Mobile Mavens

War report: The Mobile Gaming Mavens on Great Big War Game's Windows woe

War report: The Mobile Gaming Mavens on Great Big War Game's Windows woe

The Mobile Mavens is our panel of experts drawn from all sectors of the mobile gaming industry.

Last week saw Great Big War Game developer Rubicon take to its blog to complain about the game bringing in just £52 a week on the Windows Store for Windows RT.

The problem with take up, the studio claimed, lay with the fact Microsoft had refused to feature the game. Microsoft's reason was that the game is only available on RT, rather than Windows 8. Microsoft is looking to present a unified storefront, so is only looking to promote universal apps.

Though studio owner Paul Johnson denies it, many developers reacted to his blog post, suggesting he was purveying a sense of entitlement, and that he has no right to expect his game to be featured on every marketplace it launches on.

So, we asked the Mavens:

How much responsibility should a platform holder hold for insuring quality games on its marketplace are discovered by consumers? Is getting featured still as crucial as it use to be, and what contingency plans can a developer put in place to ensure it isn't the be all and end all?


Oscar Clark Author, Consultant and Independent Developer Rocket Lolly Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

It's the job of every developer to push as hard for its content as it can, but it's not the job of the platform holder to necessarily respond. The customer has to come first and his or her experience is paramount.

That being said, I think that the platform holder ignores the developer's interests at their peril. In this case, it seems to me that Rubicon could have acted less negatively than it did and that might have won it a bit more goodwill.

On the other hand, I suspect that this has forced Microsoft's store team to rethink how to handle Windows RT content, which - lets be honest - was necessary.

To me it's all a bit of an unnecessary kerfuffle that leaves everyone looking a bit damaged - sad really.

Thomas Nielsen Osao Games

Kerfuffle. Not a word I use enough, thanks Oscar!

If you make £52 a week and you think you should be making more, you've either misjudged your product, your model for distribution/monetisation, or your target platform. You're basically not doing your job very well.

Lashing out to platform holders for not featuring your product is ridiculous – if they are not featuring it, you have not made a case compelling enough for them to feature you.

I am not blind to the importance of features, but the perceived notion that success is determined by platform holders is so 2005. Yes, that's when you could buy a content aggregator a fine lunch, and get featured.

Fortunately there are other options today, and if you're smart, you can get platform holders to carry you even further. Stop whining.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

Here's another word. Poppycock.

To think that Microsoft or any platform holder has an obligation to feature any game is pure unadulterated poppycock.

And let's be clear on all this: Rubicon knows why its game wasn't featured - because it's not a universal app.

All platform holders have criteria that that use in order to determine which apps get featured. Typically, if a new piece of hardware, or new feature in the OS comes out, they will go out of their way to feature apps that take advantage of these key new components.

As an app developer, if you are serious about having your app featured, it's your duty to figure out what's important to the platform holder and make your app as attractive as possible to these decision makers. Even then, you are not guaranteed a promotion.

This is a long term game that we are in and there are a limited number of platforms you can sell your games on. It's not good to burn bridges just because you didn't get featured. It's appropriate to ask why you didn't get featured, make an update to your app and try to get featured on the second round.

Also, especially with Windows RT, I think there is cause to adopt realistic expectations with some platforms. The new Windows is really new - £52 might very well be an average take for an app right now.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

I couldn't agree more with what Dave and Thomas have already said.

If your entire business plan for your app is based on the app store doing your marketing for you, then I'm afraid you deserve the failure that will most likely be your reward.

It's been the same since the days of Java games - there is simply too much content being launched every day for any kind of storefront or deck to showcase anything except the fortunate and clever few.

That said, I do have some degree of sympathy with Rubicon.

We don't know if, in encouraging them to develop a Windows version of their app, there were suggestions that the app would be featured.

Certainly, people involved with the launch of Windows 8 - and there are a few amongst the Mavens - were extremely bullish about the prospects for the store and for new devices; maybe the heady euphoria suffered as a result of all the hype meant people got a bit carried away.

And in terms of contingency plans? Plan for failure and hope for success. Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups.

Keith Andrew With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

As I understand it, Microsoft has always been pretty clear that RT-only apps won't be pushed, so if it coaxed Rubicon into thinking that wasn't the case, then that would be pretty bad practice.

I believe Rubicon launched on Windows RT of its own accord - at least that's what Johnson suggested to me in an interview.

The reason the game is RT only in the first place, however, is because Rubicon signed over the PC rights for Great Big War Game to another party, who will be launching it on the Windows 8 version of the store at a later date.

