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Desire to Innovate: Mobile Games and New Technologies

Before deciding to add a new technology support to your game or equip it with a fresh hardware-based functionality *maybe* it'd be wise to ask yourself a few questions first.

Working in the mobile branch of game dev has certainly been an educational experience. New technologies and solutions that you can delve into appear almost on a monthly basis. Sometimes it’s really hard to resist the desire to innovate and trailblaze.

We’ve experimented with gyroscope and accelerometer controls, Near Field Communication (NFC), wearables and now we’re tinkering with digital media players. I can’t tell you that these experiments were always successful. Quite the contrary, they usually weren’t. But we always came out smarter than we walked it. We’ve learned a lot not only about the technology itself but, most importantly, about our games and community that’s playing them.

This text doesn’t aim at equipping you with some kind of Technology Implementation Checklist. It’s rather a list of questions that you, as the developer (be it designer, producer or programmer) should ask yourself before giving in to the temptation to become the pioneer. Don’t get me wrong: always try to innovate! But please, be smart about it.

It’s easy to hop onto the hype train. The ride’s usually fun and there’s a lot of cool people in there with you. But sometimes you look around and discover that you’re the last remaining passenger. Everyone got off somewhere along the way. And the train is heading straight into a cliff. It’s too late to pull the brakes so you’re just closing your eyes, hoping for the best.

I think the message’s clear. Sure, implementing a new technology can get you featured on one of the appstores. And it’s often not *that* hard to make this cool new technology work. However, before deciding to go all in and implement a new technology into your game it could be smart to ask yourself a few questions.

1. Does it fit your game?

Yeah, really. I know it’s cool and all but does the NFC matchmaking really go well with your game? With the design, flow, mechanics and, most importantly, player behavior?

Don’t implement it just for the sake of being innovative - if a feature doesn’t fit the core of your game it’s a waste of time to work on it. Unless you treat it as a learning experience for the future - but then again, you don’t have to implement a technology into the released version of the game just to learn how to do it. It’s safer to work on an unpublished build or a prototype (duh).

                                            

                                            Full Ahead! (b-interaktive) Splash Screen

2. Does it improve the user’s experience?

Ok, so it fits the game perfectly. But will the players know what to do with this cool new technology? Good mobile design is simple and intuitive. If a feature requires ten new permissions or turning functions on and off deep in the settings just to start working, maybe you should think twice before implementing it.

You’re supposed to make the lives of your players easier - maybe sharp gyroscope and accelerometer controls aren’t the best idea if the calibration process is complex and not completing it correctly will result in a terrible user experience? You could go around it and just try to dance with the default settings. Wouldn’t recommend that in a more complex game. It will become a nightmare to balance (what will, obviously, drag the overall experience down) and, I kid you not, there WILL be devices that just won’t cooperate anyway. If there’s one most important aspect of the game it’s the user’s experience. This is what you’re working on and this is what you’re trying to sell (if mobile game development is your field of expertise it gets double, hell, quadruple importance). Don’t you ever sacrifice it.

                                            

                                                   Full Ahead! (b-interaktive) Tutorial

3. How many people can you reach with it?

Whenever a new technology appears, only a small portion of devices support it. Research the market, compare the numbers and make sure that it’s worth it in the first place. Sometimes the initial 4% of Players will grow into 30% or more when the technology becomes a popular solution or even a standard. But very often (if not usually) contrary is the case. Technologies appear and disappear - what seems like a great idea might be nothing more than a waste of your precious time (let’s try to be romantic here and not mention the money factor).

We’re observing a gradual rise in the popularity of wearables. VR seems to be the next ‘big thing’ that more and more developers begin to research and seriously consider. But it’s 2016 and does anyone even remember the augmented reality games? The 3D technology? You want to reach a broad audience - do the digital media players are popular enough to be worth focusing on?

Do the math yourself - sometimes it’s as easy as porting with a few interface tweaks. And you’ll learn a lot in the process. But sometimes it requires returning to the core of the game and that means additional time and money (here goes romanticism, this is RL) spent not on improving your product but on making it available on a very limited market.

                          

                                          Dice Duel (b-interaktive) Nearby Technology 

4. Is it something you personally would use?

This is the Big One. You know your game best. Would you really use the technology that you want to implement? Maybe your social game isn’t yet popular enough for the NFC matchmaking to make sense? Or the gyroscope controlled arcade game physically tires you too quickly? Ask yourself. Ask other people who know and like your game. In mobile design, simplicity is usually the key.

Whoa, you’ve really went through all these bulletpoints. I know it might all seem really obvious to you but the more obvious a fact is the more often we forget about it (you can REALLY believe me on that for I am this truism incarnate). Just one more time, for the record, the point of putting all these letters together: be innovative! Continue introducing new solutions, new technologies! Keep on adding color and originality to the oh-so-often uninspired appstore’s libraries that are teeming with clones. But be *smart* about it!

 

About b-interaktive
Since 2011, b-interaktive has been turning classic tabletop games into apps for smartphones and tablets. Today, the young company with 30 employees in Schwerte, Germany, and a branch office in Poland has raised the bar in the international mobile business. b-interaktive relies on renowned partners and global collaborations to create innovative products and connect people around the world via the modern mobile platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8.

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