What Does It Take To Be Profitable Selling Mobile Games?
Tom's Hardware: Big-name console and PC game developers enjoy hefty budgets, large teams, and long development cycles to create the next market hit. As a result, big sales numbers are needed for a title to be considered successful. Recently, EA CEO John Riccitiello said Star Wars: The Old Republic needs 500 000 paying subscribers to break even and 1 million subscribers to be profitable.
What are the economics of mobile game development? What is the revenue share of distribution networks like the Apple App store or Google Play? Tell us about the size of your distribution teams, your development cycles, and your break-even and profitability targets for a successful game in the mobile market.
Fishlabs: As the processing and rendering power of tablets and smartphones increases, so do the dev budgets for mobile games. The biggest premium IPs already have budgets within the seven-digit range. Both Apple and Google use a 70/30 rev-share model and take a cut of 30% of both app sales and in-app-purchases. Fishlabs currently employs 60 full-time-employees, and the current development cycle for high-quality games is one to two years.
One thing that distinguishes us from the PC and console space is the fact that we have to anticipate the capabilities of the next generation of smartphones and tablets in order to be able to deliver a perfect build of our game by the time a new device hits the market. If you take into consideration that the mobile market is constantly in motion, introducing new innovations every six months, you might understand that it is not always an easy to be in front of the next trend and one step ahead of the competition.
The aim we always want to achieve with our games is the creation of a highly immersive gaming experience that can be enjoyed on-the-go. Of course, another goal is for the title to be commercially successful, preferably to an extent that enables the company to grow organically and make even bigger games. Depending on the dev budget and business model (pay-per-download on the one hand or free-to-play with in-app purchasing on the other) you usually need to sell several hundred thousand copies to break even.
Madfinger: Our company started with four employees a year and a half ago, and today we employ 16 people. Usually, we try to develop a game using fewer than ten people over a period no longer than eight months, and that helps to minimize our budget. A game developed for mobile platforms with the same budget as a console game cannot be successful, and cannot be profitable. Based on our experience, a mobile game is successful only if it pays for the development of a new game.
We are lucky because we have talented people in our team. Development of new game does not cost as much as it does on the console or PC side, and our games become profitable much faster. A $6 title becomes profitable after around 100 000 copies sold.
Mediocre: The mobile market is very opportunistic. With the vast majority of all sales representing only a few hundred titles, it is hard to break even if you are not one of those titles. We are a staff of only two people, so we can keep the costs down, but we still need to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of a game to cover the development cost. We focus on high-quality games and spent nine months developing Sprinkle, which is quite a lot for a casual game. I think many developers want to spread their risk by making a large number of simpler games and hope for one of them to take off. We strongly believe that is a bad idea for both developers and consumers.
Vector Unit: Most of the app markets take a 30% cut, with 70% going to the developers. Our strategy generally is to keep our costs down without hurting the overall polish of the gaming experience. We have a three-person team, and our budgets are typically in the range of $100 000 or less. Therefore, we have to sell about 65 000 units of a $2 game to break even—but even that is not easy. By the way, there was a great survey put out by Owen Goss last year that went into some detail about these numbers.
True that HD version is the way, but developers should not charge additional fees for it. Imagine if PC game developers implement this...you pay for the 1024x768 pix version, then when you upgrade your resolution to 1680x1050 pix, do you have to buy the game again?
Therefore, whichever platform you like I hope you can 'get' what you like. I do hope that all platforms can make it easier for the developers.
these mobile games are a joke...they are clearly made for the lowest common denominator of people (the stupid)
You two are exaggerating by way too much. Mobile gaming isn't for the stupid, not in the least. It's for people who want to game when they are mobile. Desktops are for a completely different market with different goals. Mobile gaming is not about matching PC gaming in quality, it's about cheap, affordable games that can be played when you are mobile. Of course they won't come close to desktop quality. Mobile games are not for the stupid, they are for the mobile. You two are just elitest pricks who don't recognize that your ways of life can't be sustained by everyone else and even if they could, not everyone wants to be like you. If I'm on a train for two hours a day to go between work in a city and my home in a cheaper suburb outside of the city, then wth am I supposed to do? PCs obviously aren't a viable choice here. However, I have my phone on me, so I can use it. Mobile gaming markets are pretty similar to the Game Boys and such, except the smart phones are both for gaming and many other uses.
Sure, mobile gaming can also be done at the house and such for people who want to do it. It is FAR more affordable than PC or console gaming is, so many more people can do it who would have otherwise been left without any good games at all. Furthermore, games obviously don't need tons of memory if they are written well. For example, the PS3 only has 256MB of GDDR3 VRAM and only 256MB of XDR system RAM and most modern smart phones have at least that much memory, if not even more. Smart phones have more than enough memory for mobile gaming.
Furthermore, smart phones are approaching the processing power of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Tablets have already matched them with the newest iPad (although I'd wait until a non-Apple tablet/smart phone had such power before buying something like this). Most people simply can't afford or can't justify spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to get high performance gaming systems and games for those systems, especially when they can get a far cheaper phone that is also needed for other things and get the games for less than $10 each (many are free). Sure, they aren't as high quality as some PC games, but it's not like most PC games we see today are nearly as good for the time as we have seen in the past. So many potentially good games have been dumbed down or were just made poorly.
Sure, we still have some good games, but most of them simply aren't anymore. Sometimes, I'd rather just play an older game nowadays just because they were simply better games, despite not having as much eye candy. Seriously now... Most people need a phone for a variety of reasons (be they convenience or through necessities such as jobs requiring phones and other important reasons). Most people don't really need a computer for anything except internet access. Sure, some people, such as developers, IT, and others need them for their jobs, but most people don't really need them and can do a lot of what needed a PC on a cheap laptop or even on a good smart phone. So, phones are obviously pretty much universally needed by the majority. You can just get a free or a cheap game, or a bunch of them, for the prices of a single PC/console game. They don't even need to be as good... At least smart phone games don't have DRM problems and such that PC games (and possibly console games soon enough) have.
Games are there to entertain, and to have fun. If I can have fun playing World of Goo on my android phone while running errands with my wife, or play Machinarium on my Playbook while flying to my destination, then at is gaming at it's essence. Honestly the Wii was probably the best and worst thing to happen to gaming. Obviously it brought out alot of shovelware (that otherwise would have targeted another console) but it also showed the world that people don't need serious games, we need fun games. Not everyone wants to compete all the time, they just want something to pass the time, to tell a story.
There's room in the market for all game types. Hell, I even backed Takedown since I do enjoy a "serious" game occasionally. But claiming that people will stop playing tablet games "once they see what a PC can do" is ignorant. I'm well aware of what a PC can do, and will continue to play games on all my devices, when convenient. I don't need great graphics to have fun, just remember that video games started out with a dot and 2 lines.
You can always tell when someone is out of logical, focused arguements. They start calling names. "Elitist prick"? What do I care how you spend your 2 hour commute? Next you'll be telling me it's OK to game and drive. Something tells me you're an itard.
What was more interesting is the way they completely avoided talking about anything related to x86. Can't be sure why but i think they've not got much experience at all with the arch.