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What is it that makes a game popular and successful?

Perhaps you have heard of the reality tv talent show called "The X-Factor"? It is a spin-off from Idols where the audience and group of judges listen to hopeful singers in an attempt to find those who have the X-Factor.

It is never revealed what the actual X-Factor is and that is largely because it is a quality which cannot be defined, and yet you will know it when you experience it because it makes someone or something stand out and is very special indeed.

So do games have the x-factor and if so, can we point to some examples and say there it is, that’s it! I know that I keep referring to it but, Vampire Survivors certainly has it. If we are honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that the game doesn’t look good at all.

On first glance I could easily guess that this was someone’s first attempt at a commercial game. Made with programmer art and quickly released to the public. If I let you see it before launch and then asked you what its chances of success were, you would have to say that the chances were very slim.

And yet you would be wrong, because it was a massive success. This shows that when you launch a game it doesn’t matter if you have the best graphics, most atmospheric sound and the greatest gameplay, if you do not have the mysterious X factor you won't be successful.

So, what is mystery element X then, is it just pure luck? It’s not. Games like Vampire Survivors and Undertale spread by word of mouth from players to other players - they don’t need marketing.

A big part of the secret is YouTube. It doesn’t matter how obscure your game is, if a large enough YouTuber plays it, that will be the start of a snowball effect which can grow large enough to propel your game into the stratosphere.

Of course, there is more to it. The game needs to be fun, it needs some depth, a good story, a hook of some kind. The X-Factor is already there, hiding, just waiting for someone to find it and show it to someone else.

Game play from Vampire Survivors.

Vampire Survivors cover art.

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