NEW BLOG: There has been a recent trend of large mobile games companies starting to offer support to smaller third party developers, to help them launch new apps into this fiercely competitive – but potentially lucrative – market.
Most recently, Rovio launched its Rovio Stars division for publishing third party apps, having originally launched the hugely successful Angry Birds in partnership with Chillingo.
Other companies opening up to third party publishers include social games maker Dragonplay with its Casual division and free-to-play games company Kabam, which is giving developers access to the technology platform and marketing tools that it uses.
Mobile freemium game developer Glu Mobile also launched a division to help third-party developers this year. It focuses on helping developers with successful iOS apps replicate this success on Android, Windows Phone and via the Amazon Appstore.
Small developers working with larger organisations is hardly a new idea: as well as Angry Birds, Zeptolabs worked with Chillingo to launch Cut the Rope, before going it alone.
Developers share revenue with the publisher in these partnerships and if the game is a huge hit it can provide a leg-up for those looking to go it alone with their future releases. As a means of building a viable business, working with established players at the outset certainly makes sense.
And looking at Chillingo, not only was it helping two massively successful titles take off, it was able to build its own strong position within the mobile games market (leading to its later acquisition by EA).
Suggesting that Kabam has similar high hopes for its new division, it said it would be one of the twin foundations of its “free-to-play gaming juggernaut”.
This approach appears to be gaining greater currency at the moment as developers face an uphill battle to gain exposure for their apps and build traction that will see their download volumes take off – and generate some revenue from their lovingly-crafted products.
The huge amount of competition, fragmentation of platforms and devices, and the sheer number of apps out there means that developers are finding it harder and harder to make an impact.
And Apple’s determination to restrict other promotional efforts, whether incentive-based installs or apps promoting other apps, such as AppGratis, means that it is getting harder to gain visibility on iOS.
Promotion platforms such as Chartboost and search services such as Mimvi can help to an extent, but they can only go so far if a game is not being promoted in the right way or is missing the X factor that could see it become a success.
Indeed, Chillingo CEO Ed Rumley said in an interview with Edge earlier this year that the reason why the number of developers coming to the company is rising is that more of them need help.
By launching with the help of an established player, apps gain instant visibility to a large and established audience and can improve their standing through association: Rumley said the Chillingo logo is now seen as a mark of quality that a developer starting out with their first or second game couldn’t hope to replicate on their own.
By working with larger companies that have had success, smaller developers can also gain valuable advice on how to improve games to make them more attractive to users and market them more effectively.
The increasing number of large developers reaching out to smaller players in this way is a sign that they think demand is there and it will be interesting to see how the app developer community responds.
Whether this trend is something that will continue is hard to know but if games that emerge through this cooperative approach become the next hit titles, it could be something that becomes an increasingly significant element of the mobile games industry.
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members