Mobile games are incredibly popular and are played by millions of people globally. However, there comes a point where growth of a mobile game plateaus and it might be time to bring in a brand new audience.
During our GI Live: Online event last week, Xsolla's director of business development for Europe, Miikka Luotio, discussed the challenges and benefits of bringing mobile games to other platforms -- with PC highlighted as perhaps the most beneficial.
Luotio highlighted three key challenges that mobile game publishers face in 2021:
- The biggest one is discoverability, something that remains the key issue in mobile publishing today. However, the solution here is to expand your game to more platforms and diversify marketing spend so that you can increase its visibility.
- Another issue is that player data and information tracking are becoming more limiting. This is where IDFA deprecation impacts mobile game publishers the most; now, publishers may not be able to reliably predict their return on investment for marketing campaigns as well as before. Diversifying your spend across more platforms is a surer way to know exactly how well you're spending -- especially with the platforms that allow you to fully own your own tracking and player data like web or PC, Luotio explained.
- Platform tax is also a barrier, as many platforms charge around 30%. This results in developers having trouble scaling their games through app stores. Going to web and PC platforms will allow publishers to sell directly to consumers by getting rid of the platform tax. In turn, games will be profitable right off the bat.
When is your mobile game ready to go multi-platform?
Luotio also mentions that there are several telltale signs that publishers should consider a cross-platform version of their game and bring it to new audiences:
- Reaching a lateral plateau, meaning publishers are not seeing any game growth and must looking to find new audiences
- If a sizable portion of your big spenders are playing on BlueStacks, an Android emulator on desktop. This is a sure sign that you have an audience on the desktop.
If your game doesn't rely on tactile controls, then it would be a good fit for a desktop
- IDFA deprecation will make it harder to track your marketing campaign performance, which means that the more you spend, the less accurate it will likely be. This will become an even bigger problem with higher spend levels.
- If your game doesn't rely on tactile controls, then it would be a good fit for a desktop. The issue with games that rely on touch-heavy and tactile controls is that they don't convert that well to PC -- it simply might not be as fun for new players, so that's something to consider.
The opportunities and challenges of porting a mobile game
Additionally, there are opportunities and challenges that come with the different platforms within the desktop space.
For web games, you have to consider the cost per acquisition, which is usually much lower than on mobile, because you don't have to install any game. You just go directly to the game. Essentially, you're able to get more players into your game for cheaper and reach a wider audience.
Web also allows you to use a larger screen for real estate so you can build social chat community features sideloaded while you play the game and it's a nice way to enhance the experience. There are two main platforms for web games: WebGL and HTML5.
Due to the improved browser support, players will be able to play WebGL games on their processors now. It's a great option for titles that are reasonably demanding, and is especially good if you build your game using an Unreal or Unity engine. Many of these engines allow you to easily port to WebGL, which shortens that porting period as well, and makes the maintenance that goes with live operations much easier.
HTML5 is also a great way to take your mobile game to the web. It is best suited for more simple and lighter games, and has even better browser support.
Standalone PC titles offer a more immersive experience, but player expectations increase dramatically. Using a standalone launcher for a PC version also allows you to better own the player data tracking.
What to expect when bringing mobile games onto the web
Finally, Luotio went over what to expect when going from a mobile game to a web-based one. He recommends doing a simple test campaign with a vertical slice demo of the game before fully investing into the project. This way, publishers will be able to measure the cost per acquisition and Day Zero engagement, including how many people are excited to play the game on desktop.
Publishers should also expect a positive bleed effect, which means when people go play the web version of your game and they enjoy it, they will likely download the mobile version as well.
There may also be VIP players who used to spend a lot but for some reason have stopped playing. A new version on a new platform is a great way to entice them to come back. Again, the cost per acquisition is lower on web versus mobile because there's no install for that. Publishers should also expect to earn $0.20 from the web version of a game per every $1 earned for the mobile version.
"One thing to note is that when adding a new version to your game, this will add live ops overhead to your team," Luotio said. "You need to think about that from the beginning. You need to have some potential partners or scale up your team or know people that can help your team to expand on that capability."
Subscriptions are another way to introduce monetization outside of the app store. They allow players to access value across all of a publisher's games, not necessarily just a single one.
"We're seeing unprecedented demand for this reasonably to the mobile gaming industry. And that's obviously to do with many factors," Luotio explained. "There's a lot of talk about the platform tax, platforms, monetizing outside of platforms, IDFA deprecation and many things coming together."
Xsolla's GI Live: Online talk was a sponsored session.