Devolver Digital announced today that former Apple App Store games business manager Mark Hickey is joining the team to lead the publisher’s lineup of mobile projects as VP of mobile publishing.
Hickey brings a deep understanding of the trends and strategies within the mobile sector from more than 15 years of mobile games industry experience and working on hundreds of App Store launches, according to Devolver.
It's an interesting move for Devolver. The company, whose games mainly come out on PC and console, has released games such as Reigns and Downwell on mobile, but the boutique publish has had less of a focus on the dominant business model on mobile platforms: free-to-play.
Asked if the metrics-driven mass market-pleasing free-to-play model might clash with Devolver's boutique publisher vibe, Hickey said that Devolver isn't as focused on implementing new business models as it is on bringing the same unique style and flavor of Devolver games to mobile.
"Our job is to help developers be successful and if free-to-play is the way to do that on mobile, then that’s what we’ll do," he said. "But we aren’t going to sell our soul in the process. There are ways to do free-to-play that are both fair and respectful of customers that also allow developers to realize their creative vision."
So what lead to this new attention to the mobile market? "Devolver has already been pretty successful on mobile with games like Downwell, Spaceplan and Reigns," Hickey explained.
"People keep reaching out with mobile game project ideas. I had been working with Devolver for years as part of the App Store team and always liked Devolver games on mobile, and on PC. So we got to talking and said, hey, what if Devolver pays more attention to mobile and hired someone who’s got some experience with this space?"
Hickey added that in order to increase chances for success in the mobile game market, it's best for game developers to work within genres that are less competitive.
"The [mobile game] space is crowded and there are deeply entrenched companies and studios within many established genres now, be it casual, hyper casual, MOBA, battle royale, RPG, 4X, etc. So my advice would be that unless you have a serious war chest to spend on development and user acquisition, those are spaces to stay away from."
"Instead, I think innovating on gameplay first and fostering a community around your project through the myriad social channels available out there are the ways to generate interest in your game and catch the attention of the platforms."
Developers with something interesting to pitch are encouraged to reach out here.
Update: Edited for clarity.