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Which is better:releasing on PC or Mobile

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I follow various developers on social media, from big guys to small guys, famous guys to unknown awesome talented guys.. and some of them even follow me back! From these developers, some are purely focused on mobile, others stick to PC, and it’s surprising to see how few are really targeting both.

However, there is some frustration I have, and it comes from the many comments I’ve seen from developers saying “hey I’m sticking to [this platform] because the other one is crazy/hard/difficult/not-worth it” even tho they have no on-hands experience and purely base this on other developers saying it or looking at statistics.

The world is your platform

I’ve been releasing on mobiles since 2004, and I started porting my games to PC and releasing on Steam in 2015. It took me a while to include the PC platform, mostly cause the tools I was using simply weren’t allowing me to cover both platforms at once. When I made the switch from my own sloppy framework to the LibGDX engine it did allow me to release stand-alone PC games, so I dove in with full force and currently have six games on PC (Steam, Humble, and Itch) with two more coming this year.

Being on multiple platforms, means there is multiple ways to make revenue, there are multiple ways to (hopefully) get some coverage on your game, multiple ways to do sales and discounts later on, and more importantly: multiple ways for the games to find and enjoy your games. You might notice here the keyword is: multiple.

So why are so many PC game developers still not doing both platforms?  I honestly don’t know.

App store is oversaturated

Most PC game developers seem to say that the App store is oversaturated with mostly free to play games and that you can’t make money on premium games on mobile anymore.  And it’s true! very true, a quick look at the top lists will show you the same couple of f2p games at the top spots. Silly Pokemon Go (nobody seems to love it, yet it’s still up in those lists) followed by stupid match-3 games (nobody likes those) and of course the “angry-face-shouting-icon” games that are always up there and are stupid games that nobody plays (just check them, and they all share the same icon!).

The thing is.. those games are not your competition! Those games are from companies making billions (literally BILLIONS) per year, and spending millions (literally MILLIONS) per year on marketing.  That’s like saying your new rogue-like dungeon-crawler with pixel-art graphics and chip-tune music has to compete with Rocket League and Grand Theft Auto V.

The same thing happens with the top-lists on PC (Steam, GoG, Humble) and you have just as much chance breaking into those lists as you have on the app-store. So stop looking at them!

Yes the app store has a lot of games being released according to the stats, but just a handful of those games are really a problem to you as they are interesting enough to steal front-page or chart list spots. Most of the games being released on a daily basis are present in the statistics and look like it’s a crowded place, but what the statistics don’t say is that most of those games are not standing out in anyway and are not showing up on the bigger game sites or top download lists as they only get 1-10 downloads (possibly friends from the developer).

Guess what, you have just as much chance to show up in a top downloads list on the app store as you have on Steam!

So.. why are so many mobile-game developers still not doing both platforms? I honestly don’t know.

Steam is oversaturated

It seems that if you mention PC games, you also mention Steam. Which is funny but not unlike mentioning mobile games and forgetting there is a world full of Android users and a Google Play store that goes with it. Much like a Humble store, Itch.io or GoG are there for your PC game needs.

However, saying Steam is oversaturated with games, is true! Yes, it’s not as bad as mobile app stores, but it is still oversaturated, and the competition in general are bigger and slightly more polished games and more likely games that are direct competition with your game.

I’ve seen people expecting big things from getting their games on Steam, and then I tried to tell them that they might not sell millions.. not even thousands, and most likely, maybe, just a few hundred copies when they release (and I was right).  Steam is changing some things now, with shutting down Steam Greenlight and replacing it with a pay-per-game barrier of some sorts. There’s a lot of talk about this, and I’m not going into it, but it will possibly change the landscape.

Releasing and earning money on PC is really just as difficult as it is on mobile. I’ve actually been there and done that in both cases!

But.. but.. then what’s the best platform to release on? Well in case you haven’t been paying attention:

Release on everything you possibly can

If you can release on it, release on it!

ALL PLATFORMS are the best platforms. And to be perfectly clear on that: that includes consoles!

“But if I release my mobile game on PC, the gamers will bitch about it being a mobile port” – true! so don’t do that! I did that, my first few PC releases were Gunslugs and Heroes of Loot. Now both those games were designed with gamepads in mind, I originally created them with android consoles like the Ouya (remember that?) and other AndroidTV devices from the start. So the controls were fully designed for gamepads.

