Mobile Mavens

Is 70,000 apps enough to aid a BlackBerry bounce back? Mobile Gaming Mavens discuss

Is 70,000 apps enough to aid a BlackBerry bounce back?

Last week, the company formally known as RIM pulled the wrappers off BlackBerry 10.

Aside from the handsets and the corresponding OS, the presentation's focus appeared to be on the 70,000 apps the company has secured for day one.

But exclusives appeared to be thin on the ground. Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds: Star Wars, Plants vs. Zombies and Jetpack Joyride will all be there from day one, but commentators will likely ask whether iOS or Android consumers are really going to be tempted over in order to buy apps they already have on their existing devices.

So, we asked the Mavens:

Is BlackBerry right to take on iOS so directly, or should it looked to have secured exclusive, original games?

And, to the developers out there, would you look to work on anything original for BB10, or is porting existing games a better strategy?


John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

I can't recall a handset becoming a success because of a single exclusive game, so I don't think that would have been a wise strategy.

What was lacking from the previous BlackBerry lineup was the ability to have something approximating the app-driven experience of iOS and Android, and now they have it. And yes, if anyone buying a BB hasn't ever played Angry Birds, they can now play that too.

There have been some interesting comments made by IDC. It believes the only real opportunity for BB is focusing in a big way back on business users; it is predicting a 5 percent share of the consumer market.

We'll see, but it makes sense, as unless BB still plans to support old devices as a free option on PAYG, low cost is no longer a way to keep younger users interested, and it becomes a straight fight with the big guys.

I know BlackBerry will talk a good game, but I'm not sure that it really wants the risk of being pulled into fights both for business users and consumers at the same time.

I think it's a no brainer for many devs to port to BB10 - as long as it's not expensive, and certainly the porting tools demoed looked great. After all, scale across multiple platforms is the way most publishers end up making money after the initial development costs. But will there be many BB-first developers out there? Let's see.

I'm glad the handsets are out, and I think they look very impressive. I just hope BlackBerry didn't leave it too late.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

It will be impossible for BlackBerry to break through the Android-Apple blockade for the foreseeable future.

The quality of the phone, the design, the operating system, and the presence of exclusive games are pretty irrelevant when it comes to taking meaningful market share away from these two forces.

Look at Microsoft/Nokia. They have great devices, great OS, many of the popular games but they are still unable to compete. It will take more than this.

Either Android or Apple really needs to make a huge mistake or they need to figure out some amazing new way of looking at phones that makes the rest of the industry look stupid. BlackBerry just can't win with the status quo.

Believe it or not, I actually meet a BlackBerry loyalist yesterday. The only reason she was a BlackBerry enthusiast was the physical keyboard. With BB10, the firm is kind of pushing out its most loyal users in the hopes of appealing to the mass market, but the result is BlackBerry is still going to decline over the long run.

BlackBerry will eventually lose its loyal users and will fail to pick up new customers.

Oh, actually hold on a second. I just read that Alicia Keys was named as creative director for BlackBerry.

That is the type of game changer I have been looking for. I believe that BlackBerry will absolutely trounce Apple and Android, perhaps in the first year of its release.

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

I agree a lot with Dave regarding the physical keyboard. When I ask a BB user why they haven't jumped to an Android or iPhone, it is primarily one of two reasons.

Either they like the physical keyboard, or they say work gave them a BB years ago, they know how to use it and so they keep choosing a BB when work offers them a new device.

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

In response to what Jon said: "I can't recall a handset becoming a success because of a single exclusive game..."

Well, not a single one, no, but isn't the 'we get apps first' iPhone mantra one of the main reasons consumers were drawn to it/stick by it?

It's very impressive to launch with 70,000 apps on day one - the kind of tally PlayBook really needed - but surely we know now that consumers aren't inclined to switch if you say to them "you know all those apps you've already got on the handset you already own? Well, you can get them too on this new handset."

Successful competition in any business is about offering things your competitors don't, surely? Not simply keeping pace with them.

Maybe BlackBerry would say its edge comes from the OS itself, rather than exclusive games.

Will Luton Founder/CPO Village Studio Games Village Studio

New IP exclusives would be a massive waste of cash for BlackBerry.

