The iOS/Android platform issue discussion thread.
Since having mobile versions of the games will drive up the development costs, leading to a higher KS funding goal and also effect the public perception of the games, I thought this issue needed its own thread. Below is my case against the games coming to iOS and Android. I would like to know what others in the community think of this issue?
This is an article about how core gamers view the iOS platform and the problems associated with it as a gaming medium. It's rather blunt and sarcastic, but it gets the point across.
I think it's something you should consider with your plans for the Little/Big Blue coming to touch platforms.
In recent years, touch and motion controls, such as on the DS and Wii, have largely fallen out of favour now that the novelty has worn off. Most people consider them inefficient and annoying gimmicks. Tilting and shaking the screen was considered trendy when the newer ipods first came out, now people just find it annoying and tacked on. Much of the bad press surrounding the Big Blue's KS was because people did not want to give you money for a mobile game.
While as open platforms Android and iOS have advantages for you as a developer, so are computers.
Another issue to think about is that Android and iOS are generally for heavily monetized devices that the consumer has very little power over. Aside from the issue that the basic function of phones is not to play games, many people are turned away from the platform because you do not own the device and are instead simply "renting" it from your provider on a subscription. This issue is only highlighted by recent laws in the US making it illegal to unlock and liberate your phone, because legally they are not your private property.
I personally do not use a cellphone or any mobile device, so I am not familiar with the ins and outs of if phone games can be played offline or if they are still accessible once your subscription expires.
I doubt you would even make back your development costs on mobile versions of the Little Blue and Big Blue. The majority of software that sells well on those platforms are casual non-games you could just as easily play in Flash in your browser. The typical mobile audience wants to play Angry Birds or Plants VS Zombies between bus stops, not sit down for three hours and play the Big Blue. Since mobile versions of games sell for considerably less than retail console/computer games ($2 to $10), you would need to sell exponentially more copies of the game to make the same amount of money you would from a single sale of a console game. So say you make the full version of the Big Blue and sell it for $60 retail for consoles, but sell the stripped down mobile version for $2. You would need to sell 30 copies of the mobile version to make the same amount of money you would from a single sale of the console version. You would only be able to get away with, at most, selling mobile versions for $30, and even that is considered really pushing it for that market. (See this fiasco: http://www.siliconera.com/2013/04/21/namco-bandai-has-the-idolmster-shiny-festa-in-english-but-only-for-ios/ )
Not only is the mobile game market totally oversaturated with the majority of its library being bad games, no one takes mobile games seriously. For example, so far no Ouya game has sold more than 1000 copies: http://forums.ouya.tv/discussion/1196/salesdownloads/p2
These are all issues you should think about when considering making the Little/Big Blue for mobile platforms. My suggestion is that you cancel the mobile versions and focus on developing these games for computers. Or you make them a stretch goal, but not the lowest one. I would not even reccomend making handheld versions, since modern handhelds (3DS and Vita) are essentially meant to catch up the power of cellphones and have the same awful battery life.
The obvious points are that the more platforms its on, the more it will be bought because the more people that will be able to play it (not everyone has a playstation 3, wii or nintendo 3ds after all).
I imagine iOS and Steam being the top 2 outlets for this kind of game. I tend to agree with the mobile comments, I'd personally save that until the game is out and running on the more successful platforms.
Apple has released a list of the 40 best selling games and applications for iOS.
This should show you that crowd is not interested in these kinds of games. Outside of Flash style games and general applications, there are no mainstream games on there.
@James: Regarding your point about a game coming to more platforms,
While a game coming to more platforms technically increases its audience, a game coming to too many platforms can damage the perception of said game. Let's take The Force Unleashed as an example. It can be played on: PS3, 360, PS2, Wii, PSP, DS, iOS, mobile, PC, Mac. With the big tech gap between those platforms, I know that the ones for less powerful platforms like mobile and handhelds are going to be shovelware, while the PS2/Wii versions will be severely watered down ports of the PS3/360/PC versions.
Ed was asked in the KS comments and on the boards here about how the tech gap will effect the PC/Mac/Linux and Mobile/iOS (and possibly Ouya) versions. Specifically, people want to know if he will make the game identical for each platform (sans the touch/motion features), or if he will take advantage of each platform's hardware and make separate versions of the game. It is a perfectly valid question. And until it is answered, Little Blue will not be able to shake the perception that it is a "phone" game because people will assume the reason he is not answering is because he wants to make the game equal for the lowest common denominator: mobile platforms.
