Earlier this week I was able to attend the inexchange 2010 conference. For those who aren’t familiar with it, its main focus is on interactive and cross media productions in Canada. More specifically, the province of Ontario.
With the changes occuring within the gaming industry in the last while, this year featured much talk about mobile gaming and the future of the industry. During a panel titled “Game Changers”, discussing the changes in the way players may consume game content, Denis Dyack (of Silicon Knights) pointed out the scary fact that the average iPhone game makes only $700 in revenue.
The one discussion I left the conference hungry to discuss is how we can leverage the mobile platform to create great games, now that the hype is dying down. And hopefully, in the process, see some better ROI for the talented content producers.
Although the average game in the AppStore makes $700, I doubt the average great game on the iPhone makes that little profit. There are many factors that go into sales including the problem of visibility in the overcrowded AppStore. But, in the end we must create compelling game experiences if we want to sell our games. The poor quality of games in the AppStore is what is bringing down the marketplace. Even the games released by the big studios, are simply big wastes of money, trying to replicate console style successes on a movie device.
So, here are two ideas on how we can make better mobile games, and improve the mobile gaming marketplace:
1) A Proposal for a new type of mobile game
Mobile gaming is still waiting for it’s Space Invaders or Super Mario Bros or Doom (do I need to go on?). We are still waiting for that game that shows us that a compelling experience can be had on a mobile device. Although I love it, it is not Angry Birds, nor do I think it’s Epic Citadel. Or maybe it’s already out there, just hidden in the AppStore somewhere… I doubt it, but maybe we need an AppStore Palaeontologist, who digs through the masses of bad games to find the one gem we all missed.
Let’s stop expecting the same formula that has been used on the console games to be applicable in the new mobile marketplace. Let’s spend time analyzing and researching the game design that works on mobile before we spend time analyzing our poor ROIs. Design, prototype, test, design, prototype, test… it’s really not a foreign concept to us. But, by the look of the games in the AppStore, this is not being followed well.
2) A Proposal for a New AppStore
Although Apple has been getting some very bad attention because of their “strict” developer agreement and “closed” development platform. As a developer, I can tell you that their review process is quite lenient. If your app doesn’t contain anything deemed offensive by Apple or make the iPhone explode (literal read: crash) you can pretty much count on it being accepted into the store.
So, every Joey Developer (including me), who wants to put their game into the AppStore, can. This has been great for innovation. We’ve seen some incredible art emerging from some talented individuals who would have a hard time getting their work on the PSN or WiiWare. Passage is one that was mentioned at in10 (Its creator, Jason Rohrer is now working on a Nintendo DS game for Majesco).
But, we have to admit that this has also opened the floodgates to allow a plethora of (sorry to say) crap into the store. As a producer and consumer, I find it far too frustrating to sift through all this poo-poo while trying to find that gem.
This breed of crappy games would never make it to the PSN or Xbox Marketplace or WiiWare, or even Steam. Why? Because they have a more strict selection and review process than Apple. Could that be? Apple? The new chosen army of the Devil has a more lenient review process than our beloved Nintendo? But they don’t run Flash?
To me, the answer is simple. Create a new Apple game store that requires a game to be (*gasp*) entertaining if it is going to be available in it. If apple is serious in turning the iOS platform into the next mobile game system they need to separate the crap from the gems for us. A place where specially selected content producers can showcase their products – ones that meet a higher standard of value.
Let’s buy some land down the street from the flea market and make a Shopping Mall!!
Smartphones and tablets are here, and they will be in our future for a long time. As game developers, we need to ensure that we are delivering on our promise to the world to create engaging, exciting and fun game experiences to the players, no matter what platform they are on, no matter how much innovation is necessary to do so.
The industry needs to be more active in leading the future of the marketplace by working together with these new platform providers to deliver entertaining content to this market.
I’m hoping this article will act as my first contribution to this great cause.
If you have a great game in the AppStore that is hidden in crap, I’d like to hear from you.
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