Mobile Mavens

Will the new App Store Indies section have any real impact on indie mobile games?

Will the new App Store Indies section have any real impact on indie mobile games?

Apple recently celebrated the mobile indie scene with 12 days of featured games, all from indie developers, covering both premium and F2P games.

It turned out to be a lead-in for a new Indie section on the App Store, which will collect games from a range of developers under different headers to give them a much needed boost on the crowded store.

But will this actually help indies, or is Apple just shoving them into another hidden corner of their store? We decided to ask our own Indie Mavens what they thought of it all.

Specifically, we asked:

  • How big an impact do you think a dedicated Indies section on the App Store will have for mobile indie games?


Aaron Fothergill Co-founder Strange Flavour

It's another "really good thing"!

I'm one of the probably hundreds of indie devs who asked Apple for something like this. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to one of the App Store people at an AppleTV event, and I suspect they've been taking on board similar conversations from all the other devs they've met at WWDC and other events.

It's early days of course and the big featured indies are the already successful ones, but I'm not complaining.

Our new game SpinnYwingS already seems to have benefited from this "looking out for the indies" vibe by getting a minor feature in its launch week on the UK and some European App Stores, so I get the feeling they're actively engaged on this.

The smaller indies suffer the worst from the overstuffed store, so I think long-term this will really help more of them rise up and be seen.

Especially when players who like them start actively looking in the indie section. Compared to invisible, ever so slight visible should hopefully be a big boost sales-wise.

Pierre-Luc Vettier CEO Zero Games Studios

I can't wait to see the impact of this new section for us indies!
Pierre-Luc Vettier

A dedicated indie section will be a great opportunity to discover cool indie games that wouldn't have much coverage in other sections. There's a lot of players who love indie games and are searching for them constantly, so I think it will have some success.

My only concern would be about how they will determine if a game is "indie" or not. As some games made by indie devs don't really look like indie games, and some big companies are making indie lookalike games.

I can't wait to see the impact of this new section for us indies!

Matthew Annal MD Nitrome

It's hard to say what the impact of the new indies section might be. Initially it is easy to be thrilled by Apple introducing an additional way to give indies coverage, but it really depends on how they intend to use the section.

Any way to get more coverage is more than welcome.
Mat Annal

In the worst possible scenario, they could start putting indie games here instead of the main feature, which could obviously lead to less coverage for indies and more for the big publisher sorts.

As an indie team reliant on Apple features, I am generally scared by any change they make for fear they change something that makes it not work for us.

I have to assume that is not their intent here and it will actually just mean an additional visible area for indie games. If so, that's great, and any way to get more coverage is more than welcome!

Ben Murch Co-Founder Perchang

Indie. It's a strange term. What does it even mean anymore? Bedroom developers, studios of 30 people, license users, unique art styles, revenue expectations. I have no idea what defines an indie developer... and I'm probably classified as one.

I believe the true goal of an indie developer should be to create games without having to worry about funds. The meaning of art is to elicit an emotional response, not elicit money.

There's a large section of app store users who think of 'indie dev' as cool, and would head straight to the new section.
Ben Murch

Personally, there are game ideas rattling round in my head that will probably never see the light of day, as they simply aren't profitable. This is a bad thing.

Therefore, I'm pretty sure it's a good thing that Apple are supporting and nurturing talented creators. Having a spotlighted area of the app store that doesn't include the big freemium titles and allows smaller companies with big creative ideas to shine can only lead to better gaming experiences.

It creates a space for those slightly different projects. I'm also fairly certain there's a large section of app store users who think of "indie dev" as cool, and would head straight to the new section, frantically waving their monies.

That's another good thing, as it'll drive more revenue to indie devs and allow us to make those projects we thought lost.

So, yes it's good, and it will have an impact on us indie devs... whatever we are!

Pavel Ahafonau Co-founder Happymagenta

Despite the Chinese curse saying "may you live in interesting times", the change is good, especially given that no changes over a long time did lead to a somewhat stale state in the App Store.

Whatever new titles did come out over a year, the top charts remain nearly the same, except that now there are almost no chart-spam games that did not belong there, thanks to Apple correcting the top chart algorithms. So, it is a great opportunity for many indie teams to get noticed.

