Last MobileMonday Austin event on mobile gaming was a great one — Paul Trowe (who recently sold his company Pulse Mobile Games to SK Telecom) and Billy Cain (of Critical Mass Interactive) covered the life-cycle of mobile gaming, from conception, to development, to publishing.

It was a great, informative, straight to the point talk that opened the eyes of many, and for the rest of us, re-affirmed how hard, aggressive the mobile gaming space is. Why is mobile gaming, and the whole mobile development space so hard? There are many factors, including:

  • Creating great, different, innovative, ingenious mobile applications, and more so if the application is a game, is not easy!
  • Porting is hell. And will continue to be. Carriers demand that mobile applications from a publisher/developer, especially if the application is a game, to run in 85% of the handsets offered by the carrier. Many publishers buy the rights for an application that typically is written in one language/for one platform, and they must port to the rest of the platforms
  • Testing, and testing and more testing for the purpose of “certification” or getting blessed by the carrier, for the purpose of being on the deck — mobile applications have better chance of succeeding if they are just a few clicks away, and this is more important on gaming-like applications, for which carriers are constantly rotating based on the number of downloads
  • Related to the above bullet, the typical time to get to a carrier’s deck (again, this applies more to game-like mobile applications) is about 11 months, due to the sequence of testing and certifications game producers must go through… and once the game is out it might take 3-4 months to see the first check. This is why you see EA and similar game companies dominating this space, because to develop a good game, and survive the process takes real deep pockets
  • The typical kind of people that network carriers put in charge of mobile gaming are not gamers themselves. Thus they don’t get it. You know, gaming is a totally different “religion”. And important decisions on game placing, who makes it on deck vs. not, are being made based on slide-presentations, brand-name, and other (favors), vs. actually trying the games
  • Brand takes precedence for network carriers, making the life of small developers harder. Important to note is that brand not always equates to a great game, and that there are a lot of small, great game creators out there
  • It was interesting to learn that an OK-successful game is one with around 100K downloads. And that a hit is one with more than a million downloads. And guess what game is one of the best mobile games ever? The answer is Tetris! Yeap, a casual game

I want to thank Paul and Billy for taking the time to come speak to us, and educate us on mobile gaming development! And I many thanks to Movero Technology for providing the menu, and the Austin Wireless Alliance for the drinks and appetizers.