InnoGames CMO Volker Dressel offers advice on successfully adapting to numerous platforms
Thinking cross-platform from a marketing perspective is thinking of all the time people spend away from the computer or consoles.
What are they doing during this time? This is where cross-platform gaming can really capitalise. There is no better place to find a contemporary gamer than in the living room, on the couch or maybe even in front of a TV.
Cross-platform as a means to reach everyone
Cross-platform is such a big deal to the entire game industry right now because it allows us to reach the masses like never before.
The best thing about a gamer that uses mobile devices and TV to play is that it has the potential to be anyone: young, old, male, female, tech savvy or not. This broadens our reach immensely from the traditional core gamer, the young male who takes the time to sit in front of a computer.
Modern day gamers want to play during transit to work, school, or during commercials while watching their favourite television shows.
Browser games, and particularly free-to-play, are positioned to be the biggest beneficiaries of new cross-platform technologies for several reasons. For one, they are the original “cloud” games. Browser games require no download and can be accessed by any internet device.
This not only makes it easy and convenient for users, but for developers to push the game onto other platforms. For two, the casual gamer is an impulse buyer, which is exactly how free-to-play makes its money. When we can use cross-platform gaming to reach this market with free-to-play, the business potential is unlimited.
But while browser games are technically already cross-platform, optimisation is the key to get an audience to play a game on a mobile device or TV– and there are many hurdles to this.
Screen size, operating systems, graphical capabilities and providers vary greatly between internet devices – and the fragmentation within platforms is only getting worse. Being able to make the least amount of changes for the customer’s sake, and for efficiency sake, is important.
This requires planning ahead, especially in terms of code quality and game features. Always think cross-platform before the start of game production.
On the other hand, it isn’t practical to spread yourself thin by trying to make optimised versions for every device.
Developers and publishers can also go cross-platform by putting their titles on social media sites or gaming portals. InnoGames has one game on Facebook, but it will focus on other platforms in the future.
Developers and publishers can lose a lot of independence by focusing too much on Facebook. The site changes frequently, and in the end, gaming companies don’t have control over this change. I do believe, however, in the power of portals for cross-promotion purposes.
Technology Decision Making
Currently, we are working on both native apps, and web apps for mobile and tablets. In the future we will focus on just native apps for several reasons, but the web app option is a faster and easier choice to put out while native app development is taking place. That is the way that we opted for our games Tribal Wars and Grepolis.
Of course, making a native iPhone app, for instance, takes much more time and energy than a cross-platform web app, however for free-to-play games this is the way to go. Why? The iTunes and Android market payment systems are easy to use, and encourage micropayments.
A mobile website isn’t able to incorporate iTunes billing, so you would have to make your own payment solution, which wouldn’t be as popular with casual gamers who are used to paying for everything through their iTunes or Android account.
Cross-Promotion is Important
Building a good game can only take you so far - then comes making it visible in the public eye. With an overly crowded app market, this is obviously easier said than done.
Of course, it is crucial to use traditional PR and marketing avenues to gain an entirely new share of players. I think the best way to begin doing this, however, is by leveraging the user base you already have from other games. This means cross-promoting your game in forums, social media and news feeds.
When your already loyal fan base downloads the app at the launch, it can quickly shoot to the top of the iTunes or Android charts where it will then be noticed by your new share of players, away from the clutter of other apps.