The evolution of developers: what games should we expect in the future
In my previous article, I presented a general overview of the video game ecosystem. Now I would like to consider individually each category of games, describe their properties, the meaning of their innovations in functionality and features, as well as talk about the best startups in each category. In this article, I will only talk about game developers. This category dominates the gaming industry. They make up almost 60% of the total funding for gaming ecosystems ($ 7.1 billion) and the number of startups created (447).
Game developers include studios and publishers involved in the creation, acquisition, and distribution of new games. This is one of the most unique categories in the entire ecosystem of startups because of its ratio of success to failure. Of the more than 447 game developers I studied, about 23% left the market and about 10% closed.
Building a game with the right level of strategy, skills and style is a real art, accessible only to the best developers. In this article I will not touch on the gameplay, but I want to emphasize the patterns that I noticed in the tools used to create games, the functions added to stimulate the enthusiasm and target audiences of game developers.
Key Trends Most Game Developers Follow
- The mobile platform is becoming the most important for publishing games.
- Most game developers create free-to-play games.
- Monetization of each game is due to advertising or in-game purchases: skins, boosters or status items.
- In addition, the creation of games for all platforms simultaneously (consoles, mobile, TVs and VR) became a standard approach.
- The creation of a competitive multi-user ecosystem or the introduction of prizes is a prerequisite for stimulating enthusiasm for the game.
- It seems that more and more developers are trying in every possible way to build communities around their games: chats, real-life events, leagues, and much more.
- To attract viewers and players, all developers must find an approach to influencers.
- Creating your own unique franchise (intellectual property) or using an existing franchise is the key to building a successful game.
How game developers differ in the tools or platforms used to create games.
New platforms that are used for games
Developers find new platforms for games. For them, this is an opportunity to capture a market in which there is no one else. Examples:
- Sound : Developers like Drivetime or Sensible Object let users play audio quiz games with Alexa or while driving.
- Smart watches : Everywear Games and Pocket Gems create games for smart watches Android and Apple.
- Chat applications : Knock Knock created games for Facebook messenger. Neptune worked with Kakao. Tencent's Mini Program has spawned many WeChat games. Mojiworks creates games for both Messenger and WeChat. This seems to be an excellent category for short casual gameplay, which should pay attention to local telecommunications companies or companies that provide CPaaS services.
- Internet of things : it seems that more and more traditional board games or toys merge with video games. Workinman Interactive creates interactive toys for brands such as Disney, Nickelodeon, Atari and Fisher-Price. Mighty Bear Games has created a heart rate monitor that controls the complexity of games. Sensible Object has created a unique gaming device that combines Jenga and Pokemon.
- TV : Nazara partnered with Amazon to transfer localized Indian games to Fire TV. It seems that TVs are becoming an important platform for an increasing number of developers. Will this slow down the growth of the console market?
- VR / AR : Niantic , Leaftail Labs , Snatch , Next Games , Placeholder and Shifu mainly use mobile phones for social, interactive and collaborative AR projects. VR is also the preferred platform for developers who want to expand the scope of their franchises. For example, Resolution Games moved Angry Birds to VR. Other developers are taking steps forward to improve gameplay in AR / VR. Subdream creates its own equipment that can be used in VR games. Meleap creates its own arena for AR games.
- Amusement theme parks : Immersive Game Labs and Survios have built an indoor video game park where people can play their games. Theme parks with VR / AR have been trending for some time, but now the economics of managing them are a little unstable.
Why is it important?
New platforms allow you to reach new or already experienced gamers in various ways. If you become a pioneer in the publication of games on such new platforms, then this can determine the development of a new category of games. For example, Mech Mocha claims that 96% of mobile players have not played games on PC / consoles before. New platforms can also damage existing platforms. Tencent in its annual report mentioned that its revenues from games on PCs are falling and will gradually decrease due to users switching to mobile gaming.
Developers create their own game engines
For many developers, game development engines are becoming as important as the game itself. This seems to be a strategy for developing developers and moving into the publisher category.
- From game engines to publishing : engines like Epic Games' Unreal Engine or Niantic 's Real World Platform are examples of how developers create successful games and share their platform with other developers. Developers like The Ready Games publish games created on their development platform; another major advantage is that users do not need to know the code to develop games. Workinman Interactive creates IoT hardware simulators.
