Recently I’ve been reflecting on how much business considerations should be present in the design process for mobile games. And the conclusion I’ve reached is…an awful lot, and right from the start.
This is rather awkward, because by my own standards, it makes me pond life. I’m a relative newcomer to games, but have been close to the creative process in TV and film in past lives. In those worlds I believed you needed to focus on making something great and true to itself and the money worked itself out afterwards. Sure, there would be compromises, but these came later in the day. At the start you needed purity of purpose otherwise you’d end up with something stale.
But my view in mobile games is different, and the reason is free-to-play. This is the way the world is going, whether we like it or not. I don’t know whether it is optimal as a business model (although I suspect it often is). But I do know that customer expectations are becoming established and there is no going back.
A few days ago I was listening to a young, smart game developer talk about his new (and exciting looking) game. He said something along the lines of “I haven’t thought about monetization yet, I’ll work it out later”. And my heart fell. Thinking about monetization is not a luxury, or something that can be deferred – it needs to be integral to the design process, because if you try to spotweld it on later, you’ll screw up your creation.
So there it is. If you make games and have any ambition to be rewarded by more than the appreciation of your players, you need in-game monetization because you are in a FTP world. And if you want to make great games, you need to think about business early, because monetization is fundamental to gameplay – if you don’t think about it right from the start, you’ll compromise the game down the line.
Which makes me a barbarian, although a well-meaning one.