Mobile Mavens

The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Gaming Mavens on whether console should be the 'pinnacle' for mobile devs

The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Gaming Mavens on whether console should be the 'pinnacle' for mobile devs

The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Mavens is our panel of experts drawn from all sectors of the mobile gaming industry.

UK trade association TIGA has spent the last couple of weeks urging mobile devs to devote more time to tablet game development, with CEO Richard Wilsoneven suggesting they could use them to make a move on console development.

With scores of console devs making a move the other way, we asked the Mavens:

Are tablets truly a stepping stone to console development for mobile devs, or is TIGA out of touch with current development trends?

David Helgason Founder/CEO Unity Technologies




From where we stand it seems that console studios are using their console experience - plus, more often than not, Unity - as a stepping stone to tablets.

Will Luton Luton & Son Founder


Why would I want to develop for consoles? That sounds like business suicide - bigger outlay with less potential in a stagnant, possibly shrinking, market.

There does seem to be a common assumption - and it doesn't appear to be what Richard Wilson is saying - that mobile developers really want to make "proper games", i.e. console games. It's not the ambition of Mobile Pie.

We are watching future tech trends and how they'll open up games to new non-gamers, as I've mentioned before on this list, but I don't see a move to console, as it now stands, to be a sensible move.

Also, I think there's a good chance with organisations like TIGA - promoting development on a particular platform or approaches to platforms - that they'll be wrong, which will be embarrassing in the future.

I don't see it as a function that needs serving by a trade body - leave comment and opinion to the development community, like the Mavens.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.


I tend to agree with Will, and although obviously there are revenues still to be had in console - for now at least - it's not a smart move for most indie devs.

Personally, I think that the time is coming when we need to stop thinking about one device format over another and instead start to look at them all as different ways of delivering experiences based on a shared game state stored in the cloud.

But as Will correctly states, we are past the idea that console games are the pinnacle of the industry. Mobile games can be extremely profitable and a much lower commercial risk than most console games. They can even have an impact on the wider culture as we have seen with Angry Birds, etc.

Building games for tablets is in its own right a huge potential growth area - I don't think it helps to see it as a gateway to console. We have seen amazing growth there, but I believe more importantly we have seen game play methods arise that can really innovate because of the simplicity of the form factor.

Just look at what Days of Wonder have done and you can see the potential for a new generation of board game mechanics to reach new audiences.

However, I believe that we have more important problems. The increasing difficulty we have to get games discovered through the big two app stores continues - in my not so humble opinion - to increasingly let down consumers and developers in terms of access to fresh content.

That's a challenge which I believe will require coordinated effort between different developers, platform holders and industry groups to solve, whether its through tools like our AppFlood cross-promotion service or the alternative app stores like Amazon we see competing with Google Play.

Perhaps that's an area where the talents of Richard and the team at TIGA might be well used to help build debate through the whole industry. Just a thought.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative


For a large publisher, the traditional console space is still the only place you can see $400 million in sales in 24 hours. There is no other platform that is even close to this yet.

But only a very few games ever see this type of phenomenon and for someone to aspire to use tablet development as a stepping stone to traditional console development means quitting your day job - one where you are in 100 percent control of your destiny, all to get hired at your local Activision development house and be one of approximately 1,000 cogs working on the next Call of Duty.

That's if you're lucky. It just doesn't sound fun to me.

For a while there was a band of indies that were really gung-ho about Xbox Live Arcade. Jonathan Blow, Team Meat, Polytron, etc - they poo-pooed mobile development because of all the 'krApps' in the app store and possibly the prestige of working on a 'real' device.

There were also a lot of articles not too long ago about xbox live arcade being a little more stable, revenue wise, compared to the app store. A moderately selling game could make a little more money than the equivalent moderately selling game on iOS.

However, I think they are starting to get clued in a little more that mobile has grown a ton since then and that discovery isn't really that much of an issue if you consistently build quality games and build your audience until you hit the tipping point like temple run did.

Also, the prestige that goes along with making games on a traditional console comes along with a hefty set of price tags - costs associated with becoming a licensed developer and getting your dev hardware, going through certification and having to pay an extra $40,000 for every update.

We have 45 content filled updates under our belt - if we had to pay $40,000 for each submission we would be in for a cool $1.8 million.

This is just totally incompatible with our business. The big three would have to do the following in order to turn that around.

First, allow anyone to develop games directly on their store-bought device. Get rid of the dev machine and charge $99 for a key that allows you to test a non-gimped app on the console.

Second, anyone that paid the $99 should be able to submit games to their digital store. Not a sequestered hobbyist store, but the real store. Help some of these guys get visibility and make money.

Third, get rid of certification fees. Do some testing, but allow user ratings to do the rest. I think Apple has the a good mix of allowing anyone to submit an app while managing the app store so that apps can't manipulate the ranking system and users feel like most apps are trustworthy.

Google Play is way too open, it's the wild west when it comes to copyright law and apps that will steal your data. There is way too much micromanagement going on with the big three. People think that Apple is bad, try submitting to anyone else.

Fourth, they need an indie that has had a huge success. I congratulate the success of Fez, Braid, Journey, etc but they need a game with an Angry Birds level of success in order to really drive developers to that platform. Without that, the best an indie can hope for is to be a big (Phil) Fish in a small pond.


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

Comments

2 comments
View options
  • Order by latest to oldest
  • Order by oldest to latest
  • Show all replies
Dave Mitchell Founder at Two Tails
Speaking for Onimobi (a new Indie Games Studio), we have no aspirations for reaching onto the consoles. Our 'pinnacle' is becoming a successful studio within the mobile & social space.

As the others have said, cost and risk is a factor. You do have high risk on mobile App Stores too - sometimes getting a hit can be very difficult in the market now-a-days. But the costs are vastly smaller (unless your trying to develop the next Infinity Blade - in which case I think your mad).

How many console studios have closed down in the last year? That might be a bad argument when you consider how many developers make decent money on mobile, BUT my point is that console is a very risky business.


Oscar mentions that we need to get away from thinking about one device or platform and I agree with this. But you do have to consider the target market too.

I don't believe a casual "pick up & play" game like Temple Run or our own Leaf Rider works on console. Generally speaking most people aren't going to fire up their PS3 or Xbox to play a quick game like that on their massive 86 inch Plasma. They're more likely to play these games on their mobile (or tablet) when on the train or sat on the sofa watching trash TV.

People buy consoles to play the big blockbuster titles, the ones with the massive engrossing stories or amazing graphics. It's a bit like the cinema, your playing it on your massive TV for the experience. You don't get that same experience on a mobile phone or a tablet.


And that is the biggest factor that separates the two, and the reason why we don't aim for consoles. A lot of mobile games just wouldn't be successful on console. Similarly most console games on mobile just don't work. They might be a nice technical achievement (wow I've got GTA 3 on my iPhone!) but they're awkward to play.

There is of course some overlap and nothing is black & white, but as I say console is not something we are aiming for.



I do agree with Richard that devs should dedicate time to tablets though. But if your targeting mobile your more than likely looking at tablets too.
kwalee
Completely agree with Will Luton's thoughts on this topic. In our experience of chatting with our peers, indie developers don't get into mobile development to use it as a platform towards making console games. The mobile marketplace is so much more open and competitive than console thanks to low development costs, self-publishing and low prices for consumers. It doesn't make sense to move from that model, into a market dominated by a handful of massive corporations, especially when recent data shows that console game sales are shrinking at an alarming rate.