How game developers can break out of the app store and reach untapped markets (VB On-Demand)

Presented by Xsolla

Mobile game developers can expand globally, increase profit margins and build stronger player relationships when they learn how to sell their content directly to their audience. A panel of pros joined GamesBeat’s Dean Takahashi to share their insights on escaping the app store in this on-demand VB Live event!

View here on demand

When we last saw the Apple vs. Epic’s lawsuit, a federal judge had ruled that Apple could not prohibit game developers from using in-app advertising to direct players to alternative ways to purchase game items at lower prices. The ruling has been put on hold pending appeals, but the legal battle has sparked a global conversation over app store rules, trade rules and whether these mobile giants should give mobile game developers the same freedom as web game developers.

The VB Live webinar, “How Mobile Game Developers Can Break Free from the App Store,” brought together industry experts to discuss the gray area between the appeals process and the legal ramifications that are looming around the world.

Right now, even before the final verdict is made, developers and publishers should be asking themselves some important questions, said Miikka Luotio, director of business development for Europe at Xsolla. First, how can they provide more value to their players, and second, how can they own the relationship with their players more directly. That means going multi-platform.

“If you have a web version or a PC version of your mobile game, you own the full commercial stack,” said Luotio. “The mobile platforms don’t want to touch that. That is yours as a developer or publisher.”

External trading options allow players to do many things that they cannot do on the mobile platforms, including allowing players to interact and giving publishers a place to provide more personalized service to their MVP players. These trading experiences can also include a number of developer titles, rather than being tied to one IP. But the app store monopoly has other consequences, said Michael Carter, co-founder and CEO of Playco.

“My view is not that ‘break out’ is an interesting goal in itself — there are always platforms, always payment mechanisms and gatekeepers,” Carter said. “I look at it more from the point of view of, what experience can you possibly make? What would be really cool? We see the hints of some pretty amazing experiences.”

He points to the cultural phenomenon Wordle, which took over the web – and would not be possible in the app store. The question becomes, if more people were able to build more reliable experiences like Wordle, or business models around such experiences, what would the world be like?

“I think Apple and Google both care at their core about their customer experience,” he said. “I do have hope that when there are these compelling use cases and developers push for it, it aligns with what those companies would want in the long run. Interoperability can be seen as a threat, while interoperability, where you just send a hyperlink and anyone can jump in, has always been and will remain one of the most important features of the web and of computers in general.”

Tugay Alyildiz, co-founder of Veloxia Technology, agreed, saying, “That’s one of the reasons I personally find this topic super interesting, because we’re not just talking about competition between Apple and Fortnite, the two tech giants, but we are basically talking about how this will affect the future of probably all gaming in five years.”

For Taewon Yun, chief business officer at Super Evil Megacorp, leaving the app store might mean getting a better margin by eliminating the austerity Google or Apple are taking on, but more importantly, it allows them to access gain access to a market they were previously unable to access. The payment solutions from Google and Apple are mainly limited to credit cards, which is fine in most top-tier countries, but in the larger emerging and growing markets such as Southeast Asia or India, the use of credit cards is still relatively limited.

“From a developer’s perspective, there’s a much bigger market, and because of their short-sightedness, that hinders developers from taking advantage of it,” Yun said.

The app store monopoly also affects instant games, which live in social media apps and have grown in popularity. Carter notes that Playco has had over 500 million players in its instant game portfolio — that’s more than almost any mobile game company out there. But there too, Apple and Google have hindered the customer relationship by not allowing commercial transactions.

“These kinds of games are built with interoperability in mind,” he said. “If I have a social game, but half of my friends or family or colleagues can’t play the game, that’s a bug. By depriving instant games of the ability to trade with customers in any way, it sucks all the oxygen out.”

Blockchain and cloud games still pose many technical problems for mobile game developers, but subscription services are becoming more feasible over time, with Apple even introducing Apple Arcade. For Yun, subscription services are a great opportunity to build interesting games that may not be as popular in the ecosystem right now, and focus on engagement rather than monetization.

“As both a business model and an extension of the diversity of game types we see, subscription services can be a good thing for the ecosystem,” he said.

Ultimately, what customers want are simple ways to interact with their games, whatever screen they choose to play on.

“If they feel like they want to buy a game, buy a season pass, buy a bundle, you need to be able to offer that to your customer on all those screens they use to play the game,” said Luotio.

In five years, he predicts that this whole conversation about platforms will feel strange or even strange. We will instead live in a world where consumers can go to any point of sale to play their games and use any transaction method, including blockchain and NFTs.

“That’s a world and a future I’d like to subscribe to, where consumers have an abundance of choice, and developers and publishers can choose where their consumers are,” he said.

For the full, in-depth discussion of the app store monopoly, the opportunities going cross-platform offers game developers of all sizes, and more, watch now for free on demand.

View here on demand!

You will learn:

How to get rid of the mobile app storeBest practices for commercial growthHow mobile developers can achieve revenue goalsReal-world case studies of successful mobile game developers and publishers


Michael Carter, Co-Founder and CEO, PlaycoTugay Alyıldız, Co-Founder, CEO, Veloxia Technology Taewon Yun, Chief Business Officer, Super Evil Megacorp Miikka Luotio, Director of Business Development, Europe, XsollaDean Takahashi, Lead Writer, GamesBeat (Moderator)

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