2016 may have been in full swing for two months now, but that doesn't mean we can't still take the time to predict what the rest of the year may hold.
And in the fast-paced, ever-changing mobile gaming landscape, it truly is anyones guess what new trends we'll see across the coming months.
But rather than ask just anyone, we decided to turn to our Indie Mavens to see what they thought, posing them the question:
- "What do you think will be the key trends for mobile game developers in 2016?"
I guess we'll see more big indie, more traditionally console/PC developers and publishers releasing on mobile, more issues with visibility on the App Stores and VR taking more of a leap from niche to mainstream.
For myself, the trend of old school console developers expanding more into mobile is the trend I'm interested in the most. As a really small indie team (2 people) that brings a lot to contend with, a lot to try and stand out from.
I think it will influence our games as we'll be pushing as much polish as we can to get as slick a user experience as possible.
For indies on mobile, we will be having to find our tiny corners of the market and really capitalise on bringing the fans a great experience - a different experience to what the app stores are no doubt going to be drenched in.
Then again, I think that's an indie ethos in general. We don't look to or care what the market trends will be, we make the games we want to make as best we can and hope that there's a market of like-minded people out there who want to play these games too.
I just hope we can get our games the visibility they deserve.
I can only really speak from a paid mobile game stand point, but I think the key trend for paid games on mobile will be higher prices, and not just relying on a feature from Apple.
We're already seeing plenty of higher priced games on iOS right now.Mike Rose
We're already seeing plenty of higher priced games on iOS right now - this week alone most of the featured paid games are $4+ - and that is likely to continue as more and more App Store users come to terms with paying just that little bit more.
Meanwhile, an App Store feature is great for sales, but in a lot of cases isn't enough, so devs need to be thinking of their own marketing strategies outside of simply getting featured and settling for that.
What we've been doing is lining up our Steam launches with our iOS launches, and that has been working pretty well for us. So if devs have a PC build on the way too, I'd suggest trying to boost iOS sales by also basing the PC launch around the same time.
Seems like the trends that have been strong for a long time are really solidifying.
Games that are really mass market for the biggest demographic possible, increasingly high production values - generally free-to-play with carefully designed consumable IAP, since this taps into the "biggest demographic possible" angle.
There's also always waiting for the next really successful, out of nowhere, viral thing to come out so that it can be cloned quickly. Bonus if the original viral hit game was a paid game so the clones can then be free.
I think there's also always space for the occasional mobile port of a really popular PC game that more or less works on mobile. The writing's been on the wall for a while, and it seems like these things are all moving away from being trends and becoming the permanent laws of the platform.
This might sound a bit obvious at this point, but I think that more mobile developers will move away from free to play.
Developers have started to realize that unless you have a huge marketing budget (and analytics team) like Clash of Clans, Candy Crush or Game of War, making any money from free-to-play is super difficult.
Apple has realized this too, and they've also realized that because these games market themselves so much, they don't really need to help out - those games will bring in money anyways. Instead, most of the games the Apple features these days are premium games.
So yeah. Make premium games, kids!
2016 will be the year of the underdogs.
Games dev as a career choice is becoming more and more popular. Fresh out of school and university, artists, programmers and designers are flooding into the industry. However, the number of jobs is much lower than the volume of new developers.
The entrepreneurial spirit is strong with the "millennial" generation - just look at the hundreds of youngsters living the YouTube dream! Combine that spirit with the ease of getting a title into players' hands (Unity + App Store), and you've got yourself an emerging trend.
I think we're going to see more and more junior designers, artists and programmers trying to go it alone. This of course will ramp up creativity and push boundaries back of what makes a traditional game.
We'll get to experience new ideas and fresh content. Concepts that the AAA industry just won't gamble on. It will also have the knock on affect to further crowd the gaming marketspace. It'll be interesting.
Everyone is talking about VR at the moment. Personally, I don't think it will take off immediately, or be able to support the amount of developers getting into it.
In the mobile space, VR will make little to no impact.Ben Murch
However, in the mobile space, VR will make little to no impact. Gear VR still hasn't found a foothold, and with no other mobile devices on the horizon, I can't see it making an impact.
We will still see all the Clash of Clan and Candy Crush copies, with the most minor of cosmetic tweaks. However, the stagnation, repetition and reliance on "whales" in the freemium market leads me to believe this year we'll also see something new coming from that space.
It will trojan horse its way into our lives in a very similar low cost way, BUT (and this is a biiiiig BUT), everyone will end up paying somehow. Larger volumes of smaller currency exchanges will replace the existing whale style. Imagine millions of people throwing virtual pennies. It will be huge!
I think we'll see more mobile developers heading to Cardboard VR support in their traditional games. I think you'll see them contributing interesting additions and extra modes to their current games, to capitalize on the VR excitement.
You're also going to find a lot of developers tapping into the Twitch streams on mobile, letting players watch their idle mobile games as cooldown timers slowly tick by. Devs will also allow twitch chat to tie in, so players chat special commands to cause players wait times to increase.
And finally, stores like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target will try to help indie devs, in that with every purchase made by Apple/Samsung Pay, people can give a tip to developers to help out with the Indiepocalypse.
I think this is the VR year. With Samsung Gear releasing, I am sure some developers will try to go to the market with small VR games on mobile.
But it won’t be as huge as expected due to the restriction on Samsung Gear (as hardware or devices running on it as you can’t use any mobile).
Also recently I noticed a huge shift towards minimal game design. (Minimal input, sweet minimal graphics, …etc) This shift is due to the huge competition on the mobile store so everyone tries to create games as fast as he can in very short amount of time.
More games will be coming from other platforms, including major players that aren’t on iOS yet, and you know whom I’m talking about. Transition from “pay-to-play” to “watch ads to play” freemium model for more games.
Tension in user acquisition will probably also be rising to a higher bar with a strong usage of more intellectual platforms and migration of more advertisers to video ads.
Apple TV and VR will be gaining momentum as more users will be arriving to the platform. A coming of subscription model is unlikely with such an amount of F2P games.
Games will be more and more aware of a player behavior and will be adapting to a player profile.