Opportunities and Challenges in Mobile Gaming
This article summarizes discussions and conclusions of the Mobile Game Arch Workshop held during the Game Connection Europe 2011 conference in Paris on 06.12.2011 from 09:00 until 17:30. The workshop was moderated by Dr. Malte Behrmann (EGDF).
New opportunities for a mobile game industry:
• The new forms of monetization
• Free-to-play: Digital distribution and a free-to-play business model are the future of mobile games publishing. Mobile game developers can learn a lot from the online game developers who developed the free-to-play model.
• The long tail: The ‘long tail’ of mobile games is emerging; mobile games have a longer life cycle now.
• IP: Brands such as Angry Birds and Doodle Jump are building more and more value. The current market situation is very good for launching them.
• The new types of games:
• Cross-platform games: Real cross-platform gaming – not just between smart phones, but also smartphone to TV or Smart TV, to PC or to Tablet; games for a smart TV for example – are emerging. However, there is no business model for these markets yet.
• Location based games, Cloud, AR: Location based games, cloud based games and augmented-reality offer new opportunities for mobile games. Especially locationbased games are exclusively for mobile platforms, as you cannot play these games on other gaming platforms.
• The new game development methods
• A viral innovation: A viral innovation model, based on pushing games to markets as early as possible and continuously developing them based on the feedback from the people who play them, provides a cost-effective way to develop games that work well in dynamic markets.
• Faster development: HTML5 is making the development of casual games much faster and easier.
• Faster access to markets: Developers have much better control than before over where, when and at what price their games are sold.
• Bigger markets: As Europeans are used to operating in a multilingual and multicultural market area, they have a competitive advantage over developers in the USA, Canada, China and Japan..
• Technological challenges:
• The extremely fast rate of technological development
• Fast changing hardware and operating systems: The rate of change in mobile hardware and operating systems is increasing. Furthermore, the co-operation between handset manufacturers and mobile game developers is limited, but it could get better in the near future as handset manufacturers depend more and more on the products of game developers, and become aware of this. Middleware tools or HTML5 offer only a very limited solution for them, as these are always behind the cutting-edge of the industry.
• Challenging environment for standardization:The fast rate of technological development and the global nature of mobile industry make it difficult to find new standards for the mobile game ecosystem. However, there is a specific need for standardization in the area of games operating at the same time on TVs, mobile phones and tablets.
• The lack of interest in standardisation: Game developers do not pay enough attention to standardization activities, as standardization processes are long, demand a lot of time, cause high travel costs and are hard to track by individual developers. Game developer associations, namely EGDF, could fulfil a role as a representative of game developers in standardisation activities, and in improving the dialogue between developers and platform owners such as Google, Apple and Microsoft.
• Latency: Latency caused by insufficient investments in the network infrastructure will be a major obstacle to streaming data from a cloud to a mobile device.
• Fragmentation: Fragmentation is still a problem (especially within the Android Platform, but more and more also in iOS). The fragmentation is not just technological,
but also “administrative”, when comparing different application stores. It is also, for example, very complicated to port games from Windows Mobile to other platforms
due to a different code base. On the other hand, a game that works in Apple’s Appstore does not necessarily work on Android Market the iTunes Appstore is based
more on paying for downloads and Android on following a free-to-play or ad-based model, both increasingly featuring in-game purchases.
• The introduction of HTML5: There is a lot of potential in HTML5, but it does not yet work well in mobile OS’s.
• Technological support for end users: The need for technological support for endusers is much higher for a game on the Android platform than on iOS.
• Economical challenges:
• A wide skill set: A developer has to find the right road to a market, the right road to visibility, the right road to finance and a right road to reach consumers. This requires a very wide skill set of game developers.
• Access to markets:
• Rising development costs: After the iPhone was introduced, publishing new mobile games became much easier by significantly lowering the barriers to access a mobile
market. Development costs dropped with iOS, but they are now rising again because of the fierce competition in application stores.
• Choosing the right business-model: Free-to-play, pay-per-download, in-app purchase, advertising, subscription etc. and adjusting gameplay to fit this is extremely
• Lack of billing mechanisms: In many countries, people do not have access to credit cards. Consequently, the new role of mobile operators in the value chain could be
connected with billing and offering new monetization solutions such as premium SMS.
• Access to funding:
• Insufficient funding for SME’s: A substantial part of all innovation happens in small companies, such as independent game developers (instead of big entities), but they
need early stage public and private financial support.
• Access to public funding: The public funding for game developers is not sufficient in Europe and policies regulating the mobile ecosystem do not take into account the
particular needs of the mobile game developers.
• Access to private funding: The access to private investment is challenging in Europe, because investing in games requires a specific expertise, which is hard to find within
• Access to users:
• No access to users and to data on them: The viral innovation model is based on engaging with users. However, many platform holders, like Apple, do not allow
developers to access to user data which makes user engagement possible.
• Access to visibility
• Features from retail markets: Application stores are introducing many features of retail markets to the application stores like categories, shelf placement, bundles,
seasonal sales, etc.
You can read a detailed summary of minutes of Mobile Game Arch Workshop here.