Machine Zone's Gabriel Leydon has outlined some bold predictions for the near future of mobile gaming: bigger companies, fewer releases, and increasingly hostile conditions for new products.
Speaking to Venturebeat, Leydon highlighted the relative scarcity of recent games in the top 25 for any big mobile market. "Most of the apps are from 2012," he said, with only a few exceptions to that rule, particularly in the United States.
Most of those games were made by developers trying to make popular PC browser genres work on mobile. That was a key trend in 2011, Leydon said, and the games inspired by it were launched a year or two later. The top end of the market hasn't progressed much since then, frozen in place by, "the rapidly increasing cost of distribution."
"I don't think it's possible to do five games a year. I'm not even sure it's possible to do two"
That same pressure will not relent in the coming years, either. Indeed, it may even be magnified by what Leydon described as the "terribly complex" demands of operating mobile games at massive, international scale. The solutions to those problems will see the more successful companies grow to, "thousands of people."
"There are basically no tools for it. There's no engine you can get," he said. "There's a whole bunch of third-party services that can do one little piece, but none of them are particularly good, because they're not made by people who actually do this stuff... There's a tremendous amount of tools and management and infrastructure overall that we need to build."
The impact of these conditions will be a significant contraction in the market. Not necessarily in the number of developers making games, but in the number of games a developer can reasonably make and support. In Leydon's view, "the multi-title strategy [isn't] going to last."
"That was our bet in 2011. The market is too competitive. The process of creating an app, running an app, and marketing an app is too complicated to do for five games a year. Especially if you want to grow a game to a very large scale. I don't think it's possible to do five games a year. I'm not even sure it's possible to do two.
"It may look weird, but you can hear everybody's statements about what they're doing. They're collapsing the number of games they're making. Right now they're saying, 'Oh, we're only going to make four or five a year,' but I would guess that in two years they're all going to be making one.
"2017 will be, on the distribution side, probably three to five times harder than it is now. People complain about how difficult it is today. People in 2017 will look back and say we had it easy."