Why is it so hard to succeed in mobile? With an estimated 2.5 billion smartphone users, there’s no shortage of available players. However, like modern day entrepreneurs, the vast majority of mobile games ultimately fail at a financial level.
Freemium content has taken over, creating a challenge for any games that don’t fit in a free-to-play format. Monetization strategies are sensitive and unique to different genres and experiences, so copying a successful game’s format is far from guaranteed success.
Competition is Fierce
There are over five thousand new apps released on the App Store each day. Think about that for seventeen seconds... another app just came out. Attracting users is no longer an issue of monetary investment but of time investment.
There can only be so many apps that serve unique purposes. But the real issue at hand is the realistic use cases for different apps and games. Users can’t spend all day alternating between different immersive role-playing games or strategic world-building simulators.
How does your game stand up against the competition? If you’re building the next Flappy Bird or Crossy Road, your chance of gaining traction is higher, as the player doesn’t have to make a significant time commitment to enjoy core gameplay. With short play cycles, you can seamlessly integrate advertisements for revenue without the need for extensive development of microtransactions or in-app purchases.
However, when building a game with limited content that emphasizes short play cycles, you need to rely more on social traction. Be prepared to spend a lot of time marketing the game, even if you don’t spend a lot of time developing it. With a number of game engines and development tools to expedite the creation process, there’s no way to cut corners that won’t come back to bite you later on.
Currency is Key
The biggest challenge you’ll face is also the simplest: money. Most people don’t realize how big the biggest mobile game companies are and the resources they have at their disposal. Machine Zone, creator of Mobile Strike and Game of War, is worth an estimated $1 billion. Supercell, creator of Clash of Clans and Boom Beach , is worth almost $2.5 billion.
Mentioning Tencent is almost a cop-out, but their mobile gaming division is worth over $3 billion, which is a surprisingly small portion of their overall $16 billion valuation. When you take into consideration how little, say, a hundred thousand dollars is to them, exploring advertising and promotion ventures can feel like a lost cause. In addition to the financial challenges you face when competing for market attention, there are unpredictable legal cases to contend with.
Harness your Creativity
If it’s easy, odds are it’s already been done. There are several game development engines and tools that allow rapid development of applications by creators with limited technical experience. The reality is, some game mechanics are easier to develop than others, and content creators recognize the genres that require less overhead during development.
We will call your main challenges the three Cs: competition, currency, and creativity. To build and sustain a community for a financially successful mobile-centric product, you must keep these things in mind:
- Competition is Fierce: It’s not a matter of competing with one or two similar titles, but simply getting eyes on your game in the first place. With so many new titles coming out on a daily basis, you need to build anticipation and value word-of-mouth advertising to attract people directly to your title, instead of picking it out of a crowd.
- Currency is Key: Releasing a successful game is a costly affair. Be prepared to put in the hours for anything you can’t pay to achieve. Spending the majority of your budget on marketing isn’t unheard of, so if you’re a smaller team without proper time or community-building resources, be prepared to pay.
- Harness your Creativity: If you’re not building something innovative, you must have a good marketing team and community manager. It’s more challenging to sell something that could be seen as derivative. While designing unique mechanics and experiences is certainly more demanding than building a Mario clone, it will give your team something exclusive and attention-grabbing to share. If you’re a one-man team, creating something unique can lead to a more memorable brand, while promoting your game to a more receptive audience . Your audience will personally support you on top of buying a game they’re already interested in.