I recently created a profile on ArtStation. Check out my portfolios. These images come from a game that we produced with Beyer Productions. What are your thoughts?
When Pokemon Go launched in July of this year, no one expected it to become the smash hit that it is. Yet, nearly a month later, with more daily users than Twitter and one of the fastest selling apps to date, the latest game from Silicon Valley-based Niantic, Inc. (who also brought us Ingress) is an undeniable phenomenon. But how and why?
Afterall, the Pokemon franchise from Nintendo is 20 years old. While iconic, many might guess it would have peaked and reached niche status by now. And in a way it has, but that’s a part of the lure of the game. The game has been the biggest hit with those who grew up with Pokemon rather than those who know nothing about it (though they’ve gotten involved as well), and the decision to make it that way is most clear in the choice of platform for the game: mobile phone versus Nintendo DS or another device targeted to children.
Over half of all adults in the U.S. own smartphones, 64% to be exact. In 2016, people use their phones to do pretty much everything, from paying bills to trading stocks and interacting with people on social media. Gaming on mobile devices is also up, and the creators of the game understood that concept well enough to follow suit, going to where their audience is rather than requiring them to adopt a new device altogether. By doing so, Pokemon Go becomes an instant reminder anytime one’s phone is in hand, which is pretty much all the time, and the addictive qualities therein are enhanced.
Additionally, the creators of the game understood what people most enjoy about it–the idea of catching, training and battling cute, cuddly creatures. Yet, they took it a step further by integrating the virtual world of the game into our real one. The result: an augmented reality version of a game from one’s childhood, which incorporates GPS and the mobile devices people use daily. It’s almost too good to be true for those who enjoy adventure and competition, and that’s just the beginning.
The game sealed the deal by adding a social component to the entire process. Unlike the seclusion for which video games and mobile usage are known, people actually left their homes, joined others in parks, stores and other public places, all because of the game. It’s rather impressive.
Of course, the game has not gone without criticism. Some have played carelessly, including trying to catch Pokemon while driving. The game has also been blamed for drawing unwanted tourists into certain spaces. Despite its hiccups, there is no denying the success of Pokemon Go as the biggest game in mobile history. It is certainly something every creative can learn from.
More money is spent on gaming today than any time in history. In 2015, the industry saw revenue upwards of $90 billion. This is not only due to more people playing games, but the amount of options in today’s landscape, thanks to a growing number of creators. Still, while many enjoy playing games, not everyone is familiar with the process or the people behind the magic. When most people think of game creators, they think of developers. They’re not wrong of course, game developers play a vital role in bringing a game to life, but so do many others.
For video games, there are over a dozen job roles which are integral to creating a game. Yet, the most basic parts can broken down into the following categories:
This member of the team decides the rules of the game, how to play it, and its overall objective. Not to be confused with graphic designer, this team member develops a storyline, characters, etc., and provides the final plan to the rest of the team. Obviously, this is a very crucial member of the team.
Once the foundation has been set by the designer, the visual or game artist is responsible for bringing the idea to life, including all characters, background elements, and other visual objects of the game. Sometimes, this can be broken into multiple roles, but the function is clear: construct a visual that is representative of the design.
For games with soundtracks, voice dialogue, or effects, an audio engineer is responsible for creating and placing these elements within the game. Sound is very important facet of the game, as it determines the feel and sets the environment for the player. Without audio, it is oftentimes difficult to experience the full effect of a given game.
This is the development part of the team. Programmers create code that tells the game how to act in response to certain keys and/or commands. These individuals will create systems that will enable users to play the game using normal functions as, creating a simple user experience using sometimes complex computer language. Programming part of the team brings everything together.
After the game has been designed, created, edited, and ready to go, unless it’s for personal use, getting your product in front of consumers requires a business arm of the team. This includes everything from marketing to sponsorships and funding. The business part of the team, like the others, is very strategic and should have an in-depth understanding of the game itself and the market you’re most likely to reach.
To be sure, it’s is certainly possible for one person to manage all of these responsibilities, and many do. On the other hand, however, it’s important to know what you’re good at, and be open to collaborating with others to maximize your talents and skills effectively, creating something worthwhile.
You’ve spent months creating an app, now you’ll need to spend some time getting people to use it. While you could just “put it out there” and hope that people find it, your app will literally be one in a million, and someone coming across it will be almost solely by accident. That’s not what you want.
