Monthly Archives: November 2015

Making A Mobile Game? Do Not Make These Mistakes!

By the time 2015 draws to a close, mobile gaming will be a $30 billion industry worldwide. Market researchers have forecasted that this figure will surpass $46 billion by 2018. Not all the statistical findings related to mobile game development is similarly rosy though. According to a recent Gartner report, not even 0.1% of the total number of gaming apps will be commercially successful over the next three years. These figures suggest two things – while there is ample scope for both indie developers and mobile app companies to earn big by making games, the risk of failure is considerable too. We will, in what follows, deliberate on some mistakes that game developers need to stay away from:

 

  1. Not thinking up a USP of the game – ‘Why would anyone download my game?’ – this is a question that developers should have a ready answer for, from the very outset. There are well over 396000 gaming applications in the Apple App Store alone – and the onus is on the developers to make their game(s) stand out in the crowd. You need to think up and implement a genuine USP for your game – something that sets it apart from similar apps. Unless a game is able to capture the attention of targeted users, it will never be successful.
  2. Not adhering to the time or monetary requirements – The minimum time-frames for developing a 2D game and a 3D game are 6 months and 12 months respectively (approx). If a game development agency tries to cut down on the required time (in a bid to please clients), the end-product will, in all likelihood, end up being buggy and sub-standard. The same applies for the costs involved. There is no way you can reduce the required expenses, without compromising on the quality of the game software. At the time of providing free app quotes on games, be very specific about the time and money that would be involved in making them. There should never be any problems regarding this later on.
  3. Trying to make the best game ever – Many new app and game developers try to make that one brilliant game at their first go – generally with disappointing results. It is always advisable to get your feet wet with a simple, level-based game and then move on to more complicated stuff. Rome wasn’t built in a day, Call of Duty is not a game that was released in the blink of an eye – and it takes time to learn the nitty-gritty of any field. Your first game might not be successful either – you need to learn from the experience and become a better developer.
  4. Not creating customized versions for different platforms – The iOS platform promises easier monetization and greater earning potential from gaming apps. Android, on the other hand, ensures greater reach for your game. If you make a game exclusively for one platform (and ignore the other), you will be passing up on one of these significant advantages. Experts from mobile game development agencies in Australia opine that a game should initially be released for a single platform (the priority and preferences of clients/developers will decide on which one), and then, create a customized version of the same game for the other platform. Cross-platform game development, done in a smart way, helps in revenue-generation as well as healthy downloads.
  5. Not planning the release at a proper time – If you are making a shareware or a free game, this isn’t that important for you. However, mobile app developers who are working on a paid game project have to carefully plan the release time of their product. The holidays, for instance, is a good time to launch a new paid game – simply because average users are more likely to actually spend on downloads during this period. Christmas is only a month away, and if you are working on a project now – you should be done by the end of November, and your game should become available for download within the next couple of weeks. Careful release is often as important as careful coding!
  6. Thinking of mobile games as downsized desktop games – One of the most common game developer mistakes worldwide. Just like a mobile app isn’t (or at least, should not be) anything like a clunky website – a mobile game cannot be treated as a miniature version of a computer game. For starters, the engagement levels for the former will be a lot less, and the layouts and designs have to be planned accordingly. While creating a mobile game, your primary focus should be on providing an intuitive user-experience, and as many customization options as possible. Yes, the gameplay of a desktop game and its mobile version will be roughly same – but the similarities should end here. In any case, if your game flouts any of the app store design guidelines, it will be promptly rejected.
  7. Not bothering about app monetization – If you wish to earn from your game (oh well, which app developer doesn’t?), implementing a proper monetization strategy for it is vital. You can go for a subscription-based strategy, although most developers prefer making freemium games (i.e., free-to-download games with in-app purchase options) or in-app advertisements. Find out which of these strategies will be best suited for your game. Also, give the end-users the option to upgrade to a paid, ad-free version of the game.
  8. Including ads that hamper gameplay – This is an extension of the previous point. How many times have you found (or read a review about) a game whose screen is cluttered with ads, creating unnecessary distractions? The user might not be able to view the entire screen – thanks to the crowd of advertisements on it. The next stop in such cases is uninstallation of the game, and that is something you certainly do not want. Place your in-app ads in a manner that they do not interfere with the gameplay in any way. If you are planning to include video ads (for ‘buying’ points, coins, stars, etc.), consider spacing them properly. No one likes to watch videos after every 10 seconds!
  9. Coming up with a game that is overly complicated – You might spend months and implement the latest technologies to create a ‘killer’ game – and yet, your audience might remain unimpressed. The most common reason for this is, most people are getting confused by the overly complicated nature of your game. Keep things simple and easy-to-understand, provide detailed instructions in the ‘How To Play?’ section – and test the beta version of your game on the devices of a core group of testers. Get their feedback, make the recommended changes, and focus on the user-friendliness of the app. While making a mobile game for kids, the ease-of-usage factor assumes even more importance. (Note: DO NOT test your own game app. The results will always be biased!).
  10. Not considering how mobile games are played – An overwhelmingly high percentage of mobile games are played while on the go. On public transports, it is a common sight to find people glued to their smartphone screens, tapping on the screens and playing games. More often than not, games are played to pass spare time (which is hardly ever very long) – and indie developers/mobile app & game agencies need to factor this in. A good gaming application should properly save user data, progress and status, let people pause and resume playing at their convenience, and be playable offline. Online multiplayer games for iOS or Android are exciting, but an app must not become useless if there there is no network coverage.
  11. Not identifying the target audience – For proper mobile app marketing, you need to have a clear idea of the audience profile your game targets. Every genre of mobile game has its own fans, and it is almost impossible to create an app that everyone will fall in love with. Depending on whether you are making a racing game, a strategy-based role-playing game, a simple arcade game, or a puzzle – the age-group, gender and other demographic features of your target audience will change. Have an idea about the people who will download your game, study their preferences, and design accordingly.
  12. Not testing your game thoroughly – In an entertainment or a social networking app, you might just get away with a small glitch in the initial release, by launching a prompt bug-fix update. There is no room for such luxury when you are into mobile game development. If there is even a small flaw in the gameplay or the screen layout, that would be magnified many times over by disgruntled users, the ratings of your game would tumble, and the effects of the negative word-of-mouth publicity will be damaging. Apart from online simulators, test your game app on the cloud, and in as many devices as possible. You should ideally have a group of beta-testers for the purpose. App submissions should be done after you are fully satisfied about its quality.

