Nitrome, Fireproof, Crescent Moon and more chat 2015 / 2016 in mobile

On the impossible future

Nitrome, Fireproof, Crescent Moon and more chat 2015 / 2016 in mobile
| Silly Sausage

The year is about to turn. December will fade into January, and then it'll be 2016 and we still won't be allowed to wear silver jumpsuits in public without being scowled at.

Still, we got over our disappointment and decided to ask some of our most favouritest devs what they thought the biggest changes in mobile in 2015 had been.

But that wasn't enough for us here at Pocket Gamer's moon base, where we like to look to the future, so we also asked them what they think mobile gaming might look like in 2016.

Depressingly none of them said that it would involve literally jacking into iOS and swooshing about controlling nodes and hacking the mother flippin' planet.

Ah well, they did say some pretty interesting things. And here they are. If you have anything to add, whack it in the comments and we can have a right good argue.

Mat Annal - Nitrome

2015 has been a very good year for Nitrome. If I had to pick one dev to give an award for making me smile the most this year, it would go to Nitrome.

I don't have to pick that though, because Mark Brown told me it didn't make sense as a feature.

Magic Touch: Wizard for Hire, Rust Bucket, Silly Sausage in Meat Land, and a host of other games, showed that Nitrome gets mobile in a way that few other developers do.

For Mat the big change in 2015 was ad-supported games coming of age.

"I think that ad-driven games have matured as an established format."

"Last year the big apps that used this format were the exceptions and most apps were still very throw away Flappy Bird clones and the like."

"2015 saw much more polished games, constant featuring by Apple, and lots of established players from both the premium side and the IAP side dabbling in the format."

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And in the future? Well, Mat lead with something a bit boring, and then went full on batshit crazy with a hardware prediction that could well propel VR into the mainstream in all sorts of crazy ways.

"Probably more of the same but that's not very interesting so lets push for something grander."

"I think we may see something from Apple in the VR department at some point and with that a new market could open up. That would be pretty big I think."

Barry Meade - Fireproof Games

Fireproof's The Room 3 was one of the big releases of the year, and it lived up to pretty much all of our expectations.

It's another brilliant, malleable game, full of switches to push, cogs to turn, and puzzles to solve.

Barry had a lot to say about mobile gaming this year, so I'm just going to let him speak for himself. Well, I'll type it out I guess.

"To be honest I think the challenge in mobile has remained the same for the last few years, expect maybe it's gotten more acute."

"On paper, mobile gaming continues to make barrels of cash but in reality that money is very much collected at the top of the grossing charts.”"

"Having collected the lion's share of available money these giants then spend so much on advertising that it closes down marketing as an angle for almost all smaller companies."

"Finally, the gravitational pull of these behemoths is such that almost nobody investing in mobile games wants to do anything but copy the giants they are terrified of.

This leads to an industry that taken as a whole does very little to break out of the pattern, failing to enlighten the vast mobile audience about the possibilities of video games beyond what they already see."

"The result is, as a sector we expand and innovate laughably slowly, thus entrenching the power of the top games even more."

"Visionary investors need to stop thinking about copying these games and start thinking about dethroning them."

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Meade then went on to tell me about his predictions for 2016. They're a bit depressing as well, to be honest.

"Well there's a head and heart answer to that question. In my heart I continue to believe that mobile can be one of the most accessible, forward looking, and potentially transformative gaming platforms out there."

"In fact I believe the base-level potential of mobile transcends almost any particular trend or phase we may be stuck in now, no matter how much money King are making. So mobile is always a net positive with me."

"But in my head I think the industry is a turgid, conservative field stuck in the past."

"In 2015 we are still creating snack-able, time-filling games anyone can play entirely idly and almost every one of them is a rip off of the next game over."

"We are still remaking what Facebook games did 7 years ago and we're apparently supposed to be proud of that because we can point to a few devs making billions of dollars from a minuscule amount of their players."

"These kinds of games are a legit part of the market but they shouldn't be the totality of the industry's output like they are."

Josh Presseisen - Crescent Moon Games

Crescent Moon is one of those mid-level iOS and Android publishers that makes awesome games and isn't afraid to take risks.

The likes of Operation Dracula and MicRogue show the wide variety of its portfolio. It does mobile gaming with aplomb and swagger.

Josh thought that 2015 was a great time for mobile gaming, and that the level of choice just keeps on rising.

"In 2015 TV gaming seemed to gain a bit of traction, with Apple TV finally showing up, and various Android TVs."

"Other than that, it didn't really show any big changes from the previous year, except that both the premium and f2p markets seemed to get more and more saturated."

"More great games arriving each week, with no sign of slow down. It's a great time to be a mobile gamer with all of the variety available."

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And in 2016? Josh thinks that smaller mobile developers will start to look elsewhere, branching out to the new platforms that are available to them.

"Google Play opening in China is big news for developers that weren't able to distribute their apps in China previously."

"As the Western market becomes more and more saturated, I see bigger publishers jumping in and indie developers jumping out."

"I believe the smarter developers will focus on any and all platforms, versus just the tablets and phones. The TVs will bring a new market to those same developers."

Neil Rennison - Tin Man Games

Last but not least we come to Tin Man Games. It's one of those devs that constantly releases brilliant games, from its own creations to adaptations of classic gamebooks and more.

It's had an innovative year, trying out new styles of gaming with titles like Choices, as well as becoming the millionth developer to release a Warhammer game on the App Store.

For Neil, the big shift this year has been a move towards the free to play model.

"The biggest change I've noticed has been at a developer level. I’ve noticed a big shift from premium to free to play models amongst my peers."

"Even the most die-hard premium developers I know have at least begun to make the mental shift over to designing their games with a free to play model in mind."

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But what of that heady future we've been waffling about? Well, Neil has a couple of suggestions for 2016.

"Subscription gaming will start to make traction I think! *ahem* Choices *ahem*"

"I also think Nintendo's entry into the mobile space will cause more than a few ripples - in a good way."

"The business model on both the 3DS and the Pokemon apps is a very interesting direction and I'll be excited to see what they do next."

Harry Slater
Harry Slater
Harry used to be really good at Snake on the Nokia 5110. Apparently though, digital snake wrangling isn't a proper job, so now he writes words about games instead.