I acknowledge that promotion can be expensive in the traditional sense. However, using all of the tools available to you, you could get a lot of movement and foundational success for little to no money. Here’s how:
- Brand It
While the app has been designed, either by yourself or a graphic specialist with whom you’ve worked, it is not the brand entirely. For promotional purposes, you will need to decide the best way to communicate what the app is and whom you’re trying to reach, using minimal imagery that’s easily transferable across various forms of media. That includes: a logo, color scheme, a possible tagline and proper messaging to accompany said content. This part of the process can be costly if you’re outsourcing the work; however, you would do best to work directly with the designer of your app to include brand deliverables in the overall package at the start of the project.
- Talk To Me
Without giving too much away, share your progress and anticipated release details with friends and fans. In fact, you should be speaking with everyone you meet and have a conversation with about this “thing” they can expect soon. Reality is, you never know with whom you’ll come in contact, and networking opportunities are all around. Take advantage of the benefit of word of mouth–the most successful form of promotion, even in the age of technology.
While many forego this step because they’d rather surprise everyone, or perhaps, for fear that someone will capitalize off the idea, neither is really a problem. One, you will need to set expectations of your fans so they’ll be able to associate the product with your name once it’s released and get others to anticipate. Regarding someone coming up with a similar idea as your own, aside from a possible patent or copyright, there’s nothing preventing them from doing the same even after you’ve introduced your app. Don’t be afraid to speak up. The odds are more in your favor.
- Get Social
Just because word of mouth is effective, doesn’t mean you should neglect the wonderful world of tech we have available. You will need a website with your brand materials and some information about the app, such as: release date, capabilities, and platform availability. Additionally, you’ll need a social media presence. Create a Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter accounts, and build an audience through those channels to receive news and information about your product. Using hashtags and following like-minded individuals can attract the right audience to your pages and drum up interest in the best way possible.
- Show And Tell
Even with information on your website and things said in conversation, some messages can get lost in translation. The best way to counter that is to show people how they can use the app, and all of its functionality, with a tutorial like this one. Keep in mind that some people learn visually, and that video platforms further expand the reach of your audience with people you may not have reached otherwise. Make sure the app is already available so that there can be a call to action like, “download now,” immediately following the video. Make sure it’s comprehensive, easily understandable, and good quality.
- Meet The Press
Now, one of the most important things you should be doing once you’ve exhausted yourself and your friends getting the word out there, is to get other people to talk about what you’ve done. Pitching stories to publications which have access to people who use a product you’re hoping to sell is a no-brainer. Spend some time learning about press releases and various channels, and be sure to submit something that is worth publishing. You may have to tweak the stories to fit a tone or news of certain publication–some may be more technical, others may be more interested in graphics. Know what you’re getting into and focus on the ones that are most sensible for your product.
These are clips from my most recent Slideshare on teaching children computer game development. Enjoy!
Star Wars isn’t new. In the late 1970s, the world was introduced to the fantastical galaxy of the future created George Lucas, in which humans, robots and other forms of life coexist, sometimes in harmony but most times not, as the title suggests. Still, with its most recent release, The Force Awakens, the famous franchise is gaining even greater popularity with old and new fans. Undeniably the biggest film of the last year, The Force Awakens continues to break records, having already made 2015 the highest ever box office to date, and tracking to shatter a previous record established by the film Avatar as the highest grossing film in American and Canadian history.
Because of its popularity, everyone from Subway to Covergirl has joined the force, bolstering the film and certainly benefiting from its acclaim in the process. The gaming world is on board, too. Celebrating the release of the Force Awakens, Star Wars game developers have updated content to reflect new characters and plot lines.
All of the games are available on iOS with some available for download on Android, Amazon and Windows phone as well. Those which have been updated include:
Also, the following games are offering deep discounts* on in-app purchases:
* The discounts coincided with the launch of the movie on Dec. 18. No details on whether or not or how long they will continue.
Nevertheless, all of the games mentioned are free to download, and there are dozens of others across all platforms. Do a simple search for “Star Wars” in your device’s application store if you want to compare options and find the most engaging game. Enjoy and “May the force be with you!”
Less than a decade ago, the iPhone launched and changed the worlds of tech and telecommunications forever. One of many brainchildren of the late Steve Jobs, the iPhone’s popularity with consumers quickly dominated all conversation about smartphones, upon its release, from apps to the relevance of a keyboard, its appearance (at the time, it was available only in black with silver), and, of course, its unique operating system. Since that time, however, it has experienced stiff competition in the mobile devices/software sector, most notably from Google-powered Android systems.
