The Mobile Gold Rush

  • Greetings! This is just some food for thought (warning: long post).

    So I was doing some reading about the desktop and mobile markets, trying to decide if I needed to aim for supporting as much as possible (the shotgun strategy) or focus on smaller targets (the rifle strategy). Throw in mobile web, native mobile, desktop, tablets... good lord almighty, how can I possibly form a strategy?

    A majority of opinions, not surprisingly, lean towards the mobile market. The ridiculous growth predicted and ease of access for mobile apps and web-games isn't going away. Is that the answer?

    Do we, as HTML5 game devs, throw our lot in with the fastest growing segment? Do we hope that sheer numbers, just based on odds, will yield some success--even if it's minor? If we focus on mobile, maybe we can make something of quality and see that proverbial 'gold in the pan'.

    If we target all markets, and maybe sacrifice some quality (unless we have the time, resources, and assistance) for the quantity of mobile, is that still the best strategy?

    I certainly started believing this was the case, even though I'm not a fan of mobile devices or mobile gaming in general--you can't ignore the million-app gold rush going on... can you? Well one article I read (don't remember the link, sorry!) had a slightly different perspective on the situation; it got me thinking a little bit, which is always dangerous.

    The desktop and laptop market for games isn't going to disappear. It may change and absorb some concepts of mobile, but it'll be around for quite awhile. But what about for gaming? Well, until the day comes when you can create games on mobile devices as or more efficiently than desktops, we're gonna have the standard PC. Maybe it'll all go touch at some point, but it'll still be there.

    As games and apps join the gold rush to mobile, will that leave a vacancy for traditional desktop games? Or will it, at the very least, make room for some quality desktop browser games? When HTML5 takes center-stage, and gobbles more of Flash's dominance, will there be any kind of a renaissance in that market? Will we ever see a AAA-title (or even something close to it) emerge on the desktop market as a result of HTML5 gaming?

    What are your thoughts? Do you think the desktop market is shrinking and will eventually dry up? Do you think it's only changing and may offer new possibilities for HTML5 games? Is mobile the only solution to find 'gold in the pan' going forward?

    Take care, folks!

  • I'm not even going to bother going for the mobile market. It's so oversaturated that going big is akin to winning the lottery. And the thought of making many low-quality games is very unappealing to me.

    I'd much rather focus my efforts into making a very decent game for desktop. We can support all the major desktop platforms and the market for indie games is great at the moment. Especially considering steam greenlight...

  • HTML5 allows for easy porting to multiple platforms, so in my mind there's no reason to not target as many platforms as possible, as long as your game's design allows for play with a mouse/touchscreen/controller.

    That said, the mobile gold rush is long since over. There's too many devs and not enough gold. There's plenty of money to be made there, but getting it is a difficult challenge with so many others attempting the same. Too many devs have been making the mistake of only targeting mobile, thinking the gold rush is still in effect. In my opinion, PC should be the primary target with mobile as a bonus platform.

    The new focus on android consoles might create a new smaller gold rush, with less competition at first on those storefronts, but it will have fewer customers than the smartphone market and still will have more competition than the mobile market had at first because there are already games on android that can be run on those devices.

  • I'm not even going to bother going for the mobile market. It's so oversaturated that going big is akin to winning the lottery. And the thought of making many low-quality games is very unappealing to me.

    Hey sqiddster. That was one of my concerns, too. It's so easy to pump out lower quality games and hope that quantity and cross-pollination (er, pollution) helps something stick. I mean, how high can we get with quality if we're a very small team (or 1 man team)?

    With the node-webkit exporter now, the prospect of something like Greenlight seems very appealing.

  • HTML5 allows for easy porting to multiple platforms, so in my mind there's no reason to not target as many platforms as possible, as long as your game's design allows for play with a mouse/touchscreen/controller.

    So far, I've had a lot of headaches being a 1-man show trying to make something cross-platform. I know it can be done, evidenced by some great projects out there; it seems daunting, though. How have you fared in this arena?

    hat said, the mobile gold rush is long since over. There's too many devs and not enough gold. There's plenty of money to be made there, but getting it is a difficult challenge with so many others attempting the same. Too many devs have been making the mistake of only targeting mobile, thinking the gold rush is still in effect. In my opinion, PC should be the primary target with mobile as a bonus platform.

