So What's the Fuss?
Here's the fuss- until the emergence of the mobile device as a seriously profitable market channel, it has been a relatively easy-bake cake walk for large publishers/developers to focus their publishing efforts targeting a moderately reliable target demographic for AAA game titles. With the continued increase of the quality and quantity of mobile apps, these gamers are splitting their game expenditure into the mobile medium. Consumer power has influenced an industry into a 'who moved my cheese?' scramble to re-strategize their business model.
This fevered gold rush has cast a looming fog-of-war over how the mobile game industry may evolve, while indie studios (with little to no overhead) have been eating into this industry's billion dollar pie at an alarming velocity. The days where you could feed piles of cash into the standard 'media blitz' conveyor belt expecting a cash cow popping out the other end are shuffling towards pasture, and it's these small companies that are finding cost efficient and innovative ways to capitalize on and capture emerging mobile game markets. Some of the underlying causes are undeniable and noticeably visible.
As is the usual norm in gaming, always pay attention to the youngsters. When they're inconsolably fidgety, parents are often handing them tablets and smartphones to pacify them. Parents suffering the need for a few moments of uninterrupted adult time, this is becoming their go-to.
Would I ever hand my several-hundred-dollar mobile office/entertainment platform to a toddler? Hells to the no- but then again, I don't have any kids.
Connie and James Bossert of Fairlady Media, a local iOS developer, have monetized their business model around such observations by specializing in educational games for younger children. Want to know their secret weapon? They're breaking the law (child labor laws to be exact) by putting their toddler to work as their quality assurance guru. This married couple focuses the design of their games to be intellectually stimulating for young children while remaining engaging and entertaining.
For larger companies, Disney Mobile (owned by Disney Studios) has glimmered as a beacon in how to re-monetize market strategies by growing horizontally. Triangle developer Imangi Studios recently teamed up with Disney Mobile to adapt Imangi's 2011 hit Temple Run to Temple Run: Brave in support of the movie's release- was it successful? The game has been in the top five paid apps for Google Play and iTunes since its June 21rst release.
On the other end of the age spectrum, the intuitive controls for game apps on mobile devices are helping to woo an older crowd back into contemporary game culture. My father played the original Nintendo ( usually Dragon's Quest) with me growing up in the 80s and early 90s. As consoles progressed, so did the learning curve with the addition of input controls (buttons). If I were to put a current-gen controller in his hands now, I would need a hazmat suit to protect against the gray matter from his exploding cranium.
Mobile gaming has lowered this barrier-to-entry by simplifying immersion with very basic, intuitive control schemes. In a sense, user input is coming full circle- from two buttons ? thirteen buttons ? NO buttons. Quite the Zen transcendence for gaming. Now, my father always has a new Android game he wants to tell ME about.
If you had asked a company like EA, Ubisoft, or Activision to publish a game that targets the �soccer mom� demographic three years ago, I would bet my Android you were laughed out of the conference room. Now, development houses have been steadily and increasingly sliding chunks of their cash flow into mobile investment. In fact, speculation surrounds whether local juggernaut Epic Games may be positioning themselves to become a full blown mobile developer. This speculation is mostly based on a bulky share acquisition from Tencent (a premiere internet service provider in china with patents in gaming tech) with the potential of iOS devices joining China Mobile's network of 650 million+ subscribers looming on the horizon.
Oh, and not to forget, there's also that whole Infinity Blade franchise thing.
Never before has there been a gaming medium that has such a breadth and depth of market coverage, ease of immersion, minimized investment costs, or ease and speed of discovery and purchase. In terms of market shift, what does it all mean? More importantly, why does it matter to the Triangle?
In a nutshell we seem to be emulating the early cluster of professional entities that spawned the industry boom on the west coast, though the focus here is on mobile. The Triangle has become a collective resource of independent game developers amongst the footsteps of larger console developers, and has been growing into its current state for years now.
Now other kids are coming to our backyard, asking if they can play too. In recent months, we've seen an influx of quality small developers like Imangi Studios, Foursaken Media, 519 Games, and Mighty Rabbit Studios just to name a few. And back in July, we saw the formation of BitMonster, new local mobile developer with tremendous potential comprised of industry veterans deep in the Epic talent pool with their first title backed by Epic's marketing and PR squad.
However this industry's shake, rattle, and roll may affect your personal gaming flavor, things are really getting exciting in the neighborhood- and we're about to build one hell of a playground.