Tiger Style: Spider sales "disappointing and even alarming"

Creative director Randy Smith believes current transition will, "eliminate certain types of games from plausibility"

The sequel to Tiger Style's 2009 mobile hit Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is expected to do a third of the business of its predecessor, a result that its developer described as, "disappointing and even alarming."

The sequel, Rite of the Shrouded Moon, was launched in August, six years after its predecessor became one of the most critically admired mobile games. According to an article on Pocket Gamer, Tiger Style poured more resources into the project than on either Bryce Manor or 2012's Waking Mars, both of which were premium-priced and commercially successful.

Rite of the Shrouded Moon was also sold at a premium price, a knowing attempt to find success through a combination of sky-high standards and cutting against the grain. The game's glowing reviews prove that Tiger Style executed on that aspect of its strategy, but, according to creative director Randy Smith, the company misjudged just how intractable the mobile market had become in the three years since Waking Mars.

"Tiger Style makes very well regarded and highly rated games, and in the past that's always kept us at some baseline minimum income"

"The amount of attention and praise we've seen from players, critics, and press for Shrouded Moon is even more than our other games - both of which won Game of the Year awards, so that's saying something," Smith told Pocket Gamer. "But the sales have been very disappointing and even alarming."

Tiger Style expects to see a third of the money generated by Bryce Manor for, "five times the man-hours," a result that co-founder David Kalina described as, "pretty obviously bad for our company's immediate future and...well under even our most conservative projections."

The company will probably be accused of naivety for making such a big bet on a premium game in the current mobile market, but Smith isn't ignorant of the way the business has shifted. Indeed, Tiger Style would be justified in believing it had the talent and the track record to emulate the kind of success found by premium mobile games like The Room and Monument Valley.

"Tiger Style makes very well regarded and highly rated games, plus we have strong partner support, and in the past that's always kept us at some baseline minimum income," Smith said. "But that no longer seems to be the case."

"We're just at the start of a wave of painful consolidation and reorganization in the market which is likely to eliminate certain types of games from plausibility."

Apparently, that includes the kind of games that Tiger Style has made up to this point, with Kalina effectively ruling out making another mobile game of the same scope again.

Latest comments (10)

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany3 years ago
Nowadays is extremely hard to get noticed by the consumers without a big company backing you up with an appropriate marketing campaign.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 23rd September 2015 12:27pm

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Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 3 years ago
Nowadays is extremely hard to get noticed by the consumers without a big company backing you up with an appropriate marketing campaign.
Pretty much like the olden days?
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Brian Lewis Operations Manager, PlayNext3 years ago
I am always amazed by the preconception that quality is what sells games. Quality is a factor that can differentiate two games in the opinion of the customer (all else being equal). However, this requires that the customer be aware of both games, and that the quality be perceivable by them.

In today's market, the biggest battle is to get the (potential) customer to be aware of your product. Until this is overcome, other factors, such as quality, are all secondary. This means that if the customer is aware of a poor quality product, but not aware of a good quality product... the poor product wins. This is why F2P has become the standard (increased effort to get your product in front of a customer, and lower the CPA).. This is why many 'poor' products do well, but 'good' products do poorly.

I don't expect developers to know the market... but I do expect publishers to know it blindfolded. When a studio does both, sometimes they don't do one as well as the other.
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Show all comments (10)
Curtis Turner Game Developer - Monsters of War 3 years ago
Is there any reason this game isn't free with advertisements? Is there even a demo or timed trial?

The inputs seem a little annoying, the camera seems too zoomed in, and can you even be killed?

It's also on other platforms, so, maybe they're just playing on one of those, instead.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
I'd be amazed if they do even slightly as well as "a third of the original". All my evidence suggests that spending on paid apps has not just shrunk over the last few years, it's all but disappeared.

We've already canned one planned sequel (to a bafta nominated game) because it doesn't translate well into a F2P title, and attempting to actually sell it now feels desperately optimistic and naieve.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 24th September 2015 8:02am

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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany3 years ago
You'll have to define "olden days" in that case. We are talking about mobile devices here, not traditional market. Just 5 years ago there was not the volume of new apps per week in the store that we have now. The competition is brutal.
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@Brian I think that's more true for F2P casual games than titles aimed specifically at gamers or game-literate (i know, it's a silly term) people. On the whole we aim our stuff at the type of people who really like games, to the point they discuss them with friends and read about them online and pay for them should they need to. There are other ways to get known than banner ads, and if you are a small team or lack resources, investing in your software can be a smarter play than spending £40k on marketing hardly anyone will see. Your visibility analogy cuts both ways, and some methods of discovery are clearly more powerful than others. Suppose some chap read about X game on a forum where users frothed about it, and Y game because it's a banner on a web page he's reading. However much it cost the developer to put that ad there, it's very likely going to lose. There is no one solution just as there is no one audience.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Barry Meade on 24th September 2015 12:10pm

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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd3 years ago
@Brian - Very interesting but I'm not sure how it's relevant in this case. Spider 2 was heavily promoted by Apple. Millions of people were aware of it but they didn't bite. The fact that other premium mobile games have sold well given the same level of exposure (and price) makes me think that there is an audience willing to pay upfront, but Tiger Style were unfortunately unable to connect with them.

Six years is a lifetime in games, especially mobile. Hardware, audience sophistication and trends have all shifted.

I loved the first Spider but I've not felt compelled to pick up the sequel - if it is a radical improvement on the first game it doesn't (IMO) communicate this very well on the store.
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Eduard Pandele Senior Game Designer, Electronic Arts3 years ago
Weak screenshots, weak trailer, weak art direction, average visuals. It might have the best gameplay ever but when the barrier to entry is $5 I have to rely on the store description. When that's weak, I give it a pass. Offering X levels for free and unlocking the rest with $5 is a much better proposal than this (if you're confident gameplay will entice players to want to go past the initial levels, that is).
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Dan Wood Visual Effects Artist 3 years ago
The preconception I'm always amazed by is that the way to make money is to spot where the current "trend" is, and attempt to muscle in on that single, rapidly-crowding-by-definition marketplace for a share of the big fat pie. The reason everyone flooded to mobile was because a few early pioneers made a metric crap-ton of money... and every time anyone in the mobile space happens to pull off that feat again, most others flock to that particular genre or business model or whatever.

When I see developers managing to comfortably sustain themselves over a long span of time, it's far more often because they specifically identified a niche that everyone else was actually steering clear of, and they stepped in to fill a glaring hole in the market. Paradox are the absolute poster-child for this in recent years... their entire business model appears to be based around "what market has the most starved audience". It sounds like they quite literally greenlit Cities Skylines based on the fact that EA made such a mess of Simcity, and look how that turned out! I wouldn't say (even having put in 100+ hours) that it's in any way the perfect city-builder, but by god, it was a breath of fresh air in a genre that contained almost nothing of any worth before they turned up.

If you choose to go to the same place that everyone else is going, why on earth would you be surprised that it's hard to stand out?
Of course, if you've placed yourself in that position, then it does indeed become a marketting issue far more than a game design issue, but for devs who choose to walk the opposite direction, I've seen plenty of cases where quality alone can sell a game, and the most marketing they need is word of mouth.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Dan Wood on 25th September 2015 10:51am

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