This is not unique to modern times. This was also an issue in the 1980s when versions of popular games would be released on nearly every platform you could think of, on a tech level from anywhere between Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum and C64 on the low end, NES and Master System in the middle, and Genesis and PC Engine on the high end. More often than not, the ports for less powerful systems were lazy shovelware jobs. Just because someone owns a less powerful platform, doesn't mean they want to play the game on it, even if its cheaper. Why would I want to play Power Stone for PSP when I can play the superior version for Dreamcast? People pay for more advanced hardware because they want its associated library and the better versions of games. The PC crowd did not fund BB because they did not want to pay to fund a cell phone game to play on their expensive gaming PCs. Yes, there is a certain elitism to it, but people expect a certain tech level standard on different platforms, and it has always been like that. The exception to this rule are "retro"/"homage" games that go for a certain look/feel, such as Megaman 9. While I would support Little Blue being a pixel art game (with chiptunes!), that is not the shape it is in right now. Making LB a full on 2D pixel art game would be a good way to easily bridge the tech gap between phones/tablets and PCs, but right now it does not seem like a classical-style 2D game matches up with the team's vision of the game.
If Ed sees the mobile crowd as his primary audience, fine. But it is a very niche group for the kind of game he is trying to make. And clearly there was not enough of a mobile crowd to fund BB. I understand he probably doesn't want to say who his audience is yet, for fear of alienating people, but no game can please everyone.
I've probably said enough about this issue for now, but I will bring up some recent examples.
This morning, Capcom announced Breath of Fire 6 as a social online game for iOS.
The last real BOF game was 4, back in 2000. Needless to say, the fanbase is seething and the feedback is universally negative with an incredible backlash going on against Capcom. After waiting 13 years for a new game, one is finally announced.. but it's a casual MMO for tablets. The general consensus is that they should have just left the franchise in its grave instead of treating it like this. While the opposite mentality is "something is better than nothing", when a company blatantly alienates and abandons their fans like this (sticking a franchise name on an unrelated game in hopes of cashing in), there really is no point in even making the game. I've never been crazy about these games, but I have to say that I agree it should have just been left idling in peace instead of this abomination.
If you want another example, last week a new Star Ocean game was announced, but as a digital trading card social game for mobiles. The last game in that series was Star Ocean 4, back in 2009. That fanbase also responded with an overwhelmingly negative reaction. Granted a four year wait is nothing compared to the 13 years for Breath of Fire, but both are a huge slap in the face nonetheless. As a Star Ocean fan myself, I found the news disappointing and have zero interest in the game, but nothing really surprises me anymore.
The reason I'm bringing this up is that a lot of Ecco fans felt the same way about Big Blue when it was on Kickstarter. While we've been waiting since 1994 for Ecco 3, when BB was announced and people saw that it was "Ecco MMO With Trading Cards For IOS", a lot of us also felt abandoned and were disinterested in the project itself because of the shape it was in.
The issue with these games isn't simply that they would be for iOS and mobiles, but the audience for those franchises were never on mobile platforms, and those fans do not like mobile style games. Breath of Fire 6 could have been announced for Vita or PS3 in the exact same form, but the rage would be all the same. You have to look at your audience. Ecco (like Breath of Fire and Star Ocean) was always primarily for consoles. Since there are no console versions of LB/BB, you should be going after the PC audience which is the next closest thing; the mobile audience is further down the food chain.
There are large numbers of people on mobile platforms, but they are not the audience for these kinds of games. Just because a game gets released on mobiles doesn't mean it's going to sell like Angry Birds; in the same way that only a minority of console games will sell like COD or EA Sports.
Fans are not blind. Just because a game has a big franchise name attached to it, or a connection to a beloved franchise, doesn't mean people are going to buy it just for that. This is in the same way that all those mascot kart racers put out by Nintendo and Sega are no substitutes for a new Wario Land or Space Harrier game. Spinoffs are a different issue, but you can not bank on spinoffs being a major success when the fans have been waiting for a long time. Take the Sonic 3D Blast fiasco as an example. People wanted the next big sequel to that franchise in the Saturn years (Sonic Xtreme), not an unrelated spinoff that nobody asked for. The audience for LB/BB is expecting an Ecco-style game, not a social/online/mobile game.