In an industry that began to revolve around user acquisition, the competitive environment faced by indie developers is driven by Pareto law. While Supercell, King, Machine Zone and the like attract more and more users through paid marketing, small indie developers lose their places in application stores and the attention of users.
In other words, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. And in the free, high-demanding market, there is no Robin Hoods. The chance of significant success of indie studios depends on their ability to develop not on the acquisition of users, but rather on the design of games and alternative marketing schemes. Here are six aspects of developing mobile games that indie studios should focus on in my opinion to create innovative and different games.
1. New models of interactions and gestures
The uniqueness of a casual mobile game is often expressed by the gestures used in it. As an example, Fruit Ninja’s success was partially due to the unique finger-cutting mechanics that were new at the time the game started. In fact, the mechanics were so cool that they spawned a whole new category of finger-cut games. Studios need to constantly invent new ways of custom actions that will create a buzz around games.
Some cool things we saw in games from our reviews on the SCOOMLA blog:
Tap and hold for the game, release – pause.
Vibration of the device during explosions and shooting in the game. This is also called a tactile response. AdColony Video Advertising integrates tactile response into some ads;
Using a gyroscope to diversify interactions within a game at different levels and worlds.
Using video and audio as part of the gameplay. This works especially well in social games where recordings can be broadcast. Applicable for family games a la Heads Up, where you can record each other and play it later.
Use NFC for multiplayer mode. For example, you can touch phones to start a game or transfer virtual resources
The reason why these innovations will not come from the top of earning publishers may be that they focus on scaling games that already work well. They went through the stage of startup and product fitting to the market, now all of their resources are aimed at scaling and acceleration.
And indie studio is much more like a startup than an operating business. The definition of Steve Blank for a startup is an organization that is looking for a repeatable and scalable model, so the next product of large studios will resemble the previous ones in terms of genre and gameplay mechanics. The next Clash of Clans, Boom Beach or Hay Day will be controlled by the same gestures as their predecessors.
2. Use collaborative platforms to increase your budget.
When building a monetization strategy, think about platforms that enable sharing, barter and direct transactions. Chartboost was the first to offer a direct deal platform, followed by several other ad networks. Tapdaq offers trade setups with other games on the network. SCOOMLA builds a network with shared data that allows developers to get insights in real time when new potential paying players install the game.
Marginal note: indie needs to be kept in mind that mainstream forms of in-game advertising usually mean ads from large publishers with large budgets to acquire users. The developer runs the risk of pushing his users towards games made by large gaming companies. Such companies have at their disposal powerful analytics and marketing strategies that are likely to keep the user inside the company’s portfolio, thereby making him lost to the indie developer. This is also called the mobile game advertising dilemma.
3. Multiplayer – King
AAA games in mobile are not the first to discover and popularize multiplayer. It all started with indie studios. From OMGPop’s crazy Draw Something studios (acquired by Zynga for $ 200 million in 2012), to Minecraft and Dirtybit’s Fun Run trilogy, multiplayer thrives on top indie products. Here are some aspects of multiplayer that you should be aware of when trying to work with it: Sessions with ghosts. You want to allow users to compete in multiplayer mode, even if they are fighting against a virtual opponent. Guy Books, VP Products at Nextpeer, calls this the “three in the morning problem.” You have not yet gone to bed and are looking for an opponent, but now it’s 3 in the morning and you have no one to play with. Phantom sessions solve this problem by emulating real players to support games with a small user base while they grow.
Smart pairing: when the user base of your game grows, you will want to choose opponents in a trickier way. The reason is because you want players to be passionate about talking to each other. The multiplayer mode can be supplemented by the functions of the social network inside the game. This is proven to increase returns.
Continuing with the previous paragraph, think about games with strangers and games with friends. The latter, obviously, gives a lot of virality, but it can turn out to be more difficult in the sense of timely pair selection and planning.
Offline mode. Your game should allow players to play even when they are offline, so that a trip on the subway or a weak network signal does not stop them from honing their skills.