But PC gamers still weren’t happy about it. It seems that PC gamers want more settings and statistics. Seriously!  Adding stuff like separate volume controls for music and sound-effects. Adding extra things like statistics (how many games played, how often did you die, fun things like that).

PC gamers don’t want a simple interface, they want extra stuff to show them you are serious.  And guess what? mobile gamers also profit from adding those things! So yes, don’t release your mobile game on PC with it’s mobile interface, big bold “touch” buttons. Create a proper interface, preferably one that works for all devices and controls.

“But if I release my PC game on mobile I have to dumb it down” – well, yes and no. Of course you want to simplify the controls a bit where needed, but you can keep this in mind from the start of development, and it often only improves your games interface design for all other platforms if you make it leaner and meaner.

The days of having slow mobile devices that can’t handle large scenes or lush graphics are pretty much over. Technology wise there is very little limiting yourself from not releasing on mobile!

What ever it is that’s holding you back on covering all platforms, I promise you the work involved to fix that is far less than creating a new game.

But why?

Well for one, most mobile games don’t really make a lot of money, and most pc games don’t make a lot of money either! You can, in theory, double your revenue from the same game by putting it on twice as many platforms. Besides that it also grows your possible user base.

I know that multiple people have bought my game on multiple platforms that I released it on. Either because they wanted to play my games both on the move and from the comfort of their game rooms, or they simply wanted to support my work and purchased my game a couple of time because of that. Which is awesome!

Coverage from the press can also be more spread out, as you can now reach out to press for mobile games and pc games, and possibly even console games if you plan on releasing there.

So where do you prefer releasing on? or why do you only release on one hardware-platform? Let me know in the comments, cause I’m very curious!

 

 

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  • Zendrael

    I prefer to release on mobile and web because I’m focusing on simple casual games (for now, at least). I still want to release some games to Apple TV but only when they support HTML5 games thru WebView. I think that would be really fun to play HoL on the Apple TV – any plans?

    • Sadly LibGDX doesn’t work correctly with AppleTV, so it’s not possible :(
      But it plays great on AndroidTV devices ;) even with 2 player co-op mode!

  • James Coote

    Devs usually start with one “main” platform for various reasons, even if they intend to port it later. By the time devs then finish a game, it’s usually months or years since the initial enthusiasm for the project wore off. They’re ready to work on something else, not spend another x months porting. There’s no game design challenge to porting, only borderline-masochistic technical challenges plus lots of fiddly annoying UI things. Personally, I tend to lose a lot of self-confidence about a project near the end. Being so close to a game, I only see the flaws, and find myself almost apologetic on release. I think “if it does well, I’ll port it to more platforms!” and then of course it doesn’t, and so I just shelve the plans and get bitter.

    Also, I think often devs release on a platform for the first time, get disappointing sales, and think “I’ll try my luck elsewhere”. Maybe it’s easier to blame the platform than find your own failings?

    • hmm interesting view.
      I always try to release the game on all platforms at once, which makes for a hectic couple of weeks testing near the end of the dev-cycle, but it does save on the porting problems you mention.

      Business wise tho, porting a game is an easier and faster way to squeeze some more money out of a game, then creating a new game and going through it all. But yeah, boredom/fatigue is the biggest enemy in that.

  • Matt Roszak 🍄

    I feel like I wouldn’t be able to support multiple platforms very well due to lack of experience and manpower. I stick to windows cause then I know that if there’s problems I can fix them. I don’t know much about Mac, Linux, iOS, or Android. And like James said below me, it just sounds like a huge boring pain to port stuff and deal with all the little technical issues that come with each new platform. I’m still going to try Mac though, and maybe mobile eventually. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe it’ll be worth it, or maybe I’ll want to die.

    • learning the little quirks of a platform is experience that you can take to the next game. So it’s a long-term investment.

      And most current development tools are really (really) good at supporting different hardware and os’s

      • Matt Roszak 🍄

        Yeah, that’s what I figured. I’ll try it out on some older games and if it goes smoothly I can easily port over the rest of my games too. I’m sure it’s a good investment, I just don’t know if I’ll enjoy doing it.

        • when I did the ports manually (from android to ios) I kinda enjoyed it. It was mostly 2 or 3 days of mindlessly translating Java to Object-C and then fixing the compiler errors/bugs.

          That also gave me a fresh look at all the code, so I often would find new bugs that were also in the original code!