Dear Developers of Mobile Games,

If your free game includes an option for me to pay some money to reduce the amount of time I have to spend with your game then maybe you should just admit your game isn't very fun

Dear Developers of Mobile Games

Agreed a thousand times. It's so strange to me the way that "pay to win" and "pay to not play" have become acceptable mechanics.

I would like to add "let me listen to my music while playing". If I can't play your game while listening to a podcast, etc, then I am less likely to play it which leads to a lower chance I'm going to give you money.

I remember reading somewhere that free to play games on average make more money on the iTunes app store than pay upfront titles.

Not a fan of poor implementation of F2P, but I also recognize that it can also be an experiment for a developer trying to make a splash in the overcrowded Wild West of the apps market while they sort out a pay scheme that works best for them.

So it’s not all bad. There’s plenty of F2P games that work just fine for me from the start (Punch Quest, Into the Dead, etc.).

EDIT:

obirano wrote:

I would like to add "let me listen to my music while playing". If I can't play your game while listening to a podcast, etc, then I am less likely to play it which leads to a lower chance I'm going to give you money.

Now this I can agree with. There's a number of high profile games that I've dropped immediately because I can't listen to podcasts while playing. I'm looking at you, Puzzle Quest 2.

Wait... people play games on their mobiles?

Agreed a billion times. Skinner Box design has become a plague in the mobile world and I hate it. Now it's starting to seep into other areas like with Dead Space 3. Games that present a store front in between every bloody level and say "pay up or grind forever and a day" drive me nuts. There are exceptions to this rule of course but mobile has so much potential and it's being wrung dry by turning games from entertainment into monetisation machines. One of my bold predictions for 2013 was that there would be a large rebellion against Skinner Box design as people start to realise that those $0.99 games are actually costing tens or more of dollars in order to be played in a way that's actually fun. Based on a lot of what I've read just in January, it feels like such a sentiment is building fast.

When DuckiLama and I started doing mobile development last year; one of the walls we hit really fast was "how do you make money" with an app...when people have already been conditioned to think that apps should be free. There's only a couple of business models that work:

Advertising - this was an option we didn't really want to pursue, because we were developing with kids in mind. Little kids. I wouldn't want ads served to *my* kid, and I didn't want to be serving ads to other people's kids.

Skinner Boxing - No. Just no. I unilaterally refuse to condition a child's mind like that. No.

Paid Apps - Well...good luck with that.

Is it possible to make money as a tiny publishing company that wants to create interactive books/games that aren't pushing ads or IAP? I don't know, but I'm beginning to doubt it seriously.

duckideva wrote:

When DuckiLama and I started doing mobile development last year; one of the walls we hit really fast was "how do you make money" with an app...when people have already been conditioned to think that apps should be free. There's only a couple of business models that work:

Advertising - this was an option we didn't really want to pursue, because we were developing with kids in mind. Little kids. I wouldn't want ads served to *my* kid, and I didn't want to be serving ads to other people's kids.

Skinner Boxing - No. Just no. I unilaterally refuse to condition a child's mind like that. No.

Paid Apps - Well...good luck with that.

Is it possible to make money as a tiny publishing company that wants to create interactive books/games that aren't pushing ads or IAP? I don't know, but I'm beginning to doubt it seriously.

The phrase "race to the bottom" comes to mind. If anything annoys me about tech, it's that as soon as there something cool comes along, and mobile computing is cool, there's a gold rush of massive proportions, a massive no-holds-barred race to extract the most money out of it, and seemingly you often end up in a situation like this where it's hard to comprehend how it's supposed to be sustainable. There never seems to be much thought about how to establish a platform as an ecosystem for the medium or long term, that developers can be rewarded for contributing to.

I wince every time I hear the stats of X billion apps downloaded, and the sum total of Y million dollars exchanged hands through the app stores, because the average is usually just a few thousand dollars, which isn't enough for anything more than a hobbyist to use as supplemental revenue and far from adequate to even think about going into business for, either solo or as a small company. What it reveals to me is the disparity between a tiny amount of whales who get most of the money, and an ocean of free stuff that never gets any value translated into something the author(s) can use to pay the rent.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

"pay up or grind forever and a day" drive me nuts.

The thing is this only works if you know (or you deliberately built) your grind to be deeply tedious.

Here's a related thing I've noticed in free apps;

I've been playing a little more of Subway Surf than I care to admit; it's an endless runner so has no ultimate achievable goal. Aside from score chasing your friends, the only other thing you can do in the game is earn cash to buy the upgrades. So in a very real sense the upgrades are the only "rewards" you can achieve from playing the game, because there is no completion state. Yet the app offers a method whereby you can pay to unlock all the upgrades, which in turn robs you of the very rewards you might stay to play the game to earn. I suppose this is a subset of the "pay to win" zelos just name checked.

