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Don’t Be Another Mobile Game Company

// October 14th, 2011 // By LordBron // iDevBlogADay

What We Are

As we’re trying to get our first game out the door, I came to a realization. It was something that Smiley already knew and understood. I sorta understood it also, but semantically I was just a little bit off base. You see, this is how I saw ourselves:

An iOS game company pushing the boundaries of device interaction.

Which is cool and fine sounding. It pretty much explains what we’re thinking about the company – right now. It also covers what the company will be doing for the next few years. Then it hit me though, that really doesn’t explain us quite right. I thought about it and really, this is what we are:

A game company that leverages new ways of device interaction, which currently designs exclusively for iOS.

Note the subtle difference. They both say the same thing, but the latter is more closer to reality.

What We’re Not

This helps explain our lack of understanding for game devs who leverage their IP across many moblie platforms. It doesn’t make sense to us, because we ARE NOT a mobile game company. Our short-term goal is not to get our games on as many different mobile devices as we can. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s to make the best possible experience on one and only one platform: Apple’s iOS platform.

The long term goal, and the whole point of our company, is to create unique device interactions via games that should be fun to play. Hopefully though, we make you pause for just a second with a smile and say, “That’s pretty neat how they do that.” We hope to make something that will start off as foreign (because it’s new) feel completely natural (because it’s what we as humans expect).

From Apple’s Dictionary app, we get the following definition of “device”:

1 a thing made or adapted for a particular purpose, esp. a mechanical or electronic contrivance

2 a plan, scheme, or trick with a particular aim

3 a drawing or design

Definition 1 Explained

We have dreams, huge dreams, of how to push device and human interaction. These dreams include devices that fit in your hand to devices that you can ride in, all the way to devices that you can walk through that will change your perception of reality. We can’t afford to create all those things. Luckily, for us, Apple made the first ones which we adapted for our particular purpose. Apple does a great job at creating devices and the software stack that runs on them. They’re not quite where we want them to be just yet, but they’re getting there. They are also more aligned with our vision of the future than any other platform. That’s why we’re exclusively Apple, not because of market share, not because they’re the coolest kid on the block, but rather because they’re the only company we see out there that gets what we’re trying to do. Even if they weren’t the most popular mobile platform, we’d still choose them because it’s what they’re doing that’s important to us, not the fact that they merely exist and have the most customers.

Definition 2 Explained

Someday, we plan to make our own devices. It’s inevitable that we will have to. We figure that we can probably use Apple’s platform for about 5 to 10 years, to create the foundation of our company. After which time, we’ll have to create our own devices to execute our visions. Not the portable kind of devices, that’s not a space we want to get into since we can leverage Apple’s. But those other kinds we mentioned: the kind your ride on or walk through. We have a scheme to trick you with a particular aim: to suspend reality.

Definition 3 Explained

In high school, either right before I met Smiley or shortly thereafter, I made a drawing. It was a design for a cool device that would allow for all these amazing things to be experienced by the person in it. I sketched it out pretty quickly, then I thew the drawing away. It was in my head. I knew it would stay there for the rest of my life. Even if I had wanted to make it at the time, I couldn’t. Technology just wasn’t there yet. Coincidentally though, due to cutting edge prototypes and current trends, technology should be there about 5 to 10 years from now. What a coincidence because that’s about the time we figure we’ll be ready to implement that design from over 20 years ago.

What’s Wrong with Being a Mobile Game Company?

Nothing. Look at NGMOCO. They’re whole point was just mobile gaming and they made out like bandits! There are plenty of others to list as well. You can make a lot of money too, if you do mobile games well. I think it’s still up for debate on whether the cost of cross-platform adds to the bottom line or not. But for the sake of argument, let’s say it does make sense from a cost/profit perspective.

If all you want to do is make games and get those games into AS MANY hands as you possibly can: Good, great, go ahead and port your game from iOS to Droid, WinMo and Blackberry.

If all you want is to make some fat cash making games without a care as to which platform it runs on: Go make wads of cash by building for the most popular mobile platform there is.

If all you want is to make games that are stuck in your head for mobile devices because it’s the smallest barrier for distribution: Make and deploy like no one else can.

The point is this: Don’t just exist for the sake of existing. Find out what your goal is and base every single decision you make in your business support that goal. Otherwise, you’ll wind up several years down the road, wondering why you’re doing this or why you don’t feel like a success.

