Why mobile games are different

December 15, 2008

I'm very tempted to just have a one line post: "'cause they are". But I realize that this isn't exactly an informative one line post.

Mobile games aren't selling the way "analysts" predicted. The huge growth in sales isn't happening, the number of titles is staggering, there are both licensed and unlicensed titles...but the consumers aren't there. Every week I hear about mobile game developers and publishers going out of business.

But let me throw another wrinkle at you... the iPhone. (Some of you are already excited, and pardon me while I tattoo "I like bright shiny objects", on your forehead)

"iPhone applications and the App Store will change the way people look at their phone" I've heard that line many times, and I agree. It will totally confuse the consumer and at least 3/4 of the "mobile game publishers" will drop Java and Brew development in favor of the iPhone.

I think that's just as well. By far the majority of mobile games I have seen in the last 2 years as a mobile game producer have been awful. When the games are awful, why is it shocking that sales are also awful? Sales are great for Tetris. This just in: Tetris is a good game, your adaptation of Miami Vice is awful.

In interviews I always say the same thing: Make good games... make that your focus. If you make good games you'll have sales. If you make bad games, you won't have sales. Is this really that hard to understand? Apparently the answer is yes.

The title of this posting is "why are mobile games different". The answer is: because many mobile publishers think that there are easy bucks to be made and that the consumer is dumb enough to buy anything. The truth is, these are the same discerning consumers who buy XBOX 360 and PS3 games. Wake up publishers, they're not dumb. They know a bad game when they see it, and they remember the publisher who tried to foist it on them.

Always always always, make good games.



fettuccini said...

This is a great post, though I think the lesson extends well beyond mobile games. The resurgence of 2D games and innovative game play offered by Wii/DS both prove that good game design is the key. Without it, a game simply won't be fun (regardless of how "shiny" it is).

60 Hertz said...

making good games is about 20% of the problem (at least on the iphone), good games get lost in the soup of crap... i just found star trigon in the app store and thought it was a really good game, very new (at least to me), simple and skill-based with nice levels... unfortunately i dont think anyone even knows about it. so i'd say marketing is the other 80%...

Mac said...

I'm not sure I'd agree with your percentages, but I would agree that making a good game is only part of being successful. Lots of great games get no marketing and therefore have poor sales. I can think of a few dozen examples of the opposite...