 

New mobile game developers need to have in-depth knowledge on working with the popular game development engines (Unity, Unreal Engine, GameSalad, CryEngine, etc.). Create game assets and characters that have recall value and users will be able to relate to. You have to extensively market your app as well – through social media channels, game review websites, and if possible, via ads in other games. Avoid using up all your resources at one go – instead, keep adding new features in the future upgrades.

 

Only a shade over 2% of all the mobile games (freemium only) downloaded in 2015 managed to stay in users’ devices for more than a month. This stat clearly highlights that most gaming applications at the app stores are not quite at par with user-expectations. Avoid the mistakes listed above, make your app user-friendly, market it well – and the chances of your game emerging a success will increase manifold.

What Are The Mobile App Developers Doing In Australia?

Is the Australian mobile market nearing saturation? After all, smartphone penetration percentage in the country grew by only 2% this year vis-a-vis 2014 (78% vs 76%), and a further 2% growth has been projected over the next couple of years. Whatever might be the answer to this question, one thing is for sure though – the mobile app market is showing no signs of slowdown whatsoever. In today’s discussion, we will highlight the major trends and figures among app developers in Australia:

 

  1. They are growing…and growing fast – An annual growth rate of 175%+ should be enough to prove this, but there are other figures to further highlight the white-hot mobile app revolution in Australia. The yearly value of the app industry is in excess of $300 million, and there are more than 400 mobile app companies in Australia. What’s more, well over 1600 developers are in this profession on a full-time basis. The app-makers’ contingent here is truly huge, and growing.
  2. The potential user-count is big – A key factor behind the success of Android and iPhone app developers in Australia is the strong demand levels. Nearly 3 out of every 4 smartphone users Down Under download mobile apps regularly. The popularity of apps is, however not uniform across age groups – with youngsters in the 18-25 age group being the more ‘heavy’ users (85% people in this age group download applications). The smartphone usage figure falls to around 26% among individuals who are of 65 or more years of age. Only 1 out of 10 of these users (on average) are regular downloaders of mobile apps.
  3. It’s all about social networking and games – There has been a spurt in the last year or so, in the number of social networking applications churned out by mobile app developers in Australia. The reason for this is the burgeoning popularity of such apps – with close to 70% users fond of using at least one of such applications (those in the 16-24 age group, once again, love these apps the most). Mobile game development companies in Australia have also upped their game, with gaming apps coming in second in terms of popularity. Apps with web browser support are a close third, while direction/navigation apps take up the fourth spot.
  4. Sydney has emerged as the hub – Most important Australian cities have a fair few mobile app development companies – but Sydney is the runaway leader (with over 55% of the total mobile app startups in the country being located here). The professional success of the developers here – with many of them bagging prestigious awards – has only encouraged many new entrepreneurs to get their feet wet in the mobile app business. If you are looking to find a good iOS or Android developer in Australia, you are almost certain to find several in Sydney!
  5. Apps are beneficial for everyone – A strong sign that the mobile app market in Australia is a developed one is the fact that – nearly everyone can identify at least one key benefit that regular app-usage provides them with. For some, it is the ease with which custom apps facilitate mobile shopping and m-banking. The fact that apps provide instantaneous access to the information/service that users are seeking is also an important factor behind their popularity. What’s more – most app developers in Australia create applications that retain their functionality offline. Even when a user does not have wifi network coverage on his/her device, (s)he can still keep using his/her favourite apps.
