too annoying and overcrowded.
The second demo, however, included electronic ambient music as suggested by Azur Games during the process. Sounds were more clear and the general loudness shifted into precise positioning of every sound. After three or four iterations, State.io found its final groove.
In-game sounds and music are definitely essential features that makes a title more enjoyable and improves overall quality. It’s safe to say that when left to professionals, it will have a positive impact on the game both economically, and popularity-wise.