A to Z of Mobile Games

momoshoreditch.pngLast night I was at the inaugural Mobile Monday Shoreditch in London. The theme was the A to Z of Mobile Games although a quick poll of the attendees showed most worked in areas other than pure gaming. It was mainly a panel event consisting of Sami Mahmood (ngmoco), Roberta Lucca (Bossa Studios), Alex Caccia (Marmalade),  Maxwell Scott-Slade (JohnnyTwoShoes), James Faure (Autotrader) and chaired by Oscar Clark (Papaya).

Not being a games developer, I was particularly looking for insights that might be applied to non-games. Here are some things that were mentioned…

  • Most games are now freemium and many are becoming social freemium.
  • A few games are using pseudo gambling models such as Gatcha style models where people buy something where it’s a surprise what’s ‘inside’. Care needs to be taken with using these models.
  • Casual games are the most successful.
  • The more successful companies are building a brand alongside products. 
  • Niche, premium (paid) games might not need everyone to like/download.
  • Many games use Facebook as the social network (see my OverTheAir post on Facebook’s Open Graph API for the latest mechanism). However, you might not want all your friends to know all your gaming activities or even the fact you are gaming. 
  • There are two types of mobile social gaming: real time and asynchronous. Asynchronous involves messsages about the game after the fact and reinforces gaming relationships rather than competition between players.
  • A high proportion of all downloads are games. Hence, app quality in general is set by games (really?).
  • As the majority of games are free you can’t succeed with an average quality game.
  • Brands sometimes get in the way and ruin the game experience. There needs to be continuity between the brand and the experience.
  • Adverts get in the way and distract from the experience.
  • There needs to be innovation in advertising from everyone in ecosystem. 
  • There’s a need to know more about demographics to attract advertisers.
  • It can cost high six figures for a well produced custom branded app/game.
  • The landing pages for ads need to be just as good as the games.
  • There’s an ongoing balance between cost of acquisition (5 cents to 2 dollars) vs monetisation.
  • Freemium games need to give enough away initially to attract players.
  • Ways of paying and price points depend on geographic location.
  • It’s not always correct to assume iOS represents people who can and do pay – other users can share the device, eg children.
  • With kids, pricing, adverts, micro transactions and moderation are all extra issues.
  • There’s a problem of device fragmentation and getting the best performance possible on a particular device.
  • At some stage you have to cut off the cross platform effort.
  • There’s the issue of whether the game should look and feel like the native platform.
  • Some iOS developers are scared to go to Android due to the perceived fragmentation.
  • In the future (18 months) there will be more powerful devices with better graphics processors. Still need to concentrate on game play. Top performance is only important for the smaller number of hardcore gamers.
In summary, games apps are no different to non-games. Many of the issues are the same. I think Roberta Lucca gave the most insightful comment when she repeatedly said that it’s necessary to look at demographics to resolve many of the problems. It’s the same advice I often give to clients. The better you know your potential end user, the better you can tailor your apps/platforms and the more sucessful your app will be. Also, I’d say user demographics are rarely fully known upfront in which case you need to analyse early users and modify your strategy accordingly.