Your mobile game studio is dying here’s how to save it | Pocket

Mobile Game Developers Facing Challenges in an Ever-Evolving Market

Mobile game developers are currently navigating a challenging market that is making it harder than ever to find success. With changes in regulations and increased competition, studios are struggling to break through. In this guest post, Will Luton, founder of Village Studios and a veteran in the gaming industry, shares his insights on how studios can adapt to these changes and take advantage of new power shifts.

The Mobile Games Dark Ages

In recent years, the mobile gaming industry has faced a lack of significant innovation, especially in user acquisition (UA) and monetization strategies. Market growth has also experienced a slowdown, indicating that the days of exponential growth are over. While more people continue to play and spend on games each year, the growth rate is decelerating, and projections suggest it will plateau by 2027.

Another challenge is the decline of word-of-mouth growth, also known as the K-factor. Players are no longer enthusiastically sharing their favorite mobile games with friends or actively following app store charts and featured sections. Additionally, the post-IDFA landscape has led to increased uncertainty and soaring user acquisition costs, making it harder for developers to find the right audience for their games.

Developers are also becoming disenchanted with the platforms that once facilitated their growth. Restrictive content policies, high fees, and the requirement to pay for app store search placement have strained the relationship between developers and platform holders. Furthermore, the industry has seen minimal significant innovation in the past decade, particularly in UA and monetization strategies.

Regulations aimed at consumer protection are adding to the challenges. Games with mechanics like gacha are being banned or restricted in multiple countries, forcing developers to adapt or withdraw from those regions. Moreover, many investors are hesitant to support new mobile studios due to the systemic problems they face.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Despite these challenges, there is hope for the mobile gaming industry. Developers who adapt and innovate can still thrive. A wave of upcoming disruptions, triggered by regulatory changes, presents opportunities for growth and transformation.

For instance, new regulations will enable sideloaded iOS apps and allow developers to steer their customers to alternative payment systems, freeing them from platform revenue taxes. These rulings open up platforms for developers and erode the walled gardens that have limited growth.

Take Back Control

Luton identifies several areas where developers can innovate and revive growth in the post-platform era:

  • Keep Players in Portfolio: Instead of focusing solely on individual game retention, developers can implement strategies to retain users across their entire game portfolio. Running multigame live operations and implementing a portfolio-wide VIP and loyalty system can significantly improve monetization and retention.
  • Monetize Better: Leveraging off-portal billing opportunities, such as creating custom app stores or offering discounts outside of traditional platforms, can lead to increased revenue.
  • Self Distribute and Innovate: With the power to distribute their own games on mobile, developers can explore new avenues of content, monetization, and marketing. Previously restricted genres, like counterculture or adult content, can now find a mobile audience.

Village Studios, founded by mobile game industry veterans, has recognized these opportunities and is developing tools to support game publishers in the next decade. Their suite of portfolio management tools, called Playken, offers incentivized cross-promotion, off-portal billing, and custom app stores to help publishers succeed in a changing landscape.

While the challenges faced by mobile game developers may seem daunting, those who embrace the shift, innovate, experiment, and adapt will find success in the next decade. The power dynamics between platforms and developers are shifting, and this sea change will shape the future of the mobile gaming industry.