Nobody buys a mobile phone for a game they've not played. Those titles are enough to convince people that it has enough "gaming" to satisfy. But that won't be where the success of the BB10 devices will be decided.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

Keith, it may have been a marketing mantra, but is there any evidence of it actually influencing consumers?

If a missing app means missing functionality, then maybe - but I think you'll find that consumers flocked to the iPhone because it was the first of its kind, and has continued to be the best designed and most desirable handset on the market in the eyes of most people.

That's not because people are happy to spend £500 and be locked into a two year contract to play Infinity Blade 2.

I think you've answered your own question as well: competition needs to come from offering consumers everything they expect, plus something extra.

Consumers now expect their phone to play all the apps and games they see on their friends devices, so that's an absolute minimum. Innovate and create brilliant exclusives on top of that, by all means.

Which leads to the question: how many of the 70,000 launch apps are not available anywhere else?

I would also very much like to know who thought it was a good idea to make Alicia Keys the 'chief creative officer' of BlackBerry.

This this the same Alicia Keys that until recently was a very public iPhone user, has an iOS-only app, and also who was paid to perform at the Nokia Lumia launch event. Clearly, her loyalty must be without question. I assume the piano accessories will start launching soon.

Next we'll have Justin Bieber replacing Jonathan Ive...

Paul Farley CEO / Founder Firestoke Games

Since founding Tag Games in 2006 Paul has built the studio from humble beginnings to become one of the most respected and successful mobile and handheld developers in Europe.

He began a long, and some might say, distinguished, games industry career at legendary developer DMA Design, playing a key role in the development of the GTA series

My personal opinion is that an OEM looking for exclusive content is much better buying into interesting and high quality titles in production and securing a short (3-6 month) exclusives for their platform.

Commissioning bespoke titles based on their creative concept and acting in the role of content publisher rarely works out well.

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer 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.

For me - as boringly obvious as it might be – this is going to come down to how well the new BlackBerry delivers relevant experiences to its audience.

Exclusivity needn't be in specific games; it can be in the way that the game is integrated and delivered with the Scoreloop and BBM platforms. But that has to matter to the users. Getting good examples of content that shows the platform off to its best needs some investment.

Too many services have been let down by failing to deliver 'best case' examples.

However, that's different from a traditional 'exclusive' model and I think, as others have said, a few exclusive titles will be ineffective (even counter productive). Investing in content which shows best practice, however, would pay dividends.

At the heart of this is the challenge presented by BlackBerry's audience who seem to me to be sharply divided into two camps; 'baby boomer professionals' and 'Kids using BBM'. The needs and tastes of these groups is very different and largely conflicting.

Neither audience is particularly early adopter and often adverse to risk/cost - if Blackberry can nurture trust with these audiences they it may just pull something off.

If however, as I suspect, it just chases the other competing platforms without relevant audience targeted differentiation, then I suspect no exclusive content will help.

[people id="11" name="Brian Baglow"]

Haven't we just had this conversation about Nvidia's Shield?

People will buy a BlackBerry because it has a physical keyboard and it does what they need - and only then because it does apps. It'll continue as a niche.

It's not going to redefine the market because not enough people want a physical keyboard and a surgical attachment to their work e-mail. Even BBM and texting are declining (slightly), so the keyboard isn't the attraction it once was.

The more interesting question is about the app store and discoverability, but that's of absolutely no interest whatsoever to punters buying the phone - just the people who are making the apps.

As long as users can get the major apps their friends have and don't feel like they're living in the past, it's still down to the handset - how shiny is it, how much is it and what can it do?

The two main questions will be, firstly, can BlackBerry make money from handset sales and, secondly, can the firmconvince developers that it's worth their while making new apps. If y'all can make money from it, then you'll build BlackBerry apps and whistle while you work.

The idea that exclusive content will sell apps is looking very old fashioned these days, as is celebrity endorsement. The Alicia Keys idea makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Elon Musk maybe, or someone with the credibility to back up the idea they're involved in creative input. Even a musician who's noticeably and famously connected 24/7 might have worked (in 2009).

I'd like to see BlackBerry succeed, just because I like to have options when I come to choose a new handset (ask around your family how many people really miss clamshells) and because it doesn't have to be locked into the bigger, better, faster, more cycle that the iOS and Android phones are now locked into.

