Mobile Mavens

How is 2018 shaping up for indie games developers on mobile?

How is 2018 shaping up for indie games developers on mobile?

2017 was in some ways a rather uneventful year for indie games developers on mobile.

Discoverability continues to be a pressing issue that Apple and Google, as it has been for some time. Apple is creating a more heavily curated App Store and has also opened up a new dedicated indie section, but is this really helping developers?

As we move into 2018 and the big publishers take a stranglehold on the upper echelons of the charts, it could prove a more challenging year for indies - not to say there won't be standout indie hits, of course. But Apple and Google will need to up their efforts to give small developers a signal boost.

For our latest Indie Mavens questions, we asked:

  • What were the most important trends for indie mobile developers in 2017?
  • What do you think will be the key trends in 2018?
Aaron Fothergill Co-founder Strange Flavour

What were the most important trends for indie mobile developers in 2017?

Visibility and a more definite split between free-to-play and premium games. Partly driven by the App Store starting to recognise Indie developers a bit more and promote premium ones, but also a lot of devs realising that below a certain price point (around £3), players just see that as “wait until it’s free”.

Also, if you’re not likely to get a huge number of sales then you’ll probably get just as many at £3 as £1 and make three times the money.

There was also the 32-bit-ageddon on iOS where a lot of apps didn’t make the 64-bit cut. The good news is most of us managed to update our games, so mostly it had the intended effect of trimming away apps and games that weren’t being supported by their devs any more.

But we still had a few go MIA from devs who may not have had control over the game because someone else is publishing it or simply couldn’t update because the APIs had changed so much over time.

What do you think will be the key trends in 2018?

On the negative trends side, I fear we’re going to lose a lot more smaller devs and publishers from the stores this year as their apps get harder to find and sales drop off even more.

Not so great for players, but good for devs. I think we’ll see premium apps tending to go up in price slightly this year to increase the difference to F2P, give them more range to afford player acquisition through ads and generally afford to eat.

Augmented reality is getting a lot of push at the moment, so I think that’ll be the biggest positive trend. Also, I think we’re at another dividing point on device spec.

Now you have to have an A9 or A10-based iOS device to do ARKit, it also means it may be feasible to do a non-AR game that only targets them and still have enough of a customer base. So there’s potential for more “big” games and ports as long as someone’s got the funding.

Another feature that seems to be building to a trend is machine learning. Now it’s a built-in feature, I predict we’ll have at least one “wow” game show up that uses it this year.

Ben Murch Co-Founder Perchang

What were the most important trends for indie mobile developers in 2017?

As Aaron says, the big 32-bit cull was an important lesson and reminder for companies to maintain their back-catalogue. This sort of leads into a trend I've noticed, let's call it gamevolution.

Okay, let's not, but the idea is that more companies now seem to launch a game, then slowly morph it via feedback. Larger companies obtain feedback using rather expensive metrics systems. Smaller devs do it with forums and emails.

As devices become more powerful, the gap to consoles and PCs becomes a little easier to bridge.
Ben Murch

This all started a few years back with PC "Early Access" and has since spread across all manner of platform and company types alike.

I've also noticed the increase of another trend. As devices become more powerful, the gap to consoles and PCs becomes a little easier to bridge.

There have been more mobile ports of PC and console games this year than ever before. I really hope this continues and mobile platforms start to be taken more seriously in the wider picture of gaming.

What do you think will be the key trends in 2018?

As I mentioned, the evolution of existing games will continue and possibly become the norm. Maybe even getting to the point where a framework is launched and players effectively choose the game within it.

Freemium games will continue to conquer the market, which may drive premium gaming to extinction, or bring more players into gaming - or both.

Whatever happens, I love being a part of the whole messy pie and am highly excited to see what 2018 brings!

Pierre-Luc Vettier CEO Zero Games Studios

What were the most important trends for indie mobile developers in 2017?

As mentionned by Aaron and Ben, the 32-bit armageddon on iOS aside, I don't really see any important trends for indies that happened in 2017.

2017 was very similar to 2016. One notable thing is that in 2016, many people thought that augmented reality would be the 2017 trend, mostly because of Pokemon Go's success, but it didn't happen (though it wasn't that hard to expect I guess).

What do you think will be the key trends in 2018?

I think that before the end of 2018 we'll see more esport tailored mobile games. Not that much, but I'm pretty sure some publishers will try to imitate what Clash Royale has ignited with some of their own esport tournaments.

I don't know if it will be something very successful, but I'm pretty sure some big companies have seen an opportunity to do the same. I think it's a bit too early for the mobile market, but who knows?

I also have more or less the same unfortunate feelings as Aaron - 2018 will also be a year where we'll lose a lot of small developers and studios as the market is far too overcrowded and I don't see anything positive about this.

I really pity new young studios and devs that will try to release their first games on mobile in 2018.

Tanya X. Short Creative Director Kitfox Games

AR could finally sufficiently interest our visiting aliens that they will invest and get their own ARkits.
Tanya Short

I don't have much to say about trends in 2017 since I didn't release anything on mobile this year, but my predictions for 2018:

I think the new year will be full of new hope and excitement. I heard Nintendo has more cool stuff up its sleeve; my heart would grow three sizes if they announced an amiibo board game, but I'm going to guess there will be a Zelda Go, or possibly Clash of Hyrules, instead.

Plus, between Magic Leap cybergoggles and the unannounced Apple implants coming soon, iOS AR could finally sufficiently interest our visiting aliens that they will invest and get their own ARkits, improving the indie scene with fresh perspectives on gameplay and innovation.

Personally I was always rooting for more of a global diversity first, but I'll take intergalactic too.


Deputy Editor

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

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David Kay President at Knowledge Crunch Inc.
Do any of the mobile game industry experts see any trends in the non-mainstream niche markets like word games. Are these areas, although smaller in potential, an easier target for indie developers and do you see any trends in these niches for 2018?
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