In a recent post, we looked at the problems of cloning on the mobile market and why it’s so hard to label titles as clones. Part of the issue has been the boom of developers and the lower cost and ease of use of the development software.
However, the same elements are a part of the Indie market and for today’s post we’re going to look at how the Indies have avoided clones and if those traits can rub off on the mobile market.
One of the main problems for Indie development that is the same on the mobile front is that it’s hard for Indie developers to stand out in a very bloated market. A few years ago having a great Indie game release was a rare occurrence, but today we are seeing new games almost as frequently as in the mobile market.
Because of that, Indie developers today tend to focus on unique titles that stand out thanks to their originality. We’ve seen such hits like Arcen Games’ AI Wars, Team Meat’s Binding of Isaac and a lot more.
With the increased number of developers making games, a lot of Indie developers today tend to aim for smaller but still unique experiences as opposed to multiyear projects with some exceptions like Kerbal Space Program and Prison Architect.
Now the big question: How are these Indie developers avoiding the issues of cloning? The answer is that their games are inherently resistant to cloning attempts.
The main attraction to clone titles on the mobile market includes the games that are built around simple gameplay and quick engagement, but that is not how Indie development on the PC works.
The best Indie titles that have been released are about unique experiences with qualifiers specific to that developer or brand, which are elements not easily cloned. Case in point would be Klei Entertainment whose recent hit Don’t Starve and their upcoming game Invisible Inc both feature unique game design, music and aesthetics to create a unique brand.
Someone could easily copy Don’t Starve’s survival gameplay, but they can’t as easily create something with the same art and music.
A lot of what made Dungeon of the Endless from Amplitude Studios work was the unique gameplay of rogue-like design and tower defense. Here, the balance between the game systems was the main selling points and something that required a lot of work to get right and not easily cloned.
By putting the extra work on their titles, Indie developers also avoid directly competing with each other in the sense of two developers putting out the same game. The examples mentioned here are as far away from each other as possible and has helped make the market very wide for a variety of titles and developers.
But despite all that, what makes Indie development on the PC work can’t happen as easily on the mobile market for reasons we’ve talked about before.
The Mobile Market:
The big problems with the mobile market have to do with discoverability and pricing. Most new titles, unless they become big hits, have at most two to three days on the front page before they are pushed off and away from the consumer.
Because of that, dedicating time to massive titles is too much of a gamble when your game has such a narrow window of sales. With pricing, due to the focus on F2P and IAPs, consumers are conditioned for games with very low price barriers. The market prefers titles with cost over time as opposed to a large initial purchase.
For many Indie developers, that kind of price point just doesn’t work, especially if they spent months or even years working on their title. The average price of an Indie game is between 15 to 20 dollars on the PC. On the mobile market, going over one dollar to buy a game is seen as being very expensive.
This completely shuts out genres like strategy where developers will spend months to develop a complicated system and then charge a higher price due to the scarcity of the genre. And titles that are being released for both markets have to be adjusted in terms of content and pricing as to not offend either consumer base.
But even then, some games cannot be altered to that extreme simply by nature of the game itself. Puzzle, narrative or titles built around a set linear experience aren’t really designed to be split up into bite sized chunks and sold. And this is the main worry from Indie developers who are looking at the changes to the markets and worrying about being priced right out of them.
Unfortunately there is no easy answer for combating devaluation as what makes the PC market strong against clones also makes them not a good choice for mobile. While mobile developers can make money thanks to the lower price points and cost of development, they risk their titles being cloned and cannot go for high quality and pricing.
As we’ve talked about, the only way to change the mobile market at this point would be a major shift in design and pricing models and it’s hard to tell where that would come from. One thing is for sure, no Indie developer wants the mobile way to spread to the PC and they are doing their best to fight the devaluation that’s taking place. Whether or not they succeed remains to be seen.