The 20-year game industry veteran talks to e27 about the evolving freemium model and mobile gaming landscape in Asia
From the freemium model to Asian publishers headlining global app charts, mobile gaming is going nowhere but upwards. So what are the key things that we need to watch out for?
Outblaze CEO Yat Siu highlighted three major trends in the mobile gaming field. First is that publishers and developers are suddenly jumping onto developing countries where smartphone penetration is on the rise such as Indonesia, China, and Brazil. He added that the rise is staggering, considering that in 2012 the penetration was under 50 per cent. However, developers will have to take into account first-time users who use low-end phone models such as a Xiaomi or a Galaxy. Their games will need to support low-end models to take advantage of the huge user base in those countries.
Second trend that’s on the rise is that publishers are using platforms that are within a platform, via chat programmes such as Kakao, WeChat and LINE. He said that channels operating inside Google Play and the App Store are becoming major distribution centers for games.
“These provide new forms of discovery which is important for games and apps. We need to be diverse with the relationship. If you want your app to be discovered outside third-party marketing , you can work with these platforms within a platform rather than straight to Google or Apple. It’s better to have more options to have your app discovered, which also leads to more competition.”
The last trend he mentioned is the unlimited methods of consolidation involving smaller studios. It’s hard for small studios to have their apps stand out due to the marketplace being flooded, but with help from bigger companies, they can stand a chance. Yat Siu said that this consolidation doesn’t need to be an acquisition (like what Tencent is doing), but can be a giant publisher working together with more third-party developers and publishers with some hint of investment. It can help these smaller studios in the marketing department that usually requires a big budget.
e27 brought up the design trend of gaming paywalls, where a free-to-play title eventually reaches a point where spending money becomes mandatory for making the game fun. Yat Siu believes that it’s only a matter of time until the mechanic will fade away. “I believe there’s an evolution that’s taking place. Whatever that worked two years ago for a particular market won’t work now. Take for instance Angry Birds’ model. It was phenomenal at the time, but it’s hard to pull off the same model with that same amount of success, or even the paywall method that lead to permanent in-app purchasing systems. It’s because the industry has moved, but it’s not because game companies are like ‘hey, let’s just do this and see what works’. It has to do with the users and their mindset. ”
Yat Siu added that the reason such paywalls exist is because developers and producers know that a game has a ‘closing date’, meaning that no matter how big a title is, it will decline. “It might take years, it might take months, it might take days. Be it on consoles, PC games or mobile games, there is no such thing as a game that will stay in the top charts and reign supreme for eternity, as much as we like to hope otherwise. Because the user needs new experiences, and they’ll need new methods in which they will feel comfortable and happy to give revenue to the business, because it feels rewarding and fair. ”
He compared the trend of heightened user expectations in mobile gaming with movies and its special effects. “You watch a movie from three years ago, it’s a good movie. But you won’t pay money to watch it now because movie special effects have evolved within the span of that three years. All I’m trying to say is that it’s always changing; it’s never the same. Freemium model, as a concept, will stay. The way you monetise it to make it fair and fun for the users; THAT method will evolve and change.”
Outblaze is a digital media product company with a slew of mobile gaming subsidiaries such as Animoca and Typhoon Games. Ninety per cent of its gaming library are free-to-play titles, with the most popular ones being Pretty Pet Salon, Star Girls, Beauty Idol, and licensed anime fare such as Astro Boy Dash and Doraemon Repair Shop.