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I have an iOS game, a fundamentally simple game similar to hangman (except with sheep and a Roman theme). I definitely want to add sound, effects for when a user clicks on a letter or completes a game. However, I have noticed that many games include background music. The ones that don't that I've seen (Flappy Bird, a puzzle game, a word game) tend to be simpler and less involved. Hence my question: is it acceptable for an iOS puzzle/word game to have no background music?

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Acceptable? Yes, you can have no music, or maybe some generic noisy background if you want to add something to the full audiovisual experience.

Now, unless you're really short on budget, I'd recommend you to use music for your app. The more original and in tune with your game, the better. Not only because you're creating a full sensorial experience, but because you're leaving out a lot. For example:

Psychology

There's no deny that music sets the tone for a game, creating moods and enhancing the experience. You'll see a lot of games that have a very snappy and catchy music when you're in the BUYING process, some games have an aural sense of urgence, some games have very low tones that "spike" when the developer wants to catch your attention and so on

Branding

Music is at least as brandable as a logo, usually way more. When someone plays a game with a catchy music, that tune will resound in the user's head, something a logo will never do. So people will recognize and REMEMBER your game by that music. And this is why music development for games is the most expensive part of the game's branding: use a good music and it will be a selling point for your game. Use the wrong music (for example, something boring, or that can't be repeated again and again) and your game will probably fail.

Additional Revenue

Many games get so much recognition from their music that it might be used in additional revenue sources, like CDs, movies, DVDs and so on, adding to the branding I mentioned above AND to the revenue side

Take a read to this very interesting article about Music in Games, which also refutes an essay over how music in games is non-essential

Finally, if you decide to use music (which you should!), remember to have controls for mute and volume for those that like to play with no distractions (specially if you use non professional music)

  • This is the answer that this question deserved. Psych + branding + revenue options are strong reasons. Ringtone revenue stream? Not huge, but niche and viral. – New Alexandria May 26 '15 at 20:21
  • Angry birds is a classic example of sound also playing an important part of the user experience. – Michael Lai May 27 '15 at 0:12
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    This covers the pros of using background music, but leaves out the 400-pound con in the room: music is annoying and many people aren't going to spend the effort to find a setting to turn it off. Sure, if you're at home alone on the couch then you might want the "full audiovisual experience" but then why wouldn't you be on your laptop or tablet? Presumably you're out in public somewhere because you're using your phone. Do you really want everyone around you to be annoyed by music at the edge of their hearing range? – Brian Gordon May 27 '15 at 3:59
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    @BrianGordon, in those situations I don't want to hear the game at all. Music is less annoying than random squeals and gunshots. – CLockeWork May 27 '15 at 8:59
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    @BrianGordon I refuse to believe that there is a non-negligible segment of any game's userbase that will be so annoyed by the music (or indeed sound of any kind) that they stop playing but at the same time will be too stubborn or inept to figure out the mute controls. Games with a broad audience usually don't even hide the mute controls in an option menu but display them right on the start menu or pause screen. – Lilienthal May 27 '15 at 11:55
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I have my phone on silent 90% of the time and a lot of people I know are the same way so background music isn't much of an issue for me. But I think its still better to give that as an option because plenty of people do listen to in game music, you should make sure of at least these things,

The length of the soundtrack.

How long do you expect an average user to spend on the app per use? If it's going to be more than 5 minutes at a time a track that loops every 60-90 seconds will get old fast. I would try to aim for something about 5 minutes long and/or multiple tracks to cycle through just to mix it up.

Volume and Irritation factor

When some kid is playing the game in the back of a minivan is the parent going to hear it in the front seat? If so how likely will then be to run the iDevice over by the end of an hour long car ride? Or if someone is waiting in an airport is everyone going hear him playing the game?

Music Options

Can I only listen your your background music while using your app? Can it be turned off? Can I listen to my music library instead? Can I turn off the background music but not the other in app sound effects?

  • These are good points, and I agree that many people, myself included, generally keep there phone silent – mginn May 26 '15 at 18:52
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    Super Smash Bros is an excellent example of how to properly pay attention to these questions. It has a renowned soundtrack, has adjustable volumes for BGM, sound effects, and character voices, and is aurally enjoyable. I can even mute the music within the game and mix it with my own (with the help of some A/V equipment) if I wish. – Austin Burk May 27 '15 at 4:32
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Yes! That's definitely acceptable, especially if it is more of a board game. This would also make gameplay related sound effects more evident and the user would be less overwhelmed by different sounds.

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    If a board game then I need to concentrate more and don't want distractions i.e. it is the worst type of game to add music to. You want to be able to interact with the other players and/or concentrate on the decisions – Mark May 27 '15 at 11:35
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A soundtrack, when well done, tends to enhance any immersive media (film, TV, games, etc.)

But from a UX perspective, be sure to add an option to turn it off.

And, it's certainly acceptable to not have a soundtrack.

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I think it's completed justified to not include music since it's seems that your project is more a board game, this way the player does not get distracted. But in my opinion a non distracting background music with the option to turn it off would be better.

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