Challenges of Making a Game for American Mobile Game Market

Challenges of Making a Game for American Mobile Game Market
As the holidays are approaching in America, we take look at America’s mobile game industry this month, with its history, issues, and monetization. Unraveling the complexities of the American gamer is a must in one of the most aggressive and lucrative areas in mobile.
If you have never been to America or are starting your research into the market don’t be surprised. The average gamer is extremely smart about gameplay, good art styles, great music, and what makes a game fun. Titans like EA, Disney Interactive, Glu Mobile, and Gameloft have been creating mobile games for American consumers since the mid 2000s. For developers, this and Japan are the most difficult but most lucrative place to make games.
So the question is, can my game make it in America? Most games can have a following, but making your game go over the app poverty line of $500 a month (according to VisionMobile) will be extremely hard if you aren’t prepared and a little bit of luck won’t hurt as well.

Know the audience

Big Fish Games, has a great demographic look into game players for those wanting a broad look at the audience.  We do know that the ESA reports 155 million Americans are playing games (Though NewZoo states there are over 325 million mobile gamers), the Pew Research Center reports that 68% of adults have a smartphone with most coming from age 18 – 29 at 86%, and women, who have always been dominant in the casual game space, are now taking over the mobile space according to Flurry.
So women with a smartphone in college should be my target right? Well, this Christmas seems to be adding cheap tablets to the holiday gift lists of children and a large portion of tablet game players should be emerging in 2016.  Also, interest in mobile gaming is growing in all demographics as Pew Research shows zero growth in other platforms compared to the increase in smartphones and tablets.
Many gamers in America are looking for short bursts of gameplay in their daily life. Games like Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, and Clash of Clans, allowing for gameplay of under 10 minutes, such as on lunch breaks, waiting for the bus and time before bed are the biggest sellers. Epic MMORPGs should be thinking twice if they want to enter America. NewZoo also agrees showing American gamers playing a game under 3 hours a week are spending more than those playing your games for a lot more time.

Preparation is Key

Having the best resources for mobile is important. Understanding trends and what things are and are not working will be key to knowing how well your game will do and missing the pitfalls that others faced. Here are a list of sites recommended highly for research:

  • AppAnnie: The Queen of app tracking, the company allows for the tracking of trends and shares information about what is happening all things apps. Check their blog for insight on all things apps.

  • There is nowhere else doing more towards mobile game business development news than this group. A daily look will help in both American and world development of mobile games.

  • TouchArcade: Another great news resource, but only works with iOS titles.

  • Casual Game Association: Not only do they have some of the biggest events for mobile and casual games, Casual Connect, they place talks from the even online for your perusal. Check their YouTube channel for all the presentations from every event since 2012.

  • NewZoo: I know I use them a lot for my research and in my stories, but they are one of a very few research companies working directly with the mobile game sector. Plus, each report is full of information that you can’t find anywhere else.


Make Your Game Special

Nintendo’s mission statement “To surprise and delight with the unexpected.” Should be taken to heart when you build games in the west. Copycats rarely make anything that the original did, and boring gameplay will end with very little longtail sales. But taking an aspect of other games to create your own is still very powerful.
A good example is the recent rise of Smashy Road: Wanted. With Crossy Road making big sales this summer with it’s easy gameplay and fun blocky 8-bit graphics, Smashy Road: Wanted took the look and added a Grand Theft Auto gameplay to it. Learn more in AppAnnie’s analysis.
Also, don’t be afraid to create new ideas and new gameplay. Most independent and small app developers are still making the top of the charts every month and company branding isn’t as strong as with console or PC games.

Learn the ways of Casual Gaming

Unless you are going hardcore, you need to learn a lot from the previous experiences of PC casual games of the 2000s. It was very competitive and getting someone to pay for a $20 game off a 10 – 30 minute trial was incredibly difficult.
Many developers started to experiment in creating better tutorial stages, better planning of early stages, and quick rewards for instant play. Back in 2009, I was told at a Casual Connect that you had 5 seconds to gain a players interest, 10 seconds to have them learn the simple gameplay and 30 seconds to entertain them before they make a final decision on a game. So first impressions are incredibly important with your game.
Also, understand that free to play is growing, but sentiment about what should be free and not be free is very different than in Asia or other countries. Study to make sure what items should be earned with cash and earned with time. Countries that focus on “Pay to Win” should be extremely cautious of this monetization style.
We’ll talk more about this and all things monetization in part 3, later this week.

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