80-20 rule in game development

Hello Coders! đź‘ľ

Have you ever heard of the 80-20 Rule?

This principle tells us that for many things, 80% of our results come from just 20% of our efforts. This isn’t just theory; it applies to our work in game development as well.

In my experience, when we focus on the key 20% of our game development tasks—the parts that have the biggest impact—we can make our workflow much more efficient. This leads to better quality games and smarter use of our time and resources.

Adopting this method can help us avoid overwork and reduce costs, which is pretty helpful, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re an indie developer or part of a larger team, understanding and applying the 80-20 Rule can make a big difference in our projects.

Understanding the 80-20 Rule

The 80-20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, was first noticed in the late 1800s by an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. He noticed an interesting pattern in wealth distribution in Italy, where about 80% of the land was owned by only 20% of the population. After this, he started noticing similar imbalances in other areas as well, such as economics and agriculture. For example, in business, it’s often the case that 80% of a company’s profits come from just 20% of its customers. Similarly, in healthcare, 20% of patients might consume 80% of healthcare resources. This pattern is a common observation across many different fields.

In game development, this principle could be seen as well. Maybe you find that 80% of players spend their time on 20% of levels, or that 20% of the bugs cause 80% of the game crashes. Understanding this can help us focus our efforts on the areas that will have the greatest impact on the success of our games. It is about working smarter, not harder, and using resources in the most efficient way possible.

Applying the 80-20 Rule to Game Features and Design

In game creation, it is important to think about which features matter to your players. Not all components of the game carry equal weight. Often, you find a few elements that make your game shine. This is where the 80-20 Principle comes into play, suggesting that 20% of the features may give 80% of the enjoyment in the players’ experience.

As game developers, this means we must find and concentrate on these essential gameplay features. Take a shooting game as an example, where the ‘feel’ of shooting mechanics is very important. If the shooting doesn’t feel good, the variety of weapons becomes less significant. Such shooting mechanics might be within the important 20% that greatly influences the game’s attractiveness.

There are many games out there whose success might be attributed to this principle. Take Minecraft, for example. The 80-20 Rule as applied to its success can be seen in the game’s primary focus on the core mechanics of building and creativity, which are the key aspects that significantly contribute to its appeal and success. Here’s how the 80-20 rule breaks down in this context:

Minecraft’s Core Appeal (20%):

  • Building and Crafting: The ability for players to build virtually anything with blocks is the most important mechanic of Minecraft. This mechanic alone provides an immense amount of the game’s entertainment value.
  • Exploration and Survival: While secondary to the creative aspect, the survival mode provides just enough structure to give purpose to the building mechanic, making it engaging.

Resulting Impact (80%):

  • Player Engagement and Retention: Players spend countless hours in the game due to the freedom they have with the core mechanics. This results in high engagement and retention rates.
  • Community and Content Creation: The simple building mechanic has led to an enormous amount of user-generated content, from in-game creations to mods and YouTube videos, further amplifying the game’s success.
  • Sales and Longevity: Minecraft has maintained high sales over the years. Much of this can be attributed to the satisfaction players derive from the creative freedom it offers.

The success of Minecraft illustrates the power of zooming in on the crucial 20%, but this principle isn’t limited to blockbuster hits. Whether it’s identifying key gameplay features, streamlining development processes, or engaging with our community, the 80-20 Rule offers a valuable perspective across all aspects of game development.

By concentrating on what’s really important to your game, you can allocate your time and resources more effectively and create the best possible gaming experience for your audience.

Bug Fixes and Optimization

In the process of making games, bugs are a common element, but they don’t all have the same level of seriousness. Some bugs can completely disrupt the game for a lot of players, while some are small and impact only a handful of users. Keeping the 80-20 Rule in consideration, it becomes crucial to address the 20% of bugs that are responsible for 80% of the difficulties in game playability or user experience.

To spot these critical bugs, it’s good to check what players are reporting and to analyze gameplay data. Look at which problems are most commonly mentioned and tackle those first. Also, by using tools that check game performance, we can figure out which parts of our code might be causing the game to run slowly. Often, improving a small piece of the code can make the game run much better.

User Feedback and Community Engagement

Listening to what our players have to say is a very effective method for making our games better. But when we get a lot of feedback, it can be difficult to decide what should get the most attention. Here, the 80-20 Rule can help us again. It is common that 20% of the opinions we get will give us knowledge that can improve 80% of our games.

To make good use of this important 20%, first talk to the players who are most active in your community. These are probably the players who care about our game the most and have spent the most time in it. They often give very specific and in-depth feedback that can tell us what parts of our games should get better.

Tools that analyze how players behave can be very useful too. By looking at this data, we can understand which parts of our games keep players interested and which parts do not. This hard data, when we put it together with the detailed opinions from our players, can show us clearly where to work to have the biggest effect.

By listening and replying to that important player feedback, we can make the gaming experience better for everyone and build a stronger, more active community for our games.

Asset Creation and Resource Management

Creating assets for a game is a big task. We need to create characters, graphics, music, sounds, and much more. But not all these things affect how players feel about the game in the same way. If we keep the 80-20 Rule in our thoughts, we should put the most effort into the highest quality assets for the parts of the game people see most or come across a lot – the 20% that players will notice 80% of the time.

For the assets that are not so important, we might think about getting them from outside or using things that are already made. This does not mean we let the quality get worse. It means to be wise about where we put our time and work. For example, we might choose to make the main characters look better instead of working a lot on characters that we see only once.

It’s also about choosing what to do first based on how much it might change a game. The 80-20 Rule can guide us in deciding how to use our money too. Instead of trying to make every single part of the game with not enough resources, focus on the parts that will be worth more for what we put in.

Using this rule, you can use our resources smarter. This way we are always working on the things in our games that will be important for our players.

The Pitfalls of Misapplying the 80-20 Rule

Though the 80-20 Rule is very useful, it’s important to use it smartly. It’s possible to give too much attention to the ‘important’ 20% and not remember the other 80% that fills out our games. Sometimes, a thing that does not seem big can be very important to a small but very interested group of players. If we don’t work on these parts, we might push away these players who could be our most loyal fans.

Also, a game should be well-made and have as few bugs as can be. Even if some parts of the game are not used much, bugs and problems can still hurt how players feel about the game a lot. Every player wants a game that works without problems, and little issues can cause a lot of trouble.

We must also think about the “long tail” of making money and keeping players interested. The 80-20 Rule might make us look only at the biggest ways to make money, but often, a lot of small ways can join together to become a lot over time. Do not look down on the less clear chances for keeping players and making money.

To use the 80-20 Rule well, we need to find the balance. The rule is about choosing what to do first in a good way without missing the full picture that makes our games special for all our players.


In conclusion, the 80-20 Rule isn’t just a concept — it’s a practical strategy that can transform the way we approach game development. To recap, focusing on the essential 20%, (whether it’s features, bug fixes, community engagement, or asset creation), not only drives 80% of our positive outcomes but also maximizes our resources and enhances player satisfaction. Using this rule enables us to pinpoint what’s truly important with our audience, allocate our efforts more intelligent, and raises the overall quality of our games.

Remember, it’s not about doing less; it’s about doing what matters most. Apply this principle, and watch as your games and your development process level up. Now, I’d love to hear how you plan to implement the 80-20 Rule in your projects—share your thoughts below. And for more insights on game development, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and subscribe to my YouTube Channel .

Happy Coding! 🚀