Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Could The App Store Collapse?

App Invaders... hey, I've got an idea for a game...
That's the subject of this opinion piece by Chris Buffa on Modojo. He notes that back in 1983, the game industry pretty much collapsed as Atari flooded the retail stores with mountains of crapware. Eventually Nintendo and computer games brought things back to life, but it looked ominous for a while there.

Of course, there's plenty of crap in the App Store. There's plenty of just OK games with nothing special to make them stand out. There's also thousands of good games, and some amazing ones. Could sheer volume in all of these categories really cause the App Store to go away?

Certainly things will not remain the same. New apps are added all the time... but it's also true that a lot of apps are effectively dead, with sales numbers so low that they might as well be gone. Their pretty little shells remain, but they are mostly lifeless. Still, they clog up the searches and make it hard to find other games.

Certainly there's some problems with in-app purchasing, and it can get annoying if overdone. I'll note that this business model is still very young, so there's plenty of refinements to expect in the next few years.

Other problems Buffa notes: People are getting tired of Angry Birds; well, yeah, but Angry Birds is just one title. Technology of consoles keeps advancing... well, smartphones are advancing at about 5 times the rate of consoles. Finally, he thinks that console makers could have their own App Stores on their devices. True, it's theoretically possible, but the tightly controlled marketplaces on consoles are a far cry from the (nearly) anything-goes mentality of the Android Market or the App Store. Console makers are loath to give up control, or to allow low-priced products that might compete with their high-priced products, or that might compete with retail stores... I just don't see it happening.

Will there be changes in the App Store? Absolutely, but no one knows exactly what shape that will take. I'd guess there will be better search tools, and more marketing tools for developers, but beyond that... who knows? It will be shaped by technology, to be sure, but also by clever ideas that take hold. A big advantage of the smartphone market is that development times are typically measured in weeks, not months or years. So adapting to changes can be rapid. Developers need to stay flexible and ride the waves of change that will continue to come.

There's really only one sure-fire strategy for success I can think of in the app market: Be one of the first titles to take advantage of new hardware and really show off what it can do. Now, that may be tough if you're not one of the favorite developers who's got an inside track on new stuff. But even without that access, it's not hard to figure out what to code for: the next hardware iteration will have a faster processor and a better GPU.  You can pretty much bet that the iPhone 5 (whatever it may be called) will have an A5 processor in it (the same thing that's in the iPad 2). Build a title that stretches that processor to the max with some eye-popping graphic effects, and you'll certainly be able to get a lot of press.

With that strategy, there's always new hardware just around the corner; smartphones get new mojo on a 12-month cycle, or maybe even sooner. Keep abreast of that and you won't have to worry about the app market collapsing. You'll be too busy counting your profits.

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