An Indie Future. The Next Generation.

7 years. That’s how long the current console cycle has lasted. It ended with the release of the Wii U by Nintendo on 18th November, 2012. As far as current console releases go, November seems to be the month that will be locked down by Sony and Microsoft. Even Nintendo, with the Wii and the Wii U, have targeted and achieved a November release. This is great news for everyone, as we all get to experience the latest and greatest Game Developers such as ourselves have to offer the gamers of the world.

As an Indie Developer, we here at dojit haven’t just been discussing the games that we know are releasing and the features that come with them. We have also been discussing what console would be a top of the list if we ever decided to develop games for a console as an Indie Developer. We’ve been looking at the hardware, and the processes that we would have to tackle in order to push a game on either device and we have come across some great news not only for us, but for all Indie developers. We have discovered that Sony have been reaching out to many Indie developers, and offering them aid in developing for the PS3 and the PS4. Sony have been concentrating massively on making sure they have a great and simple process for you to get your game on to their store.

We did discover something a bit saddening about Microsofts stance on Indie developers. A lot of developers are reporting that Microsoft are not reaching out to them, and are actively declining places on the Xbox Live Arcade simply because they will not allow an Indie developer to have a game published on the Xbox Live Arcade without a Publisher (such as EA, Activision being the most recognisable examples of Publishers in the games industry.) I personally wanted to find out more and decided to dig further to see what Microsoft are doing within the Indie Dev scene, and what Sony are doing within the scene.

Sony have been praised, as far as I have dug at least, for their efforts in courting Indie Developers in the hopes of seeing those developers release games on devices like the PSP, PSVita, PS3 and in the near future, the PS4. Multiple Indie Devs have let the media know that Sony have treated them well, and made it easy for them to get the games they develop on the Playstation Store. It has even been likened to “a chat in a coffee shop” which shows that Sony have been nothing but friendly to Indie Developers. With such hits as Minecraft and Journey, we can see why Sony are looking to help Indie Developers grow. If they are able to get an incredible Indie title on their devices, and make it exclusive and see it rake in millions, we could see Sony become a shining beacon in the land of Indie Development. Just take a look at this bit of information from Brian Provinciano who is the creator of the old-school parody game Retro City Rampage.

Sony’s been incredibly supportive and promoted the game very well,” said Provinciano. “It’s received a generous amount of promotion at no cost to me, from advertisements on the PS Store to events such as E3 and even having it playable on kiosks at every Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, Target and Future Shop across North America.” You would agree that this is fantastic news for Indie Developers.

Brian Provinciano also said, “Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected this to happen,” .

Now we travel into darker waters. Here the inhabitants aren’t all that friendly and are looking to make your Indie release a nightmare. Welcome to the Microsoft Publishing Process. It wasn’t always this way though. In fact it was Microsoft that brought Indie Developers to the front. They decided to create a playground for them, where they could publish games to us Xbox users and reap the rewards of a large user base  Microsoft helped by constantly advertising these great, fun, little games that cost a quarter or and eighth of the price of your average game sold at retail. It became so popular that Microsoft ran sales and even dedicated a season to the Xbox Live Arcade titles called Summer of Arcade.

Fast forward to the current day Microsoft. The Microsoft that, as told by Brian Provinciano, is a nightmare for Indie Devs to work with. He says that Microsoft cut his game off at the last hurdle after he voiced his opinion about the process and how inefficient it was. He was then forced to resubmit his game which involved going through a long approvals process and go through an extra six months of talks and negotiations which required him to have to submit the game through an outside publisher, or he wouldn’t see his game released. To top it all off, Microsoft then accidentally priced the game at $10 instead of the $15 Brian Provinciano had asked for. He lost out on 1/3rd of the money from the mistake, which we do not know if Microsoft reimbursed him.

You will notice that I have included two talks from Brian. Look at his opinion on Sony and its process, then look at his opinion on Microsofts process. We can see the clear winner here. As a small developer ourselves, we would be looking to see which console could provide us with the ease of development and the ability to publish a game without jumping through numerous hoops. Not only do Sony allow us both of these things, but they go the extra mile to bag themselves an Indie Developer.

