How social is mobile gaming? How mobile is social?

Sitting on the train going to the next station you see lots of people of all ages on their mobile phones, on their smart phones, probably on mobile apps, most probably playing games. But how many of them are still playing free mobile games which are social in nature? How many more invites to FarmVille or CandyCrush can the world take?

Social for many developers has apparently started to lose its shine. Talking to, many of the UK game developers, as part of the TIGA event in the House of Common’s last month, I realised that apart from the BIG players in the market place the success that Facebook seemed to instantly give creative game developers seems to be on the wane.

TIGA_Logo

Part of this I believe is that Facebook didn’t move quickly enough into creating a satisfying mobile experience. They and other social networks have for nearly a decade dominated the web. However, it is the combination of the smart phone and tablet mobile device, the technology and the app stores that have created new opportunities for global social experiences that were not possible in the web. But many of the main players realised this too late. As such, this created new business opportunities those developers who are utilizing the camera, real-time sharing, location-based technology and virtual items to reshape social experiences on mobile. Apps like WeChat, LINE, Kakao, Zoosk, Badoo, and Find My Friends are at the forefront of this newfound growth. And some of those publishers are starting to figure out ways to monetize this distribution. But they are doing so often without gaming.

Over the past year, social Networking apps as a category was the third-largest in iOS revenue, up from twelfth one year ago. While revenue growth was seen across all major countries, Japan stood out with a tenfold increase in monthly revenue year-over-year, led by the runaway success of LINE. Whilst In the last year, global revenue growth for social networking apps has outpaced growth of its own downloads as well as revenue for other app categories.

As of January 2013, the Social Networking category ranked third in monthly revenues, behind only Mobile Games and Productivity Apps in the iOS App Store. And that’s up 87% compared to January 2012 monthly revenues, representing 3% of total iOS App Store revenue. Its growth is impressive and nowhere near its ceiling.

But are mobile and social gaming truly mixing and mixing well? iPad Games like Supercell’s “Clash of the Clans” are intrinsically social and make money from in-app purchases after social platforms have given them the launch they need to be viral. Their advertising done by social, they are free to be free, monetising en masse swapping your now invested time for money invested in skipping time – in doing the impossible – becoming god of time – if only in the game and only for one moment. But again how social is this really? How much FarmVille is really played on a truly in your pocket mobile device? Does this increase if the mobile gaming environment this is transferred over to on an iPad? Does it decrease or increase with the time of day you give your “social reward” for actions taken by the user.

Will it make a difference with Facebook’s new move, with Home, trying to take over the home screen of all android mobile phones? Will this finally work out for some mobile game developers the problems of discovery for their game / app? Will Facebook created a PPC version of this to help their monetisation strategy?

Should dojit only be producing mobile phone games, purely for Android, knowing that the changes are coming, or is it just hype as our wise old CTO believes?

From a marketing POV, the stats on where people play casual games for free would be a great thing to have. Especially for marketing our new releases like Home Bear and Soccer Zillionaire, as I know that people spend longer on apps in iPads and click on more adverts and buy more stuff when they do. But games wise, right now, we are rather unsociably in the dark.

Mobile Web is Dead… Long Live the Mobile Web…

In the world of statistical information (and often economics) a certain gentlemen called “Pareto” is often king. His simple analysis findings that 80% of something is often owned or done by 20% of another became a thing of legend. You will wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time, apparently. 80% of your income will come from 20% of your potential customers. Well now, we in the mobile world can add another to this.

Only 20 percent of American consumers’ time on mobile devices is spent on the web. A massive majority, 80 percent, is spent in apps: games, news, productivity, utility, and social networking apps.
It turns out, it’s an app world, after all.

According to app analytics firm Flurry, which tracks app usage on a staggering 300,000 apps on over a billion active mobile devices, we spend an average of 158 minutes each and every day on our smartphones and tablets. Two hours and seven minutes of that is in an app, and only 31 minutes is in a browser, surfing the old-school web. Great news for dojit, is that a big chunk of those 158 minutes is taken up with playing mobile games — around 32 percent — but it’s almost shocking to see how much time a single app and a single company eats up. Eighteen percent of all the time that Americans spend on their phones is spent in the Facebook app, a figure that by itself dwarfs all other social networking apps. What would be interesting to see if how much of this is spend in mobile social games?

As we all know by now – there is a huge market in traditional social platform games development, with giants in the industry literally turning over millions a day with computer games on facebook.
Flurry also says that people are now using more games and apps than ever, launching 7.9 per day in the last part of 2012 versus 7.5 per day in 2011 and 7.2 per day in 2010. The great news for us mobile games developers, is that consumers are continuing to try new apps as well, with long-term users adding new apps regularly to their existing stack. A lot of these being “new mobile games” as mobile games developers continually create new mobile games to fit the expanding market.

But the bigger question for us here at dojit, is what kind of games to create. Where is the sweet spot not only in creative direction but also in application platform development. Should we go Android or iOS? Should we create MVP’s in HTML5 first and test some thinking? There was a time when developers thought HTML5 would kill the mobile app, with experts like Mike Rowehl saying things like: “We’ll forget that we even passed through another era of native apps on the way to the mobile web.” Silly man. I personally argued with app developers on other projects last year that this was a nonsense. That native would always play a part especially in gaming.

It looks like I was right as in an interesting twist, HTML5 is being used more as a tool for cross-platform native app development. In fact, it’s now the number one choice for developers building apps for multiple platforms. Which is what we here at dojit enterprises are now discussing – I am personally voting for 80% of our time to be spent on such mini MVP’s created on HTML5 so we can test our mobile marketing and social power of such creative games. And so 20% of time is on what people might call ‘real world’ mobile games development.