  6. Making apps for wearables has picked up momentum – In 2015, around 80 million wearable devices were sold in Australia. The buzz around Apple Watch has definitely helped in pushing up this figure – and the release of watchOS 2 has helped WatchKit developers create more, and better, apps. According to a Forrester report, the wearables segment of the mobile industry grew by over 220% in 2014 – and the figure is likely to increase significantly this year.
  7. Word-of-mouth publicity is vital for app marketing – Well, it is vital for developers anywhere to put prime emphasis on user-experience, while developing apps. In Australia, this factor is all the more prominent – since nearly 60% smartphone users look around to their friends, family members and other acquaintances for their opinions on an app, before they decide to download it. In comparison, only about 40% people consider app store reviews as the biggest influencing factor. The message is clear enough – if an app is not up to user-expectations at the first go, it is likely to find the going tough in future.
  8. Who creates apps in Australia? – A very interesting point. The number of dedicated mobile app entrepreneurs is relatively small here – and people from diverse backgrounds create Android or iOS applications. Right from graphic designing and mobile marketing, to software development and investment & venture capital – app developers in Australia hail from many different domains. Even youngsters with a knack for coding are making their foray into app development – and many of their products are finding widespread acceptance too.
  9. The iOS vs Android fight – For the first time ever, Android phones (with around 55% sales) overtook iPhones (sales have fallen to less than 45%) in 2015. The rest of the market is taken up by Windows Phones. Interestingly though, Australia still boasts of the second-highest penetration of iOS devices in the world (behind Japan), and Apple is comfortably the most popular smartphone brand in the country (the popularity of Android gets divided among its many vendors). The demand for expert Android developers in Australia is growing, although iPhone apps have more or less maintained their steady demand levels.
  10. Apps are taking the place of websites – A recent survey revealed that 70% people in Australia use mobile apps for social networking purposes, while a measly 20% use websites for the same purpose (this distribution is similar across males and females). Even among senior people, among whom app-usage is the least, over 45% use social networking applications, and around 18% rely on websites.
  11. NFC has taken the mobile industry in Australia by storm – Apple Pay is a huge success, and Android Pay (unlike its predecessor, the disappointing Google Wallet) holds out many promising features. Together, they have bulked up the popularity of near-field-communication (NFC) technology in Australia. In figures, the annual growth of NFC in Australia has been more than 350% over the last two years. It has been projected that over 50% of smartphone users in Australia will be using mobile wallets by the end of 2017. App developers, not surprisingly, are turning their attention to making applications with NFC support.
  12. The usage concerns that developers need to handle – With great penetration, comes the threat of serious security breaches (to borrow and modify a quote from a famous superhero film). According to general users as well as mobile app development experts in Australia, there is a general wariness regarding sharing personal information on applications. The onus is on developers to convince users regarding the reliability of their apps’ security features. In-app purchases, location-sharing information and accidental downloads (often a cause for concern in mobile apps for kids) are also factors that the app-makers have to handle very carefully. Two other absolute ‘no-no’-s for app developers in Australia are: a) making apps that hog too much of mobile data, and b) including in-app ads that hamper user-experience.

