How great are the Great British Games and the Great British Games Industry?

As a nation we love games or sports or both. We are world class at making them. Perhaps not playing them, in fact, you could argue that one of our greatest exports was and is games. Which then other countries take to heart and outshine us at – at every conceivable occasion. However, the spirit of sport and the point of games is something which is very, very British! The spirit of fair play embodied in games like cricket helped us gain respect across continents and generations. And whether this fair play is still seen throughout sports (with countless examples of where it isn’t – Luiz Suarez biting someone for example) we can safely say if it wasn’t for the UK we wouldn’t have a truly mind bogglingly number of sports. Football, rugby, cricket, baseball, tennis, boxing, ice hockey (apparently) and I could go on (for those of you so minded – click here for a list of more than 20) But how is this relevant for the UK now?

I think we have a great opportunity, to do something amazing, to get behind the UK mobile games industry and video games industries and support the 9,000 or so highly skilled development staff that the industry employs. You see just like in days of old, where the UK invented games, UK game developers are export focused. 95 per cent of UK game businesses export at least some of their games/services to overseas markets. The industry, unlike the really rather horrid and incestuous finance and banking sector, is NOT London focused, 80 per cent of the workers are employed outside of London. And it’s not that they are not bright – it’s not the manufacturer of yesteryear in dark satanic mills. 80 per cent of the workforce in game studios such as Dojit Games, Climax, Jagex, Kuju Entertainment, Rebellion and Ubisoft Reflections are qualified to degree level or above. As an industry as well, unlike many others which are falling by the way, the UK game development sector is R&D intensive. Two fifths of UK game developers have a budget dedicated to R&D. UK game developers spend on average 20 per cent of turnover on R&D.   I wonder if the same can be said for construction. And to finish with – the eco icing on the economic educational cake, the video games sector is also low carbon in output.Most of the work in games development involves design on computers, the packaging in games is minimal (with mobile games development this is actually nothing at all) whilst boxed products are relatively light for videos games suppliers to manufacture and to transport. In the future, video games will become even more low carbon in nature as the industry moves towards digital distribution like in mobile games development right now.

So we here at dojit games think that mobile gaming is very important for the UK. Not just because it is creative and cool, but as it brings in needed revenue to the UK, has massive export potential – with 65% of our mobile games at dojit being downloaded in China! And as it follows a long traditional of games creation in this great country we call Great Britain. We make games for our world, exported with pride, and perhaps next time with a little bit of British culture too. Maybe Home Bear, our mobile game for children, should wear union jack pants? With the world now a global market place – isn’t it time Britain started exporting more?

Can you make a quintessentially British Game? If so what would it be? 

Does the Future Of Mobile Games Lie With Publishers?

Or do publishers lie about the future of mobile games?

Do we need a new type of mobile game publisher and is the age of DIY publishing dying out as the bigger boys enter the market place.

These and many other thoughts we have been running over in our minds here at the dojit offices. As mobile games have long been a free-for-all market, where there hasn’t been a single dominant force. It’s made the bar of entry low, creating as Gamasutra puts it “both schlock and ingenious innovations.”

But what’s the future hold? In an interview with Gamasutra former PopCap franchise manager Giordano Contestabile says that he believes they have the answer. Which shouldn’t surprise us as a month ago, Contestabile joined Tilting Point Media, a company which is “…investing $40 million in the next three years to fund the development and marketing of mobile and tablet games…”, according to their announcement.

final-logo

Their goals are to empower independent developers and make it easier for them to achieve commercial success. Which is great news for mobile games developers like dojit games or is it?

Contestabile starts out by referring to the fact that on iOS, “…75% of [mobile games] are made by independent developers.” Even big publishers, says Contestabile, like EA or Activision – who made huge investments on that market, only have about a 10% share of the market each. Again great news for independent games developers like dojit games – who are an independent studio like 83% of all studios in the UK that started up in 2011 and 2012 . Whilst 37 per cent of all UK studios are now primarily focused on mobile – up from 19 per cent in 2010.  For studios founded between 2011 and 2012, this figure rises to 53 per cent.

This means we are part of something really rather amazing, as Dr Richard Wilson, from TIGA says: “The UK games development sector is young, independent and mobile. Over half of the studios in the UK started up in the last four years. The overwhelming majority of the UK’s studios are independent: there are 34 publisher studios and 414 independent studios. Increasingly studios’ preferred platform for games is mobile and tablet: almost two-fifths of the UK studio population now primarily make games for these platforms.

“The attraction of the mobile and tablet market to UK developers is clear. The mobile and tablet market is substantial and growing: sales of smartphones are expected to hit 1 billion globally in 2013. There are few barriers to entry in the mobile and tablet market, the cost of game development on these platforms is relatively low and it is comparatively straightforward for developers to update game content.”

But the problem has been being found. It is about marketing your mobile game. As Contestabile puts it “…many indie developers with great ideas and skills but it’s going to become more difficult for them to succeed in mobile, because it’s starting to become an expensive proposition.”

Unlike a company like EA, Tilting Point won’t be developing their own games either, which Contestabile sees as an advantage. As he rightly believes that many indie developers might be skeptical of the big publishers’ desire to market indie games properly when they have their own products to market.

As Gamesutra comes on, even with the dawn of digital distribution and the internet, it can still be hard to get word out about your game, especially if you’re not well-versed in marketing. Which apparently many UK mobile games developers are not?

