ID@Xbox's Chris Charla on discoverability and launching into a saturated market

The three day conference opens with a short talk on indie devs from which game makers on all platform can draw insights

ID@Xbox's Chris Charla on discoverability and launching into a saturated market

Senior director of ID@Xbox, Chris Charla, spoke at Develop: Brighton about the issue of saturation and discoverability in games. Two key challenges facing indie developers and, as many of our readers know, also facing mobile gaming as a whole.

The inaugural talk at Develop came from Chris Charla, senior director of the ID@Xbox self-publishing program at Microsoft. He gave a brief rundown of his history in the indie scene and his suggestions for indie developers - many of which are insights that those in the mobile industry will find particularly intriguing.

Discoverability, licenced games and more

Charla gave a quick overview of his history and views on the indie scene, including his excitement about Xbox Live Arcade - one of the first commercially available indie outlets on consoles, and perhaps comparable to newer mobile outlets like Apple Arcade - and also talked through some of the challenges faced by indie developers. The key one, which anyone who's worked in mobile will be well aware of, is discoverability.

He underlined that the main challenge here is understanding your audience, and he gave a crucial idea of what anyone should keep in mind for their release date. Charla mentioned moments he'd spoken to indie developers, who were releasing their titles the same day as major AAA releases, for example, Halo. When he pointed out the potential issues launching the same day as a major title, he mentioned the main refrain he would hear was "Well, our game is nothing like Halo".

Earlier in the talk he'd said that he had spoken to many players, most of whom defined themselves as solely players of AAA games, but upon reflection finding they actually played dozens of independent titles outside of their usual niche. So, although your title may be nothing like Halo - or rather any major game release on console, PC or on mobile - you can be sure that players who use mobile as well as consoles or PC can have their attention split if you choose to launch the same day as a major publicised release with a huge marketing campaign behind it.

Another aspect of the discoverability challenge was box art, and while key art is hardly a one-to-one comparison he also points out how art that's designed on a computer screen at a particular aspect ratio or distance may not work out the same in terms of readability for players on your chosen platform. When dealing with mobile, and the much smaller screens compared to most desktops or laptops, what may be a perfectly readable and intriguing set of key images that should grab a player's attention can instead just pass them by.

It's not surprising that there are plenty of parallels to mobile in Charla's talk, as Microsoft will have Activision Blizzard and their mobile-heavy portfolio - thanks to developer King - on the brain as the AquiBlizz train rumbles on.

Staff Writer

Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the editorial team in November of 2023.