Analysis: Why it makes sense for middleware companies to become mobile game publishers

Unity, YoYo and Gendai relying on grassroots for success

Analysis: Why it makes sense for middleware companies to become mobile game publishers
There have been plenty of trends over the past three years of the smartphone games business.

We've had the glorious dawn of the Apple App Store launch, when old rope sold for cash, followed by the drop to 99c, an attempt to create bespoke publishers - both start-ups and traditional console and mobile companies - which, in turn, has lead to the rise of freemium, and now a desperate attempt to push alternative discovery methods.

The final nail in the App Store-only coffin has been the rise of competing platforms such as Android, Windows Phone 7 and Ovi.

Fresh blood

But what's this we see?

It's a new emerging theme that looks to harness the flexibility and reach of the new platforms, combined with the innovation bubbling up from the freshest development communities.

For inbetween the messy glory of user generated content and the relative nouse of proper start-ups, there are now thousands of what we could call prosumer game makers.

Using packages such as Flash, Game Maker, GameSalad and Unity, they're making games that are typically terrible and generic. However, sheer weight of numbers means there are plenty of rough cut diamonds to be mined, which is exactly what the companies who make these tools and nurture these nascent developers are attempting to do.

Harness their enthusiasm

Over the past month, Unity Technologies has announced its Union publishing program, YoYo Games (Game Maker's owner) its publishing initiative for iOS, PSP and Android, and Gendai Games its GameSalad Accelerator publishing scheme.

The rationale behind all three is simple: there are a lot of great games out there that just need a bit of professional polishing in order to be, if not the next Angry Birds, then the next Rolando. (Remember ngmoco originally set up shop on a similar, if more professionally oriented, basis).

Of course, the number of mobile game released onto the various apps stores means plenty of great games now get overlooked, so what will be likely be a volume-lead approach isn't without its issues.

Too good, too bad

Releasing a lot of games means releasing a relatively large number of failures, and that's bad for your brand.

Equally, releasing a lot of games means some very rough yet high carat diamonds don't get enough polish to shine. Releasing a couple of games each week can have you focusing too much on rhythm and not enough on the individual notes.

Still, in their various ways, Unity, YoYo Games and Gendai have their individual communities who are committed to their tools, and that sort of passion is something no publishers have from the get-go.

And, in this virally sensitive world, handing something special back to an existing fanbase for it to enjoy and shout about can be the blue paper ignition required to see innovation streaking up the charts.

If nothing else then, it will be fascinating to see what games these middleware companies come game publishers decide to release in 2011.
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.


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