DanB wrote:

I've been playing a little more of Subway Surf than I care to admit; it's an endless runner so has no ultimate achievable goal. Aside from score chasing your friends, the only other thing you can do in the game is earn cash to buy the upgrades. So in a very real sense the upgrades are the only "rewards" you can achieve from playing the game, because there is no completion state. Yet the app offers a method whereby you can pay to unlock all the upgrades, which in turn robs you of the very rewards you might stay to play the game to earn. I suppose this is a subset of the "pay to win" zelos just name checked.

I think that kind of 'problem' also goes across to many other types of game, and F2P needs to be very careful about it and the player's motivation to play. There's many games where the motivation is the gameplay itself, take most good multiplayer games (TF2 for example), same maps, same situations, mostly the same weapons each time but people keep coming back (to the good ones). Then there are various power ramping RPGs where you go on collecting things and abilities to get better, once you're at the top do you continue playing with all the toys because the core game is great, or do you abandon it because there's nothing left to do.

I'm not sure either is the 'right' or 'wrong' way to make a game, but for each there are certain considerations developer and player need to take into account. No one has made a perpetual motion machine yet, and I don't think games are going to make their version any time soon.

duckideva wrote:

When DuckiLama and I started doing mobile development last year; one of the walls we hit really fast was "how do you make money" with an app...when people have already been conditioned to think that apps should be free. There's only a couple of business models that work:

Or there's (C): Wait for the unsustainable market to crash and have your apps ready and waiting to go...

People are only conditioned to want free because things were. Once they start realising that they can't be free then they'll just as quickly be unconditioned. Just like the ol' Nintendo mid-80s switcheroo that left all the old guard in the dust and the upstart toymaker as the behemoth in video games town. They're still riding around on the name of that horse too.

Duoae wrote:

Wait... people play games on their mobiles?

Yep, and there's a LOT of awesome games available now. Join mobile gamers

Scratched wrote:

I wince every time I hear the stats of X billion apps downloaded, and the sum total of Y million dollars exchanged hands through the app stores, because the average is usually just a few thousand dollars, which isn't enough for anything more than a hobbyist to use as supplemental revenue and far from adequate to even think about going into business for, either solo or as a small company. What it reveals to me is the disparity between a tiny amount of whales who get most of the money, and an ocean of free stuff that never gets any value translated into something the author(s) can use to pay the rent.

Exactly this. I've been accused in more than a few places for being "a hater" for stating a point very similar to this but it's true. Things like Angry Birds are outliers. The vast majority of mobile apps released that don't have major publisher backing fail, just like the AAA space. I remember Mark Rein (who is in the business of selling Unreal Engine 3 for mobile) said a couple of years ago that the average iOS game released only grosses (not nets) $700. That figure has probably changed but since he made that statement before free-to-play was popular, I'd wager it's even lower now. That amount isn't enough to sustain anyone beyond someone who writes an app for fun without any intent to make a living from it. As the press is still up to their neck in the mobile fashion trend though, you rarely hear about the failures, only the success stories

If people do rebel against Skinner Boxing as I predict they will, we're all either going to have to accept that apps will have to start costing more ($0.99 sounds great but it's time for a reality check, especially as tablets get crazy powerful) or mobile will become just like AAA is now where companies have to throw 10 things at the wall, hoping that 1 of them sells well enough to absorb the losses for the other 9. Ask THQ how well that worked out. Personally, I'd be happy to pay $5-$10 for a well put together, polished, complete mobile game experience. Yeah I might end up playing a smaller number of titles but I'll enjoy them all. As of right now, we have an old iPad I barely touch because I can't stand the design behind most of the games that are on it. If I could pay a bit more and get better games without scummy mechanics in them, I might buy a lot more of them and the hardware to run them on.

duckideva wrote:

Is it possible to make money as a tiny publishing company that wants to create interactive books/games that aren't pushing ads or IAP? I don't know, but I'm beginning to doubt it seriously.

I think you have to do something like an episodic model, where you give away the main app and some content for free, and then make more content available for pay. Something like Pinball FX, except you give away one table with the game, and essentially charge for DLC.

If the demo content is good enough, people will pay for more.

It seems like most of the iOS games I actually play are $5-10. I'd love to know how much the developers end up making at that price point: I really hope it's enough to support the industry long term.

The original skinner box

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/MCfw15l.jpg)

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/dCrcJ9W.jpg)

Mixolyde wrote:

If the demo content is good enough, people will pay for more.

Two things: One...you have to get it in front of people; and the low-end cost for that is about a grand if you don't already have a marketing team promoting it; and even then, you may still not reach critical mass.