This does raise the question, however, of whether other apps might fall into this trap, and might need to separate the Windows 8 Store from the rest of the PC market when signing deals with publishers.

Or, indeed, whether Microsoft needs to feature RT-only apps in a dedicated section.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

That's just unfortunate deal making.

No one can see the future roadmap of these platforms and at the time I expect it would be reasonable to think that a PC license would never collide with Windows' mobile or tablet ventures.

It's not the first or last time something like has happened or will happen. Rubicon just happened to lose this round of licensing lottery. Luckily these specific platforms are not very high stakes at this time.

Actually, after thinking about it, Rubicon has screwed up any chance that the Windows 8 version will be featured as well.

It would probably make more sense to pull the RT version - since it's not making a lot of revenue - and give it to Rubicon's licensing partner so that version has more of a chance at success.

Scott Foe Chief Product Officer Ignited Artists

Are you sure it's not Great Big Whaaaaaaaa Game?

Oscar Clark Author, Consultant and Independent Developer Rocket Lolly Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

I think its important to consider why you are working with any new platform.

Expecting a restrictive version (i.e. an RT only package) to make huge pockets of cash immediately on a new platform is a little naive. Not least as its not playing to the strengths of Microsoft's store.

The better reason to do it is for the PR value it gives you, and the early access and good will you get if the platform takes off. And that takes long-term thinking.

Instead, with Rubicon telling the world about its poor revenues during what is obviously an incubation period for the RT platform is a really short-sighted approach. I didn't know about the licensing issues, but I don't care - that's ultimately something Rubicon was in control of and its not the platform holder's fault.

But I also can't help seeing the other side too and, of course, this does highlight the risk that Microsoft took by not making the RT platform entirely compatible with the PRO version of Windows 8.

I believe its a great move to support ARM, and have no doubt the issues of making ARM and Intel versions compatible is an enormous issue.

But, again, as a consumer I don't care. I need to buy a Window's machine and be able to trust that the software I buy will just work. That's what the brand means to me.[/people]

Keith Andrew With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

I think that's what Microsoft did do, though.

I think it was especially wary of going down the Android route of letting all apps appear to all people, only for them not to run when downloaded. The Windows Store appears to come with two layers of protection.

Search for Great Big War Game on a Windows 8 machine, for example, and it just won't appear. Likewise, the Windows 8-specific apps won't show up on a Windows RT unit.

For the time being - as in, for as long as Windows 8 games don't receive massive amounts of exposure in the press - the consumer is none the wiser about what apps they may or may not be missing out on.

The Store is presented as a unified marketplace, but it only shows apps that will run on their machine.

The second level is aimed at Windows 8 units. Having put Windows 8 on my rather underpowered notebook, I've since encountered one or two apps that, when I click on the download button, inform me that my hardware isn't powerful enough to run it.

While frustrating at the time, I think that's a better strategy than letting me download it before it runs my notebook into the ground. It's not perfect, but I can see the logic in it - and, likewise, the reason why Microsoft wouldn't want to push Windows RT specific games.

The moment you start seeing "Available on Windows 8 Store" or "Available on Windows RT Store and Windows 8 Store" buttons start popping up, then the whole marketplace will look too confusing for the majority of folk.

I agree with Oscar, though, that it's not perfect, and ultimately we'll have to see whether consumers get pissed off. Actually, the perverse fact is, this is only likely to become an issue if both versions of the Surface - and other Windows tablets - take off to iPad levels in the years ahead.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.


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Rubicon Development
And.... rest.
Rubicon Development
Yeah, it's not been that hard at all to get to WP8 from RT. Which does make me wonder why they're not going to be fully cross compatible with one or the other. Surely this time it can't be just me! :)

Fresh news just in....
Keith Andrew
I think the idea is that it's very easy to port across to WP8. They've never been the same OS, though.
Chris Newman
I will echo the confusion over Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. We were some way through development process before we realised that what we were doing would not run on phones. This was after we connected with Microsoft at an event aimed specifically at *mobile* developers with a presentation that encouraged us to "write once, deploy anywhere".
Dave Mitchell Founder at Two Tails
I think from a consumer perspective, the whole Windows 8 Intel vs Windows RT ARM thing can be confusing. Intel vs ARM, what does that really mean to a consumer who isn't technically minded?

Unfortunately to combat that problem I think Microsoft's only solution is to present the platform universally, which they are obviously doing. So customers can still expect to get the same experience no matter whether they have a Windows ARM device or a Windows Intel device, although "legacy" apps won't run on the ARM devices.

