So you're an indie dev, you just made your first game and you want to sell it. It goes up on the iTunes app store or Google Play service or whatever it is the other lesser-devices use to peddle their apps through, and you get your first buy. After a 30% cut to the distributor you're looking at a 69 cent revenue stream from a single customer... a customer that stays your only customer for a week... for two weeks... for a month. What happened to that infinite well of prosperity that was promised by every big mover and shaker in the industry when the numbers rolled out and it looked like mobile was the way to go?
Well, install base and market saturation has nothing whatsoever to do with selling apps, especially when there's an uphill struggle to deal with app discovery, stiff competition and a lack of marketing funds to get your game recognized. Some developers are learning this the hard way. A detailed article over on GamesIndustry.biz reveals that the grass isn't always greener where your core demographic does not reside.
The article talks to a number of developers who have had it tough trying to sell games on the app store, where indies like Jeffrey Lim and Paul Johnson revel in the pity of their sob-stories for getting games out onto the mobile marketplace. Lim and Johnson aren't the only ones, though, you can talk to just about any indie dev making mobile titles and hear a similar story, from Nautilus to Kaveluza, the name and situation may change but the results are all the same: the mobile marketplace is flooded with apps, competition is stiff and profits are slim.
Of course, there are those who disagree with this assessment – there are those who feel as if strong-arming the mobile demographic with insouciant restraint in marketing and sometimes paid-for reviews, can help them get their game to succeed where others have failed.
Chillingo COO Ed Rumley paints a different picture of the mobile space, one of an embittered and grizzled consumer, wiping away the grime and dirt of fetid software apps and poorly designed mechanics off their machines as they seek higher quality, longer lasting experiences, saying...
"The number of games being submitted is growing, as is the number of developers contacting us. I'm not sure if some are being scared away, but we know from experience that some developers underestimate the time and quality it takes to make it in mobile now. Consumers are a savvy bunch and spot second rate games a mile off. You can't just knock something together in your spare time, upload it and wait for the money to roll in anymore,”
In other words, you can't do in mobile what you can now do with Steam, which is basically: Make your game, make sure it's good, submit it to Steam Greenlight for $100 and then wait and watch as the audience and community build. Like the old saying goes from a movie I've never seen: If you make it good, they will come.