The mobile game market provides plenty of opportunities for developers without a large barrier to entry. Gaming capable mobile phones are in the hands of millions, from feature phones to smartphones, so learning exactly how to break into the mobile gaming market can help you pick up some useful skills.
Choosing a Platform
Even though most think of Angry Birds when they think of gaming on the go, mobile games have been around since our first candybar phones introduced us to Snake. Heck, remember when Nokia tried to make a phone just for games—twice? Many developers have moved on to iOS or Android development, but a large part of the global market still uses feature phones daily, and as service providers continue to flee that market for the “greener pastures,” the feature phone market is increasingly in need of people to fill their phones with content. Consider that we’ve seen feature phones grow sophisticated enough to run apps that compare to their “smart” versions. This makes feature phone app development a potentially lucrative field. Even if you don’t think feature phones matter anymore, Facebook does, and that should tell you all you need to know.
Styles of Games
Mobile games lend themselves very well to a few formats. Casual games are a common sight in the mobile gaming market. Casual games have fairly straightforward gameplay and tend to only take a few minutes at a time. These games work well with the mobile format because it taxes the resources of the cell phone less and you can play when you get a few free minutes. As a bonus, you don’t have to put a great deal of resources into this type of game.
Hardcore games have complex gameplay, stories, graphics and music, and are more akin to what many people might commonly associate when they hear the word “video game.” These games do require more resources and development time than most casual games, and it’s harder to make this style work with the mobile gaming market because it’s not a pick-up-and-go experience.
Many different game niches, or genres, exist for all styles. Puzzle games are common to find on mobile phones, since they facilitate a casual gaming experience and allow you to play a level at a time without having to catch back up to a story. Action games and platformers are another quick experience for casual leaning games.
Role-playing games, simulation games, and adventure games are more in-depth and lean towards hardcore gaming styles. These games require story, complex gameplay and other mechanics. One of the advantages to this type of game is that you have a captive audience that is going to be spending plenty of time with your games.
Choosing a Niche
The real trick is choosing a niche, which means you need to figure out what your mobile gaming goals are. If you’re trying to appeal to the widest mobile gaming segment possible, casual games are the way to go. You’ll be able to develop this type of game quicker, get it out to market faster, and spend less money on it than more extensive games. However, many developers have this idea already, so you’re entering a very saturated market.
Look through the games that already exist in the marketplace. If you have a mobile gaming concept already, see how it compares to what is popular and what is out there. Chances are, your idea has been done many times over. If you have a unique hook or a way to stand out in the crowd, you want to leverage that as much as possible. It might be an interesting art style or a unique hook in your game play.
While hardcore games are not as commonly found for the mobile gaming market, they do exist, sometimes developed by the same big name companies that dominant the PC and console markets. You need to be aware that you’re going up against companies that have millions of dollars in resources to develop their product if you go this route. As with casual games, look at what’s currently available to get an idea of what you have to offer.
Once you’ve picked up a niche that works for your budget, concept, and development team, you’re going to want to get an idea of the market demand for the niche. Some are going to move more copies just because you’re working in a more popular niche, but you might end up developing a more loyal user base by staying with smaller, focused genres that don’t get as much attention. Either way, there’s plenty of opportunities out there for developers that want to jump in to this market.