Who said everything has to be disruptive? Can't we see how consumers actually respond to the phones before we declare the company just like, you know, so totally over...?[/people]

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

In response to Oscar:

"If however, as I suspect, they just chase the other competing platforms without relevant audience targeted differentiation, then I suspect no exclusive content will help..."

This is what I mean.

Yes, some of you have a point that few are going to buy a phone based on a few exclusive games (though, in the case of tablets, I'd say this is very much a factor), but likewise, I had to roll my eyes at BlackBerry shouting about having a Skype app, and a LinkedIn app, and Angry Birds games that other platforms have had for two or more years.

Yes, they help. Yes, consumers would be pissed were they not there. But any company - whether it be BlackBerry, Microsoft or someone else - shouting from the roof tops about apps the consumers they're targeting already have on the phone they know and love isn't going to come across well.

If you're actively looking to steal customers from iPhone - and, the Alica Keys move suggests to me that BlackBerry is - then you have to offer something more. Not more of the same.

I think BlackBerry's market, as has been suggested, is with those looking for a phone with a keyboard. Or those who really want a tool for work.

That - aside from kids using BBM (which I think has much in common with 'chavs' loving Burberry) - is what the BlackBerry brand means, and this attempt to make it a 'cool for kids' games platform just doesn't fit for me. I'm not buying it. BlackBerry doesn't mean that. BlackBerry shouldn't mean that.

It's like PlayBook. A great little device, in my view. Nicely formed, brilliant browser - seriously, amazing browser - and the perfect size to watch videos and so forth.

Was it a great games machine? No. Much like Surface RT, it feels far more suited to work, both in terms of form factor and built in services. I'd much prefer it if BlackBerry went that direction again.

Sure, sell apps, but don't kid anyone they're your focus. Instead, position yourself as the best business phone out there. That's what BlackBerry is known for. That's what it should be.

Attempting to be all things to all men just won't work. It's the kind of strategy that means you're always going to be found wanting in certain areas as you chase down others.

It's the kind of strategy that, dare I say it, leads to you signing up an ailing pop star and having her serve as the front of your company in a bid to 'appeal to the yoof'.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

Maybe a better question would be why BlackBerry feels the need to try and attract gamers and content consumers at all?

Sandy Duncan CEO YoYo Games

Under Sandy’s leadership, YoYo Games has built an active GameMaker community 250,000-members strong while building partnerships with Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, and Valve that have helped it achieve 200 percent YOY growth in 2012.

Sandy’s previous experience includes a 17-year stint at Microsoft.

My first thought is whether or not the world can tolerate a third platform after Android and IOS. Microsoft thinks so and will out invest BlackBerry in almost every department.

What will kill BlackBerry's chances completely is other strong and aggressive contender(s) for third place.

Amazon and Samsung are the other major players. f one of them (or both) make a major play to have their own platform (or one where they are at least the major stakeholder), then BlackBerry will be squashed like a small, soft fruit under a large boot.

Maybe that's why RIM changed its name ?

Eros Resmini Head of Marketing The Mini Fund

I,for one, am impressed with the polish on the device. I haven't picked up one and played with it yet but the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

At the end of the day I agree with most folks here that content is king. If BlackBerry can figure out a way to attract talented developers at scale, it may have a way back into the market - albeit an uphill battle for sure.

The change in brand name was smart. There are a ton of loyal BlackBerry users out there just looking for an excuse not to use iPhones and Android devices. That still counts for something and game makers will go where the users are.

David MacQueen Executive Director Strategy Analytics

I have to totally agree with John's final statement: "Maybe a better question would be why BlackBerry feels the need to try and attract gamers and content consumers at all?"

I know Pocket Gamer is a mobile games website, but the question inherently overstates the power of mobile games.

What will make or break BB10 is a whole host of factors, and if it resonates with consumers (and mobile operators, who BlackBerry will rely on to subsidise and co-market the devices if there is to be any success whatsoever) and thus gets a decent installed base, let's face it, any games developer worth their salt will be producing titles for the devices.

To answer John's question, BlackBerry does need consumers who are into content. It needs them because businesses are now all about "bring your own device" (BYOD), not about central sourcing of hardware any more.

2012 was the first year that BYOD accounted for more than 50 percent of business devices according to our research.

Central sourcing of services, sure, and RIM has a big business there, but now people use their iPhones for work – not because the IT department dictated that, or because they got given an iPhone by head office, but because they have one, they like it, and they want to use it.