2015 App Annie Game Report proves that multiplayer is a leading factor in the player’s lifespan, and among the top mobile games, multiplayer is responsible for 60% of user spending. This report will appear in electronic form. SCOOMLA book with the best game reports.
4. Optimize your game concept for SEO
I know, I know, all of you, purist gamers, are going to hang me for these words. How dare I advise you to choose a concept game, storyboard and visual component based on keywords? Well, as this happens, many indie studios do not have enough money to get into the top charts of Apple and Google without paying users for a fee. This means that organic discovery will play a significant role in the distribution of their games.
This does not mean that you should discard all your most creative ideas. It just means that you need to refine them based on the keywords in the stores. In fact, it’s not too important whether the game mechanics of your game resemble FPS, a platformer or a match-3 game. What’s important is the keywords that will determine your position in the search results.
So, if your game is about zebras in the jungle, and the struggle for these words is too great, think about a game about marmots in the desert. This is just a simplified example, which should show that a slightly modified concept of a game with a strong SERP position is much more important than a game with your desired concept, which is not presented in the search. Searching for uncharted territories in the search on the App Store and Google Play should be one of the first steps in planning a game.
This practice is arguably the oldest trick. As in online content marketing, keyword research should be a standard pre-drill for indie game developers.
Tools like Keyword rank from App Annie and keyword search from Search Man can help you. Other ASO techniques include:
website optimization for ranking by application related keywords;
calls to action with links to the application on the site;
frequent updating of screenshots of applications in stores;
encouraging users to rate your game with an award within it;
A / B tests of icons and descriptions.
5. Strategic localization
We speak English, read English, program in English, but many of our potential users do not. There are more Spanish speakers in the world than English, and Chinese is spoken twice as much as both of them combined. According to Wikipedia, 14.4% of the world’s population speak Chinese, 6.15% in Spanish and 4.70% in English. It is interesting to note that half of the world’s population speaks 13 of the most popular languages.
Nevertheless, the distribution by language is not the only decisive factor in choosing the direction of localization. Market size is important. Market revenue from paid apps, IAP, and the share of ad revenue are high-level metrics that you should consider when deciding your localization strategy. I advise indies to go to countries: with emerging markets with a large number of smartphone users;
where they do not interfere with advertising and user data collection;
do not require infrastructural software changes, for example, migration of providers and servers;
standard platforms for devices are used (App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone Store, Amazon App Store, etc.);
It is relatively easy to find partners and contractors for localization.
Under these parameters, Japan, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Russia are best suited. This statement can also be confirmed by statistics. Top 10 localization areasthat maximize profits, from App Annie and Newzoo. There are quite a few services that can help you localize the game, and quite a few products that have been successfully localized. Worth a look at the GDC discussion about Expeditions: Conquistador from Logic Artists to see how they did it.
Without considering the above conditions, the Chinese market is probably the most desirable for many game developers. However, it can be incredibly difficult to enter their market without a site in Shanghai / Beijing, as well as a deep understanding of the gaming ecosystem behind a large Chinese firewall. Almost all indies should opt out of distribution in China by default, unless they have any advantage in the form of a partner in China or significant development business resources to support this trend.
6. Alterations and retro
Just like buying expensive paintings at home – for the inhabitants of the upper East Side, so a unique, detailed design – for wealthy companies. If you have not found an investment and there is only one or two professional artists in your team, it is very likely that you will not release a new Clash of Clans. You can create nostalgic references to the days when we had Ataris, IBM 386, and Commodores.
Adapting 8-pixel art, simple polygons, catchy storyboards and old-school gameplay mechanics, indies can create very attractive games without investing crazy money in the visuals. The flagships of casual games in this style, Flappy Bird and Crossy Road, climbed into the topcharts and brought their creators millions of dollars. Another interesting phenomenon – they spawned a whole subsystem of clones and define a new genre of games. Given the cheap production cost of these games, developers quickly earn someone else’s fame and repeat their success.