Mobile developers: How to hit the "sweet spot to penetrate mass market"

EEDAR tells us that developers need to consider the age of the smartphone, not just sell through of devices

Mobile gaming, if you ask most executives in the business, is one of the fastest growing sectors of the industry and is ripe with opportunity. Creating a mobile title among thousands of apps hardly guarantees success, however, and knowing how to get to the mass market is key. Market research firm EEDAR has some advice.

The firm, which is in the process of publishing a four-part series on the mobile and tablet gaming markets, explained to GamesIndustry International that understanding how to reach a large audience is key. "For the traditional HD markets, the installed bases are well understood, but within the mobile markets you can't simply rely on smartphone sell through reports to properly size markets," noted analyst Jesse Divnich.

"When taking into account upgrades, replacements, device hand me downs, etc. it can be extremely difficult to determine exactly how many potential users you are leaving behind by including that new software feature that isn't compatible with all smartphones," he added.

To better understand the overall potential market size, EEDAR has created a model to look at smartphone age, rather than specific models. Currently, "88 percent of the mobile gaming market owns an iPhone 3GS or newer (or Android equivalent), which we currently consider the market sweet spot for games looking to penetrate the mass market - nearly all of the top 100 selling games this year fit this criteria," Divnich continued.


As you might expect, though, more avid gamers tend to own newer technology, so if you're planning a more advanced mobile game with core sensibilities then it may be fine to go after newer technology.

"If a developer is targeting core gamers such as those in the RPG or Shooter genre, we found the sweet spot to be targeting smartphones 2 years or newer, as our most recent consumer survey has found that fans of the core genres are first to adopt or upgrade their smartphones, in addition to preferring high graphical performance as a key influence to purchase," Divnich explained.

He added, "Of course, it isn't all bad if you decide to push the performance boundary at the expense of potential consumers since eventually everyone will own a compatible smartphone. If done properly, your title can be the standard in performance excellence when new hardware launches. However, one would have to be prepared for a revenue campaign that is more long-tailed than front-loaded."

"It really comes down to the type and style of game you are making, but I would encourage developers that are pushing the boundaries of core gaming on smartphones to be less worried about ensuring your game is compatible with all smartphones in the market."

As for the tablet market specifically, EEDAR's advice is a bit less concrete since tablet adoption rates are still being evaluated and the majority of tablet owners are first time buyers.

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Latest comments (5)

Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises5 years ago
I know this will sound crazy, because it's never been done before and my patent on it is still pending. But what if developers made the graphics adjustable so the game can run on both new and old phones?
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Peter Stirling Software Engineer, Firelight Technologies5 years ago
I can think of a number of reasons why quality settings aren't popular for mobile games. Additional assets and QA for each quality setting, either an additional menu screen or a heurisitc algorithm to select the quality, probably both if it was done like PC. The menu screen is something that most users would never use, few users actually customize their settings for a 100 hour RPG experience, they are even less likely to do it for a shorter casual gaming exeperience. The heuristic introduces a huge amount of testing QA on top as well. It is a different scale of project to PC games where graphics setting make sense. On PC you want to make "The" game, and charge >$20 for it, on mobile you are make "a" game and charging <$5 for it, most mobile games are cheap and disposable.
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Andrew Ihegbu / 5 years ago
GTA3 and Max Payne on Android managed it (they had assets from other platforms to use though). It's not as hard as you make it sound however Peter. Use lower LODs for lower settings, scale textures and use mip-maps, and give everything in the video settings menu a slider. Casual gamers probably prefer sliders to things like "1280x720" and "8xCSAA". Obviously scaling resolutions could be problematic on a per phone basis, but scaling texture res and poly count shouldn't be. If it is, it's a result of poor coding.

For the most part, scaling down to the lowest performance hardware that you want your program to run on requires more time than creating the performance increments in between as, at least on the art side of things, intermediaries are created anyway. Testing and QA is a farce, as your rendering engine should be isolated enough from the OS to change textures without causing problems on a per device basis, and the fact is you only need large amounts of additional QA testing if you do something that introduces the possibility of per device problems, otherwise the QA requirement should be minimal.

And I'm sure you're aware of this, but if you're making 'a' cheap and disposable game, you're probably making quite a few of these games on the same engine so your costs pan out. Applying this across games should be academic one the engine code is added. If your make 'The' mobile game (think of the big Infinity Blade-esque games) then the gains are obvious.

While you're right about it bloating the assets, the gains are pretty big too in the sense that you can sell great graphics to the top 10% of gamers while still having a product available to 100% of the smartphone space and promoted by the great graphics of the maxed settings. It's a strategy that has worked for lots of other markets, it just seems to me that nobody can be bothered to try it in this one. (GTA3 and MP are pretty old games and look it unfortunately)
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Show all comments (5)
Andrew, it's not particularly hard, but it takes time. When you make a game, you want to deliver a consistent experience. Crappy versions of your game aren't helpful. Making a proper lower end version of your game takes a lot of time. I've never seen code reduce polycount (properly), it's done by hand. And intermediaries aren't 'created anyway'? When's the last time you saw a 'geometry detail' option in your graphics settings on PC in any game apart from PC-centric games? A long time I bet, because it's not easy, or free, or created anyway. ;)
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Arthur N5 years ago
Never been done before? Hope you're trolling lol
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