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Game Connection America: Limited digital shelf space is mobile's biggest problem, claims TinyCo

Game Connection America: Limited digital shelf space is mobile's biggest problem, claims TinyCo
Success has its downsides, and at a panel at this year's Game Connection America in San Francisco, the question of "where next" for mobile games arguably threw up more questions than it did answers.

For starters, while the mobile revolution has opened up game development to thousands of new studios, how can most ever hope to be spotted when the digital shelves are controlled by just two players?

The changing game

That's exactly what TinyCo's Andrew N. Green focused on when opening up the panel, pointing out that the rise of app stores has fundamentally changed how consumers find games.

"Before it was down to retailers and distributors," he opened.

"Now, in the US at least, it's all Apple and Google. Essentially, there's tons of product, but there's limited shelf space, so how you get seen – especially when the costs are so high – isn't really in a format that helps anyone."

Digital Chocolate's Jason Loia agreed, noting that spending to gain success isn't an option for most studios.

"Because you have to pay to get discovered, one of the down sides [of modern mobile gaming] is that you have to have deep pockets to play that game," he added.

"However, the bar has definitely been raised quality wise. Back in 2009, it was a flea market and the stores were full of fart apps. That's all gone now."

Quality

Indeed, it sounds obvious, but the panel agreed that focusing on quality games – and, importantly, the games your audience wants – is key.

"The more hardcore we go, the better we do," offered Fishlabs CEO Michael Schade.

"We tried to go mid-core for a while, and we lost a lot of money. So we're focusing on the hardcore – on tablets being a rival to PC and essentially eating their lunch.

"The bottom line is, we only have one title, so we have to cross promote with other developers in a similar position to us."

Loia agreed that "trading traffic" with similar partners is, for many, the only way to go.

The right games

According to Appy Entertainment's Chris Ulm, however, promoting the right games is just as important as how and where you promote them.

"We think of user acquisition as a layer cake," he offered.

"So we have the dedicated players who are most likely to monetise and recommend our games, but then after that you need partners – other publishers or marketing companies that help us to acquire new users.

"But the most important thing to us is making sure you're spending on games have a high enough monetisation rate to justify it."

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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Marcus Graham
I would actually challenge whether or not these mobile companies have figured out just how big the shelf space is. I've yet to see a mobile developer use something like Twitch (twitch.tv) to market their game to more gamers. As a huge mobile gamer, the largest challenge is educating myself on what to play and how to find those hidden gems. We've seen other low key and indie developers reach enormous audiences by using this medium. It's just a matter of time before the mobile space starts figuring it out.
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