Making the Move: PC vs. Mobile Markets

Independent game developers have two viable markets for their next game: The mobile market and the PC route via digital distribution. Having a successful game on one doesn’t mean that you’ll succeed on the other as both markets have their differences and audience. 

Angrybirds

Today’s post examines these differences and things any developer needs to understand about the mobile and PC markets. 

Going Digital:

Let’s start with the PC market. Off the bat a major advantage the market has is its flexibility. Every week games are being released in a variety of scales: From simple games to massive titles with dozens of hours of entertainment.

This flexibility also means a diverse audience of everything from the casual gamers to the hardcore. While getting your game on a major platform like Steam, GOG and so on is important, indie developers do have the option of selling directly from their own site. Keep in mind that the games that are the most profitable are the ones that are attached to a popular storefront.

ThomasWasAlone (1)

The PC market’s variety of games gives it a diverse fanbase

Pricing wise, PC gamers don’t mind paying more for a game if the content is worth it. Generally speaking an Indie game can be priced anywhere from $5 to around $30 being the top of the mark. When porting a popular mobile game to the PC, be aware that if you’re just raising the price for no other reason than adding a premium for the PC platform, consumers will call you out on that.

In terms of genres to avoid, PC gamers want titles with some depth to them or in other words, something that they can sit down and enjoy. Simple titles like match 3 games or basic 2D platformers are a dime a dozen and the core gamers are educated enough to avoid clones. Free To Play titles have to be handled very carefully as no one will fall for the microtransactions of a game like Dungeon Keeper and chances are you will have to alter your design when switching from mobile to PC.

There are a few disadvantages of the PC platform. First off for the new designer, you are stepping into the ring with the big developers. Creating something that stands out from the hundreds of other Indie teams all vying for the same recognition can be tough. You’ll need a combination of good marketing, well designed mechanics and sometimes luck to be able to have a success.

ClashofClans

Clash of Clans like Angry Birds was one of the few mobile games to achieve major notoriety

The digital platforms themselves may be your golden ticket but getting on them can be a challenge. With Steam, unless you work for an established publisher or know someone to speed you through the vetting process, you will have to make use of Steam’s Greenlight program.

If competing to attract core gamers is not your thing, the mobile market may be better suited but it’s not without disadvantages.

On the Run Games:

The Mobile Market refers to using tablets or smart phones and has exploded over the last few years as the technology improved. Where once cell phones could barely play simple flash games, smart phones and tablets are now like mini computers in their technical specs.

The beauty of the mobile market is its fan base as every person who has a mobile device can become a fan of your game.  Because mobile devices come standardized out of the factory, you don’t need to worry about the randomness of computer specs that you would see from the PC market.

CivilizationRevolution

Civilization Revolution was an example of where a redesign was needed when switching markets.

Mobile devices are built around burst play — Where the consumer may only play in 10 to 15 minute blocks at a time. Maybe they’re at a doctor’s office or waiting for the bus and need something to kill time. This is why simple or easy to learn games work well on the mobile market as the majority of the people aren’t going to sit there for hours on end to figure out a game.

Unfortunately burst play limits the types of games that are popular on the market. Niche genres like Grand Strategy just won’t work on the mobile device as the main audience doesn’t want to play a game for 30+ hours. When Firaxis wanted to bring Civilization to the mobile market, they couldn’t just do a straight port. Instead they redesigned the game to be simpler and quicker to play and called it Civilization Revolution.

Price is another factor, while PC audiences will spend the extra money on a good game; mobile fans are constantly being flooded with games ranging from free to 99 cents. While any hardcore gamers will appreciate a bigger title, there are fewer of them on the mobile market compared to the PC.

You need to be careful with the scope of your game — Spending millions of dollars to create a $30 dollar title regardless of the content will be snubbed by the casual audience who don’t want to spend that much on one title.

InfinityBlade

Even with Epic Game’s production values, they still had to sell the Infinity Blade series for 99 cents.

Lastly there is the problem of visibility. With so many people putting out titles and the problem with clones, your game only has a few days of visibility before disappearing into the ether. About two days is all the time you’ll have on the front of the I-Tunes store unless you have a winner like Angry Birds or Clash of Clans.

Both the PC and Mobile markets have a fan base and a way for you to earn a profit. But understanding what works and doesn’t is vital where your first game will decide whether or not you’ll stay in business.

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