When done right, a good mobile game is something that’s interesting enough to make you pick it up again, but gameplay is concise enough that you can put it down and pick it back up without sacrificing experience. I don’t mind shelling out $0.99 here or $3.99 there for a mobile game that looks promising. What I didn’t realize is, just how many mobile gamers expect games to be free and get pissy when gameplay is limited or ad supported. In my time working as a writer/editor for GameSkinny, I’ve talked to some really cool game developers. This ranty-pants article is a banner of rage for all the game devs (specifically indie and mobile) who have to deal with shit gamers.
Case and point:
So let’s see, the game is amazing considering its mechanics and ingenuity (a pretty impressive feat for a mobile game), but it’s not worth paying for… Nevermind that the reviewer completely fails to mention you can watch an ad to unlock additional plays.
If there’s one thing that really frosts my ass, it’s gamers who want something for nothing.
Mobile developers need to eat too, bruh.
Though some immediately opt for a flat-fee, there are a few different ways mobile developers can monetize a game:
Free with in-app purchases (lives, extra time, customization, currency)
Offer a free light version and a paid premium version
Ad supported (banner ads, ads between levels)
Purchase additional level packs
The thing is, unless a game is a runaway success like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans, most mobile developers aren’t making boatloads of money from the games they put out on the market. It all boils down to getting people to install the game and engage with it. The same thing applies for indies. They price the game outright, sure, but it won’t get far if no one is playing it.
Take a look at the App or Google Play store, Steam or GoG and it’s immediately apparent that the market is over-saturated with all kinds of games. For a mobile or indie developer to make bank, there has to be an investment (via time or money) in marketing to drum up some awareness to separate themselves from the noise, reviews, and the hope that folks like their game enough to talk about it.
Game dev isn’t as easy as it looks.
It’s worth mentioning that there are a lot of mobile and independent game developers who create games on the side. Meaning most of them work, are in school or have other responsibilities to handle yet they still make time to create a game in the wee small hours of the night or during their lunch break.
The amount of time and energy quality indie devs sink into a game is staggering -- especially with no guarantee of recouping the time or money they spent making it. There’s the art, the music, the development itself, the storyboarding and planning, the debugging, the marketing, promotion, social media management and customer support. Oh, and after the game is released, they still aren’t done making sure you’re taken care of. There’s game patches, updates, more testing and new feature releases. The indies have to tackle all of this themselves, or they pay someone to do it. Either way, it’s a sacrifice and it’s one that literally never ends.
I don’t know about you, but it takes a crazy amount of passion for gaming and gamers to spend so much time on something that may not pan out financially. If indie and mobile game developers can hunker down and create a playable experience with the knowledge that their investment may not come to much, then gamers can certainly shell out a few dollars (sans bitching) for an IP that seems appealing.
We all know that purchasing a game is always a bit of a gamble. Trailers may woo, concept art may wow, but upon delivery sometimes the game falls short. Most of us gamers have dropped $60 on a AAA game, booted it up and prayed that it would meet our expectations. When it doesn’t, we rage, but we’ve already spent that cash and it’s not coming back. We move on to the next game.
Game development, like writing, painting and creating music, is an art. In fact, it’s the culmination of many different forms of art. Smaller studios and one-man productions struggle with vulnerability and getting their beautifully varied voices out there much more than the large teams and processes that churn out AAA titles.
When you support an indie operation, you aren’t just a wallet in a stream of financial projections. Your money is supporting a dad who is making a video game about his kid daughter like Battle Princess Madelyn, or a creative director who wanted to marry minimalism with a metaphor for life in Lonely Sun. Your impact is instant and much more real, and most indie devs maintain a vested interest in the thoughts and comments from their fanbase. They may not all be polished and perfect, and there are certainly some truly bad indie games out there, but the potential for something great is well worth supporting outside of the Steam Summer Sale markdowns.
So the next time you drop some cold-hard cash on an indie or mobile game, know that you’re supporting a developer’s passion project. That $3, $10 or $20 you spend is a drop in the bucket compared to the hours the developer took to create something they hope you’ll enjoy and you just may be giving them the ammo they need to get out there and make their next game.