Mobile Developers Advised To Stop Developing Mobile Games at Samsung’s E3 Mobile Mixer

Last night at Samsung’s Mobile Mixer, we were encouraged to think, drink, and connect with mobile developers.  The place was packed, the food was gone before it made it to the buffet, and there was one drink ticket per guest.  Not much to inspire an E3 weary mob to either drink or connect, but there certainly was a lot to think about.

On a panel discussing the troubling future of premium games in a market all but taken over by freemium models (and perhaps the next trend: the promotional tie in, like Fallout Shelter, which managed to knock Candy Crush off its throne in just a few hours after the announcement and release).  The message to premium developers was clear.  And dire.

“We have to stop racing to the bottom.”

“I don’t see any current trend saving premium games.”

“If your game is $20, how do you prove to consumers that it is twenty times better than a one dollar game?”

Those were the words of a panel, which included Andreas Hofman (Senior Director of Samsung Developer Connection), Jason Chien (Founder and CEO of Bit Toys Inc), Stan Liu (Founder and President of Atomic Bullfrog), and Lorne Lanning (Co-Founder and President of Oddworld Inhabitants).  But the most damning words came from Mike Rose of tinyBUILD Games.

When asked to give advice to mobile game developers, Mike replied, “Don’t make mobile games.  Make them for PC and consoles AND mobile devices.”  He then handed off the microphone, laughing and shaking his head at his own snark.

I overheard him telling someone, “Well, I won’t be invited to too many more of these.”  I approached him to get his card and to congratulate him on his candor and courage.  He told me, “I just wanted to shake him up.  He used to be my boss,” indicating the moderator, Chris James, the Managing Director of Steel Media.

Whether this was a personal troll of a buddy or a serious statement to a struggling niche, the message was clear.  Premium mobile games will only succeed if the content is truly great.

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One comment

  1. Regarding the phrase “Make them for PC and consoles AND mobile devices.”, although I don’t know the full context in which it was said, and I am primarily an iOS developer/consumer, I’d like to give my opinion.

    I feel this is exactly opposite to what I would recommend, since to maintain a premium user base we need to create mobile experiences that are better, or at least unique, as compared to PC and other platforms. Creating all games for both platforms just makes one more reason for people to keep to PC platform.

    Though things have started changing in the last few years with Steam and other efforts being made to lower PC game prices, for me the PC game industry has always had an assumption of prices somewhere in the $40-$60 range, and even today I wouldn’t mind paying that price for a good game, even if that only means 20-30 hours of play.

    The mobile platforms, on the other hand, have started with a low price point and things have only gotten lower, with a massive increase of free games all around.

    I agree with the “how to we make a game 20x better” statement, since if I see a game that looks awesome (say, Transistor) and costs ~$10, I will hesitate just because I can get several other games that might be quite good for that price.

    I think trying to push mobile games that are in the $10-$20 range is going to ultimately fail in the long term, because it will be too hard to convince users that their money is really worth it. For the hardcore gamers, or people who are very picky about a good-quality game, there will always be some who will spend $10 or more for a great experience. But I feel that the average gamer, which is now more and more turning into a ‘casual’ gamer, will never accept this price point.

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