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'Everyone ran off to mobile and left the door unlocked for us'
'Everyone ran off to mobile and left the door unlocked for us'
July 11, 2013 | By Mike Rose

Just because there is a major shift going on in the industry, doesn't mean that is the best direction for your studio.

In fact, argued Thomas Was Alone's Mike Bithell at Develop Conference this morning, these shifts can leave spaces wide open for indies to fill.

The current shift to mobile, for example, doesn't necessarily mean you should make mobile games. "The middle ground devs all ran off to mobile, and left the door unlocked for us," he notes.

He continues, "Everyone is migrating to mobile, and have left a big gap... it's a massive gap we can take advantage of."

This has happened multiple times before over the years -- most recently, the shift away from PC games to console games in the last decade meant that the PC space was left wide open for indies, and many indie devs had massive success on PC.

That's why Thomas Was Alone has benefitted so much from being on PC, he argues -- everyone else is making games for mobile, yet there are still plenty of people playing games on PC.

Bithell's comments come in the same morning that Epic's Tim Sweeney suggested that studios who don't follow the changing industry will find it more difficult to survive.

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David Amador
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Well said Mike, well said.

Zach Zebrowski
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Thanks for posting this one. But, was Sweeney addressing all studios, or just those similar to Epic / larger studios in general? The gap that is left in PC is perfect for indies, but not a studio sustaining 50+ jobs.

Ramin Shokrizade
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After a trend has happened is the wrong time to follow the herd, because then you have heavy competition. You have to figure out where the herd is running and (instead of following it) find out what green pastures they have left untended. I tried to communicate the trend that Mr. Bithell is describing here in a usefully timely manner by publishing "The Death of the MMO" in February of 2012:

The companies I was advising at the time stayed out of mobile and doubled down on AAA, which put them in a good market position.

Justin Sawchuk
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Yeah you got that right try competing on mobile when you have 100s of games released a day, where the average price is 99 cents. I know my next game will be for PC

Ramin Shokrizade
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I think I read recently here on Gamasutra that there are over 1000 new games published daily on mobile... I think I also read that the number of AAA titles this year is going to be somewhere between 100 and 500, where it was over 1000 just a few years ago.

Gil Salvado
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But that would fit to the amount of AAA studios left today. And these studios haven't moved to mobile that much.

William Pitts
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There are always going to be pastures, your best bet is to figure out how to keep them fertile. To say 'well everyone left, and that leaves us few', is a little shortsighted.

There are all sorts of reasons people went to mobile, faster development times, smaller teams=less bureaucracy, less resources to get things done are just a few of the reasons. Not saying that it's perfect, but there are plenty of people that will get swept along in the current.

Keith Thomson
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That would be an interesting point, though many of the indie studios that he's talking about are composed of just 1-2 people, with some of the larger ones sitting at 5-10. There's nothing about mobile that's magical compared to other platforms, other than consumers there are willing to put up with a smaller, less detailed game. They're also willing to do that with indie titles on any platform, so the team sizes aren't different at all between them.

Also, given Nintendo and Sony's recent changes in stance on indie games, you don't need a large team to self publish on consoles either. You'll still have to deal with less bureaucracy than AAA games on console.

Nathaniel McClure
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Well said. We are enjoying the lack of noise in the PC/Console space.

Gil Salvado
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It takes a lot of courage to enter a new market, but it takes even more to remain in the one everyone's leaving.

Honestly, I doubt the PC as a gaming platform will die as long as we're using it as the major development platform. And the upcoming hardware of the next-generation consoles is much more a dedicated PC than a console used to be. This is also why I personally see no reason in buying any Xbox as a platform for all media as long as I am running a PC.

Merc Hoffner
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Hilariously, while we're talking about the PC being a forgotten gap market in the face of mobile, everyone is quietly forgetting that the 3DS is the top selling dedicated games platform every single week. EA has 115 iphone games, and 75 iPad games... they have 5 3DS games. FIVE. It's not even a featured platform on their website. One of the biggest publishers in the world and they won't even mention one of the best selling platforms in the world.