- Internal game engine : developers such as Super Evil Megacorp and Mojiworks created their own game engines to develop their mobile and chat games, not intending to sell licenses for them. It seems that this way gives the studios more control over the performance of the games and the speed of their development. Dapper Labs took a slightly different approach: it allows developers to use their code to create games within the company's gaming ecosystem. Its goal is to create new mini-games based on the Dapper Labs brand . FRVR’s technology stack helps it download quality games to almost any mobile phone in less than a second.
- Gaming Tools : In addition, many developers also sell licenses for the tools they use to improve the performance, distribution, or fun of their own games. Teatime Games offers an implementation in broadcast and video chat games. Reload Games offers in-game music studio services and tools to speed up game loading. Midas Touch creates 2D animation software.
Why is it important?
The future of gaming infrastructure and tools most likely depends on video game developers. For future game development, it is important how quickly and cheaply a developer can create a new game. This is an important milestone in becoming developers of large publishers.
Number of games being created
It seems that a small group of studios and publishers are aggressively setting goals in the production and acquisition of new games. Perhaps the reason for this is because they are looking for suitable franchises that can provide the studio with greater returns. Some publishers, for example Games2win, encourage zero dependence on a single game. Hypixel , Mighty Bear and Flowplaytry to create many mini-games within one successful existing game. MZ Studios has set itself the goal of releasing a new game every 6 months. The Ready Games aims to release the game every 48 hours. Examples of the approximate number of games from developers or publishers:
- Flowplay - over 200
- Pogo - Over 176
- NoodleCake Studios - Over 140
- Playstudios - Over 100
- Team17 - Over 100
- TabTale - Over 100
- Gamee - Over 75
- Zgames - Over 40
- Hypixel - Over 22
- FRVR - Over 26
Why is it important?
Creating quality games is quickly difficult. Phoenix Labs reports that more than 200 people are needed to create her cooperative free-to-play hunting game for PC. With proper implementation, games can bring hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars a day. Developers and publishers are constantly on the lookout for a new big hit. Game engines are evolving, creating games is becoming easier, so there must be a flood of more and more content waiting for us.
Redemption gamesreports: “The mobile gaming business has become one of the most competitive areas in the world. There are already hundreds of thousands of games in app stores, and getting to the top requires a unique combination of skills and effort, from game design, to marketing and support. There are no "silver bullets" and no way to cut the path. "
Game development is an art, and artists are constantly collaborating. There is a group of developers working together to gain experience, exchange franchises and help in regional distribution. Obviously, many are working with publishers to get help with production and distribution. Other developers like Hutch, prefer to publish independently. However, the merger of media, content and gaming franchises is constantly generating exciting new gameplay. Examples of cooperation:
- Halfbrick Studios is working with Mech Mocha to localize and re-release their games in India.
- Workinman is partnering with Addicting Games to create an intense fighting game that reflects the spirit of the Man at Arms series.
- Digit Game Studio has teamed up with Scopely to create the Star Trek Fleet Command based on a Hollywood franchise.
The merger of media, brands, famous people with games.
Many developers create games based on existing popular brands to constantly attract attention. Others are trying to create games based on the content of films or television shows in order to further develop their own gaming franchises. Some developers create rich media content in their games to improve the gameplay. Here are some examples of merging games with the media:
- Famous personalities in games : almost all famous media personalities from TV shows, films, or actors themselves have been or will be used in games. An example of this is Niantic , which uses Harry Potter; Jam City using Family Guy and Marvel; Second Dinner , also using Marvel; Scopely using Walking Dead and Wheel of Fortune; nWay with Power Rangers; MZ Games with Final Fantasy; Moonfrog Labs , using the highest grossing Indian films and the most popular actors; Funtactix creates blockbuster movie games. Neptunehas entered into a partnership agreement with the Kakao messaging platform and uses its characters to create games. HQ Trivia takes a different approach - she invites celebrities such as Dwayne Johnson, Robert de Niro, Gordon Ramsay, Neil Patrick Harris and Alicia Silverstone to participate in their games. A truly unique example of creating games based on popular media is Hypixel . This company started by creating its own funny videos on Youtube. The Youtube channel attracted enough attention, which helped the company create its own Minecraft mini-games based on its videos.
- From games to media : for the further development of gaming franchises, developers create media based on their games. They can be simple, for example Kixeye creates videos and blogs on how to play her games. Or they can go as far as Niantic , which creates TV shows based on its Ingress game. Youxigu co-financed the production of two films and action films. Moshi Monster produces books, magazines, toys, collectible cards, music albums, films, and even dog mats.
