The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
A month ago I've released a game for mobile only (FullBlast), the game went bad, pretty bad (as expected on mobile, poor visibility, only a few people interested in a paid game), and we've suffered hundreds of 1 star reviews because it's a paid product, and now Monument Valley is suffering the same punishment as well, because of their expansion.
The point is, what's wrong with mobile market?, I say "nothing" ,the market just follows the direction that WE developers gave it.
If you recall a few years back, 2009, the "launch" of the iphone (yeah it was not exactly the date but you get the point), it was a beautiful store, you were able to put your product on a store by yourself (finally indies can go live) and the range of prices vary a lot, from 2.99$ to 9.99$, very good prices for most of the actual games available on the store. So, what happened?, well, a bunch of losers decided that:
- "hey, my game is not as good as yours (lack of confidence bro), so I'm gonna lower the price to make it more attractive to customers"
And that started the race to the bottom to the "standard" 0.99$ for an app/game. Which for an app/game made in 2 weeks/1 month, that could be a very good price, but not for developers that spent months (or years) to create a quality product.
With that race to the bottom, the big guys decided to jump in, so, if I can buy dead space for 0.99$ on iOS, why should I buy your less poslished indie game for more or even the same the price?, and that started the freemium/f2p era on mobile, ok, let's put it for free and rely on ads as our main income, or include shitty purchases.
And what happened?, well, we created the market that we actually have, a place full of trolls expecting everything for free, rating your game with 1 star just because you don't rely on that stupid freemium model, nor ads, nor IAPs. That happened to me, and now it's happening to monument valley
My point of view is NO, this is NOT what market wants, this is what WE told the market, we gave free candies to the users, and now users are upset if we try to stop offering more candies for free. As simple as that.
Maybe it's time to think about it, stop the freemium era and move back to the paid model with no IAPs, nor ads. The actual market is not a sustainable model if the vast majority of devs barely make 1000$ in revenue.
Of course someone will tell bullshit about capitalism, you know, only the strongest survive, bla bla bla, but I don't think so. If we all have to behave the same way, there's no competition at all, there's no place for "someone did something different and stood out of the crowd".
For me this is a now or never, or we move back to the paid model or we all die in a few years and only a few big studios will remain alive, if you are not able to recoup your investment, you will not create more games as simple as that. The f2p is not a valid model for ALL games, some games are not suitable for such model.
No need to say that big guys like zynga, king and others are making tons of money per day with their free products, and they will not leave the ship, well, maybe they can remain free, but for the rest of us? let me tell you, you are really limited in your creativity if every time you want to create something you need to think hard about how to put your IAPs and if people will buy them, or just discard the idea because the IAP model cannot be implemented and you have to look for some other idea.
You have to create a game around IAPs, balance the game to encourage people to buy your stuff, and that my friends limits your creativity completely. You have no freedom at all to create a game that can work very well as a paid game without any IAPs, but instead you are forced to include IAPs if you want to survive or make any money at all, and don't try to charge for an expansion like monument valley did:
- how dare you?, I've paid for the game, and now you have a bond for life with me to include anything else you want to put in the game for free.
Probably I'm just a fool, a nobody who has no idea about markets and stuff, someone that just wants to create a game and don't be bothered about how I will put this machine gun as IAP to get some bucks.
Time will tell.