There’s also Nintendo with the Wii U. We know that they have been struggling with sales, and to try and counter this they have been courting Indies in the same way Sony have. Nintendo, who were once very hard to work with, are now lessening the strictness of the rules they usually place down when working with Indie Developers. A well known one is that the Indie Developer had to have an office space, but now garage developers who work from the living room are finding their footing when developing for the Wii U. They also offer Indie developers freedom over pricing, release dates and content approval, just like Sony is. We may not see a hit like Minecraft or Journey, but we might definitely see a wave of Indie titles hit the shores of the Wii U very soon.

It would appear that Microsoft have yet to realise that they are no longer the easiest route, or the most illustrious place for Indies to publish. Sony have capitalised on Microsofts failure to keeps Indies happy and now look to be a dominant force when it comes to smaller titles in the next generation. It seems to be a role reversal between Sony and Microsoft, with Nintendo now showing that the doors are open for Indies as well.

I think I can safely say that if we at dojit were ever looking to break into the console market and release games like Home Bear or Soccer Zillionaire, we would chose Sony as the console we would publish on. Nintendo still have some cover more ground to catch up to Sony. Microsoft need to step up their game, and try to recapture what they had only a few years ago. I leave you with a question.

Which console would you publish your game on and why?

Freedom’s / Freemium under threat. A nation divided.

Isn’t life hard enough for advanced digital manufactures’ already? For those companies making a difference, creating new pockets of innovation and making money for the country. Those “creatives” who act with decency and want to be getting a fair day’s wage for the work they have done. People working in industries like films, games and digital.

Yet, it is amazing how a few bad eggs might ruin the whole industry for us. At dojit games we make games for children, puzzle platform games like Home Bear, educational sports strategy games like Soccer Zillionare, and more arcade health knowledge based games like Totally Milkshake. These games, like most things physical in the world cost money to make. They take time. They take creative energy. They exist not in a vacuum but in a commercial reality – one with the potential to make the country millions of pounds in new revenue. Our mobile gaming expertise could be one of the UK greatest natural and exportable resources, up there with film and TV….

But now the government with the OFT has decided due to a tiny minority that the whole industry should be investigated and more importantly portrayed in a less than positive light. So the OFT in their investigation are looking into whether the full cost of mobile games is made clear when they are downloaded or accessed, as according to them this lack of information could potentially lead children and parents to make decisions they may not have made if prices were more transparently advertised at the start of the purchasing process.

This is surely not possible – isn’t it the same as warning – “this catalogue is free but if you like the fashion brand in there, so you might spend a small fortune over your lifetime?” Should the “Next catalogue” be banned? Or should we punish websites, or mobile phone games or mobile phone apps which are made well with warnings for customers about eye catching designs and engaging ideas as they would be even better at enticing people into spending their money! This is simple madness.

However, we at dojit applaud any action which highlights the dangers of rogue mobile game developers who charge huge individual payments for items – to mainly exploit the weak – and we dislike mobile phone games which you cannot complete without purchases, and we make games you can complete without payment, but we cannot abide this attack on the mobile game development industry as a whole. Apple has already introduced an app warning for parents on iTunes for apps which makes it abundantly clear whether a free app on its store does or does not contain in-app purchases. Yet this is NOT enough for the OFT surely any more regulation would be like needing a sticker on your credit card saying: “Do not give access to your finances to your children – as this card along with the pin number might mean bad things might happen”

Yet this is what might happen to our little industry – we might be regulated out of existence due to people like Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Senior Director for Goods and Consumer, who justifies this intrusion by saying:

We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs.“

Playing games which they thought were free? Who does he think pays for them? The most worring thing is the thinking or non thinking this idea creates – proven by how last week when, I was chatting to a friend who doesn’t work in the mobile game industry, they happily told me that “all these free apps are cons!” I kid you not. When I asked they thought free apps paid for themselves – they had no answers. Yet they happily used Google with its PPC!

So giving away your data for free to a global colossus on a daily basis is apparently alright (look at Facebook) but to purchase something in a game is not. My concern is that to attack industries for new business models is dangerous for innovation. This kind of thinking will stop people wanting to create great mobile phone games, it will stop young people getting jobs, and it will stop an industry growing in the UK, a country where we really need advanced digital manufacturing like this to take off.