 

The compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of the mobile app industry in Australia (till 2015-16) is in excess of 25% – something that the app developers in the country can take a lot of heart from. The country occupies the 5th spot in terms of revenues for app developers – behind USA, Japan, UK, and China. Mobile app development is a thriving business in Australia – and all indicators point to further, and rapid, growth of this domain in the foreseeable future.

Apple TV 4: The Good Outweighs The Bad Easily

The future of TV is apps

                                                                                         — Tim Cook (CEO, Apple Inc.)

 

Last Friday, Apple released the long-awaited fourth iteration of Apple TV (Apple TV 4) in select countries. Initial reviews have mostly been positive, in spite of a few points of debate about certain aspects of the significantly revamped digital media player. We will here highlight certain key features of Apple TV 4, and show how its good features are easily more in number and importance than the iffy ones:

 

  1. Size – For starters, the new version is noticeably larger than its predecessor, the Apple TV 3. The physical dimensions of the gadget are 35mmx98mmx98mm – and at 15 ounces, the TV is fairly lightweight as well. The impressive new remote (we will discuss more about it later) weighs just a shade over 1.65 ounces.
  2. Playback control with Siri – Software and app developers have been excited by the nature and extent of Siri integration in Apple TV 4. There are dual microphones, and users can simply tell Siri to ‘find’ a show – to watch it on the screen of the device (that’s right, you no longer have to manually search for content). Apple has done a great job with the voice control features of the TV remote. Clearly, user-convenience has been a critical factor.
  3. App Store for Apple TV – Apple TV 4 has its very own operating system – tvOS – which has a strong resemblance to the iOS platform (which is, of course, a good thing). What’s more, TV-optimized versions of several popular iPhone/iPad applications, like Airbnb and Gilt, have also arrived in the all-new app store for Apple TV. According to official announcements, a fairly large number of games and video streaming services are have already arrived at the store. While Roku is still ahead in terms of number of channels (2500+), it won’t be a major surprise if the new Apple TV manages to catch up with it over time. Third-party app developers have got a lot to be excited about.
  4. Closed caption subtitles and updates via Siri – For users, one of the best new features of Apple TV 4 is the option to simply say ‘What’s he just say?’ directly to the TV. Doing so will trigger a rewind for a few seconds, along with closed captions subtitles, if required. Updates on sports and weather, and things like details regarding movies and tv shows, can be obtained from Siri. Minimum of fuss, loads of information!
  5. The new TV remote – Definitely one of the most-talked about accessories of the latest version of Apple’s media-playing device. The remote is a lot like the one available to Mac-users, and packs in plenty of interesting features – right from the glass touchpad (the accuracy of which is very accurate) and lightning conductor charging options, to excellent Siri support, IR transmissions, and complete Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility. The absence of fast-forward/rewind option might seem a glitch at first – but these tasks can be performed simply by sliding a finger on the remote trackpad. The battery performance of the remote has also received the thumbs-up from testers and Apple app developers.
  6. Processor and video/audio support – Powered by the 64-bit A8 processor, the new Apple TV supports a truly vast range of audio formats. In the former category, MP3, MP3 VBR, AAC, WAV and Dolby Digital 5.1/7.1 audio files can be seamlessly played on the device – along with, of course, Apple Lossless sounds. The video support for Apple TV 4 includes MPEG4 files (30 fps, 250 Mbps, 640×480 pixels). H.264 videos (60 fps) and H.264 Baseline Profile Level files (48 kHz; 160 Kbps) can be played on Apple TV 4 as well.
