With its high user base and low development costs, Apple’s App Store has been hailed as a great jumping-off point for indie studios. Unfortunately, as the big guys muscle their way into the hyper-popular mobile market and advertising costs go through the roof, small game developers are worried that they’re going to wither and die in the shadow. It’s a legitimate concern, and one that might cause the booming indie scene to sicken if costs don’t come down.
iOS developers unloaded their troubles at VentureBeat’s recent GamesBeat 2012 panel. One of the panel’s participants was Gabe Leydon, the CEO of Machine Zone. Leydon made mention of how app cross-promotion services like Chartboost have upped their fees drastically in a very short period of time. It’s no coincidence that said costs are climbing as more and more triple-A studios make their way into the mobile space.
“The pressure on prices will shoot upward and not slow down until more ad inventory comes online,” said Leydon. “There’s billionaires in the market who want to win. They are willing to spend $7 a download. This is going to be a long, tough fight.”
“You can’t predict how the bigger companies will spend,” offered W3i co-founder Rob Weber, who was also on the panel. “But it’s about finding the right volume and the right level of profitability for a game and doing it on a large scale. It’s a huge, full-time job.”
Developing a core brand like Battle Bears can help small developers thrive in a crowded market.
Another panel participant, Ben Vu (founder of SkyVu Entertainment), believes that developing a core brand can help the little guys stand out amongst the giants, which is what SkyVu has been doing with its long-running Battle Bears series.
“We are working on the core product and the core brand and making it freakin’ awesome,’ Vu said.
It’s good to see that developers like Vu are determined to keep fighting for their brands in such a crowded market. It appears that struggle and innovation the key to survival on the App Store. There’s certainly nothing wrong with triple-A games, and nobody expects the big fellahs to stay out of the mobile market out of the goodness of their hearts (though that’d be nice). It’s just a little depressing to see that indies are having an increasingly harder time thriving on a platform that initially seemed perfectly-suited for them.
Thinks change, however, and the games industry is evolving at a blisteringly fast pace. So what happens next? We consulted our magic ball: all it said was ‘all signs point to ‘˜yes,” whatever that means. Seriously though, there will always be indies on the App Store who manage to sweep away our hearts with the simplest ideas, and that’s comforting–but there’s still a lot of frustration and fear to go around. Even though the App Store is currently THE go-to spot for mobile games, it’s not like Apple is the only player in the market. Maybe the Google Play Store, Amazon App Store, and Windows Store will be seeing an increase in developer traffic in the near future.