It wasn’t that many years ago that PocketGamer.biz would regularly catch up with many of the key developers making location-based mobile games.
Sure, it was a nascent market, but there were signs of success.
Grey Area had Shadow Cities, while Red Robot Labs had Life is Crime, and PerBlue had Parallel Kingdoms - all of which could stake a claim to being the breakout location-based mobile game.
In 2014, however, that vision is long gone.
No particular place to go
Grey Area has removed Shadow Cities from the App Store, and released a multiplayer tank game and a tactical collectible card game, while Red Robot Labs appears to have been shuttered.
Even PerBlue has moved onto, releasing a Clash of Clans-style game and leaving its roots behind.
“Location-based gaming is a fishbowl, and one that I don't want to swim in anymore,” comments CEO Justin Beck.
“It's a really interesting market in terms of technology and our games such as Parallel Kingdom were very successful for generation 1.0 location-based games, but it's hard to create fun within those constraints.”
That’s why the company has reset itself, including a $3 million investment, to make games that aren’t location-based at all.
Its first example of doing something different was Android-only Greed for Glory, a game that Beck says provided a platform for the company to work on its technology and its new focus on building audience and community.
Making location-based games hits your graphics.
“Making location-based games hits your graphics, while multiplayer based around synchronous gameplay, especially synchronous gameplay linked to a map, is very challenging,” he explains.
In contrast, the tactical city defence genre kickstarted by Clash of Clans is booming, thanks to its simple gameplay and strong community features based around clan dynamics.
“Sure Greed for Glory started out like Clash of Clans, but it evolved pretty quickly, especially in terms of its social mechanics,” Beck says.
“We introduced Kingdoms Wars before it had Clan Wars,”
And it’s the success of Greed for Glory that has given PerBlue the confidence for its next - unannounced - project that’s due in late 2014 for iOS and Android, as well as the track record to raise investment.
“We’ve been head down working on product as well as retooling our graphics,” Beck comments.
He says that while Unity is a “very good tool”, it wasn’t what PerBlue needed for its future games, particularly as it already had solid networking and server technology in place.
“Technically, it just wasn’t compelling for us to change,” he says.
As for the future for location-based games, Beck thinks there’s something to be done there, just not by traditional mobile game developers.
“Location-based games remain interesting but perhaps in different form factors or in genres such as exercise and gamification,” he ponders.
“For PerBlue, our core competencies now are community and running IAP economies.
“Social features are very important for us. Location isn’t.”