  7. Games come to Apple TV in a big way – Over the next few months, it will be fascinating to find out whether Apple TV 4 can challenge gaming consoles like Xbox One. The Siri Remote itself doubles up as the game controller, with the wrist loop ensuring problem-free gameplay (for instance, the wrist loop ensures that the controller does not, in any way, hamper viewing of the screen). External third-party controllers are also supported – something that sounds promising for hardware developers and iOS game developers.
  8. Top-notch accessibility features – The enhanced usability features of the new Apple TV digital media player has been unanimously praised by early adopters and professional Apple development experts alike. Increase Contrast, Voice Over and Bold Text are some of the features that make using the device easier than ever – while there are zooming options and a ‘Reduce Motion’ feature as well. Users with specific problems (for instance, people with auditory challenges) can easily enjoy all the features of the new and revamped Apple TV.
  9. The price factor – The million dollar question (yes, metaphorically!) is whether the array of new features of Apple TV 4 justifies its rather high price tag. The 32GB model costs $149 (which is more than double of the $69 Apple TV 3), while power gamers and heavy users can opt for the 64GB version, which is available at $199. Chromecast and Roku provides, in essence, the same services as the new offering from Apple – and it remains to be seen whether people indeed go for the more expensive device.
  10. Absence of Siri search on the app store – On the tvOS platform, the app store does not have Siri search compatibility. This, in all likelihood, will emerge as a problem – as the app-count for Apple TV grows (navigation, in particular, will become an issue). Reports and opinions from online mobile app development forums suggest that the Cupertino tech giant missed a trick by not extending Siri search to the TV app store. Maybe this will be added in a later upgrade.
  11. 4K Videos? Not Yet! – Amazon Fire TV has it, Roku 4 has it (both of which are, incidentally, cheaper than Apple TV 4) – and the latest Apple TV does not. We are talking about support for the latest video standard – 4K videos. This factor is somewhat offset by the fact that there are not many 4K videos available anyway at present, but that is likely to change over time and Apple TV will have to up its game.
  12. Not a standalone device – Unlike almost all other successful Apple devices (think: iPhone, iPad, Mac), the Apple TV 4 is not a standalone gadget. Users will still need to have their good old traditional television sets, to avail Apple’s streaming services. While this is not a glitch per se, there will be a significant section of people who will stick to watching tv the old-fashioned way. With watchOS 2, Apple is trying to reduce the reliance of Apple Watch on the iPhone – and a similar attempt is required to make Apple TV more of a standalone gadget.
  13. Restoring settings and apps – Apple TV 4 is the only iOS device with a certain feature – and it’s not something that works in its favour. Users cannot restore apps from their older models of Apple TV to the new one. The same goes for settings. What they have to do is find the applications in the app store, and get them all over again. The most likely reason for this is that there is no backup option till date for TV (Apple TV 4 is the first model to be included in the app ecosystem of Apple). There are suggestions that the option to restore settings and apps will arrive in future iterations.

 

Users have been given the option to personalize Apple TV 4 by renaming the device (from Settings → AirPlay → Apple TV Name). AirPlay is also available for apps that do not have built-in support, although the quality and range of entertainment apps do leave a lot to be desired. Via iCloud Photo Library, images can be customized and viewed on the HDTV as well. Apple TV 4 is not a flawless new device, and it is certainly not a cheap one either. However, it has a lot going for it – and tech analysts and app developers feel that it will emerge a winner.

 

What do you think of the Apple TV 4?