从Mobile Games Forum 2011看手机游戏发展趋势
随着智能手机用户数量的迅速增加，应用使用带来的移动数据消费额也突飞猛进。在数十亿美元的消费总额中，手机游戏占据很大一部分。随着手机艺术的发展，行业有预测称社交游戏将逐渐登陆手机平台，Zynga将旗下热门游戏《Farmville》和《Mafia Wars》移植到手机设备上也表明了这点，所以目前手机游戏正处在游戏行业创新的前沿。以下内容Mobile Games Forum 2011所展现出的发展趋势。
其二，用户逐渐开始使用多个平台。微软尝试通过Windows Phone 7来吸引这部分用户，该公司完成了主机、电脑和手机三者间的绑定，游戏略微修改便可以在3个平台上运行。微软的想法是“相同云端的3个屏幕”，努力通过云服务来解决平台分化带来的同步问题。Facebook通过HTML5开发网页应用的解决方案也是为了实现上述想法，它为非微软设备间的联系提供了机遇。这些方法能够创造出融合“社交”、“手机”和“主机”的数字化行业。
2011年Mobile Games Forum上看到的趋势是否能够代表社交游戏今后的发展方向呢？从个人的角度来说，我认为答案是肯定的。这种趋势此前在其他游戏相关盛会上也曾被提及过。《MyStar》的商业表现似乎将成为这种趋势预测是否准确的试金石。
Mobile Games Forum 2011 – Trends in Mobile Gaming
With smart phone adoption reaching critical mass, mobile data consumption through app usage is skyrocketing. Valuated at several billion USD (depending on source and definition), mobile games contribute into large extent to this. With a predicted move of social games going mobile, enabled by the current state of mobile technology, illustrated by Zynga publishing top hits Farmville and MafiaWars onto mobile devices, mobile games are currently at the front line of game related innovation. This was enough reason to attend this year’s Mobile Games Forum held in London 26th and 27th of January. What follows is an overall overview of the trends as seen during the Forum.
Facebook’s Vision on Mobile
With over 500 million active users, of which 53% play games, Facebook arguably is the largest game platform in the world. Facebook’s current craze, Zynga’s social game CityVille has generated over 100 million monthly active users at its peak. Additionally, Facebook has over 200 million monthly active mobile users, users that are on average twice as active compared with ‘normal’ users. It is therefore only right to look at Facebook’s stance on mobile (gaming) to get an idea where this industry is heading. Facebook’s Head of International Business Development Christian Hernandez outlined three focus points for Facebook during his keynote at the Forum:
HTML5, although not seen as the ‘Holy Grail’ for mobile development, will definitely be a game changer according to Hernandez. HTML5 allows for an open development approach, overcoming the burden of having to port one’s game for multiple devices.
Facebook’s recently introduced location-based-service API Places fits perfectly in Facebook’s mobile strategy. Deals are part of the Places service with which Facebook tries to create a value exchange between users and advertisers. Upon check-in users can enjoy special discounts by sharing their status with friends.
Facebook puts great emphasis on its mobile SDK (software development kit) incorporating Single Sign On (SSO). In other words, Facebook encourages development of mobile apps (games included) that use the social graph as a backbone but do not necessarily run on the Facebook website.
An Industry-Wide Perspective
Hernandez’ key areas of focus were echoed during the second day’s panel discussions and keynotes. From an industry-wide perspective, one can identify three trends for mobile gaming:
being capable of platform agnosticism
adopting freemium business models
developing for social game design and incorporating location-based elements
Managers of different echelons and different positions within the value chain seemed to agree that having these traits would increase one’s chances of commercial success within the mobile gaming sphere.
The need for publishing games on multiple platforms seems to come from two sides. On one side, all current mobile platforms seem to have their flaws in terms of monetization; Java is still relevant and far from dead but a little behind; Android is here to replace Java possibly, however its monetization model is broken as it is too difficult to make money on the platform currently; iOS has the biggest potential but also the largest competition. Success stories about the platform are overstated as success is more the exception than the rule.
On the other side sits a user who is increasingly active across multiple platforms. Microsoft tries to capture this demographic with its Windows Phone 7, completing the triangle of console, desktop/laptop and mobile, running slightly modified games on all three platforms. Microsoft adopts a philosophy of ‘Three screens in the cloud’, a philosophy that attempts to avoid disintegration in favor of obtaining synergies from platform agnosticism. Facebook’s solution of applying browser development through HTML5 concurs with this philosophy as it also breaks open the field for non-Microsoft devices. Such an approach would create a digital industry without the current adjectives of ‘social’, ‘mobile’, ‘console’.
The Freemium Business Model
With such a dispersed user demographic using flawed platforms in terms of monetization, how is one expected to make a decent living from their games? During one of the panels it was hard to find consensus in the value chain. Nevertheless, consensus was found on one fundamental issue: freemium is the most potential business model for mobile games. User expectations fueled by the App Store’s ‘race to the bottom’ (price based competition) makes paid-for-games a species on the verge of extinction. Instead, free games with in-game monetization techniques are becoming the dominant design in terms of business model.
In-game monetization can come from in-game advertisements or product placements and in-app purchases through virtual currencies. When opting for the latter, the core game should offer valuable play including a mechanism through which the player can spend anything from $0.99 to $100 or more. Purchases should offer increased visible social status and/or enhanced game experiences. One of the panelist’s experience with the freemium model was fairly positive as it generated on average a 20% increase in revenue compared with their paid for games. These results have to be treated with caution however as the market for creative goods is often skewed due to ‘whales’ generating the bulk of the revenue.
Game Design: Towards Location-Based Social Mobile Games
Social gaming is heading towards mobile platforms as a dominant game design. Location-based services add an extra layer to the social mix by either offering a more targeted experience or by connecting people that share real life locations, thereby being the next logical step in social game design. With the so-called ‘app clutter’ becoming more dense every day, discovery is a major issue to be incorporated in both game design and marketing. Adopting a social approach to game design will increase the chances for discovery by sharing mechanisms inherent to the game mechanics. Furthermore, location-based elements can increase chances for discovery by offering location-based recommendations for games placing them in a particular context, thereby making them more meaningful.
Case Example: MyStar
One game that seems to fit the above description in large part is Mobile Pie’s MyStar, also presented during this year’s Mobile Games Forum. In MyStar the player guides and shapes a musical star towards world recognition and fame. MyStar is a free game that allows for In-App Purchases enabling the player to upgrade the Star‘s performance and looks. The game has been developed from a rationalized perspective aiming for retention, mass appeal, obtainment, social and freshness. One of the ways to do so is by incorporating location-based elements to promote the player’s Star through virtual posters at real world locations. The game uses Facebook’s social graph for integration of social mechanics. Currently the game is only available in the UK market on the iOS platform.
Were the insights gained from this year’s Mobile Games Forum representative of the actual direction social games is heading? From an informed insider’s perspective I would argue to say – yes. The indicated trends are holistic and have been put out before at other game-related conferences. If anything, MyStar’s commercial performance seems like a good indicator of accuracy. Perhaps for next year’s Forum, Osney Media could invite Mobile Pie once more to give a critical evaluation of the game’s performance placed in the context of this year’s trends? (Source: Stragedy Guide)