Oversaturation and Clones Challenge Mobile Video Game Developers
Technology has made it possible to develop games without professional education. It has also made things easier for small studios to develop countless number of games which leads to oversaturation.
Video games are now at the center of a multi-billion-dollar market across the globe. Mobile gaming, in particular, has seen a dramatic increase in value over the past few years.
In fact, App Annie found that the mobile app market generated $34.8 billion revenue in 2015 alone. Analysts expect figures to rise in the following years as mobile devices become more affordable.
With the large figures, it is no secret that there are already thousands of game developers aiming to make it in the mobile app market. There are some titles that became notable such as “Angry Birds,” “Clash of Clans,” “Candy Crush” and “Pokémon GO”.
The problem, or possibly perceived as a problem, is the huge number of these mobile games in the market. Some believe that the market is already oversaturated with the huge number of titles.
Game Clones and Oversaturation in the Mobile App Market
Another problem is that most of these games are just clones of successful ones. Flappy Bird was a huge hit before its creator Dong Nguyen pulled the game out of app stores. Some already made clones even while the game was still at the top and more soon followed after it was taken down.
A simple search of Candy Crush in Google Play will throw all sorts of clones and imitations. Some examples include: “Candy Jelly Crush,” “Candy Fever,” “Candy Sweet Blast,” “Candy Frenzy” and a whole lot more. They are clones in the sense that the titles are identical plus the assets also like Candy Crush itself.
Imitations and clones are also problems for honest game developers that bring unique games. A popular example is Threes which is a tile moving game involving numbers.
Threes was a fairly popular game several years ago but it was soon obscured because of its clones. The most popular clone was 2048 from Ketchapp, which was even bought by Ubisoft. Due to its popularity, some people even think that Threes was the clone and that 2048 was the original game.
The oversaturated market is also a problem for players looking for unique experiences. There are already hundreds of puzzles, shooters and endless runners in the Google Play Store.
Strategy Game Clones
A quick look at the Strategy section of the Google Play Store shows almost similar games with the concept of building bases and armies to destroy others. Clash of Clans is one of the most popular strategy games and it even remains in the top spot of the category.
Other similar games include: “Castle Clash: Age of Legends,” “Clash of Lords,” “Battle of Zombies: Clan War” and more. While there are some that differ in rules, most of them still include kingdoms and armies.
Action Game Clones
Action games, on the other hand, have variety but the whole genre is still mostly saturated. Violence is the key element and most of them involve swords and guns. If one looks at the Action category in the Play Store, they’ll see that most thumbnails show a soldier carrying a gun.
Gameloft’s “Modern Combat” mobile game series is a good example of market saturation. Like the Call of Duty franchise, the installments have the same gameplay but with a different story.
There are also a lot of shooters that follow the same format. Other games are saturated in terms of their themes.
Zombies and stickmen games are also commonly found in the market. Endless runners are also common as developers just change the art assets of their games.
Endless Runners and Other Casual Games
Temple Run was one of the iconic endless runners even up to this day. Now, there are more clones such as “Angry Gran Run,” “Temple Adventurer,” “Subway Surfers” and even “Despicable Me.”
Casual games are also saturated with Diner Dash type of titles and endless simulators. Pewdiepie, the YouTube star, even has his own game called “PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator.” It is just one of the many simulators available such as: “Tube Simulator,” “Tuber’s Life Tycoon,” “Vlogger GO Viral” and many more.
Niantic may have hit the jackpot with their Pokemon GO mobile AR game because of its unique gameplay. The popularity of the Pokemon franchise also helped in the hype leading up to the release of the game itself.
Millions of players rushed to download the app, but the daily player count is reportedly declining. It may be unique but it seems that uniqueness may not be enough for some players.
Game development studios are now challenged to bring something new to the table if they aim to make a name for themselves. King has Candy Crush, Niantic has Pokemon GO and Supercell has Clash of Clans.
Ultimately, the formula for a successful and unique game still depends on several factors. One common ingredient is that they should offer a unique and interesting experience.
Niantic’s Pokemon GO has players hooked because of the Pokemon trainer experience it gives. They also built up hype a year before the game was released.
Candy Crush did not have a unique gameplay at all but it turned out to be one of the most successful games. The limited lives and moves aspect of the game also kept players coming back since they couldn’t play the game endlessly without failing.
If augmented and virtual reality will be the future of gaming, people will be forced to buy better smartphones. AR depends on the clarity of the phone’s camera and someone with a low-end phone will not enjoy the most out of an AR game.
Still, Pokemon GO uses not only the camera but the GPS as well. Players can even play the whole game without the need to open the camera at all. Ingress was also fairly successful at using location to fuel the game.
Future mobile games could make use of more than the screen of the smartphone just like Pokemon GO did. There are already some games being developed that depends huge on AR capabilities.
Night Terrors, a crowdfunded AR game, seeks to make a player’s home haunted through AR. The game scans the surroundings through the camera to see where it can place a virtual ghost.
Father.io also uses the camera for AR as it allows players to shoot each other with virtual guns. More games could follow the format but it would become common too.
Unique and interesting games provide something that other games cannot. It might be the feeling of a new gameplay mechanic or to win over friends but through a different method. It should also be innovative and entertaining just like every other game should be.
Lord Marin is an undergrad currently taking up A.B. Multimedia Arts in Asia Pacific College. He specializes in Game Art & Design and is an intern for White Widget. Sound design is his chosen niche for game development but he is also studying Unity to broaden his knowledge.
Laurence Chua, a fellow intern from College of Saint Benilde, also helped in bouncing off ideas for the article. He is taking up B.S. IT with specialization in Game Design & Development.