A nation divided between the understandings that “if you don’t pay for the product – you probably are the product.”

Zynga Mobile – is this the next level of publisher?

As Jeffrey Grubb reports and recognises… “It’s hard to break through to gamers on mobile platforms. Thousands of games crowd the market, and it can cost a lot for an independent studio to acquire players.” Gee thanks for that… 😉

Not surprisingly, we have found this to be true, especially in new markets, like nonviolent educational mobile games for children like our Home Bear, which we have re-released in a free format to celebrate spring in the UK.

Perhaps some of the big boys have the answer. A couple of HUGE players are becoming publishers with very deep pockets (Tilt has apparently $40 million) to help the economy / game development community. Facebook is moving into helping push apps, and therefore games, onto android handsets with their Home screen ideas, and last year, Zynga introduced a third-party publishing platform in an attempt to directly address these issues.

Basically, smaller game development companies like Dojit, can build games and work with Zynga on monetization and marketing. Now, the company is looking to double-down on mobile publishing with new partners and better games.

On the mobile publishing side, we’ve really been taking a curated approach to working with the best developers to bring into our network,” Zynga vice president of mobile publishing told GamesBeat. Over the last 12 months, Zynga has worked with third-parties to launch games like Horn, Clay Jam, and Respawnables on iOS and Android.

Those games all had very successful launches and were very well received critically,” said Jones. Clay Jam, a casual physics game from developer Fat Pebble, has over one million downloads on Android alone. However, the BIG one is coming as Zynga is currently working with Inis, the studio that developed Elite Beat Agents for the Nintendo DS in 2006. The developer is working on a tower-offense title called Eden To Green that features detailed 3D visuals and turn-based gameplay.

We’re excited about Eden to Green,” said Jones. “It’s the first partner that encapsulates every step that we’re trying to do in mobile publishing, which is to make high-quality free-to-play social games. Inis is hitting every pillar that we look for in a company.”

Inis worked hand-in-hand with Zynga on every aspect of the project. The mobile game developer had a basic design concept, but Zynga was always providing feedback to help maximize its free-to-play model. In return, Zynga is rewarding Inis with a major cross-game promotional campaign to drive players to the title, which is out now in Canada. The companies are preparing to launch globally soon.

Beyond Eden to Green, Zynga also has a handful of other “high end” partners in its pocket that it is waiting to announce.

We want to marry our expertise with the best game developers in the world,” said Jones. “It could be simple 2D or complex 3D games, but if they’re free-to-play and social, I want to see them. I want to work with those mobile game developers and bring them into our network. We don’t want to put ourselves in a box.”

What we are interested at here at dojit, as we make clever, fun, free mobile games, is how are they bringing this knowledge across?

Is it an analytical system? And then how is the IP all sorted out? Who really owns the brand and the rights? And how much do independents with good ideas really need them to publish their ideas? It seems a little like a Warner Brothers working with writers even before they right the novel – and I only shudder to think what happens creatively and to the industry when this happens.

But maybe that’s just me. What do you think? Would Zynga’s guiding hand help your mobile games develop? 

Freemium or premium? That is the question…or is it?

Mobile games for many years have been simply pastimes which came free on your mobile phone. Back in the day of WAP and Nokia, games like snake etc, where very basic graphically poor (rich in their environment) games came free with your phone. And so they were amazingly successful. The same is said for the most successful computer games every (by game play) which was and is solitaire. A game played by bored office workers the world over.

Smart phones have changed all this and created a multi-billion dollar industry from practically nothing from 5 years ago. Many developers didn’t notice the change, but others made games that were social from their very beginning. Games that went viral, games people shared, games people had to share in order for them to enjoy them fully. This social factor, was built into the very DNA of the companies.

Now the understanding that social is all is also being questioned with many giants of this space, Zygna etc, starting to find that Facebook has a saturation point. And not only that but that the freemium model which many modern mobile games developers take almost as THE given route to market may not be the only way to move the industry forward. That being said , for iOS, freemium provides 65% of top 100 most profitable applications and research shows that approximately half of total mobile gamers download only free games (Mintel, 2012). So the past thinking was simple, create social games, make them free, playable through Facebook and on mobile devices, on which people can buy in app purchases to either save time or become more (status wise.)

