The gaming industry keeps growing in popularity
Mobile and online gaming has never been so popular. When you consider the rise of AR and VR, alongside the global popularity of online gambling, gaming, and eSports, there have never been so many players and viewers of online games.
Look at all of the multi-billion dollar success stories in recent years: Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Flappy Bird, and Pokemon Go. And these are just a handful of games in a massive market, said to be worth in the region of $137 billion in 2018. According to market researchers, this is expected to exceed $180 billion in 2021.
Mobile gaming is now going to exceed 50% of this market, with consumers turning to smartphones. Between more powerful platforms and the social nature of mobile gaming, players are now more likely to download a mobile game than play on a laptop or a dedicated games device.
It is expected that mobile gaming will account for 59% of the total market share in 2021 and that there are 2.3 billion gamers around the world. An incredible 91% of this market is digital, which means the majority of these customers buy through e-commerce channels and platforms.
Are you looking to break into this exciting high-growth market?
Here are some trends to think about and tips to follow for companies new to the gaming development market.
6 Trends in Gaming for 2019
1. Streaming and Advertising
One exciting trend that is bound to make an impact on the gaming landscape “Project Stream”, announced by Google in October 2018. Google is partnering with gaming giant, Ubisoft, to stream the hugely popular game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through Google Chrome.
Although this is a test period, lasting from 5 October 2018 until mid-January 2019, analysts are expecting this to prove a popular move, with millions of players in 10 countries with fast enough broadband able to stream and play the game at 1080p at 60 frames per second.
This experiment is taking online games to a new level, as Google’s Catherine Hsiao noted in a blog post:
“The idea of streaming such graphically-rich content that requires near-instant interaction between the game controller and the graphics on the screen poses a number of challenges,” Catherine Hsiao said in this blog. “When streaming TV or movies, consumers are comfortable with a few seconds of buffering at the start, but streaming high-quality games requires latency measured in milliseconds, with no graphic degradation.”
If you want to play, Google recommends you have the latest Google Chrome, a Google Account (not Google for Work, G Suite, or Google for Education), a Ubisoft account, a mouse (a trackpad isn’t the most effective), and of course broadband that can stream the game at the speed required. The only downside is that players won’t be able to take part in the game’s economy.
However, after this trial period, that restriction might change. Assuming this trial is successful, we can anticipate more games released in 2019 through this channel and a whole new route for advertisers to reach consumers who prefer mass-market games, but don’t want to buy a specialist games device. It could also have a profound impact on games studios and hardware companies.
Reaching a wider audience is going to be a key trend in 2019 for the gaming sector.
In 2018, we have already seen celebrities acting as gaming ambassadors, which is an unusual move for this sector, but a sign that games companies are looking beyond the traditional audience for games as a way of increasing revenue and up-sell opportunities.
Peak Games – creators of Toon Blast – brought onboard Hollywood actor, Ryan Reynolds, to promote the game in the world’s first ever ‘celebrity-driven’ performance marketing campaign. A total of 30 scripts were produced and filmed, to see which has the most impact, allowing the campaign to “evolve naturally”, with social media advertising alongside TV adverts to drive traffic and downloads.
Another record-breaking example of using celebrity influencer powers is when Drake and others with serious clout were used to promote Fortnite on Twitch. Pro-gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins assembled Drake, NFL rookie turned gamer JuJu Smith-Schuster, and rapper Travis Scott to play Fortnite for this promotional event. At its peak, there were over 628,000 concurrent viewers; a sure sign of things to come when games companies work with big-name celebrities to promote popular titles and new releases.
3. China is back
As an enormous market with hundreds of millions of potential gamers, China freezing the release of new games caused a serious blow. Not only for Tencent and other local studios and publishers but for international companies that were already active and invested in the market.
Old games, no matter how popular, can only generate new revenue for so long. Players want something new and exciting. So although we aren’t expecting this to happen straight away, we are expecting to be free to end mid-2019. Paving the way for games companies to have similar ‘first-mover’ advantages that existed in 2017
Localization of games for the Chinese market prior to the freeze ending is a good way to show faith with Chinese partners. It will also put companies ahead of competitors who will only test the waters, in case another ban were to be put in place.
4. Mobile-first gaming
Western gamers and therefore gaming companies have been slower to move over to mobile gaming platforms. In 2015, the Japanese games studio, Konami announced the focus shift to mobile, with gamers in China and South East Asia playing more games on mobile devices than counterparts in Europe and North America.
Now, finally, gamers and producers in the West have caught up, with more games played on smartphones than other devices. This trend is expected to continue into 2019 and beyond.
5. In-game monetization regulatory challenges
Partly in response to negative media reports – parents whose kids have cost them a small fortune with in-game purchases – regulators are cracking down on the ability of games companies to generate revenue through this channel.
The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) has been busy rolling out a new icon on physical games, to show customers which include in-game purchases. For parents, policing this is difficult. Once a player is logged in, whichever card is connected to the user account is the one used to make purchases within a game. Expect regulatory crackdowns to continue, making it worthwhile to explore other revenue avenues into 2019.
