With major studios like Rovio announcing layoffs, abandonment rates continuing to climb and increasing challenges with in-app monetization, there have to be days when even the most optimistic mobile game developer wonders if the best days of the industry are behind it.
That's what made some recent comments from executives at Sony so intriguing, and maybe even refreshing. As reported by the Financial Times, the head of Sony's gaming division, Andrew House, was speaking at the Tokyo Gaming Show, where many attendees were no doubt wondering what was happening to the console sales of yesteryear. According to House, that may be the wrong area to focus on.
"I think we could be on the cusp of a golden era," House said. "The mobile in essence has created a new springboard for creative talent."
Its longtime commitment to the PlayStation 4 notwithstanding, House's comments reflect the fact that Sony, like everyone else, is trying to go where the money is. In fact, his point was reinforced by a recent report from NPD titled "Kids and Gaming 2015," which showed 63 percent of kids said they play games on a mobile device, versus a decline of 22 percent of those who use a home PC. In other words, it's not just the talent that's being reinvigorated by these more portable form factors; the audience is too.
This should all be good news for indie mobile game developers, but "golden era?" Let's think about that for a moment. By definition, a golden era is "a period in a field of endeavor when great tasks were accomplished." It was coined by the Greeks and Romans -- not because they were celebrating the time they were living in, or a better time they believed was around the corner, but an earlier period when mankind lived more purely.
In that sense, the true golden age might have been a time when mobile gaming was a lot simpler. In other words, you got what you paid for -- a fun experience for a small price -- instead of a sometimes poorly-performing app that's littered with interstitial ads, pop ups and other nonsense that gets in the way of the experience. That's the pessimistic view, anyway.
As self-serving (and realistic) as it might be for Sony to look at life beyond the console, I'd suggest developers imagine themselves 20 years from now, and ask what tomorrow's golden era will have looked like. How will all that creativity unleashed by technology have been harnessed? What kind of games will they be looking back on with fondness? How will the user experience have improved?
These aren't questions that should be answered by the Sonys of the world alone. They are important for any developer who wants to thrive over the next few years. To not only provide the answers but be a part of shaping them -- that's when you're truly golden. --Shane