    Excellent points, m'lady. From a lot of articles, there seems to be a feeling that there's still a 'gold rush' in mobile, but I think your perspective here might be closer to reality.

    he new focus on android consoles might create a new smaller gold rush, with less competition at first on those storefronts, but it will have fewer customers than the smartphone market and still will have more competition than the mobile market had at first because there are already games on android that can be run on those devices.

    I was wondering about how big an impact something like OUYA or Gamestick is going to make on HTML5 projects. One of my concerns there is close to what you mentioned: what happens when all those android games get ported over by their developers? It can't be too much of a stretch to tweak it for OUYA, for example. Is it going to be another case of a super-saturated market like mobile now?

    What about mobile web gaming? Where does that fit into the picture with all this?

  • So far, I've had a lot of headaches being a 1-man show trying to make something cross-platform. I know it can be done, evidenced by some great projects out there; it seems daunting, though. How have you fared in this arena?

    It depends how complex your project is and what level of devices you're targeting. If you're doing something with simple graphics and interactions, it's generally no problem at all. However, if you're doing something more complex, it can get a bit tricky.

    So far, getting my game to work on both desktop and touch devices hasn't been all that difficult. While it was somewhat more difficult than I expected (partially because I want to do some relatively complex touch interactions), it wasn't all that hard. It mainly required learning how to use the touch for ID expression and learning about things like overdraw and how to optimize for the weaker GPU hardware in mobile devices.

    Excellent points, m'lady. From a lot of articles, there seems to be a feeling that there's still a 'gold rush' in mobile, but I think your perspective here might be closer to reality.

    Actually, I'm male, my avatar is just of one of my game's main characters, sorry for the confusion. Basically what I get from articles and other developers is there is money but it's hard to get and most devs don't succeed at doing so because of insane competition of hundreds of new apps every day. One of the most important lessons I've read is to not to depend on simply being on the app store as a form of advertising. That only works if you get featured by apple or get on the top seller lists, which will most likely only happen if you advertise elsewhere.

    I was wondering about how big an impact something like OUYA or Gamestick is going to make on HTML5 projects. One of my concerns there is close to what you mentioned: what happens when all those android games get ported over by their developers? It can't be too much of a stretch to tweak it for OUYA, for example. Is it going to be another case of a super-saturated market like mobile now?

    That depends how successful and lucrative those markets turn out to be. Where there is gold, you'll find people, lots of people, trying to get it.

    I read somewhere that iOS has something like 270 million devices out there. My guess is there will be way more competition at the start than iOS had at first because of the ease of porting games that are already on android to them, but way less than if you released for android phones/tablets because most of the games on android won't be coded to work with the controllers of these new platforms, meaning less competition than if you released on Google play.

    Also, piracy as I hear is completely rampant on android, and even those who don't pirate are less prone to pay for things, and it doesn't help matters that users can buy something, return it and get a refund yet still keep the app. I don't know if the new android consoles will help to mitigate those factors or not.

    What about mobile web gaming? Where does that fit into the picture with all this?

    The problem with mobile web gaming is monetization. With an app store, the company already has your credit card information, so it's a very easy process to buy something and people feel safe about it. On the web, people have to give credit card information to a company they're generally not familiar with, and as such people are far more reluctant to do so. There's in game ads, but those generally pay a pittance. There's also marketjs, but I'm not sure exactly how lucrative that can be.

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  • Thanks for the valuable input, Arima. Oh, and sorry about the gender confusion... that was just laziness on my part; I could have taken a quick gander at your profile.

    You brought up a lot of good points, M'LORD :), and I think it's a valuable read for anyone interested in getting a perspective on the markets.

    Thanks a bunch!

  • Lol, no worries. XD

  • Thanks Arima, those are very solid points about the whole matter. While I don't argue what you have said. I want to make the additional comment.

    While the gold rush has peaked and on it's way down. We shouldn't forget that it's still a different market with over saturation of lower quality products. Even so this does not mean that by default the PC is still the go to platform. By far the PC is still the most dominant and over saturated of quality products. It is by far going to be harder to get noticed on PC to make money than on a still growing sector of the market.

    just because the gold rush is over doesn't make it an inferior market :)

  • That's a good point, there isn't one specific strategy that will work for all games. I was letting too much of my own strategy color that comment about targeting PC first.

    Part of what drove it though is the impression that I got from everything that I've read is that it is in fact harder to get noticed on mobile than it is on PC. However, I don't know that for sure because getting a game noticed is not an exact science, so I could be wrong. It just seems the PC has more of an indie culture that websites are more willing to report on.

