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19Jul/12

Interview: Fishlabs About Risks and Opportunities in the Mobile Market

By Huel Fuchsberger

Smartphone’s have become a common accessory for many people. Their growing number and advancing computing power has made them a liable platform for games and now also social games that started on Facebook are ported to mobile platforms. Developers have to face new difficulties and ask themselves –Is it worth it?
We asked Kai Hitzer, Marketing Director of Fishlabs Entertainment what the common mistakes are that should be avoided when planning to enter the mobile gaming market.

Social Games Observer: Fishlabs has several years of experience in developing mobile games. What would you summarize as the most common mistakes one can make when trying to set a foot into the mobile market?

Kai: Competition is extremely tough on the mobile market and hence every step should be well planned if you’re about to set foot on that platform. No matter whether you enter the business as a developer or publisher, your ventures on the App Store or Google Play will most likely end up as a rather unpleasant surprise unless you display a certain modesty and keep your expectations within reasonable limits. A lot of people are blinded by the extraordinary success stories of huge best sellers like “Angry Birds” or “Temple Run” and fail to see that these games are one-of-a-kind exceptions, in whose cases every single aspect of the production and distribution just fitted together perfectly. Such an enormous success can neither be planned nor forced, but rather does it have to come naturally by releasing the perfect game on the perfect platform at the perfect moment. And even then it is still not certain that you are really going to sell millions of copies at ease. For every “Angry Birds” or “Temple Run” out there, there are hundreds of other ambitious titles that will most likely not even make their production costs back for one reason or another.

SGO: Since not every company starts from scratch and  might already have some Intellectual Property, what are the dangers and opportunities these IPs to be introduced to the mobile market?

Kai: The mobile market is huge… and so is the games market. Out of the 650,000+ apps on the App Store, more than 120,000 are games! And every day, almost a hundred new games are released for iPhone and iPad alone. As you can imagine, it won’t exactly be easy to stick out of this vast mass of releases and come up with something that the users will not just recognize upon first sight but also remember after they’ve given it a first try. One way of getting noticed is to buy the license for an already established IP (e.g. a TV show, blockbuster or comic) and tailor your game to the respective target audience, i.e. the fan base of the franchise you’ve acquired.

If you don’t have the necessary financial back-up for such a move or if you’re afraid that it might backfire on you because the product you’ve come up with wouldn’t meet the expectations of the target audience, there is also always the possibility of racking your brains and coming up with an original IP of your own. However, if you decide to go down that road, you could hardly invest too much time and care in the conception and elaboration of said IP.

The backstory, the characters, the art style and just about every other aspect of the IP need to be absolutely spot-on because otherwise the fans will most likely not be able to relate to your game and build up some kind of a connection to the happenings on the display of their smartphone or tablet. In that case, you’d end up with a bunch of fugacious users but not with a group of dedicated fans. And it’s the latter that you want to call your own in the long run, because they are the ones that advocate your title and spread the word for your game. Hence it is absolutely mandatory that you offer the fans something that really moves them and that they can identify with.

Even though the game itself will of course be the most crucial factor in the building-up of the IP, it is also recommended to support the IP through as many other channels as possible, e.g. social media, merchandise, x-promotion, etc. The more lively and tangible your IP is, the more it’ll be able enthrall and fascinate the fans!

SGO: “Being social”, which can be interpreted in many ways, has become important for many products to be successful. How does this trend influence your games?

Kai: Not long ago, social gaming was still hyped and heralded as the golden future of video gaming and the way to go for every company that wants to turn in a nice amount of profit. In recent time, however, it became more and more obvious that the social gaming bubble – at least in its current form – might be bursting anytime from now. More and more gamers seem to be pretty much fed up with the SPAM-like gaming features that require you to post a dozen messages on the walls of your friend’s social media profiles or drown them in a flood of e-mails day after day. Here at Fishlabs we believe that the mechanisms which have been so enormously successful on Facebook & Co. in the last couple of years will not be around for much longer. There’s no denying that cooperative gameplay and shared gaming experiences will still be highly popular for many years to come, but the social aspect of gaming will undergo some serious changes in the future and shift from SPAM and viral marketing to actual gaming.

Appropriately enough, we’re currently working on our first multiplayer title for mobile devices and we believe that it is a wise decision to keep all the cooperative and communicative aspects within the game itself and among those who actually want to take part in the shared gaming experience offered by the title in question. So, to answer your question, we will definitely add more social features and multiplayer aspects to our games in the future, but we will do so in an organic and truly game-promoting way that actually adds to the overall player experience.

Fishlabs is an established mobile developer located in Hamburg, Germany. The company is known for their high quality 3D mobile games. The company’s games are based on their own ABYSS® Engine which enables Fishlabs to create mobile games with AAA appeal.

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