Mobile developers are absolutely awful at actually being mobile

Mobile developers are absolutely awful at actually being mobile
Stephen Morris is the technical director at Greenfly Studios, an independent games developer based in the UK.

At this very moment you can pretty much guarantee that, somewhere on this planet, there's a developer sat hunched towards their computer busily crafting their next game.

Said developer is probably fueled by thoughts of achieving an Angry Birds level of success and financial independence. Closed off to the world, they are surrounded by crumpled, empty crisp packets and a piling collection of energy drinks.

People can be heard frolicking outside, the glorious sunshine adding to their merriment. Loved ones call out to the developer to come join them - "Just give me a minute!" is often the curt reply. It's then typically followed by a 10, 15, 40 minute wait until the developer appears, blinking in the outside warmth.

"Oh, you've missed all the fun, we're heading back in now." Another potential memory missed.

10 July 2008 saw the introduction of a digital distribution platform that would forever change the way we work and play, but the impact of the App Store hasn't been entirely positive.

The next big thing?

Following its success, a rush of other stores appeared on the scene, each one intent on finding their respective niches: Google Play, Windows Phone Store, BlackBerry App World, Nintendo eShop and PlayStation Store.

The demand for content was (and remains) insatiable, with an estimated 900,000 apps available on the App Store alone.

Finally, portable gaming became a truly massmarket proposition. For 69p or 99c, a global audience could throw angry poultry at sickened pigs or bounce forever upwards in search for the next high score.

The relatively low entrance fee – a $99 Apple Developer fee - and tales of one or two person teams rising out of nowhere to top the paid charts enticed others to join the party.

But how many of us actually had a good time at this shindig? Data – albeit a little old now – released by Owen Goss of Streaming Colour fame suggested developers were only earning $3,000 per app, if that.

The clock's ticking

A lot of hours go into making a game, and that's simply time that can't be recovered.

It's all too easy to forget that, while focusing on making your game a success, life is happening outside of the four walls surrounding your office. Ironically, the portable nature of mobile games doesn't always extend to the developer who is chained to a desk.

As a business owner, you are always wearing more than one hat. At one point, you may don the technical hat and focus on the programming, at another, it's time to get creative with business negotiations.

In a previous article, fellow Full Indie UK member Byron made a case about using external help to provide expert advice.

Accountants could recover funds in ways you would have never known possible, publicists can guide your every step in the public eye and give your game the best possible chance at being spotted amongst the chaos.

These are great from a financial perspective, but developers also need to consider that such advice also helps you free up the most important commodity ar your disposal: time.

Many people claims that such time can be spent on making their games even better, but is further chaining yourself to the desk the ideal way to serve up that extra polish?

I'd like to suggest an alternative: use it to appreciate, and experience, life.

Time to fly

Colin and Sarah Northway have just released Incredipede on the App Store.

Earning an IGF Finalist nomination is certainly impressive, but what is more so is that they developed the game while touring the world. Their office were the beaches of Mexico, a cafe in Vienna or the rainforests in the Philippines.
Incredipede was a direct result of the couple's travels, and this unique game probably wouldn't have been made if not for their decision to uproot themselves and experience the world.

On a similar note, I met Rami Ismail (one-half of Vlambeer and responsible for titles like Super Crate Box and the Apple Design Award-winning Ridiculous Fishing) at E3 in Los Angeles. It was the first time I had traveled internationally to represent Greenfly Studios.

He joked that he spent more time abroad than he did at the studio's office in the Netherlands - it's true, here's the website. It was fascinating to see the impact traveling to international events can have, both as an general experience but also when it comes to making connections.

Although both the Northway's and Rami are exceptions to the rule, they underline the freedom of self-publishing and today's mobile nature.

Yes, you need to finish the game but relish the opportunity afforded to us, Take the time to push free from the shackles and go outside. Play with your child and spend time with your loved ones.

Do something amazing. It's not just the destination that matters, it's the journey as well.


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Martin Finch
great article. reminds me of me. I definitely need to relax more.
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