Indie game developers are hungry. For a long time a fair place at the table was denied by technology giants who own the few mass distribution channels. Many indies are looking for better ways to gain a foothold in the market. The upcoming launch of Apple Arcade sheds new light on this issue, prompting developers to reconsider their position in the subscription market and in the broader Apple and Google ecosystems.
It's no secret that game developers have long had concerns about driving on the Apple train. The app store's closed system model is of great benefit to Apple, as it ensures that the company cuts off all the apps it sells in its ecosystem and provides continuity to users, which does not work well for developers. This is particularly problematic for the video game community: sales potential is limited, consumers are struggling to find out-of-the-box games, many indie titles have a plethora of choices, and there are hardly any practical alternative distribution options or not.
Many developers are reluctant to trust Apple because the company applies strict and ambiguous content policies. Games and apps are censored differently on the Apple platforms than other media. Many are removed or rejected for reasons that are considered unfounded, leaving developers wondering how they can consistently comply with censorship guidelines. Race-to-the-bottom pricing is another major concern of the current app store model.
Uncertainties in Indies
To emphasize this, we consider that the mobile gaming industry generates over $ 70 billion in annual revenue. Mobile device developers spend three to ten times their development budget on user acquisition ̵
At first glance, it looks like Apple Arcade launches on September 19th (and Google's recent test launch of its competitive Play Pass service)), maintaining the status quo of "walled garden." This raises some important considerations for developers. The first is the percentage of attention that Apple Arcade Indies will give. Apple says it will curate a wide range of games, change the title library on a regular basis, and include games from indie developers. However, the model does not seem to provide solutions to the larger systemic issues of poor discoverability and revenue sharing that so many developers in the app stores are struggling with.
It's also unclear how the subscription model on Mac will have a significant impact or iOS player. The story does not paint a favorable picture for subscription models for games. Over the past five years, consumer interest in subscription models has increased, even among gamblers. eMarketer reports that 34 percent of Americans expect to increase the number of subscription services they will use over the next two years. The average number of subscription services the Americans hold has also increased – from 2.4 to three since 2014. The popularity of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Spotify has also changed consumers' perceptions of their digital media and increased their openness to content and entertainment subscriptions. Game developers of all genres and platforms have the opportunity to take advantage of this trend, and have to watch it closely, so as not to miss potential impulses.
Opening a Closed Market
The Apple Arcade subscription model seems to strengthen support for premium games (as opposed to the ubiquitous in-app buy / free-to-play games), developers and players benefit. Nonetheless, developers are left with the question of whether they want to play with Apple and continue to opt for the closed-system approach, or whether they have the opportunity to compete on other channels. Open system arcades and small, purpose-built game stores designed for and by developers and players – not technology giants – are the most promising solutions. Specific goals, whether subscription-based or not, tailored to players' preferences and preferences make it easy for developers to reach audiences who want to enjoy their games. This approach can also provide a better community experience for players, a critical factor in engaging users and creating a goal with long-term life expectancy.
The broader games industry deserves to take the apple in their hands. It's a good time for developers to consider whether they should work with Apple and how they can put pressure on Apple to better support developers. Regardless of whether a new game is launched in the app stores or not, developers need to explore how it and their other titles fit into a subscription landscape. Prioritizing the development of alternative models that promote better discoverability and greater financial potential for small games will support the constant innovation, creativity and variety of games, and give developers the freedom to focus on their passion for great games. As we look at the industry for new options beyond Apple and the closed system structure, we're also creating more opportunities and demonstrating to app stores that there is a better way.
A 20-year veteran of casual gaming Derrick Morton is CEO of FlowPlay, the industry's most powerful immersive gaming platform with flagship games like VegasWorld, which has gained millions of users since launching in 2006.