What do you think? What do you do with your development?

Dojit Blog about Ian Livingstone speech Part 2.

Seeing Ian Livingston was a revelation for me personally. It was the catalyst to me wanting to join dojit games and make a dent in the universe. To do something positive, to create games which add value, which teach things, which change the world and mind of the player – even if only for a minute.

I don’t know if Ian had such dreams when they started with Fighting Fantasy or with Games Workshop or even with Lara Croft and Edios studios – but I do know he has a massive passion for what gaming itself (as an industry) will do for the UK economy and for society in general.

To read more about it – I would suggest you read Gen Next – which outlines some great ideas on how the government can help the gaming industry which is set to contribute just under 1 billion to GDP in 2013 and has the potential of turning over more revenue than filming and music combined for the UK.

And yet when do you hear such news? Ian’s rally cry is around this. And an inspiration to all of us involved in UK mobile gaming development.  His points are two fold – both which ring home true for dojit.

One, education is all important. Not just stealth education through the gamifaction of education (which we as a company are doing with titles like Soccer Zillionaire) but also hand on skills education of the next generation. As Ian put it – “We are teaching people how to read but not how to write.” It is this writing which is essential for the growth of mobile gaming development in the UK.

We know this at dojit games and therefore try to give as many interns positions as possible. We give them the hand ons training in a work environment to work on real projects they need. With dojit you will make real games, you will make a difference. BUT we cannot make interns know about coding, about programming, about UX – this is the job of universities, of schools and of the government to get such coding into the curriculum.

His other point – branches into five sub points – all worth covering – as important to the mobile gaming industry as well as the more traditional gaming industries which Ian’s Lara Coft was born from. This is what Ian called the 5 P’s.  Perception, Pipes, Property, Pounds and People.

I will go through those more relevant to dojit for speed and ease. The three takeaways for me are:

Perception:

Having to change the instant though and public view of computer games as just Grand Theft Auto (but we should be proud of that too…) but more into the worlds of social, casual, and positive gaming experiences. Something we do here at dojit – and so our successes will help this process. As will the success of

Pounds

With gaming bringing in more money into the UK than film and music combined we can make a very solid case for more funding. Not just for individual companies like dojit, but for collaboration projects and for the gamifaction of new areas where we might see instant returns like health or education. Some in roads are already being made with organisations like Creative England and their £250,000 fund into health apps in March 2013.

People

Gaming companies also need the people with the right skills for the job, not just the technical people who make great code, but those softer skills in social media, in mobile marketing, in UX design, in the things that made games like Angry Birds and Clash of Clans such successes.  We need people with passion for games – something we have hear at dojit games. Want to join us? 

Dojit Blog about Ian Livingstone speech: Part 1.

It was interesting to hear the man speak.

To some his books became the gamifaction of literature (Fighting Fantasy) to others he was responsible for their high school crush on a computer game (with Lara Croft) and to those even older – he was the reason they may have got dressed up as a wizard once or twice to often to roll dice in a dungeon with his Games Workshops monopolies.
No matter who he is to you (and to some young people he is simply nothing at all) the ideas of Ian Livingstone to me are more relevant today with us at Dojit Games than ever before.
As Dojit, like Ian’s first works, doesn’t know how big they will become. We just don’t know if happy and optimistic gaming to help children interact with mobiles, will catch on as much as the “almost bigger than bond” figure of Lara Croft. Even as a concept.
But what did we learn from him?
Ian’s first business, with Lara Croft (first called Lara Cruz) planned to hope to sell ½ million for the whole duration of the game’s life. In the end, they sold 7 million in first year and now more than 20 years on, and a couple of heart breaks later, Lara Croft has sold over 30 million copies had countless spin offs into mercanising and IP. Giving those working on it and in it a billion pounds worth of revenue. Add to this getting to meet Angelina Jolie a couple of times and those films bringing in another ½ billion and you can see a very happy man take to the stage at #yourcreativefuture in his home town of Manchester. So the take home – Create your own IP and retain the ownership no matter what. As Ian said – “Control your own destiny. Don’t have someone do it for you”.
Could our Home Bear – become a soft toy? Could we launch a series of geo location toys? Who knows?
Another thing we learnt from the talk was “do what you are good at – and nothing else”. Ian learnt this the hard way. Did you know that at the peak of Lara Croft mania, the company got so big that they even recorded an album! Which they never launched, I have heard it – it is awful (truly awful) but the company in the end knew it was bad and had the decency to never launch it…
Would Ian had done things differently with his amazing successes? I don’t think so I have the feeling not.
But did he had any tips for us, brand new start up businesses, making games for mobile phones?
He did. But strangely not directly even though he admitted that whilst the games industry is now worth $50 billion and predicted to grow to $90 billion by 2015, that this was the year of the tipping point for digital downloads. And as he put it – Once this has happened you can never go back.
And so this changes the infrastructure, it changes the ecology and the ecosystem for gaming in general. With a now huge opportunity for the right people to make mini games companies and do very well i.e. he used for example – the one Danish guy made Minecraft. But as he put it – For every one Angry Birds there are a million dead birds. Even Rovio, Angry Birds developers, had 57 no shows before their iconic success.
No matter whether it is digital download, freemium (which he thinks is the way to go citing Clash of Clan’s in app purchase model now creating $1 million a day, or triple AAA big releases, for Ian it’s all about the gameplay and nothing else. As he said it “otherwise you would be making films”. For computer games – it’s the experience of playing not of viewing that makes the difference. Our takeway – UX is EVERYTHING.