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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.