New market opened doors to small studios, but big companies are getting the edge
As more developers migrate to the mobile market, the advantage is heading again towards the bigger teams with more money, argues Gree's vice president of publishing and partners Jim Ying.
The Japanese company has become a major player in the mobile games industry, and has established a partners fund in the hopes of attracting talented teams to its distribution platform.
"The market has evolved similarly to how consoles, PCs, and social gaming evolved, to a place where it's no longer all that viable to expect a one to three person team working on a budget of $40,000 to make a top-grossing game that's going to continually stay up there," Ying told Games Industry International.
"If you look at the types of games that are top grossing, at this point it's Supercell, Funzio, Zynga, folks who have the deep pockets as well as the know-how, who are able to create games that are high production value enough to hit that bar."
The reason for this is simple; with so many new teams releasing games to a platform in which lists games by ratings and downloads, it's hard to get user attention.
The result has been a rapidly increasing cost of advertisements and higher development costs as companies try to compete with other high-budget projects.
"Because mobile gaming is so hot and people have seen where consoles and social are going, people have full force pivoted into mobile, so you do see a lot more content out there also," said Ying.
"With that combination, you see a lot more games, and discoverability is definitely an issue."
Enter Gree's self-interest.
As a big company that can profit from other developers using its mobile publishing and marketing services, it wants to get these increasingly disadvantaged developers on board.
The Gree Partner fund has $10 million set aside for just that purpose.
This isn't just a handout for anyone though. Gree plans to profit from these partnerships, and consequently requires that all teams have already released at least one game.
For now, the partner fund is only open to developers in North and South America.
"In terms of basic gameplay, any really talented, creative team can come up with a really fun game," said Ying.
"But what we've seen is there's definitely a learning curve in understanding how free-to-play works, in terms of how teams can effectively manage content releases."