Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Friday, March 11, 2011

Will The App Market Close Down To Small Developers?

This game by an 8-year-old was #1 in the iTunes Store... will that ever happen again?
How long will the doors remain open to small developers? That's a question being asked among VCs and developers alike, as venture money has been pouring into social and mobile developers. Big companies like EA are investing heavily in mobile and social games. As this article argues, the influx of big money and big companies could squeeze out the small developers.

Another factor is the increasing influence of pay-per-install networks from companies like Flurry and Tapjoy (the company formerly known as Offerpal, which was known for less than scrupulous deals). You can buy your way onto the bestseller charts if you pay enough, rumored to be up to around $30,000 now. Certainly it's way beyond the means of a small developer.

I agree to a certain extent with this theory. Certainly we'll see bigger developers, or those with venture money, perhaps investing more in the development of individual mobile titles than was previously seen. Then again, if higher investments in development don't tend to produce correspondingly higher revenues, that practice won't continue for too long. And just raw volumes of artwork aren't enough to make the difference in smartphone games. Few titles are designed for large quantities of artwork on smartphones, anyway; that's not the type of game experience people are looking for in a smartphone, at least not so far.

I think the big difference for smartphone games is that distribution will continue to be non-capital intensive. Regardless of how much you spent on development, distributing your game costs nothing. A venture-funded developer or a big publisher may be able to put large amounts of money into marketing (or a license, which has a similar effect), but the small developer can at least get their product on the shelves.

I think more money will tend to mean the top seller lists will be dominated by big companies or venture-funded developers, but the smaller developers will still be able to break through with a great title and some clever marketing.

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