6. Location-based AR and wearable games
Games that ensure players can interact with the local environment are going to prove popular next year. We have already seen the runaway success of Pokemon Go. With more players than ever owning wearable devices and wanting to engage in AR environments, creating games that benefit from this trend is going to prove profitable.
With the parallel rise in the popularity of eSports – another multi-billion dollar market – breaking into the gaming sector is worth considering for companies with complementary products or services, and for entrepreneurs wanting a piece of the action. If this is something you are thinking about, here are a few things to do before you dive in and invest in online and mobile gaming.
6 Tips When Commissioning a Game
1. Work on your idea
Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the most important part of creating a game. You need an idea, and it has to be a good one. If you want to make some serious money, it needs to appeal to a mass audience.
One way to achieve this is to improve on an existing idea, instead of creating something completely new. However, stay away from anything that might break intellectual property laws or expensive licensing agreements. If you’ve got the money, investing in a license for a popular brand, such as Star Wars, could be worth the investment. But that is for serious investors only.
Make sure the idea you go ahead with is addictive (perform customer surveys and testing), enjoyable and there are routes to monetization.
2. Have a story
Every game needs a story. Either a mission the main player needs to complete, and it usually helps if there are good guys and bad guys involved. Stories need a protagonist. An enemy.
Creating this story means thinking about the whole journey, from start to finish, and every offshoot and experience the characters can get involved in along the way. Map this out and make sure that there is a purpose to the journey, a destination that the main character can arrive at, such as a reward for the winner.
3. Make it addictive
Addictive games are iterative and involve constant development work. If they didn’t, players would stop playing either when they’ve got bored or reached the final destination. Addictive games, however, don’t need to be complex. Instead, short levels with content players can unlock and then come back to a more effective than long games with complex sequences.
Remember, when developing for a mobile platform, players don’t want to be stuck trying to get through long game sequences on a small screen. These games are often played when people have downtime, so you want them to want to come back and spend more time in the game. Simple and addictive is a winning formula.
4. Which platform and what technology to pick?
Often, for mobile games, this comes down to a choice between iOS and Android. You can reach the majority of potential customers this way. It also means you only need to develop two apps at most, or you can go the hybrid route.
Depending on your timescales and budget, writing a game in the Native code often proves more effective and creates a higher-quality gaming experience. The alternative is to have it developed using HTML 5 or on a hybrid development platform. To start with, focus on the platform and technology where your customers are, which can be determined using market research and comparing it to similar games.
5. Decide monetization route
When it comes to monetization, there are three main routes to revenue:
In-app purchases. One of the most popular options, although this route only generates revenue from 2% of users. It is also an avenue that regulators, particularly in Europe, seem keen to crack down on. Therefore, pick this option carefully, and know your audience. If your game is appealing to children, it might be sensible to look for another way to generate revenue.
Advertising. Some of the most successful games are free that make money through advertising. Customers using apps are used to these and providing there aren’t too many, and they’re relevant, there is no reason why you can’t generate money this way.
Premium. Ask players to pay at the point of download. Or you can ask for payment after a free trial period, which is a great way to hook players early on. Providing the amount isn’t too high after the trial period and the game is addictive enough, you should see a decent conversion rate at this point.
6. Marketing and advertising
Making money in the gaming industry means spending it.
There are a lot of big players with deep pockets in this industry. Everyone is trying to reach a slice of a market with 2.3 billion consumers around the world, and all of these potential customers spend a limited amount of their time playing games and looking for new ones.
Look at the total market that you can reach, and what you can do with a budget that allows you to reach a percentage of those through organic means and advertising. From that point, you can follow the path to user acquisition, which should ideally start before the game is ready. Get people excited about it. Especially potential influencers and those who can test and review the game in beta and the ready-to-release version.
Once you’ve got your idea, story and have a clear picture of how the game should look and feel, you need to pick a team of developers to create, design and test the game.
What to watch out for when picking a game development agency?
Creating a mobile game involves several stages: Market research, prototyping, coding, UI/UX design, editing, and testing. At each stage, you need developers and designers with the relevant skills and experiences.
Ideally, always aim to work with professionals and design studios who’ve done this before. People with the relevant experiences and portfolio to show they can deliver the work, and professionals who set realistic timescale for delivery. Where you go will also influence the price. Top-tier studios in the US and UK will charge a premium. Whereas games studios in Eastern Europe are more reasonable and will have all of the skills and experiences that you are going to need. You may check out all available game developers on YouTeam platform.
Games development budgets are influenced by the time of a game. Something ‘casual’, along with the lines of Candy Crush, can cost around $110,000 to build. Marketing for those games has a huge influence on the outcome, with Angry Birds initially costing $140,000 to market, proving to be an enormous success. At the minimum, $30,000 is needed to market a game with the hope of attracting enough users to generate a return. Whereas more complex games, with stories and characters, can cost up to $400,000 to develop, then these also need a marketing budget.
Going for a Time & Materials budgetary model is often the most cost-effective. When it comes to generating a return, for every $1 spent on the user experience (including design, UI/UX and 3D modeling), games developers generate a $100 in return. Working with a dedicated team is key to generating the success you are aiming for, with developers and designers able to think creatively and deliver the solutions you need to win over enthusiastic games players and customers.