Speaking at the Google Deconstructor of Fun event in Istanbul this week, Gossamer Principal Eric Kress had already outlined a bleak immediate future for the mobile games market, forecasting ongoing declines of five to 10% for the next two years, but he was also keen to point out who was to blame.
In unfiltered live commentary, he stuck the knife into the largest mobile hardware business, stating that he thought the whole thing was totally unnecessary and ammounted to little more than a "marketing gimmick" dreamed up by "the six people in charge of Apple" that was delivered in a "ham-fisted way".
They don't care about gamers, they don't care about publishers, they care about themselvesEric Kress
The business rationale was clear to Kreuss, that "as an analyst on Wall Street I can see that they are doing exactly what they should do, their job is to look after shareholders, sell as many phones and make as much money as possible", and he agreed that the message about privacy was something that "resonated with the customer and helped position them against Google".
Ultimately Kreuss suggested that in the grand scheme of things the games industry was not a priority for Alpple, "They don't care about gamers, they don't care about publishers, they care about themselves." He went on to stress this should not be a great surprises and wasn't the first time this has happened "Facebook did the exact same thing, completely destroyed the games canvas in six months, because they wanted to focus on advertising. This is what big tech does, they aren't interested in gaming, only as a means to an end of what their core business needs."
Think about the future - more casual game mechanics?
When looking forward Kress pointed a picture of what he thought was the best way ahead. He suggested that this meant drawing a line (literally) through a whole quadrant of the games industry, the "deep, core monetisation world we've been living in for a long time - RPG, casino, strategy and puzzle to a lesser degree. I just don't think that this quadrant is valuable anymore… It's not possible to scale these games anymore! What I do think is people will continue to move over to more casual game mechanics."
Of course Eric didn't want to paint an entriely bleak picture and went on to highlight some success stories that have bucked the trend post the "Apple Mobile Game Recession" using these casual game mechanics highlighting Diablo ("more a casual game than turn-based RPG"), Marvel Snap ("having the largest IP in the world doesn't hurt") and especially Survivor.io. "As much as I hate hypercasual this game is amazing, what they did was unfolding gameplay mechanics. It's a hypercasual game at first then mechanics open up to create the depth of play for spend and earning money," he explained.
Kress also stressed the importance of strong IP, pulling out the examples of Supercell and Rovio ("one of the reasons I think Playtika is going after Rovio is that IP...which has been undermonetised for decades!") as well as reiterating the need for "mass-market gameplay" with "deep monetisation". He also shouted out the need to identify and reach audiences cheaply, explore alternative distribution (Tiktok, influencers and Web3 techniques of building communities around gamers), going 'off-platform' ("Scopely and Playtika have been really successful. Something like 25% of their business off portal.") and potentially 'cross-platform' ("if it makes sense, especially for games like shooters").
Kress didn't move far away from his gloomy outlook in conclusion. "I believe we're at a C-Change in this industry… Things are going to get worse before it gets better. Not only IDFA degredation but we're likely to see fingerprinting removed too, so Applovin, ironSource and Unity are going to be screwed… And then whatever Google does..." However, his final words were thankfully more stirring, "This is an opportunity for entrepreneuers to take the challenges in the market place and come up with something new!"
N.B. Suffice to say Eric's views don't necessarily mesh with the views of the channel, but there is certainly plenty of food for thought here.