No-one's going to be using BlackBerry in the office any more unless they are also using it in their personal life. So it does need to attract people who want games, video, music, because if it doesn't, then it won't fly in the business world either.

So, what BlackBerry needs to do is get back in front of existing successful apps developers and get them making their successful apps available on its platform – which it has been doing with its developer program (which has, let's be honest, focussed on porting).

In short, it does have to have the right apps to succeed in the business world as well as the consumer market; the two are the same market now. The harsh truth is that original IP games are not going to shift any units, however – known names are.

That's where RIM has focussed. I do think that's the right strategy for apps at least - but there are many other factors far, far more important than that which will determine the fate of BlackBerry.

Volker Hirsch Co-Founder / Board Member Blue Beck

Alongside multiple industry roles, Volker is the co-founder Oystercrowd, Blue Beck, and Digital M. Former posts at BlackBerry and Scoreloop add to an enviable CV, which also includes the co-founding of Connect2Me

I just stepped off the train after two busy days and, whilst I had drafted a reply, there have been about 49 additional comments since, so I'll restart.

I'll no longer make the case on why we (as many of you) felt that chasing "exclusives" was futile. It is. As to Skype, Angry Birds, Facebook, etc. etc. etc.: there are some apps (games, work, social, otherwise) that one needs to have. Your eyes would have been rolling out of their sockets had those not been there.

Third, demographics. When reading through the thread, one could deduce that the only people using BlackBerry in the past were business people. But nothing could be further from the truth, which, with many of you in the UK, you should actually know better from first sight.

The demographic BlackBerry caters to globally is (and has been for some time) way broader than what some of you seem to perceive.

Look up some of the available numbers in this respect: the vast majority of users is not actually corporate. Now, make no mistake, the enterprise market is very important to BlackBerry but we are actually well positioned there: security, tie-in to enterprise services, BlackBerry Balance, BES10, etc.

However, it is far from the whole story.

Also, the actual experience of using BlackBerry Z10 will open a few eyes here, I suspect.

Be it the browser, the overall speed, polish and responsiveness, the (touch) keyboard, the BlackBerry Hub, the gesture controls, the TimeShift camera feature and much, much more - there is a lot in there, which works beautifully, elegantly and in a way that, by the sounds of it, some of you did not imagine a BlackBerry could do.

In response to Dave and Jared: BlackBerry actually announced two devices yesterday - a full-touch one (the Z10), which you can get from today on all UK carriers and one with a physical QWERTY keyboard (the Q10), which will be out in a couple of weeks or so. So let's put that one to the side...

And that brings me to the gaming side of things. When I looked at our gaming proposition, I tried to approach it mainly from two angles: Firstly, through the eyes of the user, and secondly, through the eyes of the developer.

For developers, we felt we needed to create three things: ease, scale and monetisation.

Previous iterations of BlackBerry OS were, for game developers, certainly not all that easy to address. BlackBerry 10 is VERY different in this respect.

First, the hardware stacks up: it is slick, powerful and beautifully spec'ed. Look up on the web and I think you will find that most devs who have actually tried found that we are the easiest platform to address. There are lot of game developers who do try it, who develop for it, port to it, and publish on it. After all, we didn't make the 70,000 apps number up.

Secondly, scale is something that comes with the handsets being on sale. And they now are. Feedback from carriers, partners and consumers all over the world are very encouraging and whilst I can for obvious reasons not share our internal forecasts, there is a lot of reason to be optimistic.

To the third point: we re-worked our BlackBerry World store, which - incidentally - always monetised a little better than most others.

We also have some angles to it that I would posit no one else can offer, all of which impact directly the monetization of games and apps: on the pure billing side, you can bill to carrier bill; currently some 85 or so carriers are connected to that.

The process for developers is simple: it is a single API you integrate, and you, the developer, get 70 percent irrespective of the billing channel a customer chooses. With 5 billion actual mobile users globally and (only) 1.8 billion credit cards in the world, there is a huge delta to be addressed. It is also significantly easier to set up for users.

Last but not least, bear in mind that this is the beginning! Last week's start looked strong. We fully expect to build on this from here.

Hey, can we do more? Of course we can? Will we do more? Of course we will!

So, friends, check it out before you judge.

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