"Your only chance is to get better at marketing and positioning your product without compromising your creative goals."
- Ustwo lead designer Ken Wong
In an op-ed published over at Polygon, Ustwo lead designer Ken Wong (Monument Valley) writes a response to indie developer Aksel Junkkila -- but which speaks to all developers whose games launch into the void and do not draw enough notice.
Junkkila recently penned his own Polygon op-ed, in which he blasted the mobile market, and its players, for the failure of his game, Battlestation: Harbinger.
Wong takes a look at Junkkila's game, and points out some hard truths about the hard sell it represents: "Next to the competition, some of which are free to try, and one of which is the incredible FTL, Harbinger’s screenshots and trailer look a little drab and basic. The game’s own description lacks any hook or distinguishing feature."
In other words -- at first glance, it doesn't grab you. And a first glance might be all you get these days. And Wong's words, above, suggest that marketing extends to making a game that entices players at a very basic level -- one that stands out -- not just promoting whatever you've made. Wong doesn't think that only casual games can thrive on mobile, as you'd expect from a Monument Valley developer.
This all brings to mind popular Gamasutra blog post "Good isn't good enough: Releasing an indie game in 2015," about the travails of releasing a game on Steam and receiving little notice. And of course, it's worth recognizing that mobile revenues are not split evenly -- the top 10 games take 25 percent of the revenue in the market.
In a short space, Wong's article covers everything from creativity on the App Store to the democratization of game development and the behaviors of mobile players who prefer games like Candy Crush Saga to indie darlings like Spelunky -- and in doing so, succinctly encapsulates both the challenges and opportunities of today's indie and mobile markets. You can read it here.