Lessons learned from a first time mobile developer

Recently somebody asked me on our battlebears.com forums if I had any advice for people wanting to get into the (specifically mobile) gaming industry.

There are millions of things other people have brought to this conversation, and they are all true for the individuals who stated them. That said, here are the first few that I am currently struggling with and that came to me the fastest and hardest!

Mobile hasn’t been a gold rush for the past year now. When we first made Battle Bears Zombies we had a) never made a game before b) had no idea what we were doing and c) did no research. Between the gameplay, humor and concept we succeeded beyond any of our dreams, and at that point in our company’s history we had no dreams! It was an experiment whose failure at the time had little ramifications. However the market ate it up! “Premium” (paid games) were huge, and polished ones were rare. As it stands now the market is demanding at minimum 100% polish and that is a level we are rapidly trying to obtain!

The entire gaming market is changing. The machine is seeing the huge percentages of new gamers and demanding more and more casual games. When we see the “dumbing down” of beloved franchises this is nothing more than an attempt at reaching down to grab a larger market. We have very recently tried following that illusive target but only to the shores of failure. Players are entering into games with no established rules or expectations. In mobile especially players want the minimum amount of input for the maximum amount of reaction.

But there is good news! The landscape IS changing but the old world is still here and growing! When you see Angry Birds burn through the market it is incredibly easy to stumble in that direction thinking “how hard can it be?” but the lure of a 10 fold market pool can be clouded by conflicting team culture, expectations and abilities. It isn’t easy making a casual game – especially if you are trying to implement a freemium business model within a team that has no first hand experience (or desire buying hats). Freemium is here to stay so we better get used to it!

Lastly, it may seem obvious when stated aloud, but the more games you make the more maintenance overhead you need to budget in. On paper everything is rocking along and then “oh! what’s this?! other people are having issues?!!” I can’t speak to if this is more pronounced in mobile, but it is true that every month a dozen new android phones come out, all with modified hardware, software and firmware targets. At the very least i would imagine that things are as tough to troubleshoot as they are on a PC. Ultimately you have to build that time into your projects, and make a decision when you are going to release to a whitelist and when you are going to abandon support and walk away.

These are 4 thoughts presented in no order out of dozens that come up every week. Hopefully they can be used to avoid some of the pitfalls that we have already found the hard way.

About Michael SkyVu

A Nebraska native. I am the 2D lead and Game Designer at SkyVu Entertainment
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