Dream Big or Go Home

Lastly, dream big. Don’t pay attention to the press. Don’t pay attention to market trends. Don’t pay attention to what’s hot in the App Store. Spend what little time you have between game making and enjoying life with friends/family doing one thing: Dreaming big. Life’s already full enough with other worries, you don’t need to add more things to worry about. Spend that time living in the future where your dreams are reality. Even if you only make it halfway to your dream, as long as it’s a big one, that will be a lot further and closer to happiness than you are today.

7 Responses to “Don’t Be Another Mobile Game Company”

  1. “It’s to make the best possible experience on one and only one platform: Apple’s iOS platform.”

    I’ve drawn the same conclusion. The cross-platform approach sounds great in theory, but in reality it’s a big burden for indie developers and small companies, even with today’s cross-platform APIs and game engines.

    I felt actually relieved and empowered when I decided for me and my projects to focus exclusively on Apple platforms (iOS & Mac). No compromises. It’s liberating!

    With that comes a drive to do something that stands out in one particular niche, rather than attempting to make something for everyone, everywhere, and never getting it anywhere close to where you would like it to be.

    • Phuong Vo says:

      But what if the product is already finished and you are happy with it. Wouldn’t it be smart to bring it over to another platform and to millions of potential players?

      • LordBron says:

        Negative on a few fronts.

        1. Any and all efforts spent on porting are stealing time away from your next upgrade to keep your current customers happy. And yes, I chose the word “stealing” on purpose. The harshness of the word conveys the fullness of my thoughts. I’m not just talking programming, but thinking, marketing efforts, support, etc. you owe it to your existing customers to spend all that energy on them, not try to chase down some new ones that may not even show up.

        2. In our case, we are basing all our games on very unique device interactions. These are so unique to the iOS platform, that it would be darn near impossible to port to other platforms.

        3. I don’t know how to put this nicely, so sorry if it comes off rude. It’s not aimed at you, but more the big studios who port to many platforms. I buy into a platform because I want to see it shine. I want the game makers on that platform to eek out every ounce of greatness from that platform. When you plan on porting or if you don’t maximize for the platform, you create a water downed experience. That’s not fair to your customers. They’re giving you money so you can give them the best you can, so try to give them that.

        I know what you’re thinking: “Look at Angry Birds.” I would agree. Yes, they’re making tons of money but look at their goal. They want an Angry Birds brand with toys, clothes and a full length animated movie. More power to them, but I can tell you for sure that those who play Angry Birds on the Playstation 3 will never buy anything from Rovio again, because the experience is THAT bad. They’re willing to sacrifice quality for reach. We’re not. Like the post says, you have to know what you want so you can behave accordingly.

        • Phuong Vo says:

          I agree with you 100% that porting takes a lot of time. And I’m glad your pointed out marketing effort, support, etc. Those things take time when you port to other platforms.

          I love making games the indie way but making money is nice and necessary for me to keep on making games so that’s why I’ve been thinking about ways to port my games to Android.

          What I love is reading all the great reviews on the App Store about my apps and I just want to read more great experiences that players are having on other platforms!

          • LordBron says:

            I think that’s fine, but you should probably weigh the options: Possibly get more praise and possibly get customers from porting? Or definitely keep earning MORE praise by your current customers when you deliver even more great updates, which they will then tell their friends about and earn you more sales.

            Too many times I find that people leave their happy fans to die on the vine. The makers of Pocket God have shown that by continuing to give great updates to an already great app, you can earn way more sales.

            Again, I’m not saying you can’t port to Android, but just make sure you’re doing it for the right reason. If it’s strictly in hopes of selling and making more money, they may not be the best approach. If you’re doing it because you want every mobile player to have a chance to play your game, then it makes sense, even if it doesn’t make money.

            Think about the long term goal and then act according to that. That’s all I’m really trying to say.

    • LordBron says:

      @Steffen I love this part of your reply: “With that comes a drive to do something that stands out in one particular niche, rather than attempting to make something for everyone, everywhere, and never getting it anywhere close to where you would like it to be.”

      I think you’re hit on a great point. We, as indies, need to stand out in ways the big boys cannot. One of the biggest is laser focus on a niche in which we can stand out. Let the big boys try to satisfy the 100s of millions. While they’re busy porting, cross-platform debugging, and drafting up an “all mobile ecosystem plan” to satisfy shareholders, we can focus on making insanely great games on one platform.

  2. [...] is released, we’ll have to start working on those custom devices that I also mentioned in the last post. Those will require a lot more work because it will be hardware as well as [...]

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