Mobile market getting tougher, says Gree exec

More competition, escalating budgets, continuing discovery issues make Gree's funding, expertise more attractive for starting studios, says Jim Ying

The mobile revolution lowered the barriers for upstart developers looking to make the next big thing on a shoestring budget, but Gree vice-president of publishing and partners Jim Ying says those barriers are on the way back up. Speaking with GamesIndustry International about the company's new Gree Partners Fund initiative, Ying said it's getting harder for developers to compete without bigger budgets and bigger teams.

"The market has evolved similarly to how consoles, PCs, and social gaming evolved, to a place where it's no longer all that viable to expect a one to three person team working on a budget of $40,000 to make a top-grossing game that's going to continually stay up there," Ying said, adding, "If you look at the types of games that are top grossing, at this point it's Supercell, Funzio, Zynga, folks who have the deep pockets as well as the know-how, who are able to create games that are high production value enough to hit that bar."

It's not just the quality of competitors that makes the market tougher; Ying said the quantity has been escalating as well.

"Because mobile gaming is so hot and people have seen where consoles and social are going, people have full force pivoted into mobile, so you do see a lot more content out there also," Ying said. "With that combination, you see a lot more games, and discoverability is definitely an issue."

The company is looking to help developers tackle those challenges with the Gree Partners Fund. The mobile publisher has set aside $10 million to make investments in developers. The studios will receive not just the money, but also Gree's support on player acquisition and marketing matters. As Ying described it, the company is looking to create long-term partnerships and work regularly with developers throughout the process. The company is so focused on the regular interaction with its partners that the promotion is only open to developers in North and South America, ensuring they will be in a convenient time zone for the GREE team running the show out of San Francisco.

One other requirement Gree has for the fund is that the developers have previous experience releasing a game. Ying said from a monetization and player retention perspective, past performance remains the best way to predict future success in the mobile space.

"In terms of basic gameplay, any really talented, creative team can come up with a really fun game," Ying said. "But what we've seen is there's definitely a learning curve in understanding how free-to-play works, in terms of how teams can effectively manage content releases."

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Latest comments (7)

is this an article or simply a Gree advertisement?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 16th February 2013 6:51pm

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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 8 years ago

Good question. I read this and had exactly the same thought. Basically Gree saying don't try to make great independent games by yourself, you don't stand a chance without us but, do make great independent games and we'll fund and own them for you!
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Adrian Cummings Founder and Owner, Mobile Amusements8 years ago
Yawn. Heard this mantra so many times before jeez :P
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
Of course. There are companies that aspire to become the new EA and Activision. However they do have a point. the cost to promote your game and compete with big developers who have already started being established is ever increasing. And at some point i.e. in a couple of years, it might even make sense! The idea is that a known brand name will offer better exposure to your game. The concept is valid. Same as it was for PC and Consoles all these years. But it doesn't exactly work this way yet with publishers, and Gree although big and all, doesn't seem like a brand capable to provide that boost yet.
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 8 years ago

Given that the market is now largely sliding towards indie games and developers at the detriment of large established "Always peddling the same dribble" publishers I'm not sure this message is even slightly valid.
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Fazi Zsolt Game & Level Designer @Atypical Games 8 years ago
Things are getting harder for Gree, they ran out of good ideas for good games, they estimate their development costs to be too high (which of course they are, when a 0.99$ small game costs them maybe 300k-500k to make) .

So now, they set their goal to scare all the indies into their safe haven, their zen garden, where they will be protected by the perils and evils of the mobile market. Only thing is, they are the wolf in sheep's clothing.
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
Agreed Peter, and Fazi, I am not scared, and I don't think many developers who know what they are doing will be :D But at the same time we can't deny the fact that marketing cost has gone up or that brand value continues to be as important as it ever was!

Also since the app stores are becoming a multi-tiered issue, with all sorts of games and values for new or transitioning studios which plan to invest 300-500k upwards, it could be a better approach than going all out by themselves. I think these are the kind of studios Gree is trying to attract. Not small indies.

For the time being, and as long as small independent developers can drive value to the user by themselves that is a great thing.
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