We caught up with Matt Shea of the popular game network WildTangent to see just how mobile games have affected the notion of modern day gaming.
We're starting to see mobile games that match the production values and quality of top titles on consoles. How have we gone from the days of Snake to here?
The mobile games industry has matured rapidly in recent years with the higher production capabilities that are now possible. I think there are a few key factors as to why this is the case. First, the trifecta of chip, battery and screen technology improvements. Not only can you have the CPU and graphical power of a console in your hands, but you have a screen with pixel density high enough that you have the pixels to put everything on the screen. Furthermore, you have the battery power to get enough time with the device that you can play a reasonable amount of time.
Second, tablets are eating into the replacement cycle of PC games, which means there are more capable devices to use in the homes of people looking to play games. Also, they are getting more comfortable with touchscreen devices being their "consumption" device, where games is just one type of the media they consume (music and movies being the others).
Finally, I think we are seeing an increasing number of people within the demographics who care most about console-like game production quality have now grown up with touchscreens as their primary device. That intrinsically shifts their usage towards tablets and smartphones.
So can anyone be a true "gamer" now in the most exclusive sense of the word?
Absolutely anyone can play or care about games, mobile or otherwise. We have seen this both in running our own games services and via industry data. Some traditional game genres that have been part of the industry (e.g. FPS) might be more aligned with a certain demographics. Also, those genres might have a fan base that is more engaged, but that doesn't mean everyone can't find a game that suits them. By analogy, just because a superfan camps out overnight to see the next Marvel movie on launch day doesn't mean that they are the only ones that love and enjoy movies.
We've seen a growing number of small developers looking for big publishers to assist with the development and marketing of their games. Is there still room in a crowded market for Indie studios standing on their own?
It is possible but challenging. The ability to make a game is one thing, but the ability to garner an audience is a wholly different challenge. I think there will always be a market for Indie game developers to innovate and find success. They will need to build partnerships though in order to succeed, but that can take many different forms.
According to a recent Distimo report, the 90 per cent of mobile games revenue in March was collected through the freemium business model. Is this model going to carry on reigning supreme?
Yes. I do think that certain games lend themselves to being premium (i.e. SRP), but the overwhelming majority of the market is shifting towards consuming freemium titles. The customer acquisition costs are very high on mobiles games in general, but especially SRP titles (about 10x in cost). In addition, the addressable audience for freemium titles is much larger (10x-100x). I also suspect we will see an increase in SRP pricing for mobile games as customer acquisition costs trend higher.
Is a new model of publishing emerging that combines the traditional model of publishing with new skills, like monetisation services, data analytics, cloud, discoverability, funding services etc?
I think the skills that you outlined absolutely are required in order to build and ship successful games. That said, I think a large chunk of those are core competencies that the developer themselves needs to possess and integrate from the ground up into the game.
The days of a game developer making a good game and a publisher then shipping it to sell are over in mobile games. It has to be more integrated from the beginning.
What are the benefits of a dedicated gaming service for both the player and the developer?
A dedicated game services, like our WildTangent Games service for Android and PC, allows a consumer to find great games without wading through a list of, literally, millions of Apps in an app store of various quality. They know they can easily find a great game and get playing. For a game developer, a dedicated service like WildTangent works with them and helps them be successful launching their game.
Finally, is there anything that really frustrates you about the mobile gaming industry as it stands?
Creating mobile games is a lot of fun, but it can be a frustrating process to find success. The lack of transparency and lack of options that developers face for distribution can be limiting. It can be very frustrating to work with a large channel who has so many different departments that don't talk to each other. The vagueness, randomness and fickleness of various policies that those channels impacts developers in their ability to innovate and be successful.