iPhone games have blown up - one look at Angry Birds or Draw Something shows the massive potential in mobile. That said, it's not as easy to make money in this space as you might think. Ready at Dawn boss Ru Weerasuriya recently commented to GamesIndustry International that the sector is actually looking more and more like the traditional games business everyday.
And that doesn't bode well for the era of garage games and independent development on the platform.
"I have a lot of friends working in that environment, and the funny thing is that I know that it's a great environment to be in because I love playing those games and I know that everybody does. But people have too easy a time thinking that, 'Well, it only costs this much and we're gonna make money,' and it's not necessarily the case," he warned.
"Now you see these conglomerates really controlling the biggest and best or most money making titles, which, I don't know, it's kind of disheartening a little bit"
Weerasuriya continued, "I mean, if you really look at the market, at the thousands and thousands of games that are out there, there's a very, very, very small percentage of them that literally do make money and their success is only shared by a very few big publishers on that front as well."
That's not to say that indies can't succeed on iOS, but Weerasuriya's remarks are certainly worth listening to. The App Store is filled with far more failures than successes. Rovio, remember, made over 50 games before striking it rich with Angry Birds.
"It's not the independent guys that are really doing it [on mobile], so the scary thought is that it's kind of turning out to be like the rest of the industry, which I'd hoped it wouldn't be; I'd hoped that it would be a very independent based industry. But now you see these conglomerates really controlling the biggest and best or most money making titles, which, I don't know, it's kind of disheartening a little bit," he lamented.
As for the traditional games market, the predicament of escalating costs isn't getting any easier with next-gen on the horizon, but companies are finally getting smarter about their strategy and product portfolio to mitigate risk.
"It's a scary thought that our budgets, in some ways, have gone up and up and up. It's a necessity, an absolute necessity," said Weerasuriya, who's currently working on an unannounced next-gen project. "The one thing that I think we're learning how to do better as an industry is to hedge our bets."
He continued, "There was a time where you could throw ten darts at the wall and hope that one sticks, and that's what some publishers used to do. They used to be like, 'well, if we fund enough games, hopefully one will cover the rest.' I think, unfortunately, with the downturn of the economy, a lot of companies, actually, are not around anymore now. But at the same time, I think that allowed for a lot of publishers to kind of look at the market or the environment of developers that are out there and really target the people that they wanted to go after. It's good in some ways, because, as an independent, it gives you a little bit more freedom to really have a choice for what you do. There have been a lot of independent developers that end up having to take a game because they have to, not because they want to."
Ultimately, publishers are being much smarter about games today, said Weerasuriya. "There will be less big, big, big budget titles... The bigger budgeted ones are going to be very targeted, very smartly chosen I'm hoping. I've already seen that from publishers themselves. They're doing more due diligence than they ever were entering in."