2013 In Review: TinyCo's Will Luton

'If only Ridiculous Fishing had been F2P'

2013 In Review: TinyCo's Will Luton

As we come to the end of 2013, it's time to look back at the events that dominated the last 12 months in mobile gaming.

As such, we've asked the industry's great and good to give their take on the last year, as well as predicting the trends that will come to pass in 2014.

Will Luton is a senior designer at TinyCo, having previously worked at Bristol-based Mobile Pie and authored Free-to-Play: Making Money From Games You Give Away.

Pocket Gamer: What do you think was the most significant event for the mobile games industry in 2013?

Will Luton:
I hate the term midcore, but in a word 2013 has been all about midcore.

More specifically, I mean games asking more of players than simply turning up – all those dragons and shit are just a veneer. Where the industry stands creatively now is that we understand free-to-play and can abstract what's core to it, so can set about applying it more broadly and successfully than farming games.

That has allowed companies to battle the rising user acquisition costs by bringing creatives in to create differentiated products. That's a natural evolution of the industry and where we should be battling for our players – on the quality of the experience rather than on advertising bids.

What was the most significant event for TinyCo?

For TinyCo, we had a string of good news press releases towards the end of this year.

Of course they hired me, which was very smart of them, but we also took on $20 million in a new funding round, had Mike O'Brien of ArenaNet join the board and just announced that we're bringing Family Guy to mobile in a deal with Twentieth Century Fox.

All those things are very significant for setting us up for a brilliant 2014.

However, before I swam the Atlantic to TinyCo, I was running my consultancy business - Doctor Monolith Limited - in the UK. Whilst I worked with some great clients, the real highlight of 2013 was the release of my book Free-to-Play: Making Money From Games You Give Away in the summer.

I am very proud of it and get so many emails from young designers and entrepreneurs who it's helping.

What was your favourite mobile game of the year?

I've been play a lot of Jelly Splash over the last eight weeks or so. It's a better game than Candy Crush Saga – has more charm and depth, even better polish.

Puzzle & Dragons
was also pretty neat in combining match 3 with more strategic depth and a great progression path and Stainless also did another great job with Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers on iPad and Android.

However, one game really shone for me in 2013 and that's Ridiculous Fishing. Beautiful style, colourful, funny, quirky, balanced, addicting and every other bit of praise you could give to a mobile game.

If only it had been F2P that game would have had a much bigger audience and those Vlambeer kids would be sunning on private yachts off Monaco by now. Not that I think that's their motivation.

Wooga's Jelly Splash

What do you predict will be the most important trends in 2014?

Dull and predictable as it is, I expect we'll see wearables start to happen in mobile. Their impact in games, I expect, will be minimal due to the likely mode of use as passive checking rather than any deep interaction.

Hopefully someone will get their shit together on smart TV. What Samsung and LG are offering right now is a mess and the Apple TV box is passable at best.

The living room is wide open for the right kind of device. Meanwhile, the Android microconsole dream will be realigned to a hobbyist indie platform by even the most hardcore proponents. The Steam Box has potential for a solid level of success – that's the biggest threat for Sony and Microsoft right now.

I expect two to four breakout hits like Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans and Puzzle & Dragons in 2014, swiftly followed by a flood of clones as companies chase the magic.

What's your New Year's resolution and what resolution would you enforce on the industry?

Unsurprising for my Twitter followers, I want to spend more time focusing at being a better Magic: The Gathering player in 2014 – playing on the Pro Tour is a big goal. That might not happen this year, but I'll chase it hard.

I'd like to ask the industry to stop vilifying people. Twitter is a great tool but it is also an outlet for the theatrically indignant.

We've seen many times this year prominent tweeters and their followers tilting at windmills, getting the wrong end of the stick or just plain overreacting with real people getting harmed in the process.

The medium breads this behaviour because conflict is of the most intriguing of human interactions, so gives followers. But ultimately it's unsustainable to chase controversy, whether done consciously or not, because you actively generate bad will along the way.

I see the potential for some of the younger and more indie figures to get caught out by this in 2014.

Thanks to Will for his time.

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