The co-founder of the studio behind successful iOS game The Room and The Room Two has some harsh words for the free-to-play space and cloning on mobile: it's not working.
Fireproof Games co-founder Barry Meade said recently in a Polygon column that since the 2012 release of his first game, The Room, his company has made over $5 million, and has sold 5.5 million copies of the game and its sequel combined. He says that publishers treat the game's success story as "an aberration at best" and continue to stick with the free-to-play model on mobile.
"Mobile is truly a landscape dominated by free and casual games," Meade explains. "Attend a mobile conference and you'll feel like clearly the most interesting reason to make or play games is monetization."
"Pitch a title that isn't games-as-a-service to publishers or investors and they'll practically install new doors to slam in your face. The narrative has been agreed upon: casual and free is 'what mobile gamers want.'"
Meade then argues that the majority of mobile gamers are not interested in free-to-play and most don't spend more than few minutes playing those kinds of games before moving on.
"Recent data shows 20 per cent of mobile games get opened once and never again," he states. "66 per cent have never played beyond the first 24 hours and indeed most purchases happen in the first week of play."
"Amazingly, only around two to three per cent of gamers pay anything at all for games, and even more hair-raising is the fact that 50 per cent of all revenue comes from just 0.2 per cent of players. This is a statistically insignificant amount of happy gamers and nothing that gives you a basis to make claims about 'what people want.'"
Meade also questions the claims that the mobile gaming industry made $10 billion in revenue in 2013.
"$10 billion sounds a lot, it is a lot, but the makers of Candy Crush alone took almost $2 billion," he points out. "Throw in the top ten and there's most of your games market gone: hoovered up by ten cute grinding games that are clones of each other. Any remaining change from that money is scraped off the table and scattered across a games industry trying to service a billion devices."
"It's fair to say one reason mobile gaming is dying on its arse for developers is because the idea that one billion gamers want to play variations of Candy-Clash-Saga a thousand times is f**king insane. We've got the stats. It's 3 percent at best. So we've nailed that, time to try something else."
Meade closes by saying that those who tell developers that their games won't make money are the selfsame people that will copy the "sh*t out of it when it becomes successful."
"They don't deal in dreams, imagination is not their forte. Are we really surprised that they cling to numbers?"
You can check out his entire column on Polygon.