- From brands to games : developers are also teaming up to create games with famous brands. For example, Playstudios has entered into a Vegas casino partnership agreement to provide rewards. The Ready Games collaborates with the most popular brands. Animoca Brands created games for Mattel. 704Games has created six games dedicated to NASCAR.
- From games to games : developers often modify existing popular board / arcade games. Mech Mocha has created a video game about a popular board game in India called Ludo. Subdream made a VR game based on the popular in the 1980s arcade game Galaga. Jackpocket allows you to play state lotteries on your phone. Scopely created Yahtzee based games. SuperSolid creates projects based on the Sims. This list goes on.
Why is it important?
Creating a successful gaming franchise is very difficult. But it’s even harder to constantly maintain the life of a previously successful brand. Any popular content will inevitably be quickly consumed by developers. Having built a successful gaming franchise, they create media based on it to retain players. I believe that in the future we will see an increasingly closer merger of media and games, especially taking into account the simplification of their creation and distribution.
There seems to be a growing tendency among developers to give players power over the game. Selling in-game items has long been the standard monetization in most free-to-play games. However, developers are now opening their games, allowing players to create, sell, and change items, maps, and more. Examples of this trend:
- Dapper Labs has opened its code to allow developers to create games based on gaming franchises.
- Epic Games and Funcom distribute mods so that players can create their own worlds inside popular games.
- The next Mythical Games game will depend heavily on user generated content; players and influencers will be able to share created digital resources.
- Klang Games allows players to create and manage multiple characters. Characters continue to function even when the player leaves the game.
- Pocket Gems allows users to create their own storyline in the game to share it with other players.
- IMVU has created its own fashion blog for in-game styles created by players. Their avatars can be recognized as top models and demonstrate on the banner of the game.
Why is it important?
Digital resources are becoming extremely valuable for retaining players, but at the same time they are new ways to monetize. The future of games will allow players to create their own games, profiles, skins, storylines, and more. The future of game development will probably be with the players.
Events, tournaments and competitions
Another growing trend among developers and publishers is the increased involvement in the game by conducting competitions. It can be realized inside the game or in real life. Such events help developers manage engagement and new monetization strategies. Here are some examples:
- Niantic hosts events and local meetings for its AR players. Some of these meetings are a fundamental part of the gameplay. In addition, the company holds contests for developers.
- The annual report Tencent says that it can improve user involvement due to cyber events and live streaming.
- Nazara Technologies has received multi-year licensing rights to organize and host ESL competitions in India.
- Funplus and Millennial Esports organize esports events and leagues. In Millennial Esports even has its own gaming arena in Las Vegas.
- Games such as The Ready Games and HQ Trivia hold daily in-game competitions with prizes.
Why is it important?
Esports is a very fast-growing movement. The development of cooperative and competitive games is becoming a requirement. Participation in the e-sports industry is mandatory for developers.
Social components are added to all kinds of games. It can be anything: chat, live broadcasts or VR worlds. Adding interactive social components is gradually becoming inevitable for developers. Examples:
- Mech Mocha is focused on creating social components in its games. Their DAU (Daily Active Users) on average spend 25 minutes in an in-game voice chat.
- Teatime Games provides the ability to broadcast video in their racing games with one-on-one battles.
- Funplus mobile application allows users to stream gameplay and communicate with viewers.
- Flowplay has created a virtual world that allows players to communicate and play games together.
Why is it important?
Social interactions increase player engagement. For future games, it should be a mandatory requirement.
Examples of using
In this section, we look at the types of target audiences that game developers focus on and talk about how their companies are evolving.
It’s worth mentioning a small group of game developers focused on specific demographic groups. Here are some common demographic targeting options:
- Geographical : Mech Mocha believes that there is a lack of games for individual regions. The company is focused on gaining an audience in small areas of India. Games2Win also claims to be focused on creating localized content.
- Gender : Singularity 6 hopes that the main part of the audience of its future game will be women. Nix Hydra is focused on creating women-oriented games. Gram Games has created a movement called Project 22%, serving a female audience.
- Competitive : Gamelynx creates team competitive games for mobile devices, making eSports more accessible and global.
- Professional : Level Ex creates video games for doctors that convey the complexities of medical practice. Radd3's Virtual Reality Learning System helps American football players mentally prepare for future games through their visualization. In addition, it allows players to train without risk of injury.
Why is it important?
