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The Future Market for Professional Game Developers: Online Games or Tablet Games?
by Shaun Chatman on 04/23/13 06:00:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


The gaming industry is a completely different world today than it was just a few years ago. There are a lot of things that have factored into this, from smart phones to the popularity of Facebook, and the games on it. In addition, there are new consoles, gamers are looking for new types of games, and the gamer profile has changed. So, what does the future hold for game developers?

The Rise of Indie Games

 The Rise of Indie Games

Image via Flickr by colmmcsky

One really important factor that's changing the way people look at gaming, both on the computer and on the tablet, is the rise of indie games. These games are made by individuals or small studios. They are not backed by hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, many indie games have great story lines and become extremely popular, extremely fast. Online games like Minecraft and Orcs Must Die are indie games that have become very popular. On the flip side, World of Goo and League of Evil are popular tablet indie games.

Consider the Social Aspect

 Consider the Social Aspect

Image via Flickr by THX0477

There has been a big push in gaming for integration into social media platforms. Take a look at all the Zynga games today. Sure, they're irritating, and who likes to get all of those requests from friends? But here's the thing – they're successful. Extremely successful, and kind of annoyingly so. In fact, about 25 to 35 percent of all Facebook users play these games.

The model has become so popular that it has been taken to tablet gaming as well. Many tablet games offer varying degrees of social media integration (some, in fact, require you to log in via social media account). Many users find the social integration to be highly irritating. However, as a developer, it's important to understand what the trends are, and today the trend is social.

Taking a Look at Tablet Users

 Taking a Look at Tablet Users

Image via Flickr by HighTechDad

Saying that all tablet users are alike is like saying that all homeowners are alike. It's simply not true. However, understanding a few things about the majority of tablet owners is important for game developers. Those who use tablets are going to need an Internet connection at some point or another, whether they have T-Mobile unlimited 4g data, or they're using the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks.

The more constant the connection, the more they're able to play games that require that connection (like MMOs, for example). Many (though not all) tablet users are frequently on the go. Keeping this in mind is important; having long games that don't include frequent save points is likely to decrease the number of active users.

Taking a Look at Desktop Computer Users

 Taking a Look at Desktop Computer Users

Image via Flickr by Jiri Brozovsky

Again, not everyone who uses the same device is going to have similar gaming interests, style, or personalities. A user that is on a desktop computer (or a console), however, is likely to prefer games that require a better graphics card and capabilities than someone on a tablet. While tablets are attracting many of the casual users, the desktop is still next to none in terms of being the instrument for hardcore gamers.

And online games specifically designed for desktops are by no means failing -- the World of Warcraft, for instance, is one of the highest-grossing games of all time. However, it's also useful for developers to remember that these games' users aren't nearly as mobile when they're playing them. 

Paying for the Games

Internet social games and tablet games both need to make money somehow. Today there are three options. You have the user pay for the game up front, you pay for the game with ad space that you sell to other companies, or you charge the user for micro-transactions through the game. Both internet gaming and tablet gaming have these options down to a science.

  • Tablet users spend on average between $3.29-4.65 for their paid apps. The Apple iPad store has 23 percent of its apps free, while the Android Marketplace has 57 percent of its apps free.
  • Free apps have ads, micro-transactions, or both.
  • In-game micro-transactions, in fact, are the fastest-growing source of revenue for mobile platforms.

Now, just because you don't generally spend money up front for an Internet social game doesn't mean that you aren't going to spend money on it. If you only look at Facebook games, which are the most popular social network games, there are a few considerations:

  • There are ads running on Facebook at all times, even while gaming. The proceeds of these ads generally don't benefit the developers, but they're still irritating to users.
  • Some of these games also have corporate sponsorship that help pay for the games
  • In addition to that, they also have micro-transactions. In fact, the average social gamer spends about $25.20 per month on their in-game micro transactions. Of course, Facebook gets a cut of this, but that's still pretty steady income when you multiply it by the 15 million Facebook users.

Different Platforms Open New Possibilities

 Different Platforms Open New Possibilities

Image via Flickr by bark

It's important to note that every new platform that opens for gaming also opens new possibilities for game developers. This is a great thing, and can open a lot of doors. The touchscreen experience is something that wasn't possible even a few years ago, and today it's mainstream. Being able to adapt to technology's ever-expanding possibilities is important for developers. Because of this, it's a good idea for developers to design cross-platform a few times, at least for the experience.

So Where Does That Leave the Future of Gaming?

 So Where Does That Leave the Future of Gaming?

Image via Flickr by Jeffrey Beall

The future of gaming is always changing. However, let's be honest; graphics-loving gamers won't be leaving their desktops in droves for tablets. Online and social games are extremely popular and they'll continue to be that way, and people like to play games with their friends.

That has become a part of gaming culture now, and it's not going to change any time soon. However, tablet gaming is still in its infancy. As the industry grows and evolves, it's likely to develop into yet another form we wouldn't have anticipated. In what direction do you think the gaming market will eventually go? 

This post was written by Shaun Chatman, who is a well published author on many authority sites. He lives in Dunedin, FL, and spends his free time playing with his kids or his collection of gadget based games. He is also a huge fan of online games.





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