It's no surprise that game developers are motivated to self-publish and look for new distribution opportunities. In the last several years, we have collectively seen improvements in technology and ease of access to that technology, including in the games industry. That has led to a saturated market for PC, console, and mobile games alike.
"How will players find my game when hundreds of new games are released each week?" is a particularly valid question for the mobile game developer. The mobile games market has been growing exponentially, with both big studio games and indies vying for our attention. At the end of 2020, almost half a million mobile gaming apps were available on the Google Play Store, and more are released every day.
The good news is that instead of funneling profits into a larger marketing budget, mobile game developers can explore additional digital distribution pathways to get their game seen. Taking advantage of opportunities like self-publishing and partnering with Super Apps can offer a more extensive player base and increased revenue. That translates into a longer lifecycle for the game and the team behind it.
As a mobile game developer, you are most likely very familiar with two of the most significant challenges: declining profit margins and lack of UX control on platforms.
High platform fees plus thin marketing ROI margins and increasingly expensive industry professionals add up to more cost and less revenue. Lars Wingefors, the CEO of Embracer, recently noted that the fees paid to most platforms were more than TWO TIMES the actual costs spent on game development in the past fiscal year.
And some platforms can be limiting with the user experience. Everything that a player sees and interacts with before they get into your game is dependent on how the platform is set up, from the way your mobile game title shows up on the search results page, to the download page, to the payment process. It may be challenging to customize for all of your players' needs, such as their payment preferences or language needs.
In today's world, people crave convenience, flexibility, and instant gratification. The rise of self-contained app ecosystems like Super Apps that do it all makes sense. Leading companies like Alipay, WeChat, Grab, PayTM, QIWI, and PayPal understand that the global trend is shifting towards a digital-first, if not smartphone-first, experience when purchasing items, services, and entertainment.
And globally, digital wallets are more common than using a bank or a 'traditional' credit card. Last year there were approximately 200 digital wallets worldwide. Three out of every five buyers use a mobile wallet to make digital payments, and people are simply doing more on their smartphones: paying bills, ordering food, purchasing goods, connecting and chatting with friends, watching films, playing games, and much more.
The current landscape creates a unique opportunity for mobile game developers. When you connect with new digital distribution pathways, such as going from mobile to web or partnering with a Super App, more people will see your game. You can also create your own ecommerce platform and self-publish your game online.
Let's explore a possible scenario. When you become a Digital Distribution Hub Partner with Xsolla, your game or SKUs will be placed within existing Super Apps and distributed through ISPs and carriers. That will enable your players to purchase game content directly from their banking app, earn loyalty rewards they can transform into game currency, and gain access to unique perks and events they can only get from you. All from within the same apps and platforms they spend most of their time on.
Another scenario: go mobile to web. Port your mobile game to a PC or web version, create your own ecommerce platform for game sales, let players find and play your game online, and allow them to purchase directly from your in-game store online. A port isn't always easy, but when you start to see a plateau in sales for your mobile game, it's worth exploring other distribution ways to ensure your studio continues to be successful by reaching new audiences.
These new digital distribution methods won't make you rich overnight or become your primary source of income. But a multi-platform approach will help extend the life of your mobile game, your studio's brand and generate additional revenue for your team. It can even reinvigorate your older titles and help them find a new audience.
Want some real-world examples?
Steam implemented Xsolla's digital distribution infrastructure back in 2011, when they began accepting payments through a network of cash kiosks in Russia and the CIS region. We placed Steam on digital storefronts with no upfront cost or resource requirements on their part, and they've seamlessly connected to multiple digital wallets and banking apps since then.
And Nexters, a game developer out of Cyprus, grew their revenue over 20 times by implementing our multi-platform strategy. They saved nearly 20% on platform fees and connected with fresh audiences in new markets like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
The future of mobile game development is exciting. There is so much happening in this industry right now, and we aim to help game developers bring their visions to life and reach their games' full potential.
Check out our Game Developers Conference 2021 talk at GDC 2021 “Overcoming Challenges in Mobile Game Development and Distribution” and hear what Anton Zelenin, who spearheads the Commerce Business Unit at Xsolla, has to say about the future of mobile games. That takes place on July 20 at 10:50 AM PDT.