Serving a narrow target audience allows developers to open up new directions for growth. For example, Nazara Technologies reports: “With a market of 500 million players, India has the potential to create its own League Of Legends.”
Influencers are an essential component of a game developers ’marketing strategy. Phoenix labsremarks: “the reality is that most of the players came to Dauntless because someone played Twitch or YouTube on it, or the vast majority of people come because their friends are playing and they want to play with them.” The way game developers communicate with influencers is critical to directing traffic to their new projects. Examples of innovative methods that publishers use to meet the needs of influencers:
- Funcom presents influencers exclusive custom-made kits that allow them to create high-quality content for viewers.
- Epic Games' Support-A-Creator program allows content creators to make money on Fortnite and other games from the Epic games store.
- Seriously gained success by developing a series of campaigns with YouTube influencers based on charitable initiatives and organizing them so that they coincided with the release of game updates.
- Proletariat creates full-blown streaming systems and tools that allow viewers to chat with their favorite streamers right inside the games.
Why is it important?
Influencers will become, if not yet, the most important source of information on the release of new games. In order for influencers to be happy, game developers should help them offer the best content to their viewers. In the future, we will see broader cooperation and unique ways of developers interacting with influencers.
The evolution of game startups
Game developers are constantly looking for ways to expand their intellectual property. Many are moving from self-creating games for players to providing their platform and support to new game developers.
- Growth of acquired portfolios : many successful game developers are starting to acquire other studios or invest in them for development. In particular, Jam City , Scopely and Tencent are doing this .
- From developers to publishers : Many developers use their own game engines or audience reach to build their portfolio of published games. For example, Epic Games uses its game engine as a means of growth as a publisher. Paradox Interactive also creates a digital distribution platform. Rumble Games offers developers tools for publishing and working in their gaming service.
- From developers to service providers : Workinman Interactive creates design, IoT toys, art, exhibitions and provides other services to brands seeking to develop games. ZGames offers the services of developing game design documents, creating art, prototyping and researching the audience for release in the application store, as well as post-release settings based on analytics and server support. Virtuos also provides a wide range of gaming services and training for gaming artists.
- From Developer to Products : Mind Candy creates successful intellectual property that spans books, pet products, pet apps, feeding mats, collectible cards, magazines, toys, music albums and movies.
Why is it important?
Creating legendary games is an almost impossible task. Therefore, developers constantly need to look for new ways to evolve, grow and monetize, otherwise they will inevitably fail. Ideally, developers should continue to release new games, but always have a plan B.
Top Game Developers Worth Watching
Hypixel Studio , Immersive Games , Niantic , Jam City , Second Dinners Studios , Mech Mocha , Mythical Games , Everywear Games , BigBox VR , Embark Studios , Drivetime , Dapper Labs , Subdream Studio , Jackpocket , Epic Games , Phoenix Labs , Leaftail Labs , GAMEE , Singularity 6 , 1939 Games , 704Games , Neptune, Knock Knock , Scopely , Jumpship , FRVR , Klang Games , Mighty Bear Games , Mightier , Sensible Object , Redemption Games , Gamelynx , Teatime Games , KIXEYE , Digit Game Studio , Level Ex , Volley , HQTrivia , Trailmix , Caret Games , nWay , Manitcore Games , Mind Candy , Snatch ,Mojiworks , 3rd Eye Studios , Supersolid , The Ready Games , PLAYSTUDIOS , Super Evil Mega Corp , Portalarium , Pocket Gems , Seasun , Next Games , Armada Interactive , Hutch , PlaySimple Games , Bonfire Studios , Mino Games , Seriously , Ministry of Games , Machine Zone , Supreme Games , Beyond Games , Moonfrog Labs ,Telltale Games , Proletariat , Derby Games , Kingnet , Playdots , cloudcade , Flaregames , Octro , Nix Hydra , Thatgamecompany , Funplus , Cocone , Tabtale , Chukong Technologies , Youxigu , Grand Cru , FlowPlay , Games2Win , Arkadium , Peak Games , Reloaded Games , MindSnacks , Red Robot Labs, Dang Le , SNSplus and some more.
Game development is an extremely complex industry. Creating a popular game is only half the battle. Correctly building your own intellectual property, creating a community and expanding your gaming platform will help developers survive longer. The future of game engines will be built by developers. The next best publisher will be a new successful game developer. It will be exciting to watch how developers create exciting new games on multiple platforms, how they integrate with the e-sports industry, and how they merge with traditional media. In the next article, I will analyze the rest of the video game industry.