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The DMA is here. What next for game developers and publishers?

Was it worth the effort and are there opportunities to grasp? Flexion CEO Jens Lauritzson gives his take on what the Digital Markets Act really means and what will happen next
The DMA is here. What next for game developers and publishers?
  • The cut that Apple and Google take if developers want to use the App Store or Google Play to distribute and market games is unreasonable to many
  • Apple’s response to the DMA, in particular, has angered some. They’ve dropped their cut but it's not really a reduction

The application of the EU's Digital Markets Act (aka DMA) is finally here, but, after all the fuss, all the worries and all the pain, has all the effort been worth it? Is anything genuinely changing? And - more importantly - are there new pitfalls to avoid or new opportunites to grasp?

Here, in a guest article, Jens Lauritzson, CEO of Flexion examines the act's direct repercussions and assesses the real opportunities in Europe for the game developers and publishers working under it.

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) comes into force across the EU this Thursday, March 7 2024, leaving many game developers wondering “was it worth all the fuss?”. But there are opportunities ahead and already games publishers should be positioning themselves to respond with agility.

The cut that Apple and Google take if developers want to use the App Store or Google Play to distribute and market games is unreasonable to many. Some have argued that these tech giants have been abusing their monopolistic positions for years. Both the regulatory action by the European authorities with the DMA, and court battles taken on by Epic in the US, have been keenly watched in the hope they would lead to a nirvana where developers get to keep more of the revenue from their games.

Apple’s response to the DMA, in particular, has angered some. Sure they’ve dropped their cut and are allowing you to use an alternative payment platform. But they still want 17% plus a 50c per download charge for some, and you’ll end up paying maybe 12% to your alternative payment system.

So it’s not really a reduction - you’ll still be paying out almost 30% of your revenue as the price for doing business. For many, the investment to make changes simply isn’t worth the return. The math doesn’t add up and those with limited vision may end up sticking with Google and Apple.

Not the same old, same old

But that’s taking a rather narrow view. It is a fact that Apple and Google are opening up their markets and, although it may take time, it gives both developers and third-party service providers the chance to innovate and to exploit the opportunity.

It probably won’t happen overnight, but I’m with those who predict a more divergent market in two years or so.

Here at Flexion, we’re already into diverse marketing. For several years, we’ve been helping developers access so-called alternative app stores and there is a potentially huge audience of game players who don’t use the App Store or Google Play. Instead, they use Samsung, Amazon, Huawei or a host of other platforms.

If you already have an Android game, Flexion provides the tech and the marketing support (including running events and updates) so it costs the developer almost nothing in effort or upfront costs. But it brings in additional revenue streams almost for free. This is a model I can see being more widely adopted as the games market opens up.

Right now, it’s a huge overhead to adapt and manage games on PC, Android and iOS. To make the most of your game in two years or so, you’re likely to have to work with a greater number of markets. But if managing your game in seven markets sounds daunting, think about the Flexion model. Let specialist service providers manage the markets and the marketing, leaving you to concentrate on what you’re good at and what you love - making games.

Making the move

It’s not too soon to dabble in alternative markets and get a feel for how it works. By publishing now on Amazon, Samsung, Huawei, ONEStore, GetApps, you’re in a much better position to exploit the freer markets of the future.

The real prize, the one we should have been focused on all along, is not trimming costs from our marketing. It’s a renewed engagement with our users, and a better understanding of what they want. The new freedom that Google and Apple are being forced to give us is best used to build loyalty to our brands (rather than those of the tech giants) and to innovate around the feedback we get from loyal users.

And maybe the most consistent bit of feedback we get from users is that they don’t really care what platform they’re using. They care about the games. If they switch from an iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy, they don’t want to lose their favourite game. They don’t want to be judged for having the ‘wrong’ device, they just want to play what everyone else is playing.

Cross platform transparency is already the biggest issue in gaming and with more diverse markets opening up, it becomes critical. Because, in the end, success in the gaming world is only marginally impacted by whether you’re paying 29 or 30% to reach your audience. Real success comes when you own the IP of the next big game.

So, this is not a time to moan about the tech giants. This is a time to innovate and explore and to seize with both hands whatever market freedoms they give us.