However, the issue was / is prolonging freemium customer playtimes. As this is not a simple task to achieve as freemium users tend to switch the games fairly often given that any new games are relatively easy to acquire. Unlike those dedicated premium mobile games produced by console – based developers where the gamers have to pay the price in order to download, freemium gamers do not need to give in any tangible value in return for their everyday freemium games hence will switch the game instantly right when they experience boredom.

Yet, for some social games, the hook is in the social nature of the game, the emotional connection, the very first premise, the ease of understanding and then the platform itself. But it is NOT the same for all platforms as the mobile – game spending pattern between Apple and Android users are completely different. Apple users are more likely to purchase premium games, while Android users are more likely to purchase virtual goods inside the freemium games, for example in-game currency and items that alter character competency or appearance (Guo & Barnes, 2007).

So perhaps it is the combination of Android handsets mass penetration (up some 20% year on year from 2011) along with the fact that Android user is more likely to undergo micro-transaction to enhance their mobile gaming experience, means that developing freemium games on the Android platform might be the optimal pathway for all mobile game developers.

The popularity of ‘Android – Freemium’ combination has attracted game developer to shift focus toward free-to-play business model as evident by the recent decision from ‘FishLabs Entertainment’, a high profile Germany-based developer, to import its masterpiece – premium Galaxy on Fire from iOS to Android as a freemium game.

Interestingly, even in the none game world, like WhatsApp Messenger, which has traditionally always monetized through a $0.99 paid download, adopted a freemium subscription model with its newer Google Play version launched a year ago, where a $0.99 per year subscription kicks in after the first free year has passed.

Could the same be done for our iOS games like Home Bear and SoccerZillionaire – which we have converted into a free mobile download game for a while to celebrate spring in April in the UK. Could bringing these mobile titles into “freemium” for a month with an upgrade afterwards make sense and make us money?

What do you think? What kind of changes are you making to your games?

 

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.

Soccer Zillionaire receives rave reviews

Soccer Zillionaire is proving a huge hit with fans and is already received mass appeal on both the app store and on google play.

The brand new game from Dojit has only be available less than a week and already has received many downloads and plenty of positive feedback.  The soccer game, which is an ingenius mix of soccer and board games, is so far getting plenty of five star reviews on both google play and the app store.

LeftMidfielder5The game has been described as enjoyable, challenging and even a game changer by those who have reviewed it.

Soccer Zillionaire is currently free to download on both the app store and on google play.

For more information on Soccer Zillionaire and insightful posts about everything football follow @soczillionaire on twitter.

Soccer Zillionaire and Home Bear available for free

It’s March Madness here at Dojit Games as we are offering two exciting games, Home Bear classic and the brand new Soccer Zillionaire for free to all android devices throughout the month of March.

Download soccer zillionaire and manage a team to glory against your friends in this thrilling hybrid of sport and board game and download Home Bear classic and help cuddly Home Bear find his way back home, both for free this month only.

Dojit aim to offer fun and exciting gameplay for all ages on a range of tablet and mobile devices and this offer again shows our determination and desire to provide such gameplay for an entire generation of people.

We urge you to take advantage of this exciting offer and enjoy everything that our games provide.

For more information on both games make sure to follow @Soczillionaire and @homebeargame on twitter.

Soccer Zillionaire available for download

Dojit are proud to announce that anticipated family fun game Soccer Zillionaire has been released on google play and on the app store. Combined with a brand new eye-catching logo the hybrid of sports and board games is finally be available for download and enjoyed by soccer and board game fans of all ages.

Soccer Zillionaire gives players the chance to play a challenging single player mode or with friends to battle it out to determine who is the ultimate manager.

Players can decide which team to manage from a selection of four diverse teams before transferring in and out a a range of world class players, each with their own positives and negatives, stats and descriptions. Climb your way to the top of the league and play in dramatic, nail biting shoot-outs to become the ultimate soccer zillionaire.soccerzillionaire

The game promises a fun, thrilling experience for all ages with colourful graphics and a simple user interface. If your a fan of soccer, or even if your not, Soccer Zillionaire provides excitement every time with every game being uniquely different.

For more information on Soccer Zillionaire follow us on twitter at @SocZillionaire