In 2014, nearly 7 years after its initial release, the iPhone had amassed over 470 million sales of its product; the incredible growth has been lauded by companies and investors the world over. Still, the number pales in comparison to the amount of devices which operate on the Android system: a whopping 1 billion users, which is more than half of iPhone/iOS users, overall. With such a large difference, it would seem that game/app developers would be looking to get their creations into as many hands as possible. Think about it, 1 billion people with access to a game you created would be cool, to say the least. However, for many developers, it’s not at all that simple.
In fact, simplicity is just one of the reasons developers are choosing to launch on iOS as opposed to Android. Considering that iOS only runs on Apple devices, developers only have to test a few models, about 10, according game developer Barry Meade. On the other hand, Android runs on a number of different devices from various companies, with multifarious hardware, interfaces, etc. As a result, developers may have to test up hundreds–yes, hundreds–of different devices to ensure that the game works properly across all platforms.
Subsequently, most developers go with an iOS first strategy, resulting in a slow rollout of games on the Android side. Ben Kuchera, writing for Polygon, further explained the reason behind this, saying: “…with an iOS-first strategy you can release the game to many users with only a small chance of bugs arising due to differences in hardware, which means that when a bug does arise on iOS it’s likely unconnected to the hardware and by fixing it, you are also fixing that bug for any future Android build.”
But that isn’t the only reason developers prefer iOS to Android. According to multiple studies, like this one by App Annie Index, Apple’s iOS users buy more apps than Android users. Furthermore, they spend nearly four times as much on apps, despite the large differences in the number of users worldwide. Also, Android development typically costs 30% more than iOS development. Therefore, by choosing to place games on iOS, developers are getting more bang for their buck in multiple ways.
Nevertheless, Kuchera did make clear that the preference for Apple has nothing to do with Android users, themselves. In the previously-linked article, he expressed that Android users were great and that the experience with the software was pleasant. However, he clarified, “as a dev you’ve also got to take the platform’s particularities into account. One thing I knew going into it was that the ‘unpaid install’ rate would likely be around 95 percent and this is exactly what I’ve observed. In a lot of cases the smart thing to do is to convert your premium game to be free-to-play on Android, but that just didn’t make sense for Prune, nor was it something that I was personally interested in.”
From arcade games to consoles, computers to Game Boys, and smartphones to tablets, gaming and, therefore, game development has evolved rapidly over the last three decades. As technology has continued to expand, so has the world of development and possibilities for creatives in the industry. Yet, while cell phones are seemingly getting larger, with a desire for more visual space from consumers, another much, much smaller platform is on the horizon, providing an additional though exciting challenge for developers: the smartwatch.
While some publications like TechRadar.com have traced the history of the smartwatch to the early 1980s–with Seiko’s Pulsar NL C01, which could be connected to a printer and included a memory cartridge slot–the devices of yesteryear were not nearly as advanced as what is available to consumers now, mostly because of technological advances, like bluetooth and wireless connectivity, some 30 years later. In fact, up until very recently, the popularity and overall necessity of such a device was uncertain. Yet, with Apple selling 6 million of the devices since its release earlier this year, and with expectations to double that number with 4th quarter holiday sales, eyes are on the smartwatch as the next big (figuratively speaking, of course) thing.
Aki Järvilehto, CEO and founder of Everywear Games, personally believes that the smartwatch is the ideal gaming platform. Speaking about the Apple Watch, specifically, he said the smartwatch will change the development world for the following reasons: “They’re always available and will get you in the game in seconds, much faster than any other platform. We are already seeing a frequency of use among our players that is simply unprecedented in games.” And unlike other platforms, games are shorter, more simple, or what Järvilehto has called “Twitter-sized” entertainment, making games on the device possibly more addictive, resulting in more frequent use.
Not everyone is sold on smartwatch gaming, however. Some of the caution has been attributed to the difficulty for developers to manage advertising and for the lack of interest in paid games, in comparison to other platforms, at present. Nevertheless, experts suggest that dismissing the idea altogether could be a mistake, considering that shifts in gaming have been consistent with almost every new invention, using the fact that mobile gaming has exceeded desktop gaming in popularity, as an example.
Another factor for developers to consider is the decline in growth in mobile gaming revenue. Recent datashows that revenue of six popular mobile gaming companies grew a combined 1 percent in the second quarter of 2015, in stark contrast to the rapid growth in years prior, signaling that the market is at maturity. Research analyst and CFO for Zynga Asia suggests that what could save the industry is development in untapped markets and “unexplored territories.”
At any rate, smartwatch gaming is relatively new, so skepticism is natural. However, all signs point to continued growth and advancement. As with anything else, those who get there first will have some advantages and will likely be first to see the benefits. It’s too early to tell whether the platform will be as large as, say, cell phones or desktop; however, there is growth and that deserves some consideration.