Future of Mobile Gaming a panel by KICK 9 at Fanime 2016
With most people owning a smartphone nowadays, it is easy to see how free-to-play games on mobile devices are on the rise and how common they really are. Some might argue that games like Candy Crush and Brave Frontier with its micro-transactions is not a real game, you have to admit that they help that work/school commute that much easier. Recently, we have seen the increase of big titles such as Final Fantasy, Lord of the Rings, and the Walking Dead make their way to the mobile gaming platform - making it hard not to pay attention to this newish genre of games. Well this year at Fanime a panel titled “Future of Mobile Gaming” by Kick9 caught our attention and we decided to attend to see what information it had to offer.
The panel began with what makes a mobile game popular the host gave us four basic points: intellectual property (IP), budget, content and community. He explained that most games don’t have the budget for a good IP or budget for commercial that catches people’s eyes when seen. Which leads most mobile games to depend on content and/or community, so depending on which they use more it makes the game player want to keep playing it. Such as content most mobile games are free so to keep players coming back they hold events or daily/weekly/monthly log in rewards. The events can range from daily dungeons or fights or puzzles to server wide participation in events such as raid bosses or dungeons. These events keep people coming back daily to claim or participate in them thus keeping the game going. Also having an established community base is also important forums, wiki, Reddit, Facebook page. This makes you see how many people out there are playing and they can talk to each other about the game and this gives feedback to the developers giving them the information about what people like or hate of the game thus allowing them to make changes without spending money to gather the intel some other way. From here we will be taking what the host said and summarizing it using our own words and examples making it easier to explain and understand. We might leave out a few details or information but the main points are there so please continue reading.
For example, ‘user1234’ just downloaded ‘FUN’ mobile game from ‘T-ono.inc’ and plays it every day with people around the world. ‘User1234’ logs in daily and for free making the game popular. Ok most people might say that’s good for people who just want to play mobile games but what about the people who want to develop them how will they make money. Well that’s where micro-transactions come into play. Take for example Candy Crush, the first few levels are easy to complete, but then you hit a level that you can’t pass and that’s when you are offered an item that will give you the needed help to pass that level for a small fee. Some players will rationalize the cost and pay the small fee for the item. However, from a developer’s point of view, this is a measly several cents, that’s hardly enough for a pack of gum! Well think of this on average how many people play Candy Crush now say that about 40% will make a small micro-transaction that cost a couple of cents now add it up, yep now you are seeing the big picture. Ok, but what about other people who don’t want to make the in-game purchase? No problem! Do some free advertising for the game, encourage your friends to play with you, refer them, and you get a perk. Now even if the player isn’t paying, he is referring someone else to play, and that person just might pay.
Ok but what if the game gets boring or just repetitive. Well this is where the feedback from the community comes into play or simply the developers have to understand that the game has to step it up a bit once in a while with events, limited time offers (LTO) on items to increase micro-transaction, along with new content. What is new content? It can’t just be new dungeons or updates. Well yes and no. It depends on the game and what feedback you are getting. If your players are complaining about glitches then you need to fix them by rolling out patches/updates that address those concerns, if the game is just repetitive then you need to make new storylines so players can continue playing the adventure or puzzles. Or maybe you need all three content, fixes, and LTO’s.
Ok well you might have seen ‘FUN’ mobile game overseas but now translated it doesn’t seem the same what gives. Well companies in the USA take games from overseas and localize them by translating them so that people who might not read Japanese or Chinese can play the games in English. So why does it look and feel different? Well overseas games have much more text to them while in the USA games have simpler layout. Or the game play might be different due to the events or log in rewards, for example when the game overseas required a monthly log in to obtain item ‘X’ here in the USA it might just require a week log in to obtain the same item. This might be done for different reasons such as to maximize the number of players or to retain the number of players or simply to simplify the game at its roots.
So how to know if a game is successful, well it all depends on different factors. If you played Candy Crush you know it is popular due to its number of downloads back in 2013 500 million downloads were recorded now take the second version of Candy Crush and let’s say it was only downloaded 250 million times. We can see this in two different ways one it did not get the same amount of downloads as the original and so it is a fail. Or we can see it as which did more micro transactions and by that measure maybe Candy Crush did less while the 2nd version did more. So as you can see it all depends on your measure of success. You can also use a private company that will track different elements of you game. They can track from how long players stay logged in to what times players are more active and other statistics so you can better understand your targeted audience and make improvements.
Ok so if this is now what’s next? Well that’s where the speaker began to say how games have to evolve by fusing more elements together such as dungeon crawler with some puzzle gaming. So it is all about testing the waters and listening to the fans. Since we know that what is popular overseas sometimes doesn’t mean it will be popular in the US. Just keep this in mind that there are many mobile games being released daily and most of them will fail due to lack of innovation or the fundamental basics. As I close this lengthy article please go check out the games that kick9 has to offer and visit their forums to check out feedback on their games. If you are an aspiring app developer, you can see what services they offer as well. If you were unable to make it to their panel at Fanime 2016 this panel will likely be presented again at Anime Expo 2016 so if you are interested contact them for further details.