The mobile market is a place where making any money on apps or games is almost impossible. About 80% or more of all apps that are in the market have not been downloaded. That’s is a huge percentage, insanely so. It’s not possible to get into that 20% crowd without spending money on companies that specialise in promoting your app from the grey sea of undownloaded apps.
Funny thing, about 90% of all downloaded apps are free.
How the hell are you going to make money with your app if it’s free? Advertisement works for sure, and that has become the lifeline with smartphone apps. Only very few and selected people have ever put money in to a smartphone app. About 97% people who play games on their smartphones do not pay anything for them, opting for the freemium model
So Aksel Junkilla at Polygon wrote an article (also readable on Yahoo) how mobile gaming market is a mess because of the consumers who don’t pay for the games they download. He begins it with a grand gesture of how consumers and developers need to bring back the golden age of… mobile gaming? Wait, is he saying we’re not living it? The mobile gaming boom began around 2006, and things haven’t really changed any. Later in the article Junkilla clearly links mobile gaming with handheld console gaming, but he misses the fact that the two are completely different markets. The 3DS and the PS Vita are continuing the handheld console market, not smartphones. Smartphone games have far more in-common with your usual FLASH games from the late 90’s/early 00’s, and as a machine a smartphone is nothing more than a PC or a laptop squeezed in a smaller size.
The biggest difference between GameBoy games and smartphone mobile games are that GameBoy games were worth paying for and you always had to pay for them. You got a wholesome game from begin to end. The comparison with Zelda and Pokémon beats the living shit out of any smartphone app, and before you begin to mentions things like Final Fantasy V, those are ports of console games. They inherently are not smartphone games. A square will be a square even if you simply show its shadow or casting.
The problem with the mobile market is not with the customer, as Junkilla makes it to be. He has a stance that the developer is someone who the consumer needs to support in order for the developer to make whatever he wishes, pieces of culture and creative games. The consumer would care less about what the developer wants. The consumer is the God, the developer should be kneeling before the mighty consumer. The fact that these developers are losing money by offering their apps free is on them. They themselves are the cause and reason why they are failing. Not only that, but their games simply are not good enough to warrant putting any money in. The few games that actually make money are rare, and about four companies, like DeNA Nintendo made an agreement with, rake those big bucks.
The comparison with the latte and purchasing a game is extremely weak. Traditionally when comparing games with food, it is the whole deal you compare to. Junkilla has chosen an interesting way to call the consumer entitled in his wish for free games. If you don’t want this, why the hell have the mobile gaming developers continued with this? If you want a cultural shift, stop being an idiot and giving away your work for free.
Nobody should ever give their paying work for free. That’s idiotic.
The bit where he says that demos or free episodes don’t work anymore these days is not because of the customer. It’s because the games are simply deemed unworthy of spending money on. Back in the day, Doom gave you a free episode to play and you had top pay for the rest, and it worked. It was also something new. Demos are teasers, showing what you can do and what the game is offering. If the game demo shows that the game is lousy, who would like to spend money on the final product?
On the other hand, that delicious pumpkin latte will be delicious every time you pay for it. When the perceived value of a latte is higher than the perceived value of the thing you make your bank on, you’ve fucked up whatever you’re doing to the point that a goddamn latte is considered to be far more valuable.
The reason why demos don’t work nowadays anymore is because after testing the demo, the player feels he doesn’t want to continue any further. That tells a lot about the current situation of the industry and about the quality of games they’ve been putting out.
It may be frustrating for the developer to notice that their games don’t make any money, but think how frustrating it is for the consumer to notice that what you’ve done has been shit and a waste of a download. Removing negative reviews is an insane thing to ask. All feedback needs to be evaluated, no matter how much of a jackass the reviewer has been.
Junkilla has one point right; Games with mass appeal have a clear advantage over games for niche market. That’s how it has always been.
If you are making games for a small niche group, you will never make the same amount of money as games made for larger consumer crowd. Games aimed at Red Ocean market will cannibalise each other while games aimed at Blue Ocean market will expand the existing consumerbase.
If you think, as a developer, that you should make as much money as the product that’s selling more, you need to dig your head from your ass and face realities. Candy Crush games work on smartphone, because games like Candy Crush follow the PC lineage they have. Simple arcade games work too. People don’t play mobile games like handheld console, home console or PC games. They play those mobile games for that five minutes while they’re taking a shit or commuting to work, waiting at the dentist or things like that. You don’t spend hours on end on mobile games. You spend few minutes and then move on.
Junkilla developed a type of game that is not popular on the platform, and now is complaining that it’s not making its money back. Well la-di-fucking-da, perhaps if they had made it a Steam game without any DLC bolted to it they may have made it even.
Here’s the final kicker with Junkilla’s writing; he tells that gamers can learn to vote with their money. The same gamers that are dead, as Polygon posted a year ago? The same gamers who are not your consumers, as they said? The gamers are voting with their wallets, that’s what we instinctively do with our hard earned money. Whatever they perceive as valuable product, they will pay for it.
The consumer does not exist to fund your creative outputs. You exist to serve the consumer’s wants and needs. The consumer is not undervaluing your hard work. For the consumer, your hard work is worth jack shit. All that matters is the end product.
If your rival developer makes a better game, a more selling game, or a game that becomes more popular, then it’s up to you to make a better product. What the industry deems as a good game means jack shit. If the game industry would make only those games they deem as ‘good’, the whole game market would have crashed for the third time already.
If you want to make money, then start making products that appease the consumer. Leave trophy projects for later.