Don’t Be Another Mobile Game Company

[This post is one I wrote on the Area 161 blog. I normally don’t cross post, but this one really resonates deep within me, so I’m sharing it here as well.]

What We Are

As we’re trying to get our first game out the door, I came to a realization. It was something that Smiley already knew and understood. I sorta understood it also, but semantically I was just a little bit off base. You see, this is how I saw ourselves:

An iOS game company pushing the boundaries of device interaction.

Which is cool and fine sounding. It pretty much explains what we’re thinking about the company – right now. It also covers what the company will be doing for the next few years. Then it hit me though, that really doesn’t explain us quite right. I thought about it and really, this is what we are:

A game company that leverages new ways of device interaction, which currently designs exclusively for iOS.

Note the subtle difference. They both say the same thing, but the latter is more closer to reality.

What We’re Not

This helps explain our lack of understanding for game devs who leverage their IP across many moblie platforms. It doesn’t make sense to us, because we ARE NOT a mobile game company. Our short-term goal is not to get our games on as many different mobile devices as we can. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s to make the best possible experience on one and only one platform: Apple’s iOS platform.

The long term goal, and the whole point of our company, is to create unique device interactions via games that should be fun to play. Hopefully though, we make you pause for just a second with a smile and say, “That’s pretty neat how they do that.” We hope to make something that will start off as foreign (because it’s new) feel completely natural (because it’s what we as humans expect).

From Apple’s Dictionary app, we get the following definition of “device”:

1 a thing made or adapted for a particular purpose, esp. a mechanical or electronic contrivance

2 a plan, scheme, or trick with a particular aim

3 a drawing or design

Definition 1 Explained

We have dreams, huge dreams, of how to push device and human interaction. These dreams include devices that fit in your hand to devices that you can ride in, all the way to devices that you can walk through that will change your perception of reality. We can’t afford to create all those things. Luckily, for us, Apple made the first ones which we adapted for our particular purpose. Apple does a great job at creating devices and the software stack that runs on them. They’re not quite where we want them to be just yet, but they’re getting there. They are also more aligned with our vision of the future than any other platform. That’s why we’re exclusively Apple, not because of market share, not because they’re the coolest kid on the block, but rather because they’re the only company we see out there that gets what we’re trying to do. Even if they weren’t the most popular mobile platform, we’d still choose them because it’s what they’re doing that’s important to us, not the fact that they merely exist and have the most customers.

Definition 2 Explained

Someday, we plan to make our own devices. It’s inevitable that we will have to. We figure that we can probably use Apple’s platform for about 5 to 10 years, to create the foundation of our company. After which time, we’ll have to create our own devices to execute our visions. Not the portable kind of devices, that’s not a space we want to get into since we can leverage Apple’s. But those other kinds we mentioned: the kind your ride on or walk through. We have a scheme to trick you with a particular aim: to suspend reality.

Definition 3 Explained

In high school, either right before I met Smiley or shortly thereafter, I made a drawing. It was a design for a cool device that would allow for all these amazing things to be experienced by the person in it. I sketched it out pretty quickly, then I thew the drawing away. It was in my head. I knew it would stay there for the rest of my life. Even if I had wanted to make it at the time, I couldn’t. Technology just wasn’t there yet. Coincidentally though, due to cutting edge prototypes and current trends, technology should be there about 5 to 10 years from now. What a coincidence because that’s about the time we figure we’ll be ready to implement that design from over 20 years ago.

What’s Wrong with Being a Mobile Game Company?

Nothing. Look at NGMOCO. They’re whole point was just mobile gaming and they made out like bandits! There are plenty of others to list as well. You can make a lot of money too, if you do mobile games well. I think it’s still up for debate on whether the cost of cross-platform adds to the bottom line or not. But for the sake of argument, let’s say it does make sense from a cost/profit perspective.

If all you want to do is make games and get those games into AS MANY hands as you possibly can: Good, great, go ahead and port your game from iOS to Droid, WinMo and Blackberry.

If all you want is to make some fat cash making games without a care as to which platform it runs on: Go make wads of cash by building for the most popular mobile platform there is.

If all you want is to make games that are stuck in your head for mobile devices because it’s the smallest barrier for distribution: Make and deploy like no one else can.

The point is this: Don’t just exist for the sake of existing. Find out what your goal is and base every single decision you make in your business support that goal. Otherwise, you’ll wind up several years down the road, wondering why you’re doing this or why you don’t feel like a success.

Dream Big or Go Home

Lastly, dream big. Don’t pay attention to the press. Don’t pay attention to market trends. Don’t pay attention to what’s hot in the App Store. Spend what little time you have between game making and enjoying life with friends/family doing one thing: Dreaming big. Life’s already full enough with other worries, you don’t need to add more things to worry about. Spend that time living in the future where your dreams are reality. Even if you only make it halfway to your dream, as long as it’s a big one, that will be a lot further and closer to happiness than you are today.

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