The scale of the mobile game market in 2019 is close to US$70 billion, while the PC and console game market is far smaller than this number. And the revenue of mobile games is still increasing sharply during the COVID-19 blockade.
Mobile games are indeed very important. But for many small and medium-sized game studios, this is a tough market.
The high-end mobile gaming market is (usually) small:
Occasionally there are small developers who can earn a good income from paid games. The following is a report provided by TinyTouchTales (represented by Card Crawl), which shows the data for 2019:
Revenue in 2019 is 110,000 euros, plus some advertising revenue (and Google Play Pass revenue). But this needs to span multiple games and SKUs, and after years of operation, familiarize with the functions of each store. So I think this is a difficult process.
Interestingly, the price of Card Crawl increased to $4.99, which increased Google Play revenue by 40% in 2019. So sometimes the pricing can be tougher.
But no matter how good a mobile game is, it should not be priced more than $9.99. A mobile game that sells for more than $4.99 must be extremely sophisticated. So to reach a total sales of $1 million, you need to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. In contrast, if a PC/console game sells for $30, 33,000 copies can reach $1 million. The gap is so big.
(But: if you have a best-selling game on your PC or console that can be converted to touch screen operation, it is a good idea to port it to iOS/Android. For example, you can see that Slay The Spire is on iOS. But the prerequisite is PC /Host version verified successfully.)
The free-to-play market is huge enough to make people panic:
In terms of profits, the returns can be huge. And it is entirely possible for small studios to produce high-quality F2P mobile games. But in my opinion, there are still big obstacles to success:
The F2P mobile game market has a very special means of gaining “word of mouth” and users
PC/console games will be recommended to groups who consider themselves “game players”. They like to play new games. You can reach them through mainstream media, traditional media, and community platforms that you cultivate.
The F2P mobile game market contains hundreds of millions of gamers, but their main identities are not “game players.” They may simply look for new games on the App store, or click in through video ads in their games.
Therefore, the location of the Apple App Store, cross-promotion and paid advertising are crucial-this is a completely different strategy from PC/console games. These things are difficult to start from scratch, and usually require a lot of money (several times the development budget of the game itself!) to promote it.
The natural amount of F2P mobile games is limited (may not be profitable for a long time!). You have to find other ways to get users.
You have to compete with other publishers for advertising spending, and they can afford more than you. As long as each user can earn 1 cent, they are willing to buy. So assuming that each acquired user earns $2.01 and the acquisition cost is $2, they can continue to spend forever. In the mobile F2P field, the rich tend to be richer.
(A developer I know did a mobile F2P game as an experiment, and eventually made thousands of dollars through organic installs, but then there was nothing to do.)
I am not saying that it is impossible to succeed. For example, if you are a veteran of a large mobile F2P studio, you know the entire operation process and can replicate it in a small startup company.
I recently reposted Supercell-Hay Day Pop’s product analysis on my Twitter. The author’s previous projects are Farm Heroes Saga at King, she really knows this. (By the way, the entire blog is very valuable for sorting out F2P mobile games, similar to PocketGamer.biz.)
The conclusion I have drawn from this article is that the design/monetization balance to make your F2P mobile game money (and your user retention) is a complex and demanding job. It is not like a PC/host game, you can make a very individual game, form your own style and stand out.
It is more precise and stylized, you need to know which joystick should be pulled “after launching” the game. Should you add a battle pass? Where should you adjust to increase ARPPU by 25%? This problem must be resolved, and quickly. You have to consider the aggressiveness of this way of making money, and your moral acceptance of it, haha.
Finally, you can try to make basic free games for iOS and Android, and you can only make money through advertising. In recent years, advertising has become increasingly profitable. But you are also competing with some highly streamlined vendors in the field of “top free games”.