Two: Children's books are not by nature episodic. Sure, you can have recurring characters or whatnot, but an interactive book should be an entity unto itself; telling a complete story, and giving the child the experience of being both told a story, and being allowed to interact with the story.

So; lets say I could create a kids book that made 3k (the number I remember as average for kid's apps...but cannot find the report).

The resources required for that app include;

*an original story, or a fresh re-telling of existing myth

* Art. So much art. You have no idea how much art. Crazy amounts of art, with each image requiring about 10 sizes to accurately render on all the various devices where it might appear, because godfreakingforbid that apple maintain a standard size metric. (Grrr.) Artists are expensive. I know this because I tried to do the art for a project, and I really suck at it. Good art will make/break a storybook. Because I can't do the art; I will have to pay someone else to do it, and I have to find someone who shares my design ascetic so the book has the feel I want.

*Code. Lots of code.

*Code again if you want to try on more than one platform; although currently Android is more of an adult playground than Apple.

*Marketing; pay-to-play for feature spots on the app store, pay-to-play to get mentioned in the mommy/daddy blogs that are likely to drive traffic, pay-to-play in the business blogs that have the right demographic, advertising, maintaining a company blog/user interaction/ customer service/

*Bank fees for having a business account so that your pennies from Apple can trickle in.

*30% cut to Apple

See, here's the thing. A printed hard-page children's book with less than 16 pages will retail for $9.00 to $20.00, with an astonishing amount of titles in the $20 range. Some of them are absolutely worth the price, they are works of art. Some of them, like the Priddy books...holy crap...8 tiny pages, with a single word and a junky line art scribble on each page and it's how much? Wow. (Then again, I may just not like their style, which I believe to be primitive and quick-bucky, many other people may find it rustic and charming. I lean more towards Seuss and Mark Buehner.)

But expensive books are usually presents from grandparents or friends of parents; parents themselves buy classics like Cat in the Hat, but books like My Monster Momma Loves Me So are things that they get as presents, most of the time.

Anyway; nobody is going to pay $20 for an interactive kids book. They just aren't. It could send holographs out of the iPad that acted out the story in 3d, and people still would expect it to be free...or close to free.

Ever since I read The Diamond Age, lo those many years ago, I've always wanted to create the Book. I know we don't have the technology yet, and I know that we probably won't in my lifetime; but so much of what is out there for kids is just junk. It's horrible, flashy, twitch inducing, conditioning to be a consumer.

What I want more than anything is to be able to find a way to tell kids stories like I do in real life. I want children to fall in love with mythology again. I want them to hear the stories of the Native Americans, and I want them to know about giants and tailors who killed seven in one blow. I want them to laugh when Tricksters win; from Spider to Puss in Boots; I want them to recognize Trickster when they see Bugs Bunny, and I want them to see how and when and why Trickster fails. I want them to know the stories of the dog with eyes the size of saucers, and kings who demand the sacrifice of their sons, and daughters who refuse to be sold to the highest bidders. I want them to become heros, I want them to understand how Fool is often the wisest character. I want them to understand archetypes and be able to recognize them.

I want to tell them the old stories, but in a way that relates to their new world. When I'm done with them, I want them to *need* to read; I want to build in a desire to explore the written word, to fall in love with the universes awaiting them on their library shelves.

But thus far, it looks like it would have to be a work of love, rather than a sustainable business model.

It's kind of funny in a sad way. We've got these amazing global marketplaces where anyone can make something and sell it to anyone else, but they've ended up so exclusive that they're useless to a lot of people because of the whole getting paid thing. I wonder what it would be like if there was a price floor, but I can probably guess.

Scratched wrote:

It's kind of funny in a sad way. We've got these amazing global marketplaces where anyone can make something and sell it to anyone else, but they've ended up so exclusive that they're useless to a lot of people because of the whole getting paid thing. I wonder what it would be like if there was a price floor, but I can probably guess.

Why it's almost like some kind of metaphor about globalised capitalism...

duckideva, it sounds like you have an absolutely amazing idea. I really hope you can find a way to profit from it in the broken mobile landscape.

duckideva wrote:

I want to tell them the old stories, but in a way that relates to their new world. When I'm done with them, I want them to *need* to read; I want to build in a desire to explore the written word, to fall in love with the universes awaiting them on their library shelves.

As a mother of a 2.5 yo, I want this too, and I hope you find a way to be able to do it. I'd certainly buy it. We read books together, but there's so much potential to the interactive possibilities of apps. He's clearly learned quite a lot already from some of them.

DanB wrote:

Why it's almost like some kind of metaphor about globalised capitalism...

What happens when we're all bankrupt?