This is a good strategy but unfortunately it means they need to encourage developers to support both ARM and Intel platforms.
Rubicon Development
Well hindsight is always 20:20. As I said, we had to make decisions here before most of this info was known, but that's our problem.

Should've done more research? Apparently, but when enquiring about something else and MS offer you a chance to be the first app on their new store, tell me some other tiny developer who wouldn't just shout YES right there on the phone.

There is still an issue here that a custom written game for surface doesn't even qualify for a spotlight on the surface due to infrastructure, whether it's our game or anyone elses - and I know of several, it ain't just us. But I'm willing to concede that there is only one person on the internet who finds that kinda odd, and maybe it's time to shut up about it and just watch how things develop.
Keith Andrew

You're losing me now. Windows RT was only ever for ARM devices. If you thought that it was going to launch on Intel tablets, then...well, I don't know where you got that from. Microsoft was never anything but open about what forms of hardware would run what OS.

It seems to me as if you entered into this new Windows marketplace without proper researching how it works - although, that really would have taken 5 minutes. RT was only ever for ARM devices, and it was always - always - known that the Surface Pro units, launching in January, would run Windows 8. Not RT.

If this took you by surprise - as your comments suggest it seems to - then you only have yourselves to blame.

Secondly, RT is not stillborn. Indeed, as well as Microsoft's cheaper Surface units, RT is also launching on cheaper tablets from other OEMs.

The mistake you're making is to think of Windows 8 and RT as different platforms. They're not. You keep insisting Microsoft won't promote RT games on its Store for RT devices, but that's not true. They won't promote RT *only* apps. They want developers to launch RT and Windows 8 versions of their apps so, by and large, the two marketplaces are identical.

It's fair enough if that strategy pisses you off - I'm sure you won't be the only one - but misrepresenting the issue really doesn't do your case any favours.
Rubicon Development
And please don't forget here that we had to make decisions when all of this was still Betas and Prototypes. We naturally thought that RT would be a special, stripped down version of Windows 8 designed to run on tablets. Which included the Intel machines we heard were coming, but still nicely side-stepped any potential conflicts with our PC publisher.

I believed all this right up until a few days ago when a Windows 8 tablet was announced. So my questions now is, why does RT exist at all if it's not the "microsoft tablet o/s" with its own tablet app shop.

We also thought, wrongly, that this would be the OS going into WP8 so that tablet and phone apps would be cross compatible. I'm still not sure why this isn't true and I hope nobody is going to one star our stuff because they expect it to run on both their phone and tablet without paying again, like iOS and Android customers do.
Rubicon Development

>> "There'd be some Windows 8 games but they won't run." - That's simply not true, and does make me question whether you've actually played with the device your game runs on."

I meant in theory. They're hidden so you end up with nothing being showcased at all.

>> "But this isn't a case of caring whether there's a "PC version as well". Windows 8 and Windows RT are both tablet operating systems, and however different the mechanics of them are from a developer perspective, for consumers, they are essentially one and the same platform."

But they're not though are they. This isn't just semantics, they are completely different devices entirely, with different hardware and different software. You said so yourself taking me to task above. One will not run the others games. Just how different do these things have to be before the emperor can put his clothes back on?!

If customers are being led to believe anything different, then there's gonna be a shedload of angry people about real soon.

Lets just take a step back here. Microsoft will not put a showcase for RT games onto their own RT tablet, unlike what they've done with their other platforms (Windows 8, 360.) and unlike what every other manufacturer does with their tablets (Google, Apple, RIM, Amazon, even the Blackberry Pi). What does that really tell you.

They then announce a year early that the next surface will in fact run full blown windows 8 and not RT. Meaning the few RT apps you can currently get are still born.

Is it just me that thinks this has all gone tits up here? And who's left holding the bag? The early adopter developers who were (rightly imo) expecting so much more, and the poor customers who bought some hardware that's deprecated. Nice.

Keith Andrew
@Rubicon - Finally, in regards to your latter posts: I can't speak for Microsoft, but this isn't a case of showcasing 'PC apps' on RT.

Windows 8 is a tablet OS as much as it is a PC one - indeed, Microsoft's own Windows 8 powered Surfaces launch in a matter of weeks. This is a case, whether right or wrong, of Microsoft looking at what's gone wrong with Android and trying to sidestep by that by presenting a unified marketplace.

Speaking as someone with a healthy interest in marketing, that's also what I would have advised Microsoft to do. As such, it appears Microsoft isn't too keen too push RT only apps.