Although the interview may read a bit like an extended statement, Tilting Point seems to have their hearts in the right place. They seem to have understood that to succeed in the long run businesses must innovate or perish.

What do you think? Do games need marketing help by publishers? Or does a great game not need mobile marketing at all?

What game do we make next? The 64 million $ question.

What kind of game should a game developer make to give them a bigger chance of success? This is something we have been discussing in the dojit mobile game development offices. With a stable of games releases, a couple in the pipeline, and a lot of statistical analysis – is it possible to predict the future when it comes to mobile game development success?

If we look at information from App Annie then this month’s iOS platforms biggest mover was Imangi Studios, best known for producing the hit game Temple Run. On January 17, 2013, they launched the sequel, Temple Run 2, whose massive success helped the husband-and-wife team jump 34 spots to the #5 ranking in this month’s Index. Not bad for a running game – so perhaps running games are where it is at? Which is great news for our Dragon Dancer release.

However, on the other side of things, a company which has created no running games has had it’s sales continue to accelerate remarkably in January 2013. GungHo Online Entertainment  Janurary’s sales represented close to 30% of sales for all of 2012 and represented an increase of 1022% over the same month one year ago. And not bad if you only have 14 games released!

While GungHo might well also sell PC games and console games (e.g. PlayStation Vita, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS), its financial report – pegged its leading growth driver to be mobile apps sold on the iOS App Store and Google Play. Their January 2013 report called out the success of their hit game Puzzle & Dragons in particular. Remarkably, GungHo led the Top Publishers by Monthly Revenue rankings not only for the iOS App Store, but also for Google Play. So perhaps it is puzzles and platforms where we should align our creative efforts. Platform games with a puzzle element for a younger audience like our Home Bear Spring edition are doing very well in China – with more than 65% of our downloads coming from that region.

Yet should we really follower the lead of the leading game houses, isn’t doing so simply trying to play catch-up? Who would have guessed that the biggest selling and fastest growing games would be categories like “make you think” and “make you move”?

If we had been looking just at numbers then a few years ago, the top charts on Facebook, iOS, mixi and Tencent were largely resource management games. From managing farms to running cafes, a whole host of these games from hundreds of top publishers dominated casual gaming East and West. Now in the “make you think” category, the mobile games topping the charts include strategy games like Clash of Clans (Supercell) and Kingdoms of Camelot (Kabam), brain / puzzle / word games like Candy Crush Saga (King.com), Puzzle & Dragons (GungHo Online) and LINE POP (NHN). In the “make you move” category, we have many more twitch-based games such as Temple Run 2 (Imangi Studios), Subway Surfers (Kiloo) and Angry Birds (Rovio).

Meanwhile,to confound everything, Cha Cha Cha made its debut in this list as the #2 grossing game – a car crashing ‘make you move’ game. Which has been successful for a whole host of other (almost non game reasons) as CJ E&M explains “There are two main reasons Cha Cha Cha has become a top 10 gaming app on Google Play, both in terms of monthly revenue (#2) and monthly downloads (#9). First, it’s a really exciting game to play. There are many racing games, but we distinguished our game with a car-crashing feature that really resonated with our audience. Second, we focused monetization efforts on users in their 30s-50s. These users are less sensitive to trends than younger users, so they retain better. This demographic is also willing to spend money on games that suit them.” So perhaps our question shouldn’t be what type of game should we make – it’s more what type of person do we want to play it?

 

But do mobile game developers really choose their demographic based on life time value of the potential customer or more what is easier to get with social media marketing and what’s on trend right now? How did you pick your demographic? 

One game or many? The dangers of backing one horse…

With the Grand National just gone, here at dojit we have been thinking about betting and risk. Not betting and gambling, both huge growth areas for mobile phone games, but about how launching a mobile games development house is a bit of a risk. And how perhaps we could all think about this risk.

Is it more risking to launch one game i.e. back one winner based on lots of research in an ever changing market place or launch many, many mini games and learn from the mobile analytical data from each of them to create more success. The difference between one core concept, one narrative, which evolves with know-how and many different creative projects which teach us difference parts of the psychology of our demographic (or perhaps even our core demographic in the first place.)

There seems to be no solid answer to this and if you study the top publishers from Januaray 2013 you see that both tactics have brought success in iOS mobile game development. Companies like Supercell, creating masterful social games full of psychology and high end graphics, in app purchases and upgrades. Whilst companies like NHN and Gree going for the multi development strategy, however, you might be able to argue that the latter could be a symptom of them simply being around for longer and so having a bigger back catalogue.

Personally, I feel that the days of big development are gone. The problem is that the numbers do not back this feeling up presently. In fact, on iOS larger games seem to be doing very well with many of the top ten publishers producing less than 20 games in their entire history – something dojit games wanted to do in a year!


Top Publishers by Monthly Revenue iOS January 2013

Publisher Rank Change
vs. Dec 2012

Category

Headquarters

# of Apps

1

GungHo Online 4

Games

Japan

14

2

Supercell

Games

Finland

2

3

Electronic Arts 2

Games

USA

966

4

Gameloft 1

Games

France

261

5

GREE 1

Games

Japan

114

6

King.com 8

Games

UK

3

7

NHN 1

Various

South Korea

180

8

Kabam 1

Games

USA

8

9

Zynga 3

Games

USA

60

10

Apple 1

Various

USA

19

 

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?