Mountain Sheep是芬兰的一家小型开发商，旗下仅七名员工。2012年二月，该团队的游戏新作《热血冰球》（Ice Rage）闯进了美国iPhone游戏的前十强，其独立开发的这第三款手机游戏为Mountain Sheep树立了新的里程碑。在此之前，《迷你血战》（Minigore）和《摩托男爵》（Bike Baron）双双突破100万美元收益，而《热血冰球》也将再创辉煌。接下来我们来看看几组数字。
*生产周期缩短。开发《摩托男爵》历时12个月；开发《热血冰球》仅需1个月——开发成本降至3万美元因为Mountain Sheep调整了开发重心，将精力放在定期更新上，因为现在的手机游戏都需要时常更新来维持热度。Kimmo Vihola是Mountain Sheep的管理总监，他估计生产一款普通的手机游戏大约需1万5千美元成本。一次普通的更新可以稳定1个月左右的销售。有些游戏依靠特别吸引人的拓展包，甚至保持了1到2年的销售峰值。
《热血冰球》的一个有趣的特点是局域多人游戏模式。两名玩家可以各执iPad的一端进行比赛。迅速增长的iPad用户数量使开发商得以玩转两种非常不同的设备——显示屏较小的iPhone和拥有社交游戏潜力的iPad。开发商必须根据最佳iPad体验的图象质感的新标准来设计游戏。然而，作为主要收益来源的iPhone，游戏角色一定不能太小。 Mountain Sheep在对今春发行的新游戏进行最后的润色时，希望在游戏内道具销售机制上有所创新。
老一辈游戏巨头如迪士尼和EA能否适应手机游戏的生态系统，然后从行业新贵们当中杀出一条血路呢？此时，迪士尼的《Where’s My Water?》带着它的品牌角色“沼泽鳄鱼”雄据美国iPhone游戏榜单的第1名。
Mobile Game Revenue Math
by Tero Kuittinen
The booming mobile game industry is a very different creature than the old console game business with its big development budgets, long product cycles and short game life spans. The year 2012 kicks off with small, nimble iOS app developers experimenting with new product concepts and trying to fend off mammoths like Disney and Zynga.
Last week marked a new milestone for Mountain Sheep, a tiny Finnish developer with seven employees. “Ice Rage”, its latest title, broke into the Top Ten of iPhone games in the United States. This is the third mobile game Mountain Sheep has developed solo. “Minigore” and “Bike Baron” both cracked the 1 $M revenue barrier and “Ice Rage” is on track to repeat the feat. Let’s take a look at the math.
Low development costs = a tidy profit within months. “Bike Baron” is perhaps the best-known Mountain Sheep game. It debuted in October 2011. Development tab was roughly $150’000. In three months, “Bike Baron” generated 750’000 paid downloads, grossing more than $500’000. With in-game purchases, total revenue topped $1M.
Production cycle is speeding up. Developing “Bike Baron” took twelve months. Developing “Ice Rage” took just one month – and development cost tumbled to $30’000 as Mountain Sheeplearning how to fine-tune production. Shifting resources to regular updates makes sense, because mobile games are now a software service that requires upgrades as often as once a month to maintain momentum. Producing an average mobile game expansion costs roughly $15’000, estimates Kimmo Vihola, Managing Director of Mountain Sheep. An average update stabilizes sales for a month or so; a superior update actually creates a substantial increase in sales. Some games hit peak sales 1-2 years after the launch, on the back of a particularly appealing expansion package.
Community creates content. Paid version of “Bike Baron” features 80 levels. Mountain Sheep hands out level editing software, which enables aficionados to create their own levels. 70’000 levels have been created by fans, extending the life span of the game. Grass roots support made “Bike Baron” a Number One iPhone game in 65 countries, including USA.
Expansion packs keep the game alive… In October 2010, “Bike Baron” hit the iPhone Top Ten mobile game chart in United States. It slipped out of Top 200 in late November. New content jacked it back to Top 100 in December. It slipped out of Top 200 again in January – and with the help of Version 1.5, returned to around #120. Version 1.6 on February 1 pushed it back to Top 100.
… a long, long time. An earlier game called “Minigore” debuted in July 2009 and became Number 6 iPhone game in the United States in August. It rebounded to Number 2 five months later – and then returned to Number 21 in March 2011, buoyed by a zombie-themed expansion and a period of free distribution. Several subsequent waves of updates created substantial sales spikes. “Minigore” was still able to reclaim the Number 52 position in December 2011, 30 months after its debut. This sort of longevity is almost impossible to achieve in the console game market – the nearest example is probably the Mario Kart sales rebounds in Japan during the December of each year.
A plethora of pricing strategies. Some developers opt for free-to-play approach from the start, betting big on in-game purchases. Some charge a fee for 6-9 months and then move to the freemium model. Some keep charging $0.99 even for aging titles, offering limited free-to-play periods. For “Minigore”, Mountain Sheep opted for 4-day promotional campaigns of free game downloads. According to Vihola, these short periods can quadruple the in-game purchase revenue. They have a long-term impact on download volumes even after the game returns to the $0.99 price slot. Eventually, a successful developer can create a stable of properties that continue generating revenue for years with limited development cost for expansion packages.
One interesting feature of “Ice Rage” is the local multiplayer option. Two gamers can have a match holding the opposite ends of an iPad. The mushrooming iPad user base is pushing developers into juggling two very different devices – the iPhone with its tiny display and the iPad with its potential for social gaming. Games have to be designed with a new level of graphical finesse for optimal iPad experience. Yet the characters can’t be too tiny for iPhone, the major revenue source. Mountain Sheep is currently putting finishing touches on a new game launching this spring. It is expected to feature novel in-game purchasing mechanics.
This is a theme both European and US game developers are buzzing about in 2012; the Holy Grail of the industry is creating completely new methods of persuading consumers to spend money inside a game. After the first month or two, more than half of the mobile game revenue is typically generated by in-game purchases. This is the key area for refining revenue growth strategies.
Will old giants like Disney and Electronic Arts end up adapting to the mobile game ecosystem and push the upstarts aside? At the moment, Disney’s heavily marketed “Where’s My Water?” with its eminently franchisable Swampy the Alligator is the Number One iPhone game in America. Sleek and heavily marketed corporate franchises like Real Steel, Madden NFL, NBA and Scramble have lodged into Top Twenty.
But Top Twenty games with most longevity still come from quirky, small studios. “Fruit Ninja”, “Angry Birds”, “Cut the Rope” and “Doodle Jump” still look strong, 500-900 days after their launches. Just over the past week, “Ice Rage” and “Tank Hero” have stormed the iPhone Top Ten game chart – and this duo was created by tiny, independent houses in Finland and Canada.
In 2012, both corporate behemoths and a flurry of tiny boutique salamanders are swarming around the mobile game market, trying to gain an edge by evolving their product development strategies. This year is going to be like a decade of console game market competition compressed into a rapid battle of wits.(source:forbes)