The new Indie section in the App Store

There are, however, so many underwater stones that a typical beginner indie never considers when naively jumping into the industry. Mat did touch couple of things in his PG Connect speech. Getting featured is a big deal for an indie, but it may lead to a wrong path.

If we understand the term "indie" as a beginner game developer that makes a game as a product of art or just because he can't hold himself from creating a game, that is not aimed at earning money and being successful in the long-term, then it's the only way to go.

Make a polished high quality game, and, eventually, get featured and/or noticed by an experienced publisher. Get some money. Hopefully, enough to make another polished game, get featured again and so on. This "rinse and repeat" approach looks easy.

This, however, is a risky scheme, as every game is different and there is no ready recipe that works nowadays. Making a next game after a "lucky" title, a full time indie team may come to a point when a new title, even getting featured, does not bring enough money to continue the team operation.

It will work nearly the same way as before - as a great help from the platform, yet also as a filter.
Pavel Ahafonau

But for some developers, when "luck" allows them to survive longer than a couple of titles, it will lead to getting more experienced, above the naive level, so such an indie will pay more attention to content, quality and will keep the monetisation in mind, to come to a more sustainable model in the long-term.

The result, obviously, should lead to a better overall platform with more quality titles and teams being able to make them.

So, in my opinion it will work nearly the same way as before. As a great help from the platform, yet also as a filter.

Beginners may get a sufficient boost that will allow them to become full-time indies (for a while). Full-time indies may get a chance to survive over several titles and get onto a higher more sustainable level.

Many others will be lost in vain on different stages. As even the first game being featured may bring not enough money to make a next game.

Amounts of downloads and ARPU may vary and differ by a factor of 10 to 50 for games using similar monetisation schemes and similar gameplay. Especially on that wide untargeted audience, when people download dozens of games and may never open what they downloaded.

To maximise survival chances an indie should pay more attention to what others say and write everywhere.

Create enough content, polish, keep monetization in mind, think from player perspective, measure and analyse, optimise, evolve, keep updates coming, make new titles, etc.

And, most importantly, they should really play their own games before releasing them, something many seem to skip, including some developers from this week's "new games" feature.

Nathan Fouts Founder Mommy's Best Games

As long as it's heavily visited, and in regular view, this sounds great.

If a few of the best indies are no longer able to be featured on the 'real' games main section, this would be bad.

The further a user has to look to find your game, the less likely they are to download it.

Sebastian Lindén CEO & Creative Director Qaos Games

I hope this is the start of something long-lasting.

Main features, games we love and seasonal/temporary feature sections have been places where smaller developers get initial traction. I think initiatives like this is great for indies, as long as they don’t compromise for existing feature spots.

Games are grouped under different headings and can show off their trailers directly from the page

In our experiment, we’ve seen how Apple lately have prioritised both smaller developers and paid games over free games for the top positions in New Games We Love. I hope it's not just a coincidence, and maybe the start of something great!

Travis Ryan Studio Head Dumpling Design

It's likely a play for the dedicated Apple gamer; Apples' editors are passionate gamers first and foremost, so we'll likely see front-page featuring remain as it is, with this curated space refreshing and spotlighting 'gems' alongside 'classics'.

The upshot being that developers can provide more premium content, knowing there's a specific store and audience waiting for them.

Dumpling are a two-man team, but we're rarely categorised as 'indie' due to the types of games we make.
Travis Ryan

However, if 'indie' titles are to be curated in this section at the expense of front page opportunity, that's obviously going to impact developers - certainly most of our audience wouldn't know what 'indie' is, let alone have the time/curiosity to dig down into another menu.

From our experience, the front page 'New Games We Love' section acts as a weekly 'check in' for most Apple users.

Also, in a scene where teams of 1 to 50 are 'indie', it does raise the question of what defines 'indie' in this day and age?

Is it a tone, a style, an attitude or expression, a team, or an approach? It's likely a combination of all of the above, but the thing is it's hard for us as developers to define, let alone communicate to a mobile gaming audience who simply 'game'.

For instance, Dumpling are a two-man team, but we're rarely categorised as 'indie' due to the types of games we make - arcade, casual hits for a broad audience - and our experience making 'big games' prior (we've actually been called out on the latter at expos, which is… odd).

Deputy Editor

Ric has written for for as long as he can remember, and is now Deputy Editor. He likes trains.


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