But this isn't a case of caring whether there's a "PC version as well". Windows 8 and Windows RT are both tablet operating systems, and however different the mechanics of them are from a developer perspective, for consumers, they are essentially one and the same platform.
Keith Andrew
@Rubicon - What you've put in your opening reply about the Store on Surface isn't true.

If you buy a Surface, *no* Windows 8-only games show up in the Store. If you start the Store up, there are plenty of games there - hundreds, in fact.

"There'd be some Windows 8 games but they won't run." - That's simply not true, and does make me question whether you've actually played with the device your game runs on. No games that won't run on RT are in the Store. They're filtered out, and the marketplace only shows apps and games that are designed for, and run on, RT.
Rubicon Development
@Val, the answer is "sort of" which is why I'm struggling to explain myself tbh.

You can only see RT stuff if you go to the store from an RT machine. But this is shared with the "bigger" store, which means in turn that RT only apps *do not* qualify for a spotlight, ever, if there's no PC version to go with it.

In the wider scheme of things this is probably correct. But if I just bought a surface tablet, then I want surface apps shown to me, and I couldn't care less about whether it has a PC version as well.

I lost a lot of credibility using my own app to highlight this, but I think the point stands and is worth some discussion. I titled my original piece "Born to fail" and this is why.

Contrary to what one of the "mavens" says above, being featured is the difference between success and fail for most small studios, moreso than ever. Given the bewildering array of games on iOS and Google Play, most customers just browse through that weeks new and noteworthy and pick from there.

If those small studios know that it's not even possible to get a feature, they're probably just going to stick with iOS and Android. I've spoken with many small devs that have already reached that conclusion, especially whilst the size of the customer base is still small.

Time will tell who called this one.

(For those apps you mention, I don't know tbh. I was told the above straight from MS, so I presume there are also PC versions for Windows 8 that qualifies them.)
Val Ilchenko
@Rubicon, maybe I'm not fully understanding your statement, but isn't the Windows Store on any RT Tablet the RT Store?! Further, you mentioned spotlights and how there are 5 spotlight slots but then later say there is no RT store to spotlight. I'm just not following your logic and it's perhaps something as simple as internal language that I may not understand. Windows 8 has a Windows Store with Windows 8 apps, Windows RT has a Windows Store with RT apps, therefore isn't each the respective store with their respective spotlights? Also, can you elaborate on how spotlights are illegal in the RT app store, how are other apps "featured" or spotlighted if it is illegal to do so? When the ESPN app came out or hydro thunder or even that dumb stick man app, and they are featured, how is this different than being a spotlight app?
Rubicon Development
Can't edit, wanted to add this:
Rubicon Development
@Keith, I'm with you on the "Unified market" idea. The thing is that this is for unifying Windows 8 - the PC O/S as it stands now and any intel tablets, including Microsoft's own new one next year.

But RT is /not/ Windows 8. Windows 8 is as relevant to RT as OSX or Linux is. If you just bought an RT tablet, would you not want new custom RT apps showcasing on the store? Why would you care about Windows 8 at all?

And to address the "Self entitlement" issue, this is getting tiring tbh. It's not self-entitlemnent, it's simple maths. There were about 15 apps ready on launch day. There are 5 spotlight spots available at one time, for a week. Therefore we expected to get one of those slots within 3 weeks. If anyone can poke a hole in that and say "bad call" then I'd love to hear the reasoning.

It's got nothing to do with "our game is better than theirs" and everything to do with "this early, there's room for everybody"

The prospect of getting a spotlight was the only reason we jumped on this platform so early and why I was so angry about it being ruled out. Not because the game wasn't good enough, not because it didn't pass certification, not for any specific reason down to us. The reason we get no spotlight is because there is not even an RT store to spotlight it in. Am I really the only person that thinks that's a bit odd?

Rubicon Development
Why can not a single apparently intelligent person get this. Let me try it just one more time.

My complaint is NOT that we didn't get a spotlight, it's the fact that spotlights are basically illegal for RT tablets. Which is going to sink RT tablets. I would expect pundits to have noticed this by now.

You buy an iPad, take it home, open box, charge it up.
You then hop over to the app store to see what's available.
Tons of stuff with showcased noteworthy apps. W00t

You buy a Nexus 7, take it home, open box, charge it up.
You then hop over to the app store to see what's available.
Tons of stuff with showcased noteworthy apps. W00t

You buy a surface, take it home, open box, charge it up.
You then hop over to the app store to see what's available.
Nope, nothing to see here. There'd be some Windows 8 games but they won't run. So instead of showcasing Windows RT apps, we'll just leave you hanging. Shoulda bought an iPad.

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