  • In my opinion, if it is a mass market platform (desktop, mobile, web)- it does not really matter where to publish. What does really matter is how you conceptualize and integrate your business model into the gameplay, which should be designed with your target group in mind.

    You should consider this questions first:

    • Core game play (e.g. if you wanna reach a mass market you should go for super-straight forward things, interactions should be clear, no frustrations, but the gameplay should be meaningful and with depth)
    • Setting: gfx, story etc. There are some rules of thumbs like polished and straight gfx, progression indicators etc, no SciFi or fantasy.
    • What is your "viral" strategy?
    • What is your business model (how are you going to monetize)
    • Metagames are the most important (user retention & engagament) There are some good examples of games in appstore, which are great because of very well designed metagames (e.g. Puzzle Craft)

    There are many games in appstore and google play, but only may be 10-5% are vere well designed products. There are tons of nice and easy games, which are easy to pick, but the lack depth and you throw them away after playing them a couple of times. So I think there's always room for cool stuff, no matter how saturated the market is.

  • In my opinion, if it is a mass market platform (desktop, mobile, web)- it does not really matter where to publish. What does really matter is how you conceptualize and integrate your business model into the gameplay, which should be designed with your target group in mind.

    You should consider this questions first:

    - Core game play (e.g. if you wanna reach a mass market you should go for super-straight forward things, interactions should be clear, no frustrations, but the gameplay should be meaningful and with depth)

    - Setting: gfx, story etc. There are some rules of thumbs like polished and straight gfx, progression indicators etc, no SciFi or fantasy.

    - What is your "viral" strategy?

    - What is your business model (how are you going to monetize)

    - Metagames are the most important (user retention & engagament) There are some good examples of games in appstore, which are great because of very well designed metagames (e.g. Puzzle Craft)

    There are many games in appstore and google play, but only may be 10-5% are vere well designed products. There are tons of nice and easy games, which are easy to pick, but the lack depth and you throw them away after playing them a couple of times. So I think there's always room for cool stuff, no matter how saturated the market is.   

    Very well written and makes a lot of good points.

    I don't agree with 'no fantasy or sci-fi'. We have Dragon Age and Mass Effect for the computer. On the App store for RPG's just past Minecraft stuff(which is not an RPG) there are a lot of fantasy games.

    Otherwise I agree with your important points :)

  • Catching up with Construct2 posts--

    I think about the old Stanford story on how he had made money during the gold rush. He made his money selling the equipment to the miners. Yes, some miners became rich, but Stanford made more millions than many of his miners. The same phenomena happened in web-comics with the Half-pixel crew and Penny Arcade. Interestingly it was the boom of decent graphics on computer screens with faster internet that prompted that ten year boom. However, the cross over between comics and video games help pave the way for PAX to act like a Stanford, creating a platform for indies to compete with larger developers on multiple devices.

    Looking at Timberman a huge success on the Android Market than a it's success on Steam, there is a visible cross market fro PC and Mobile.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/the-insi ... iew-2014-7

    However, considering Indie Game the Movie, focusing on the quality of the product matters the most as you want people just to play your games. This could lead to a publisher wanting to publish a game or work with you. Thus, another similarity to web-comics; this idea of gaining many likes or follower via the art you make. This kind of leads to the question of how much or what kind of marketing one has to do for mobile games?

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... 4K_QEzR4dv

    I contend, the indie games have become the next webcomics and people of all ages will continue to make games even if we have smart watches with projector screens instead of real screens. I believe this because of how the web comics creators and market has evolved.

  • Catching up with Construct2 posts--

    I think about the old Stanford story on how he had made money during the gold rush. He made his money selling the equipment to the miners. Yes, some miners became rich, but Stanford made more millions than many of his miners.

    Yup, this happens with the "Game Dev Software" companies. As can be expected, Scirra has more than likely made at least 2-3 times more profit with selling the licence than the most successful game dev using it. (By this I'm taking into account of costs to run the business, taxes, ect..) We all know Game Maker has. Of course now we have several major HTML5 dev software to choose from, with all kinds of start ups trying to be the next big tool.

    And it always will work that way, unless the market shifts to price of finished product costing more than the tools. ex: people ok with buying a "cheap" game for $250, while the company only paid $25 for the dev software on unlimited computers in house.

    Carpenters don't turn into millionaires just by building or repairing houses. But the company who sold them the hammers did.

  • I have to give credit to the game for having a market watch as part of game play. I think it would be better to have a game teach people on how to be an indie team. After watching this video--

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